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Title: Vertical Land
Author: Le Comte de Janzé
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Language:  English
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Title: Vertical Land
Author: Le Comte de Janzé

3 Henrietta Street, London
First Published 1928

Emily Davies Vanderbilt


       The Beginning and the End
  IV.--Settlers in Kenya
   V.--Uganda and the Sudan
 VII.--In Memory of the 5th K.A.R.

The Beginning and the End

The land is cruel and our household gods thrive badly among the cries
and sobs of this continent.

At first the whirl, the light, the newness of it all enchants one;
especially youth throws itself on the earth, grasping, choking with the
desire to live.

Then as months go by the plains seem duller, the mountains more dreary.
In a daily routine moments fly; leisure from being an hour of dreams,
ambitions, becomes too short a moment of vacuous rest.

The photograph you so gaily hung on the wall curls towards its fastening
pin. You take it down and throw it into the drawer; more frequently you
step to the sideboard, sundowners come at noon.

There is the parting of the ways, to go down, to go up; or to follow
along a disciplined way. Then you'll need a friend, one who will sit
silent, one who knows his mind, who shoots, who thinks, who wholely
loves this land.

After that one parting, no return: your lares are dead, penates rot in
some fogotten corner. Your faiths are shaken, your creeds broken!

Some may reconstruct a form of worship, a discipline of body and mind.
They will follow a weary, thirsty trail.

One day emerging, their work done, in some Sussex village they will
retire. Their windows will overlook a green, orderly graveyard strewn
with yews; their minds will copy bits from their favourite newspaper;
with souls replete, opening complacent eyes, they will slowly merge into
a grave contentment--the day's work is done and they may die.

Some others may delve down, searching blindly, fumbling in a mass of
fancies struggling against desire; fighting to keep their feet. If the
body is brave and the mind fired by images, they may throw wide the door
to this country's soil.

You will see them forgiving, tenderly rearing a giant belief; acquiring
unto their souls the strange fancies, the weird mystery of Africa. Never
returning, they will build, prosper; from the shores to the great lakes,
across the desert, in huts and palaces you'll meet them. Ever striving
for more nowledge, more comprehension, ever versatile, restless say
some. Speaking "Bantu" with their followers, Arabic with the "Somal,"
always alone.

Sometimes such meet and thoughtfully talk of places, men, things long

Loved by the native, tolerated by the official who needs them to think
in African terms--Interpreters who when they die leave a faith in the
giant book.

At last the others, those who return too often to the sideboard, slowly
soak, and soaking sink.

Soon in the house boys' huts native women will sit and smoke; one more
enterprising will speak to the white man. He, with the convincing faith
of the weak, will take an interest in her children, tell them to mend
their ways...and one tropical night when the hungry stars tear his
heart, a bodily desire takes shape...and soon "Manapalava."

The weeds will choke the garden, the cactus grow up through the verandah
floor, boards become disointed; he'll wear khaki: it shows less stains;
the white ants one night in a carelessly opened tin box will eat his
evening collars--and so he rots, soon to die.

Africa, yours is a cruel earth, you are unforgiving, you arouse our
vilest senses, you break our wills, curb our ambitions. But when we have
weathered the storm our souls grow like some great octoped; over the
earth, far reaching all understanding, nearly immortal. At dawn we kiss
the ground and rise appeased.

Forgiven white man with new gods older than the world. To think, to
look, and then inwardly rejoicing, bring souls together in one whole.
The power of Africa through the subtle Caucasian mind.

Chapter I


I. Mombasa
II. Kahlifee
III. Fever
IV. Rhamdam
V. My Lagoon
VI. The Country Cousin


The mighty ocean breaks, rolls on, breaks again. Across the sand banks
tiny ripplets finger the glazing sand.

The streamer slowly noses in, now to port, now to startboard, each foot
a trap. Gently we pass the salt and weed encrusted cylinders of a tramp
who broke her back on Mombasa's smiling shore.

As we creep in, one's heart stops. There are the Boababs, the Pawpaws,
the wildly swinging flowers, the cocoanut palms, the glassy beaches, the
white-skirted natives, and, through these gorves filters the dull beat
of the tom-tom. Five thousand miles to hear. Five thousand miles to see;
one's deserted hearth and slowly swinging door; just to smell this!

Half in awe, half sun-dazed, one's fingers grip the rail, blue sea going
black before one's eyes. As one reels, joy and madness in one's brain,
the tropical sun in one's blood, a silky voice calls, "Passports this
way, gentlemen, all passengers must see the Immigration Officer."

Visions of New York in the distance, the Hudson's floating ice, a
preposterous puffing paddle-boat rocked by brass bands; Ellis Island,
gloomy, unhealty, sinister; rude officials; brutal docks.

Here, the sun, a smile, you're through; Kenya greets you. "Diamond," the
porter, will take your bags straight to the hotel.


"Kahlifee, Kahlifee, by the Sea." What a name, what a picture. I never
believe what I'm told and am neve surprised at what I see, at least I
say I'm not.

But Kahlifee, what a name, what a place!

I wonder if it will be spoiled by people coming there; I mean white
people. I suppose they'll hang gaudy rags on trees in sunshine, and wear
them on or around their persons for the morning and evening dip. I
suppose even fish prices will rise when ringing Anglo-Saxon laughter
coughs on the coral sand beaches.

On that party which was staged the other day were all kinds of people:
some civilised, some not, and yet they led much the same lives they do
in the Highlands; get up, bathe, at least, here it takes place in the
sea and none need wait their turn; eat, then wander aimlessly around,
then eat again and sleep, and so on, drinking through the day. The
taking of photographs occupied some time. I wonder who got the five
pounds for that atrocious print which came out in the Magazine the other

At least I've been spared, all I was made to do was talk and tell
stories in moments of wakefulness.

Now I'm back in the Highlands I pine for that stark, impressionist
portrait, Kahlifee.

Kahlifee by the Sea.


Straw thatched roof, mud walls, a cement floor; Ding! Dong! Doc! No
door; a bead curtain waves and shivers in the breeze.

On my native bed I quiver and roll over: Dong! Doc! A pale radiance
seems to creep into the room; form under the eaves slight rustles, as
some mongoose trips along, or a giant tarantula carefully steps balanced
on top of the wall: Ding! Dong! Dong! Ding! Doc!

How I curse that bird, the fever bird; I count his calls, never the same
number; always trying to catch him out. I have counted all day. I
thought he stopped at night, perhaps this is only imagination.

My mind clears; I see through the roof the spreading palms; the
cocoanuts in golden clusters varnished by the moonbeams, a monster bat
clinging to a stem, piercing the bark to suck its life blood.

I see through the wall the sandy paths bordered with twisty shells of
many hues, the pepper bushes lined up along the walk waving their green
and orange fruit; those black, long, crawling shapes like manilla ropes
dipped in tar are the sea worms M'pishi will give us to-morrow, calling
them sausages.

I see through the terrace the stone steps, cut out of the coral, down to
the beach; the tamarisk and the mangrove shadowing them down to the sea.
The moon filters through their million leaves; blue spots, green spots
which shine and move, the backs of a hundred creepers, crawlers, come
out of the sea on a moon night.

I see beyond the shimmering sand broken by a giant oyster, which gapes
and snaps at some passing fancy. The rippleless water cut by a sail-like
fin, and in this transparency I see a shark carrying out to sea the body
of the Lascar who died of heat on the German boat to-day. The light
seems dimmer in my room; some smell seems to pervate the air, musky and
yet on the sea; like the rotting whale being boiled down on deck. It is
dark in my room, suddenly something is at my throat; muscular, and yet
slimy; as I strangle I have a fleeting sense of a giant octoped. With a
shriek I suffocate.

Someone bathes my forehead and changes my bed; a candle flickers on the
chair. "Here, drink this, my darling, the fever has broken, now you will


As the evening sun falls behind the cocoanut hills, a tense silence
quells the town. They wait. A crashing discharge as the old brass cannon
belches fire and smoke. The Rhamdam is over.

Here they congregate at some café, all clamouring with joy and relief.
The sweetmeat stores are crowded, a huge pile of "gazelles' horns"
dwindles; as one looks, cups of coffee follow cups of coffee, hot tea
and mint scents the air, and above, through and into everything the dull
throb of the tom-tom grows.

The white-robed, stately sheik, a long pipe in hand, inhales and spits,
his red and gold encrusted babouche bobs up and down below his crossed
knees, while a shrieking native violin wails and laughs to break behind
his disdainful back. The draped women veiled in black saunter past,
casting languorous, moist glances at his heavy rings and bracelets.

A young bronze figure, naked but for a gaudy loincloth, rushes by,
flecked by the shop lights, wildly ringing a bell in time with the

Following the general line of sound, we arrive in the great market
square. Four huge squat boababs are hung with lanterns of every hue; two
bonfires blaze, casting forth smoke and herby-scented swirls; two
"N'gomas" are progressing, still decorous; they've only just begun. The
figures clothed in cotton prints jiggle and turn, stamping the dust into
the earth. As the rhythm quickens they throw off cloth after cloth, now
whirling out of the circle of light for a drink, "tembo." Soon they're
naked, men and women face to face, eyes contorted, muscles twitching,
passion shaking--near, nearer--the sweat running from their shiny backs.

The light-coloured Arabs stalk disdainfully by--picking their way
through the crowd; their spotless turbans lofty and proud, disappear
into the doors of the Mosque.

The savages dance and yell and love outside...Outside the true heart of
Mohammed yet true believers, the black children beget more sons to
Islam. Wide is the power of the children of the Sword.

_My Lagoon._

As we chug in from the sea the sand surges upwards; we see breaks in the
reef where the rollers pass on, to die hissing on the burning sand.

We thread our way in; the hungry coral gaping on both sides, few feet to
spare; carried in on the crest of the wave.

A small creek opens out; slowly twisting and turning we slip between the
falling mangrove banks.

Under the highly stepping roots coloured wavy fish pause and glide. A
thousand slimy things left clinging to the sea-dipped boughs by the
receding tide. From time to time a flash of gold as a Sun-fish,
frightened, dashes from the shadows to the deep waters of the creek.

A native diver, trident poised, peers over the gunwall; a downward
thrust and a slashing silver body is drawn up transpierced, to be thrown
with a thump to the bottom of the boat, its colours dying in the midday

Still we twist and turn, the slow throbbing of the engine scares unseen
birds among the tangled mangroves, the canal widens, benches of sand
thrust out underneath the surface from the banks; as a last turn swerves
by, a burst of colour dazzles us, a lagoon opening before our eyes,
heralded by two giant pillars of tangled vines, shot scarlet and
gold--my lagoon, my find!

Instinctively the engine has stopped and we drift in; the mangrove
swamps halted at the entry, a fitting gate.

White coral banks die into the flashing sandy beaches; on the banks wave
feathery cocoanut palms with violently flowered bushes, orange and
citron, at their feet.

On the furthest end a small landing stage; a short climb of steps and
above, my dream realised, a white low-roofed bundalow, thatched with
rushes, walls forehead high, white coral pillars symmetrical along the
wide verandah.

My Neopara greets us by the steps; "We saw your smoke signal last night,
Effendi. The rooms are ready. The food is cooked."

We pass into the shade, our foreheads brushed by hanging columbines of
violet hues.

In colour and peace my mind seeks repose.

_The Country Cousin._

As I bump down in the train towards Mombasa, I try and collect my
bewildered mind. Just my luck. I'd come down for a few days' fun at
Muthaiga and was enjoying the six o'clock bar when a silky voice murmurs
at my elbow: "So glad you're down Bob, your aunt was asking about you
this morning."

My uncle-in-law is rather a dear, but kept well in hand by my Aunt
Anna-Belle, only an aunt by self-adoption--hers! She decided years ago
that she must keep an eye on me, as dear "Emily," my mother, "is so weak
with that boy."

I went to dinner, sat through it thoroughly subdued, was told that I was
a fool to consort with the bounders--why can't you be content with the
workers? (Evidently she thinks her friends work.) "You're wasting your
time, your dear mother would be deeply grieved."

After dinner I drove home, having promised anything to get away, and
to-day I am bumping down in a hot railway carriage to meet a niece of
hers, "a daughter of that degenerate pleasure-chasing woman, my sister."

Aunt Anna-Belle's niece. What a job! Meet a long-legged awkward
schoolgirl, so thoroughly nice. To have to feed her ice creams and
sweets in the sun, to get her innumerable parcels through the Customs,
to have to chaperon her in Mombasa, see her comfortable and amused in
the train. And all the crowd; my crowd are in Mombasa, presumably
bathing, what a life!

Weak is the flesh! Cowardly the mind!...I was too stark frightened of
Aunt Anna-Belle to say that I was busily engaged cutting the thorns from
the cactus in Government House Garden, or counting sardine tins and
dessicated apples in Safariland Ltd. So I was landed summarily without
even need of net or gaff. Well, well, I hope the boat is a week late.
Aunt Anna-Belle is paying expenses. I might be even welcome among my
friends on that basis.

After ups and downs, some food, some drink, I sink into slumber
disrupted by dreams of the aunt chasing me around a kitchen with a broom
handle; I, trying to protect myself in the right quarters and conceal a
pot of borrowed jam. Shades of our youth!

The sun rising glints in my eyes. I awake, and stretching, am caught,
fascinated by that first view of Mombasa and Kilindini harbour, of light
greens and pale blues, of bobbing cockle shells and bored,
lazily-smoking liners.

A French boat is nosing into anchorage. My heart stops in dismay. My
sweet young cousin is coming by the _Messageries Maritimes_, but it is
only due to-morrow; it would be awful if she was already in.

I am grimy and sticky with the long journey down, and dash to the Manor
Hotel as soon as we are in. It is her boat. D---, two million times
D---. My boy throws my things around and in a few minutes I am careering
madly down the shadowed avenue behind a cheerful Somali driving a
chattering Ford taxi. I am down in time.

As I clamber up the side of the ship, I mop my forehead and think up
suitable things to say to a girl of eighteen. To a steward I ask: "Will
you tell Miss Mason her cousin has come to take her off?" His inquiring
look apprising me slowly: "Mlle. Anna-Christine Mason?" "Yes." Why do
they all have to be called after Austrian Archduchesses in that family?
The French are not apt to look with awe upon the benighted Anglo-Saxon,
but I look well groomed. I've done my best.

"Si Monsieur veut bien attendre, Mademoiselle serait ravie qu'il déjeune
avec elle à Soirée." "Ye Gods! What's the matter with the child?" "Oh,
Mademoiselle n'est pas souffrante, mais elle n'aime pas la chaleur de la
journée." "I'll wait." "Bien Monsieur. Le bar est au bout du pont a
tribord." My French is rusty, been moulting since 1918, but I get what I
want in the bar, and gather from shreds the impression that my sweet
young cousin is quite a personage.

The awnings and the ropes stretch and creak around the bar, the tinkle
of ice in the glasses; the soft warm atmosphere. My mind doses, a hand
unconsciously rising from time to time for another drink; all subdued by
the sing-song of half-heard Gallic voices.

I slowly become aware of some fragrance in the air, some Eastern scent,
frangipane, or jasmine and amber, like at sundown from the clusters
hanging low over the walls of Fez or Marrakech. Through the door
opposite comes a lithe figure in pale mauve, sleeveless, with wide soft

"Are you Cousin Bob?" in a low toneless voice. I leap up--this cannot be
Anna-Christine. She turns, introducing her companion, Captain R.,
Commander of the ship. "He has been very kind to me on the trip." She
sits opposite me, the captain subsiding heavily in another chair; her
arms are marvellous, from the orange-tinted nails to the shoulders, not
a trace of colour; not marble, not white ivory; perhaps of some old
ivory held for generations in long Chinese fingers. On one finger an
opium smoker's ring of green jade, no other ornament. As the ordered
cocktail comes, she takes off her hat, revealing deep green eyes set
wide apart, long black lashes and eyebrows so minute and regular, they
might have been painted on.

"Pale moon face" of the old Chinese ballads. The dark red lips nearly
maroon, the wavy shingled hair--a marvellous work of nature, a more
marvellous work of art; and that on board a ship after three weeks at

I am stunned, and during luncheon can only mumble and be very British,
while she talks vividly now in English, now in French.

Later in the evening I take her off, the whole ship's company seems to
man decks to see her go; I'm getting back my footing and we talk in the
Customs house, and we talk in the taxi, and we talk in the hotel, she
sitting on the edge of a bed, while my boy unpacks her things.

I go away to change, my mind whirling with the charm of this child of
eighteen. It does not seem possible. She knows everyone--about
everything, she seems to have been everytwhere, and her voice, that flat
voice, without tone or pitch, like voices heard in Islam's bazars,
reciting verses of the Koran. It worms into your mind, fascinates your
senses, envelops, numbs one! What is natural? What is art? What is

As we start out for Tudor House, across the island, for dinner, she
insists, and we take bathing suits just in case.

The hybiscus, the jasmine, the bougainville trail overhead. Light fishes
served on brown and grey dishes. Pawpaws and mangoes on the table.

Her stories of Indian bazars and Hill stations way up in the Himalayas,
and...dinner is over.

Her amber fragrance goes to my head, all my British training and self
repose has fled, I am throbbing in heart and mind.

Down to the beach and into the rippleless creek, the moon throwing
flashes of blue fire into our wakes as we swim.

Suddenly I miss her, no longer at my side; and turning, startled, see
her emerge, naked, silver on the shining beach. Madness! I rush in to be
told in that cold flat voice that the night is for night hawks, and, as
there is no one there to see, I should not have to worry.

She lies on the sand beautiful as some goddess, silver statue of some
Athenian athlete, all length and suppleness, and yet as cold as white
marble, frozen in some Nordic garden.

At last we go home; she tells me with a wandering smile to sleep well
and have no dreams.

To-day there was a clash of wills, and I lost as I am now doomed to lose
for ever; I was reserving seats on the train and she wouldn't "be put in
with some maybe bathed but certainly not washed female." She insisted in
travelling in a big compartment with me. I battled my best, but was

After the conflict, in soothing tones, one hand on my feverish hand:
"Bob, it's no use; I always get my own way. I always take what I want
and throw it away when I like; don't forget this ever, I hate

We are now in the train. Dinner at the wayside station amused her; the
lights are out, and through the panes of glass shadowy landscapes
dwindle by.

There is a certain humour in it all; what a defeat Aunt Anna-Belle is in
for. At that moment soft lips touch mine, but cold! Arms stretch above
my head round my shoulders.

Those pure arms I saw in that first meeting, that silver body of the

    "I take what I want and throw it away."
    When shall I be thrown?  Thrown by a child!

Chapter II


I. "Overland Ltd."
II. Pets.
III. The Game Department.
IV. Muthaiga Club.
V. As we Live.
VI. Temptation and a Fall.
VII. Safariland Ltd.
VIII. Muthaiga's One Official Party.
IX. Six o'clock.

_"Overland Ltd." Mombasa. Nairobi._

The bumping of the train awakens me as it roughly stops. Makindu!
Breakfast awaits in the refreshment room. I try and straighten sundry
clothing and fix the tangled hair; then leap to the platform and scald
myself with tea and eggs.

Back in my compartment, martyrised but not replete, I finish the very
summary toilette and settle down to a book--a book about Kenya,
naturally. In the five days I have stepped its soil, I have gone through
varieties of emotions; I don't know what to think. Last night, when the
train climbed the hills out of Mombasa, I was homesick and weary, the
banana leaves seemed too wide, too shiny, the cocoanuts unending, the
train so uncomfortable without blankets, sheets or towels.

This morning I think I'm better and compose myself to study in Lord
Cranworth's book, that tabloid monument.

My companion is still asleep in the upper berth. He is an old settler
returning from a month's sea air in Mombasa; hei s so casual that one
might call him untidy, but he has great charm, with a red nose and shock
of white hair.

He told fairy stories far into the night, every now and then helping
himself to a Scotch, neat, out of my flask! He was most solicitous,
wanted to sell me his farm, in the maizeland, somewhere up near a place
called N'joro. "Well developed, charming spot, part of the land improved
for settlemend by Lord Delemere, every commodity, with furniture
complete. So take it or leave it, my dear boy!" He was certainly full of
charm--Irish, I presume.

It has been raining and the dust is laid, the famous red dust I've heard
so much about as coating everything it touches with a layer of tan.
Looking back the way we came I see a shaft of light emerging from the
clouds; that must be Kilimanjaro on the border, beyond Tanganyika.

I am disappointed in this great rolling plain: I hoped to see game in
hundreds. I've read "The Man Eaters of Tsavo" and thought that when we
followed the boundary of the game reserve, I would see masses of wild

Thump a thump! Thump a thump! go the wheels. My companion rolls over in
his cot, yawns, sticks out one leg, then climbs down: "Looking for game,
my boy? Don't you worry, after Sultan Hamud you'll see all you want.
You'll probably see Blainey Percival's Giraffe, the one they had to
raise the telegraph poles for. Not know that story? Wait till I get a
drink and I'll tell it to you. Awfully stuffy in here, or have I got a

We are now all completely dressed and he, refreshed, sits by my side
telling me names of trees; the little valleys he calls Dongas.

Sultan Hamud, where the lions come to drink at night at the Station
pump, "Quartier Général" of the Game Reserve. My companion stretches his
legs a moment and we proceed, the line climbing, twisting up among the
thorn trees and the red rocks slowly rising on that great plain that
slopes from 1,000 feet above Mombasa to 6,000 feet at the foot of the

We now see game sparsely dotted across the country. "There's Percival's
Giraffe!" and points; above a thorn tree, three hundred yards away, a
thin neck bends with a small pennant at the mast-head in lieu of head.
"And that's a water buck down in the shadows near that twisted tree, his
spreading horns like the back of some French chair, brown and polished,
white at the tips--what a magnificent beast!"

We emerge again on the plain after sundry twists and turns; my companion
names the animals as they appear. "A tommy--all does there; look higher
up on the skyline for the buck--they are shyer; there's a kongoni,
you'll see lots of those as you go up to Naivasha."

"Oh, and that clumsy, bearded, rumbling thing a 'wildebeeste'"--It tries
to race the train and goes careering over the bow of the rise madly
galloping. More "tommies," thousands, a flock, a herd of ostriches
flapping along.

The Celt explains their haits and, yawning, commits himself to sleep
again. Even to me, repetition tires and I return to Cranworth's "Profit
and Sport."

But here are houses. I arouse my companion. "Oh, here we are! Have you a
place to go? Well, don't worry. I'll take you to the 'Norfolk' and
introduce you to 'Auntie,' she's the manageress, a great woman,
practically runs the country."

The train puffs through a line of tin huts and comes to a rest in what
looks really like a station. As we clamber out I sway struck, my eyes
blinking at the vivid shirts displayed.

"That's nothing," says my friend; "just you wait in town till race week.
Then you'll see some lovely ones; we all wear them." And I visualise
that purple face and white hair framed by some amazing blazing mauve
silk shirt, short-sleeved, corduroy slacks of a fawny violet to match!

My mentor gets me into a cab, my luggage piled in front, and he escorts
me through the town, naming each shop as we pass, waving to friends. By
the time we've followed Government Road to the "Norfolk," I feel I know
at least half the population. I mount the steps to be greeted by a
white-haired smiling old lady. I am at home, I am taken into "Auntie's"
charge and my worries are at an end.

My Irish friend waves a hand. "I'm staying at the club, Muthaiga," and a
parting counsel, "Don't let any of those sharks sell you any land, you
can't be too careful when you don't know about it!"

This is too perfect. Now I, too, need a settling drink.


After a long trek down, and the motor ride from Meru, I reach Nairobi
fagged out. Washed and bathed, I'm carried off to Muthaiga for a drink.

As we drive up we are passed by a low-bodied Buick, piled up with
luggage and boys. "Ah--they are the Happy Valley crowd," says the
Colonel at my side. We stop and park the car behind theirs. "Salaam! mon
colonel!" the boy cries, all dusty faced, orange shirt turned to brown.
"Hello, Delicia!" the colonel calls, as the girl gets out, dark haired
under a broad teraï, in grey slacks and green jumper, small and dainty
with firm, pointed chin and wide spaced grey eyes, much personality. We
all meet and sit on the verandah for a drink--"You don't know
Samson!--Oh, Ned, please get Samson." He drags his long supple form from
the deepest chair with a sigh of ennui, goes to the car, bringing back a
four months' old lion cub; "I never travel without him, but I've also
got Roderigo and Bill Sikes, also Samson's pal, Gillie, the Airedale."
They are all brought for inspection, the two monkeys, tiny, and clinging
like moths. Roderigo is sweet, but Delicia warns he is not very
gentlemanly in his habits.

She talks and tells the Colonel all the gossip. Ned stalks off to the
bar. He seems so nervous and jumpy, cannot stay still, wanders from
group to group. Delicia tells of his accident with the elephant: "His
nerves are terrible and he will go hunting in the forest with only one
good arm." She smiles, "He's difficult at times."

"And, Delicia, do play to us to-night." "Well, maybe, but not at the
club, and we must have dinner, a wash and thousands of drinks. I'm
feeling completely passed out now. I'm going to my room, do send Ned
along soon, he'll only get cross if he stays too long in the bar."

"A great pity," murmurs the Colonel as she goes. "A great girl, Delicia,
but she cares too much for her pets and he cares too much for her."

_The Game Department._

Governor, hunter, colonist, tourist, trader, one day crosses A's bridge,
and turning aside by the bright citron bush, trudges up the drive under
the blue gums to halt in a dusty clearing.

The white shack, the corrugated iron roof, the verandah, L shaped and
dusty, a few cars packed opposite, a vague odour of eucalyptus, an
imagined taint of formaldehyde, an ominous calm, a prosperity due to
many fines--The Game Department!

A smiling Babu waits upon you. "What is your desire, sir?" The Colonel
for the fishes, the Captain for the jungle, at your desire to weigh the
"Tembo's" teeth, or you seek some rhino horn for memory reviving of long
departed youth?

While bending, his white clothes so tight the Babu puffs and weighs the
ivory, you watch, smiling, nervous of the result; held by some force,
you turn.

As silent as timid does or one of his great cats, the Captain has come
in. All knowing behind his glasses, he knew you were not quite sure the
weight was right--intuitive Celt, from Scotland to Africa; bringing lore
unknown to natives, imagination alien to all hunters, he has made his
department great, his laws obeyed. And many a restless eland herd grazes
in peace; many a buffalo fights as dawn at the water hole, that the Game
Department should reap where he has sown.

In those three rooms above the red dust, under the swinging eucalyptus,
many hearts have broken, but Africa wonderingly has carried on.

_Muthaiga Club._

Why do we all belong to Muthaiga Club?

Why do we go out five miles for a cocktail?

Why do we have to fight for a room during Race Week?

Why do we have to put up with our things being stolen and our laundries

Why do we drink champagne at 35 shillings a bottle?

Why are we told to go to bed at one, like naughty boys?

Why do we live in rooms without mosquito netting?

Why do we put up with our "boys" being ruined?

Why do we stand the Committee's smile?

Why does our money keep Muthaiga going?

That twice a year, swamping the "regular member" in our numbers, all
together, once more delighted, hearts beating, throats drinking; from
Moyale, from London, from Rhadjputna, from Queenstown, from New York and
Tyrone. We can bang the bar, break the glasses and on the morrow in
numberless "prairie oysters" repent----

_As we Live._

Mile upon mile I drive since sun-up, down valleys, up escarpments,
through the brown dust, the white dust and the red dust.

Sun has set these last three hours, and now I wind downwards through the
coffee shambas.

The day is long, I'm near my goal. Hopes of a bath, a drink and a long
night's rest at the club keeps me going; three hundred and fifty miles
of bumps and jolts; blinded by dust and glare. What a headache!

Here are the club lights. "Damn!"--somebody's giving a party--as I hear
the strains of music.

I stagger to the bar; everybody is there in full war paint.

As the cocktail does its work my mind clears; they ask me to dine. So
off I go, wake my sleeping boy, and after a steaming bath, in a boiled
shirt, cocktail in hand, I pledge the handsome bridegroom his last night
of freedom. I had quite forgotten two friends are to be spliced, two
friends of mine--What a show!--more worries in the offing!

We trail in, one big table, and in the outer hall the girls have their
party laughing and gay.

Our table is rather serious, we look on the future married man with awe.
Oh why, oh why should we still have friends to lose? I raise my cup,
bubbles gleaming through the glass.

    "Another and another cup to drown
    The memory of this impertinence."
                            _Omar Khayyám._

_Temptation and a Fall._

Across the gunsmith's counter you argue, shake your fist and swear. "How
do you expect me to hit a door with a fore-sight one inch high? Besides,
that last ammunition was rotten. From now on, send me cartridges made
for the gun and not this disused Army stuff." You rant, you yell, you
get "hot and bothered."

Silent at first, a word now and then, a long explanation and now a
query, "Would you like to see some of the new rifles? they're just in,
the Major is coming in this afternoon to see them."

The precious feminine 256, light as a feather, rubber pad and telescopic
sights, will break a buffalo at 300 yards if your arm is still--the
mighty 577 double-barrelled signed by a mightier name; here a barrel
from America, a sporting 300, ammunition made by the factory.

All tempt you, but, your wrath still unappeased, you stamp and turn
about, fingering as precious gems the guns from across the sea.

As you handle them, a purring thrill creeps towards your heart, your
mind wanders from the point. You open and shut, sight along the barrel,
unconsciously innoculating yourself with an unhealthy fever.

"Well, Mr. S------, all I can say is that more care should be taken, the
lion might have charged and I can't, in calmness of mind, visualise
myself dangling as a ripe plum from a swaying thorn tree. By the way,
you might send that 256 up to the club with 100 rounds, I would like to
try it."...Fallen again.

_Safariland Ltd._

Five steps or six of splintered wood, and through the open door a wide
hall, tiers upon tiers of skins, skulls on the ground, horns entwined,
the scent of sun-dried hides.

The lion's skin, the leopard's pelt, and shining dully, as if surprised,
ivory leaning against the wall.

The tin roof may be new, the younger partner craves paint and coats all
with grey...The soul is the same, Tarleton, as when you took out a
Safari across the plains, followed by that plain man who, mistaking his
desire for a nation's need, wrote the book which brought you wealth.
Roosevelt did know his press, you did know your job, and all are

The Colonel, smiling, courteous, efficient, knows what one really ought
to take, though he philosophically consents to one drinking Perrier all
through the trip.

After the junior partner's Calcutta sweepstake win, who could ignore the
dusty proverb, "Unlucky in love, lucky at cards"?

Through the country they have a name; across the sea, in dull
skyscrapers, strong men's hands twitch and eyes grow dim when through
the telephone they hear their friends say, "I'm leaving to-morrow, going
on a hunt to Kenya. Safariland runs the show."

Only the other day in an ill-lit London office, above the greatest
taxidermists in the world, an irrate soldier told me that I didn't know
what I was saying as Safariland had told him so!

_Muthaiga's One Official Party._

    The Governors are here!
        The Governors are here!

This repeated cry hits Muthaiga's bar, rolls on.

Lord D. to-night has at his board His Majesty's representatives in these
colonies. Afterwards a ball will conclude what the Muthaiga diner has
left undone. Woe in the Home Office. Woe to colonial secretaries. When
the governors dine at Muthaiga many youths look up promotion lists in
the Whitehall.

One long table; silver, flowers; the native servants all a-fluster, even
Ali loses his smile, while Yusuf shakes and shakes behind his bar.

We! the vile settlers relegated to the outer hall, are thrown some
scraps, the fish before the soup, the pudding spread with mayonnaise.
The only unforgotten item will be the monthly bill.

As our last champagne bottle is whisked away still half full, the big
Table rises and dribbles out across the court. Small house, lower form,
the miserable Third, mere fags, we follow our betters. "Naughty William"
from Uganda drops us a smile.

'Tis a pity our wives are so needed to tease away the administrative
worries, or we could have been eliminated. Fractious settlers, oh! so

The miserable settler has a nasty way of outlasting any official party,
so towards two o'clock we have the room to ourselves; and, with band
well liquored up, "will hand ourselves a time" at least till dawn.

Then for another six months among trouble and pain, through dust and
mud, will try and scrape a living from Africa's cruel earth.

Way up in the mountains, down in the gulleys, chasing sheep stealers,
curing cattle, burnt by the sun, chilled by the rain, exhausted,
beggarly, but free.

Happy for once in our lives.

Oh! Kenya!

_Six o'clock._

Six o'clock! One light, two lights. Muthaiga Club wakes up from a
somnolent, dreary day, the boys shake themselves and yawn, coming from
dark recesses where they slept since noon.

From the tennis courts, from the golf, from town, through the swinging
doors of the squash courts, by ones, by twos, they come; their women
cluster around the court ordering gin fizzes and tea, after a short
while gathering up their coats and sticks, depart home to the subdued
purr of their American automobiles.

From seven till eight Muthaiga is the man's paradise, a few less
athletic in the members' room consult a Wall Street advice or delve in
bridge. The majority lounge round the bar, hanging themselves across the
counter--no tall stools allowed--propped upagainst the walls, draped
carelessly across the green leather settee. Now they talk, now they
thrash out the day's work, tales fly round gathering listeners, in
groups quickly forming and dissolving.

"I hear that Frenchman in the Wanjohi got tossed by an elephant the
other day." "What? Ned?" "Yes, I was down at Gilgil yesterday and Dr.
Henderson was coming back form there; he told a wondrous tale. I wonder
if it was his or the noble Count's----"

"It appears an old bull wandered up the valley from Lakipia and messed
about in Hay's back garden; the manager sent over to Ned's for a big
rifle, and after lunch they appeared.

"As far as Henderson made out, Ned and a few boys followed the beast
till they got within a few hundred yards; it is very thick and bushy
forest there; the elephant must have heard them as he turned down wind.
Ned followed. From behind a nauseous pipe: 'What an ass!' The elephant
ambushed them, charged, knocking him down with a side slash of his tusk.
He squirmed among the brute's feet; naturally, the animal dug around
with its trunk and Ned says he stuck his fingers in the nostrils and got
kicked out backwards into a clump of thorns. After a thorough smelling
over the elephant left him."--"That is an elephant story!" "Well," said
the 3rd K.A.R., "Ned generally tells the truth except about his
champagne." "I don't know what happened," says the Game Department, "but
I'll send scouts up, as I know he hasn't an elephant licence." And so
they battered for and against, some taking sides, some not, the Hunters
silently sucking at their pipes. One can never tell what my lord the
elephant may take into his mind to do. "How is Ned?" says the 3rd K.A.R.
"Oh, black and blue all over, three ribs broken and a dislocated
shoulder. Henderson says that little American wife of his set the whole
business, a plucky girl, can play, and knows a cocktail too----"

Chapter III


I. The Gilgil Fair.
II. The Great Rift Valley.
III. Dust--N'joro.
IV. Mount Kenya.

_The Gilgil Fair._

Nine o'clock! Mr. S------ rolls up in his sumptuous car. Auction Day in
Gilgil, the corrals full with pawing, butting cattle, dust rising like
smoke, Somali herders cursing like true believers, Masai herdsmen
glowering, wishing Moran spears through their jostlers' guts.

Behind the stand a few cars are already parked. Some Abyssinian ponies
have just come down, thin, weary, hoofsore, after a five hundred mile
trek. A trial or two, much haggling and calling Allah to witness, then
some notes pass hands, and a smiling Somali hopes you won't recognise
him the next time you meet; or, at least, that when the horse comes
down, your neck will be effectively broken. While all this is
progressing cars have arrived. The bright-shirted settlers from the
Valley, a buyer or two from town, the managers of the stock farms, a few
Dutchmen after oxen, a troop of seers, seekers after cash, buyers of
things given away.

Wives speckle the stand with youthful radiance and Egyptian cigarettes.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to auction off to-day the most
meritorious, healthy and valuable collection of cattle put on the market
this day." All this from Mr. S------, in one breath. The auction goes
on. Ding! Dong! Back and forth, prices not high to-day; native stock do
better than grades, there are some Masai buyers from the Reserve. A fat
Mombasa merchant bids for cows in milk, the Rhamdam is over.

We sit and talk, watching now and then. Talk of wheat and polo, talk of
damage to crops, of zebra shooting. As the heat rises the bidding falls;
but Mr. S------ gets a laugh and things liven up.

The Somalis, with floating turbans and bright kekois, nudge, poke, drive
the cattle about.

Shouts of laughter as one, keenly inspecting a young calf, is knocked
flat by the irate mother.

An interlude; we troop out on the field behind the stand to bid for a
"box-bodied Sedan, built for Safari or farm, can clear land better than
a plough, never sticks in bottomless mud, only run a few months,
complete with tools." "Bunny," for five pounds gets it: an old Ford with
nailed-down curtains, smelling of the pigs it brought to market, broken
silencer sweeping the earth, to clear it, no doubt; has been already in
the Malewa on a wet night; a night wet for all, about four years ago;
two spare nuts and an old tube go with it, the spares!

Intent lags, so we all go off to the club for a drink, and Mr. S------
joins us. This day waxing confident, he shows how to make "Nile water,"
patent medicine for fever, cough, rheumatics, and any other disease.

Then we all sleep it of funder the flowing shadow of the "Syndicate"

_The Great Rift Valley._

The Great Rift Valley--how often we've heard that name on school benches
when explorers came to lecture; in our morning papers when the Uganda
Railway needed more funds; at social functions when our host had
collected the latest Lady Adventuress, who rolled her eyes, whose bosom
heaved when describing the sunset; which, by the way, takes place behind
a very large and volcanic mountain.

Many a time I've cursed it when my boiling Ford must stop and wait in
the baking sun on that knobbly escarpment climb.

Looking back towards Naivasha I've never felt great enthusiasm, but I do
remember coming down it nervously, wondering what kind of a mess that
Central Europa count should have made when he went over the side. I had
a drink with him at Gilgil the other day; all I can say is "Beginner's

One clear spot on that salt, dusty road, "Hot Springs." How many thirsty
cars have drunk there...The sign post always fascinates me. On one side
"Mongalla 918 miles."--The Nile, sweltering grey and dull, slouching
past its papyrus banks, the Lechewe and the Sititunga slipping quietly
away, while a sweating, swearing, spluttering half-drowned sportsman
tries to get a shot between the mosquitoes' stabs.--On the other side
"Lake Nyassa 2,000" and I do not remember how many miles away! Shadows
of thorn bush, stretches of scrub, great towering Kilimanjaro, the
tobacco and neat German houses of Tanganyika, the deep black waters and
puffing steamer on the end of a native woven rope.

"Sir, will you have a glass of wine with me?" The courtly stranger bows
from the hips. From Jodhpoores neat to wide-brimmed, the
brightly-handkerchiefed Teraï he is the typical Kenya. A flash of teeth,
a quick move, a vision boylike in its youth by its side. A girl? A boy?
who knows? its slacks, its grey shirt and short slick hair, who could

But we split a bottle of Lanson 19, fresh churned from a journey
up-country. They went away to the sweet purring of their straight 8 Hup
sliding up the hill.

Would that my Ford would do such, but it has its advantages; the other
day, after a party at Frank's, I tried the escarpment, only to get
through by the skin of my teeth, the banging of the Ford having scared
the buffaloes right off the road.

Then the Great Rift Valley opens out and you see this lake, Naivasha,
its swampy eastern shores, its mountains to the west, and on towards
Gilgil, the road winding in and out, playing hide and seek with the

The trail of dust behind the flying car, the cloud of dust behind the
sheep, the mud like pea soup after the cloud burst, the fumbling with
unknowing hands to fix unyielding chains to slimy wheels.

Great Rift Valley, with your changing colours, your smell of peppery
dust and salty sweat, backbone of the country say the sheep and cattle
men; fissure in the great earth says the geologist; crevasse where men
go down never to emerge, or leastwise, to travel the earth chained to
the smells and dust of Africa.


After Nakuru the railway winds slowly through the foothills, brown dust,
red dust; a few clumps of meagre eucalyptus, a patch or two of wattle
and waving on their hardened stalks, millions upon millions of corn
cobs, maize, Indian corn.

Capital of this golden crop, N'joro; a station, two Indian Dukhas, a
blistered steel grey water tower; around, nothing but maize and dust,
dust and maize.

From an adjacent field it rises in clouds, the N'joro Country Club is
holding its winter polo competition.

A wooden shack, a grass "Banda," native syces holding 13-hand Somalis,
16-hand country breds; a row of cars, splashes of light with
short-sleeved brilliant shirts.

Between each chukker the dust cloud seems to die down for a second. It
has settled in your eyes, between your teeth, up your hair, through your

At last polo is over and sun-caked, dust-burnt heroes dismount, cracking
grey-red complexions when their first drink homeward goes; a half-moon
grey-red left on the rim of the glass.

_Mount Kenya._

Up rocks, down dales. It seems to be an unending trail: I don't know the
road and am following another car. The country changes so; the plain
grassy and undulating, long-tailed birds sailing in long swoops; then
forest land, precipitous gulleys where we nose down carefully and splash
through the ford at the bottom; ascending stones roll down from beneath
the wheels of the preceding car. Twisted wild olive trees jut out from
red clay banks.

When we stop on the crest to refill our radiators, one of us newcomers
whoops with joy; ecstatically we gather around the deep imprint of a
lion's pad in the soft earth. On we travel north, always north, towards
the Equator; the sky is greyed with a few fleecy clouds. As we top the
last rise, far away, shining above a blanket of clouds, Mount Kenya
rears its head, a tooth of rock part covered in snow.

We go rattling down through dust and stones to the plains, winding mile
upon mile between the flat-topped thorn trees.

"Why does the trail wind so, Jack?" "Oh, because we're probably
following a native track and they never walk straight."

Mount Kenya grows, and the evening wind drags away the clouds by shreds
till only a few specks remain like pods on a cotton plant bursting to
the glory of the setting sun. The lights play on it like some
kaleidoscope; this soft, wet atmosphere makes every detail clear;
patches of light grass, the bamboos; the dark towering cedars; that
rolling spur to the south with irregular clumps. All is so clear that we
can imagine the frozen buffalo towering among the snows up there. The
sun is set, we pass through a few lights to carry on, and just as all
goes as black as should in Africa, we turn up a drive, flowers on each
side glistening in the headlights.

The grating of the brakes, a sudden jarring stop, and a waving
cocktail-shaking figure greets us by the dark wood floor.

Chapter IV

Settlers in Kenya

I. An Elopement.
II. Happy Valley.
III. Night Air.
IV. Time and Space.
V. An Interlude.

_An Elopement._

Hand in hand, we stole out of camp; the moon high up in the skies
silvers the winding path, then down a little slope, the woods thinning
all the while; a murmur grows as we approach the shelf where the little
brooklet takes a leap to a thousand feet below. Eternity!

Mist clouds the valley sides, the dark cedars pointing their heads
through its fleeciness.

The lake shimmers in the moonlight rippleless, the papyrus nodding
indignant heads as some rat climbs their stalks.

Above the world, out of the world, remote on a volcanic shelf; the live
waters going down to some distant planet.

We have come out to talk, to discuss ourselves, others, our intermingled
lives; to thrust and push over our tangled trails, to try and clear a
road to peace and happiness.

We had left the fire, hearts full of wounds, of aches, of desires; our
minds seething with unuttered thoughts, caught-up fancies, wild
hallucinations and love. Perhaps!

We have run away, run away together. She has run away from him! No! from
his life! from her friends! I have run away from myself. I have come to
drown myself in her feelings, to lie my head between her cool rigid

We have run away to the top of the world, some instinct guiding us
towards this hanging ledge above the Rift Valley.

Until to-day we have never spoken of what lies behind us; never acted
but as young lovers running away.

During dinner I could see the episodes of the crisis coming and going in
her clear eyes. Dancing with joy at the idea of having taken his car to
do the bolt. Sombre at the recollections of that last scene in the
library, with lights low, his revolver in hand, his rush of words, his
idioms, his colossal conceit. Soft tones play in her eyes when she
remembers our welcome on that first dreary, water-soaked evening when we
knocked shyly on the door, wondering how we might be received, the
erring couple in flight. We have come out to talk this over and, more,
the future.

Sitting down on the ledge the swishing of the stream diverts our
thoughts. I reach over the cigarette tin and two orange lights glow and
die, to glow again.

I must speak, I must make things clear, but my mind wanders fascinated
by the glacial ethereal beauty of the valley; each contour stiffens as
the mist dissolves, sinking in dew between the cedars; on a far distant
ridge a fire twinkles and the minute throbbing of some tom-tom miles

My cigarette drops some ashes light and clear on my dark coat. Why have
we done this, why have we ruined our lives, perhaps others, too?

She has risen from my side, and, slipping off the cloak and dark kekoi,
stands naked, knee-deep in the brooklet. Her golden, boyish head, lips
parted, arms raised towards the vertical moon.

The water shines, the rock shines, she shines, the moon, hard,
implacable, reveals us to ourselves.

The same passion rules us and the strong-breasted Kikuyu miles away
across the chasm by the twinkling fire. We have not run away from
difficulties and pain! We have not run away from people, from things! We
have gone away to satiate passion! The one inexorable fate of this land,
and to-morrow she may let us die.

Long years of heredity and training have blurred our minds with symbols
and creeds, and yet! and yet!

That slight silver form quivers in the night air; with a quick plunge
beneath the icy waters she is gone a second, to emerge draped in a
thousand running diamonds and shimmers.

As we walk back to camp, our minds relieved, the moon drooping down
sends long shadows across our path, the murmur of the brook dulls, the
mist seems to creep out from unknown recesses; only the distant tom-tom
cleaves the night breeze with a clearer sob; or have our veins, our
hearts leant the lesson of the drums, of the red earth, of the vertical

No ideals! No hope! No faith! but to feel, to bloom, to rot!

_Happy Valley._

Happy Valley, Earls Court, the Wanjohi, as locally known--famous and
infamous by turns--habitat of the wild and free.

As befits much-talked-of people or places, it is simpler, more
harmonious than could ever be expected.

At the head of the valley--a mountain--Kippipieri, joined by a
cedar-covered saddle to the Aberdare escarpment, which slowly,
effortlessly dies in a lazy slope towards Thomson's falls.

The escarpment, wood covered and rugged green, leafy, mysterious,
abruptly loses its feet in the grassy plain of great undulations slowly

In this décor live a restless crowd of humans, hardly
colonists--wanderers perhaps, indefatigable amusement seekers weary or
cast out from many climes, many countries. Misfits, neurasthenics, of
great breeding and charm, who lacked the courage to grow old, the
stamina to pull up and build anew in this land.

Wanjauhi, the river, flowing down from Kippipieri through their farms,
was once said to flow cocktails, "Trinity's" no doubt.

Iceless, ceaseless, imitative, perhaps, when at the bend it also changes
its name, Melewa then, through that effort of misdirected industry, a
factory and once flax lands, through dust and mud, over rocks and stones
to Naivasha, the lake thirty miles away.

_Night Air._

It was midnight when I awoke, some noise or feeling. I turn over and

No moon! the earth seems to hold its breath, a million stars overhead
dancing between the branches.

The fires have gone low. I hear the rustle of parted grasses against
some hide. Creeping out of the mosquito net, torch in hand, now erect, I
can see the dull forms of the natives, naked, sleeping on the ground.

I step over them, between them, towards the fires. Waking a sleeping boy
near by, he shuffles on the logs in a half-dream and slumps down to
earth in slumber again.

My sleep has vanished, so I squat by the fire listening to the crackles
of a dried log and the subdued murmur of the white ants at work on some
tree near by.

Suddenly a splash awakens me from my trance, a grunt and then deep, low

The buffaloes have come sown to the pool below. I cautiously wind
towards a great tree that juts out from the overhanging bank far over
the pool. I cannot see a shadow though I hear them. I know they are less
htan ahundred yards away; a swishing of water as one rolls, much
breathing and puffing as they emerge to climb the bank.

A sudden touch by my side, a shady figure close to mine, a light
fragrance in the air. She has left him in the tent to feel and kiss the
night. Not a sound, not a word; There we stand thinking and listening.
Far away across the valley a jackal yelps, a hyena calls from time to
time. A loud purr on the veld as some lion tries to baffle his prey.

Insensibly her shoulders close to mine; nearer, nearer, comes the
hyena's call, till I feel her throbbing through the silk pyjamas,
beneath the golden skin.

The cough of the charging lion makes her shiver; as a late moon rises
above the ridge one vagrant beam silvers her lips turned to mine.

_Time and Space._

I thought I'd be through before sundown, but the road was awful and the
rain coming down in sheets. Towards nine o'clock I see a light; I've
only been up this road once, and am about lost, so I turn off, and after
a hundred yards stop in front of a low bungalow, heralded by a dozen
dogs. A man comes out on the porch. After telling me where I am, he
insists I should come in to supper and stay the night as he says the
road is practically impassable further on, even in the daylight. Some
boy takes my bag and I go in.

A huge room dimly lit, a fire of enormous logs at one end. As I warm
myself, whisky and soda in hand, I look about--how different from the
ordinary Kenya home. The walls, entirely built of great logs one upon
another, climbing to a ceilingless roof. Not a piece of European
furniture, not a picture, not a photograph. The fireplace of rough-hewn
stone, a blackened beam, and above, the towering Kudu head. Nothing but
skins on the floor. What a collection: from where I sit I can see lion,
a tiger and bear skins.

My hosts sees my astonishment. "All the furniture has been made on the
place. You see I'm rather a wanderer, and moving furniture is..." He
shrugs his shoulders.

Supper is served. While I eat he sits in front of the fire, prodding the
logs absently. I study him; somehow his personality is familiar; that
sturdiness of figure, set determination of face, clean-shaven paleness
contrasting with tanned hands. A man who has always worn a hat, who has
worked by his strength in the open; a slightly rolling walk stepping
high off the ground, calm grey eyes. I join him by the fireside.

What a personality this house asserts. A long the wall rifles glisten;
out of the room emerge heads, skulls, antlers, an astounding collection:
beside an eland, a black buck fom India, above, a puku, a markhor from
Thibet, and facing each other from opposite ends of the room, a moose,
an African buffalo.

The table I rest my glass on is a Buganda drum, while on the two posts
holding up the fireplace beam are nailed witch doctor masks from West

In the red glow of the crumbling logs I realise my host must be older
than I thought at first, the lines on his face and around his eyes,
years of exposure and rough life.

We talk of Kenya, then of life through the world. I tell of places I've
seen, hoping to hear what he is; slowly he thaws: "I was lonely
to-night; I am glad the fates bade you stop. I have wandered so I have
no home, this seems only a resting place," and as he speaks pictures
come to his lips: his youth way out in the west, a small town in
Wyoming, stories of cattle wars, gold rushes, rodeos, of Saskatchewan
and the Yukon; of shooting frays at the Golden Gate; of emeralds and
rubies up the Yangtse Kiang, of training a troop of horse for an Indian
hill rajah, of slowly drifting down through India; of the day in Madras
during the riots, of men killed slowly swelling in the sun. Of the
contract for work in East Africa, of Mombasa; of the building of the
railway, of Tsavo, and the driving of the coolies, of the war, of German
officers and African soldiers, and after all he stops. I question: "Have
you never been home?"

"Well, I don't think I'd find much to go back to: my father rode for the
H.F. Bar near Sheridan, and mother slung hash at the hotel, and that was
fifty years ago." He sits and stares. I pace the floor, visions dazzling
me. "My boy, you're lucky you have people to go back to. Don't let them
stray form you, go see them every few years." "But have you no friends?"
"Well, a few: some in Australia, some in China, some here, don't see
them often though. Don't know that I want to now much; you see, I'm a
'bum,' run sheep fifty thousand head. I've no use for sheep, but cattle
don't seem to run good here. Sometimes things seem finished. It does me
good to see young fellows like you. I guess I'll go down to the Gilgil
Club next Sunday; nature there is always new, though I feel I've seen
the world."

The candle gutters and spits, the logs are low. I see a lonely old man;
through fifty or more years he has shot it out with life, and now
shivers by his fire.

_An Interlude._

The sentry passes up and down the walk, his naked feet noiseless on the
packed earth.

Government House sleeps. The night is warm; the jasmine and the hibiscus
shower scent from the heaven, and low down, beyond, the great lake
shimmers under the moon.

I cannot sleep, so throwing on a Somali shawl I slip out into the garden
for a cigarette and a feel of the cool breeze on my burning skin.

A window creaks; I look up and a draped form pushes out a small shape,
telling it to be a clever girl. As I watch, a small dog is clever, then
wanders along the verandah and falls down to another, slightly below the
first. Soon the draped form, rather a nice draped form, comes out and
calls. Alas! the small clever one can't get back, though it struggles
and whines.

What a fuss, what a pother then occurs in the upper room, but there's no
way to it, she must be retrieved by way of the room below.

Now a knocking is heard, and a bashful colonel trembles to this day at
the risk he ran when that daring draped form crossed his room and
returned, carrying her darling. The romance missed fire; it needs more
than a dog to make history in the land of the elephant!

I wander about, slowly descending to the lakeside where I sit a moment,
soon to be chased away by flying pests. As I come back, I hear two
voices; others parade under the moonbeams. Voices carry at night. An
irate wife upbraids a penitent husband, "Hunting is all right in its
way, but it's painfully ridiculous to chase three days with the best
Government Shikaree only to wound an eland in the tail."

To-night is humorous--Africa's form of humour is not apt to be light.
I'll retire, or she might try and get me stabbed by the sentry.

So funny, don't you know!

Chapter V

Uganda and the Sudan

I. Purification.
II. Xmas Eve.
III. White Man's Law.
IV. My Lords.
V. Papyrus.
VI. Tropical Forest.
VII. Voodoo.


Earth's cracks seem to go down to some eternal fire; grass stems shiver
and break; leaves corkscrew back on their branches; brown and desolate
are the hills, grey and desolate are the plains. The end of the dry

The antelope travel each night miles to slake their thirst. The river
has dried up. The elephant cannot dig to water; even the industrious
rhino, after hours of spade work in the river bed, leaves a ten-foot
well discontentedly, to trek twenty miles to the waterhole.

At these times the patient, sun-bearing, thorn-torn, mile-weary sporsman
gets his recompense.

Around the waterhole, some truce declared, the animals come to quench
their thirst and wearily tell tales of desolation and waste. The giant
kudu from the hills, his twirling horns towering above him in great
curves, stamps his foot with impatience and tells of a thirty mile trek
through the scrub, of his waterfalls gone dry, of his favourite shades
thin and uninviting. The gazelle from across the plain frets and fights
his brother, his coat is mussed and dusty, his feet are sore, while his
doe, with melancholy eyes, nuzzles her thin trembling lawn. Who can tell
which of them will live when the rains come.

A lonely giraffe cow straddles her legs and bends her knees for a twenty
minute drink. The elephant shuffle against each other with sounds of
scraping bark. A red-eyed tiang bull eyes a lioness with panting cubs
across the quiet pool.

A striped hyena looks hungrily at the gaunt, heaving sides of an old
battle-scarred half-dead buffalo; the carrion crow and the vultures
share his wonder, while two sapient old marabout storks, one leg down to
the wet sand, boredly snap their beaks in contempt. They know. At this
season the carrion feeders of the land wax fat and prosperous.

Last-comer, dealer in ill tidings, tongue hanging, coat unlicked, eyes
glazed, limps down leading his herd, the eland, king of antelopes.

He has travelled far, bringing the news: the fires are lit on the plains
fifty miles away. He has trekked day and night, migrating.

The vultures fly away pleasedly remembering past feasts at such times,
even the marabout storks show interest, drink, to depart silently
through the air with great swinging strokes of their giant wings.

Having drunk, all go; go down to the south, towards the land of the
great rivers, migration from fire towards water.

The elephants sway on three legs, rubbing a still sore sole on a rugged
leg, remembering the agony when the natives fired a circle around them
some months back. The bones of half the herd rattle to the scraping of
some straying jackal in that murderous dip where they were caught...

Hunching their shoulders, they glide away on their three hundred mile
trip, a swinging pace, ten miles to the hour, till, in the shadows of
the great river, they will plunge and splash, squirting themselves in
trumpeting, jocose delight.

Ten hours later, roaring up the valley, a wall of fire rushes, crackles,
assaults the hills, crashes along ridges, the rocks crackling like gun
shots, the smaller birds of prey above it, in front of it, picking the
terrified scurrying rodents with one swoop.

The plain is now blackened, smooth as your hand; one or two tortured
thorn trees rear their scarred branches to the blazing sun, while a root
smoulders along the earth.

That once pleasant waterhole is now bleached; the spreading trees have
lost their leaves, and soon the small remaining puddle will waft its way
towards the distant range, a fleecy cloudling.

That night the wind comes up as some furnace blast, carrying sparks and
stenches of roast flesh. High up on the hills lines of flickering lights
waver and carry on over the crest their work of destruction and

The tired hunter ceases his vigil, the danger is passed; he unfolds his
tent, eats a smoked unpalatable meal and tries to rest. As he dreams and
mumbles in his impatient sleep, the heat beats up from the burnt earth,
every hour getting more unbearable.

And then a ping on his taut tent canvas, like the pinched cord of a
violin; another, and again another. Awakened, he jumps up and lifts his
face to the large squashy raindrops; then a deluge.

Sunrise is late, the earth steams, a haze of blue hides the hills, and
still it pours. Just in time, those fires, to kill all the insect pests,
their larvæ, their eggs, all awaiting the rains to burst forth in their
biting, stinging millions.

Under his tent the white man reads, the rain-soaked canvas hums gently
under the falling drops, a trench carries the skimming water away. The
white man reads, awaiting the rebirth of the land. Patiently he turns
the leaves of his book, unworried he sleeps, eats and reads, the roaring
of the stream a dull accompaniment to his resting thoughts.

One morning the sun shines bright, the hills are turned to green; on
every branch buds grow sticky and burst forth, from every nook and
cranny undreamt of seeds swell, pushing up and out a million greens.

The cooing of the ring doves in the awakened trees by the rushing mud
stream, the call of the parrots swinging from thorn bush to thorn bush;
the sudden drop of the vulture way out across the valley; a swoop of
white as the egrets come to drink.

The white man smiles and stretches, throwing the books into a tin case
to wait till other rains.

The game is back. Another season has begun.

_Xmas Eve._

Christmas Eve. Seven thousand miles away the cranberries bubble in a
pot; naked overstuffed poultry await their doom in the larder; crackers
in their pink and blue kimonos closely pressed in boxes sleep till the
morrow; stockings swing to and fro in the icy wind blowing down the
chimney; flecks of snow frozen to the window-pane make weird lace

Dinner, solitary, cold guinea fowl and beans from a tin, is over.
Homesick for homesickness--you are so blue.

From time to time a patter of naked feet on the baked earth; now and
then a voice raised in song; then as the moon rises dead white over the
palms, the tom-tom murmurs, breaks out to murmur again. Some native
dance, you think what a bore, another night of troubled rest.

As the drums warm up by the giant beacon fire, the murmur rises into a
shout and voices wail and crash.

Uneasy, you shift your seat, cross your legs, light a cigarette. The
thump, thump of naked feet drill into your brain. All your boys have
deserted camp. You might as well go over and see what the blighters are

In an immense oval space hundreds upon hundreds of naked bodies are
milling around; on the outskirts the whitewashed huts reflect red tints
from the bonfire.

A naked grey-bearded figure salaams, a necklace of crocodiles' teeth
hanging to its knees. The decorous chief who received you in white
flowing robes this noon. "Will the Effendi have a chair? No----" You
prefer the earth and you sit cross-legged, your back against the wall of
a hut.

The dance goes on, a shrieking native guitar gives the cue and a hundred
voices chant and rise and fall. Thump, thump, ring, ring, as the
professional dancers join the fray, wrapped to their thighs with
jingling bells. On, on, up, up, till you feel your heart is going to
break...Crash...all dulls to the murmur of the tom-toms rubbed and

Into your brain creeps some physical desire, some urge that numbs your
senses, pumps your blood. Your hand bets time. As it swells, you swell,
and as it rolls, you roll. A thousand maddened battles course in your

Slaughter and human sacrifices of the times of your Druid ancestors call
for more blood. Blood to feed the tom-toms, to blacken their sides and
shine their throbbing skins.

It needs all your will power to stay silent on the ground. Around and
around they go, the chant rising like the surge of the Atlantic when its
mighty rollers break; and then, the hissing of the surf on a scorched
coral beach.

Then smells, smells of rancid oil on human sweating flesh; smells of
benjoin and myrrh rising from the braziers; smells of the peppery dust
which shimmers in the moonbeams.

Your nostrils dilate, your mouth opens.

Desire battles with will.

Smells of sexual fury as women weave through the lines of men, smells as
their whirling bodies sway against each other.

Your two arms outstretched, palms on the throbbing earth, your nails,
your fingers imbedded.

Some irresistible desire breaks your back towards the ground. Down,
down, till your lips touch the earth.

Kiss of an eternal Mother. Salt on your lips, a new dawn in your
soul--appeased you rest.

Sunrise is near.

_White Man's Law._

In your folding-chair, legs crossed, you think and dream; the sun
dancing shadows through the gum leaves. Slowly the cigarette curls its
way to your fingers, a shaft of pain stiffens you.

120 in the shade.

You are holding court on the banks of the Nile, while a hundred
crocodiles draw down struggling buck and lowing cattle.

120 in the shade; a language you cannot speak.

Impassible, bored native police glance hopefully at the hippo whip...
the chattering ceases and trembling, naked skins shiver and shrink.

Your temples beating, your mind wanders again...Visions of ivory
raiders...the Havashi...a good haul, promotion, leave, home leave. The
rustle underfoot of the ruddy beech's crumpled leaf, a shimmer of red on
the silver maple branch. The crack of a gun in the nearby covert, the
melodious song of the hounds. The fresh whip of an October dawn. The
gentle touch of someone's red lips chilled by iced champagne.

The white man's hand drops--his head nods--Lo, the sahib is asleep. The
court is done!

120 in the shade on the banks of the Nile.

_My Lords._

Evening comes. Soon the sun will set behind the Imatong Hills, now
purple-crowned with gold.

Sitting outside the rest-house, a wall of rock behind us and the ground
sloping away at our feet far across the valley. It looks like some
surging sea, mile upon mile of thorn bush and scrub, some tumultuous
boiling cauldron. The only relief is a winding band of darker green,
just a shadow sometimes, like a low wall at others emerging above the
sagelike plain; the Kideppo river winds thus towards the sweltering
north, down towards the Nile. It is only a ribbon of water these days;
some places flowing deep down buried in the sand, from time to time to
emerge in tranquil limpid pools bathing the roots of some giant tree.

As evening comes, life awakens from a torrid day. Since the sun capped
the wall of rock behind, the earth has baked, the cracks opening larger
every hour; even the ants have retired to rest, not a bird on the wing.
Now at last cooler, the world seems to breathe, turn over and stretch. A
green pigeon circles the rest-house and alights on a wild-fig tree. A
chorus of barks far up on the rock wall, a living simian chain across
the chasm. The baboons move across; as the last one is over, the rope
detaches itself and swings towards the opposite ledge; hand over fist,
each living link climbs to the foothold and is gone.

Your heart catches. "Did you hear it?"

Your companion's face is tense and white. Then it was true, no illusion
of a sun-touched mind.

No, there it is again. From far away over the miles of waving scrub it
comes now distinct.

Peal upon peal. My lord the elephant has come to drink.

Silently you turn away. "Have a drink. We're in the land of the kings!"


Slowly we are poled along a canal cut through the swamp. Our tent is
pitched on a rough platform thrown across two dug-out trees; the boys at
the other end have built themselves a stove in which a fire burns, fed
with green leaves.

The smoke trailing out behind us merges into the haze; a faint odour of
benjoin and amber drifts around, breaking the monopoly of the swampy

Three naked bronze figures to a side toil up and down, at their
shoulders a long bamboo, which bends under their weight as they pole us

In our tent under our mosquito nets we lie sweltering. The flap
outstretched to catch any breath of air only seems to concentrate the
heat waves, and through it all a purring sound as the waves clutch the
dugouts and slip aside--now and then a hiss like some great snake at
bay, and the tall papyrus bends down to let us by.

As I think of this week, now gone, spent in the marshes in the interest
of His Majesty's Law, one sense, one feeling pervades all; one
impression, one fact--Papyrus.

Mile upon mile of papyrus cut by these canals, mudfish feeding on
papyrus parasites, kingfishers waved to and fro on papyrus stems
watching for the fish, lechwe and sititunga awakened from their beds of
dried papyrus to jump from clump to clump, invisible, the long stalks
swinging back behind them as they go. A leaden sky overhead cut by a
flight of Kavirondo cranes who circle and alight on these rushes, birds
also topped by a crest of gold like the papyrus.

Ever the same for a week. The counsels taking place on the platform,
with naked savages on floating trees bringing woven reed baskets filled
with papyrus flower to wish away the Evil Eye.

A monotonous song rises and swings, the polers grow listless, and as it
rolls and widens the sun dies far away across the swamp.

The gaunt figures in an immemorial gesture bury the pole, push, then
pull, to time with the swinging chant.

Slaves of the swamp, for ten thousand years, they have poled the
Pharaohs from the north, their destinies unchanged though a child from
the papyrus led his legions across the Rubicon.

_Tropical Forest._

As you slowly climb the trail, the forest quietly as some sombre,
forgotten faith, emerges, and on the crest rests a languid arm, falling,
slipping inevitably down the watershed.

The tropical forest, pre-history of man, long forgotten flora,
overgrown, undermined by millions of parasites.

You work your way pushing, cutting, slashing, the light closing about
you--silence and gloom, slushy underfoot, crunching dead things, killing
living ones. Vines and trailing orchids clutching at your clothes.

As the beads of sweat roll and drop, one's topee drooping in the great
silence, miasmic scents sway visibly between the stalks of the giant

Clutching a rifle, steely, deadly, a machine, but no solace to one's
blind terror of the unknown. One's heart stops with the cracking of a
branch, while a great limb with the tiredness of centuries slowly
detaching itself, bends and crashing across the path breaks the back of
the coal-black leopard waiting for you in the trail.

An elephant shrieks and shrieking passes by; a clamour of sound
instantly stilled. You know not whose shadow moves in the gloom on your
right; blind terror in your bulging eyes, dripping frozen sweat you push
on mumbling incantations of your youth, or of some weird, soul-searching
belief of some previous life. Behind you the jungle resumes its tread,
living, dying, eternal to your so mortal mind. Till night changes sun
patches into stars.


We creep through the sweating forest, carefully on the alert. The
troopers of the Police Force trail behind us, silent as shadows, dark as

A flicker of light ahead, which grows; now we are just outside a
clearing in the forest. We crouch, making ourselves comfortable, seeing
yet unseen. District officer, policeman, and twenty native police; they
fidget until a whispered order goes down the line.

The clearing is empty except for a native tending a fire. In the
foreground, empty space, a half-moon. Then between two towering totems
with stacks of wood at their feet, the fire; behind, an altar of some
soft stone, stained red in patches, its table slanting downwards from
back to front, two diagonal furrows crossing in the centre; at its back
two steps of polished wood or black stone, upon them a carved,
grotesque, grimacing figure, seated, arms outstretched, entirely plated
with gold.

A rustle--and by the path come the faithful, naked all, their black
skins oiled and glistening; in the women's hair shining flowers of gold
and silver. None may come armed or clothed to the feast. In all about
two hundred, the rich, the civilized, the powerful of the tribes. One or
two we recognise, prosperous and hardworking tradesmen, devotees of the
Mission Church.

The slave of the fire heaps the logs on, logs of scented wood, the
flames leap higher. A blue haze of smoke dims the image behind.

The slave wears anklets, joined by a shining chain of steel.

The faithful are seated in orderly, serried ranks, a man, a woman, and
so on, four feet apart, ranks four feet behind each other, facing the

Suddenly a blinding flash of light from the fire. When our eyes are calm
again. At the foot of the altar we can see a huddled figure in the same
hierarchic pose as the image above, masked, a shock of ostrich feathers
in lieu of hair. As it rises, the whole figure reveals itself; a long
robe from shoulder to knees caught at the waist by a shining girdle of
stones, from arms to finger tips, gauntled in gold, its legs the same.
The worshippers bow down to the earth between their crossed legs, their
shining backs glistening like tortoises in the flame light.

A slow murmur swells till it is like the dull thumping of the surf on a
beach a mile away.

As the chorus grows, my companion shakes his head--the words are in the
forgotten language of some long dead civilization.

The figure slips out smoothly before the fire. As it whirls and dances
the chant rises and falls, all the congregation swaying to the time. The
rhythm grows faster and from a corner a chorus of tom-toms breaks out.

Drops fall from the trees and the cold is good on one's face. The
fascination of the scene is indescribable.

The golden figure twists and whirls. Above the wailing chant, above the
crooning of the tom-toms we catch the clicking rhythm of the golden
plates. Always faster and faster, till with a crash it stops.

We have been warned, and have come prepared. I make a sign. The
policemen stiffen, green with fear; the gaunt old sergeant kneels,
bringing his rifle to his side.

Now the golden figure weaves through the serried ranks of
worshippers--all prostrate, their faces on the ground. The chant breaks
out again, but with terror in its voice. The figure stoops, touches a
back. A wild shriek and a young girl leaps from the ground beneath the
figure only to be seized on either side by two men. The chant rises
again, drowning her cries, and she is brought forward, her hands tied
behind her back; the men return to their places. She is a huddled figure
at the feet of the idol behind the fire.

Now the golden arms circle her, and she is drawn like a feather off the
ground, carried and left writhing on the altar.

We are ready. As one of the golden arms rises above her the light
catches on the curved knife. I whisper the word. Crack! The golden
figure crumples--hell on earth breaks loose, the policemen catching and
binding all they can.

My companion and I rush to the prostrate figure; wrenching off the mask
we stagger. There, dead, lies one of our dearest friends, beautiful in
the glory of her youth, her golden hair. African born and bred, what
witchcraft has wrought this?

Thank God she's dead.

The flames hungrily lick towards her feet.

Chapter VI


I. A Middle Western Comedy.
II. Dreaming.
III. White Hunting.
IV. Moon and Water.
V. Shooting on the Aberdares.
VI. Buffalo.
VII. An Ivory Trail.

_A Middle Western Comedy._

We pass down Muthaiga slope, cross the bridge, then up a hill and down
again, holding our noses as we pass Lord D.'s slaughter houses, then up
Sixth Avenue, and around the K.A.R. Lines. Nairobi looks quite
presentable at night, the dim lights hide its dullness, its dust remains
unseen, the glaring shop windows are dark.

After a good dinner, a very good dinner, we are taking out a newly
arrived American party to see the wild animals in the Game Reserve by
night. In the sea behind Cyrus J. Houfton, of Piqua, Ohio, Mrs. W. K.
Levysohn, his sister, widow of an enterprising sheeny who broke into
Piqua and raised himself to eminence on the debris; between them George
Black, the big game shot and white hunter--I'm driving with Miss Muriel
Houfton by my side.

They arrived to-day to shoot big game. "I want a colelction to beat the
one that puff-bellied Larchmont brought home last year," said Cyrus J.
during the presentation interview at Safariland this morning.

Black and I have been detailed off to deliver the goods. "And, young
fellows, I've made my pile and am ready to spend it, but no hanging
around clubs and introducing lounge lizards to Muriel while we're out
here! I've had enough trouble making the simoleons not to know that
buying off prospective son-in-laws is an expensive business, so go right
ahead and get us out in the big, wide country and you'll find me a bear
for punishment after I get my second wind."

Black and I, after much discussion with Safariland and others, staged
this party, which supposedly will inoculate them all with buck fever.

We bump along the track into the reserve, the dash-board lamp shows up
the perfect profile of "Dear Muriel." She is a "peach," as her "home
town beau's" would say. I wonder how they will stand Safari? How much
fighting there will be? And everything else one asks oneself before a

An exclamation from Black as two huge spotted hyenas cross the headlight
beams, and again some more, perhaps they're due for a "hyena ring"; it
would be just my luck to bump that unique sight the day I had a sweet
"clear cut" "jeune fille" aboard.

As the game comes up or away, Black names them: wildebeeste, jumping
hare, then some "kongoni," a gazelle. As we round a curve, I stop the
car; a few feet away, crossing the track, a herd of "impala" turns and
stares, hundreds of shining eyes; now and again they leap high into the
air over each other's backs. Cyrus J. is "jittering" in excitement, and
the noble Mrs. Levysohn throbs the atmosphere with "Muriel dears."

The girl is quiet and silent, nodding as I explain in a low voice. She
looks and looks, her hands clasped together, fingers locking and
interlocking. As we turn back she glances up and smiles; green eyes
below the white brow and massed piles of smoke-blue hair. In the front
seat we're silent, lulled by the purr of the engine and the chatter of
Mrs. Levysohn; an interjection or two from Cyrus J. in true "hardboiled"

We drop them at the New Stanley Hotel, say good night; he calls after
us: "We start bright and early day after to-morrow; I'll see you at
Safariland in the morning at nine." "Good night, Mr. Black, good night,
Mr. Meighan. I've liked this evening, and now you must teach me to
shoot. Don't let father do too much, his heart is weak; as for Aunt Zoë,
she gets awfully hot and bothered; I count on you two to help me keep
them well and contented, they're mighty difficult at times." This Safari
is taken out of our hands.

Up the hill towards the club we go--we'd often heard of the ways of
young America! This is going to be "some experience."...


I sit my feet towards the fire, my table over my legs; sun set an hour
ago, bathed, changed, dinner finished. I sit, feet towards the fire,
mind wandering, pipe in mouth.

I am detached from this world; on a bare space overlooking a ravine my
camp clings to the mountain side; every rollable object washes by now in
the creek far below.

What a sunset it was; the last rays of light gilding my tent, the peak
above mauve and pink, a cloud or two hung like cotton wool to its side,
above the tip of snow.

One last sunray strayed up somehow through the cedars in the ravine to
light a patch of bamboo, a threshing of gold slivers.

I can just see the fire over the table, the logs are damp, and the smoke
curls and twists according to the sighs of the unfelt breeze. I am
tired, my eyes hypnotised, dully watch the logs turn red, then white,
then red again, dissolving into embers. I grow numb, and the smoke comes
nearer. It takes a shape, wraith-like at first, then slowly matter seems
to form, a face, dark brooding eyes, pale green, a supple neck, small
red-painted mouth, then the curling auburn hair, a dress fits itself,
green like the bamboo shoots, blue-tinted in its folds like the curling
stream far below.

My heart grows cold, my head goes round. That my loss is true. The Bwana

The bush-buck barks by the river far below, and away up in the mountain
an old rhino snorts, cursing the white man who, in his sorrow, taints
the mountain air.

_White Hunting._

Our camp is set near the winding river, under a great clump of trees,
beds lined up like a dormitory, ground sheets between, mosquito nets
swinging up to the supple bamboo poles (our tents rolled up in their
sacks, the climate making them obnoxious). The natives have built us a
grass "banda," rectangular, all sides open, the high pointed roof coming
down to about four feet from the ground. In this by day we sleep, feed
or read; it is sunproof and very airy, every breath of wind seems caught
and trained through it, the temperature thirty degrees lower than

After a long day's stalking in the sun we are relaxed in arm-chairs
around the table, talking and smoking, words dropped, picked up and then
passed on.

A motley crowd: an African soldier, an English diplomat, an American
millionaire, two wives, a stepdaughter, youth, beauty and life; I don't
count, just an obsever, a hired white-hunter, but they are pretty nice
to me on the whole.

The women are very tired and half asleep in their chairs; drowsily they
shiver as a fly lights on their bare arms.

Their words seem meaningless to me; somehow to-day I've felt their
personalities. For the first time their true selves were revealed.

Just before dawn we came up to a herd of elephant about half a mile away
and waited; as sunrise broke we closed in. A cow herd, only two
shootable bulls, not big at that. We divided up--I took the American and
his stepdaughter, the soldier took the four others. The diplomat got his
at thirty yards. A clean brain shot.

Ours was fussing about, breaking branches, and would not stay still. The
American tried for the heart; at the shot the animal whirled and came on
like a steam engine; I didn't know exactly where he was hit, but he was
coming, and coming fast. The girl was splendid, took one step to the
right of her father, and shot both barrels at the oncoming head. He
tripped in his stride, staggering forward on to his trunk with a lurch.
He was dead two yards from where we had stood.

I quickly reloaded my 470, not wanting the girl to know I had shot.

We all gathered round the stricken monster; the other party, having seen
the charge, joined us. As we stood there for the first time, I saw them
as they really are.

The millionaire, well! Just a millionaire and a weak old man. The
diplomat, excited, out of his poise, his slow circulation stirred, more
alive and conscious than I'd seen him before. The soldier, thoughtfully
rubbing his shoe on the animal's trunk; he'd been at it before and knows
what an elephant can do; he's Irish, too, imaginative. His eyes stealing
towards two women, become hard and steely.

One was leaning on her rifle, teeth clenched over the full lower lip,
eyes grey with unconscious physical desire, cruelty and...The other
one, trembling with suppressed fear and excitement, was clinging to her
gunbearer's arm, nerves all gone, verging on tears.

But the girl, a slight flush on her cheeks, quietly broke her gun,
dropped the cartridges, reloaded: "Well, that's that, I feel damned
hungry now." I could see her hand trembling at her side. "Well, unkie,
I'll race you back to camp for breakfast." Calm and collected;

She is a thoroughbred right through; never permits a cloud to gather
among the others, runs the Safari on smooth wheels, no easy job with so
big a party.

As we sit, I watch her: our eyes meet, and she catches me at it; her
smile seems to include all the gentle humour of our position. She
glances meaningly towards the river, and I break the spell, and all of
us troop down for the evening dip.

_Moon and Water!_

We're up to-night, having set a blind near the waterhole. After a heavy
dinner we trundle over, the boys loaded with sandwiches, bottles, stools
and guns, escort us to our lair; they depart swinging a Safari lantern
through the night.

Fitz and I have two weeks' leave and have come down to the Masaï reserve
to try and shoot lions; as we have a car, a box-bodied, battered
offspring of Detroit, we have pushed on to the dry country and are
spending a few days in the vicinity of a rather muddy waterhole.

By day, our chosen lair seemed perfect; cut out of a big thorn bush with
a spreading tree overhead, slits shaped so as to afford a view and
possibilities of shooting. At night we seem less comfortable, the thorns
seem longer, the lair too small, our implements unending in their
rattles. At last towards eight, we seem to settle down, and I take the
watch, Fitz trying to dose in his chair.

However used my eyes get to these nights, the dark is such that, at ten
feet, nothing is recognisable; by contrast, the stars seem to blaze...
Idly, between the branches, I try to locate those I ought to know.

Somehow something seemed changed, what could it be? Preconsciousness of
danger, proximity of some beast? I could not say. Suddenly a shaft of
light slips over the hill as the moon tops the ridge above the thorn
trees on the other side of the pool. That consciousness of light just
before sunrise or moonrise is absolutely physical, like a presence.

Step by step the moon crawls up its hill, unfolding a new panorama,
unexpected, different entirely from what it looked by day. The pool
shimmers, wavelets grow, and as phantoms emerging from the gloom, I am
suddenly conscious of things, vague shapes, now an outline, at last the

I wake up Fitz, it's a sight for the gods. A score or so of Thomson's
gazelle are standing, drinking in the pool; their dainty feet break that
silvery surface without a sound; one old buck, what a beautiful pair of
horns, stands guard by the water side quickly clancing here and there.
Behind them, statue-like against the dark trees, four water-buck; one
male has spreading annulated horns at least thirty inches long; his
hoofs shine in the moonlight and his dark coat glistens, in the pink of
condition; the does, wide ears outstretched, listen by his side.

The gazlles "freeze"; what can they have heard? All there poised for
flight, it is like some dead landscape of the German school.

Tap, tap, a slight rattle of stones and then, with a clatter down the
opposite bank, come a herd of zebras; their stripes seem of silver and
jet, an old stallion takes into his fancy to roll in the water,
splashing, kicking he comes out covered with mud. They don't stay long,
on some trek maybe.

Again towards the pool come the water-buck only to "freeze" again, this
time a small troop of kongoni, high-shouldered and sloping quarters.
They look dull brown instead of the red-gold natural tint. Soon they are
joined by their near cousins, the topi, with patchy hides of grey and
brown. They drink and splash, while their offspring romp with each
other's shadows in and out among the trees.

Last, slinks down for a sly drink, a huge spotted hyena. At first we
thought it was a lioness. In his wake scurry two jackals; his coming
taints the breeze.

Suddenly a dull rumble in the distance, lives, grows, falls, the animals
alert, by ones, by twos, in troops fade away; the King of Beasts is

From time to time we hear the roar and a cough. Nervous and excited we
await his arrival--and waiting, lo! it is dawn. He has not come! We
collect our chattels, wondering how we have spent five or six hours
intently watching, our interest held, our senses on the alert; now tired
and shivering we walk briskly back to camp.

_Shooting on the Aberdares._

We are camped on a green sward covering the crest of the bluff; one
thousand feet below in the gorge, a waterfall growls and white mist
rises like smoke between the giant cedars. From hill to vale, the dark
gauntness of them overpowering all.

We arrived at noon, after a four hour climb, fifteen hundred feet above
the plain, nine thousand above the sea, and above us towers three
thousand feet of forest and rock. We are out after bush-buck, the
beautiful elusive wanderer of forest glades, and, perhaps, we might meet
forest-hog or bongo, that greatest prize of all.

Three o'clock, time to go. The boys collect the equipment and in Indian
file we trek out. Very soon the trees close about us, the N'dorobo
hunter takes the lead. I follow the two "guests" behind.

Two years have passed since I last hunted the bush-buck, the smell of
the forest brings back memories, memories of things, of people, of days,
of nights.

The winding trail on the side of a hill, so sombre it might already be
night, the maiden-hair fern leaning out from the bank to brush your face
with soft dew-speckled fingers, the moss underfoot cut by the hoofs of
the bush-buck and the pig the tree moss hanging from the branches
overhead, "old man's beard," silvery among these shadows; the giant
plantain with emerald leaves nibbled at the edges. Pervading everything
the smells, smells of dead wood and rotting vegetation. Smells of rancid
orchids, smells of trampled moss, smell of wet, still air.

The going is hard, the forest so thick that we must often crawl on hands
and knees, up, always up, towards the bamboo forest.

At last I call a halt. My two companions are purple, puffing, and eyes
swimming. We start again; the forest thins a little, moss underfoot
changes to grass and nettles appear here and there, how they sting. The
two sportsmen now carry their rifles--we leave the boys behind. Doubling
all precautions we try to find a direction to the wind; there does not
seem to be a breath of air. We creep around clumps growing at the feet
of the giant cedars, every sense on the alert.

Suddenly a flash of red across the path, a crack of breaking dry wood,
and immobility again. A good head. Bush-buck twenty yards away. The
leading hunter hadn't time to shoot. I warned them it wouldn't be easy.
On we twist and turn along the game trail, the forest clears like some
ill-kept park flung up the mountain side, the rugged trunks, great
columns, sun-patched and weary.

The guide "freezes"; looking down into a glade we creep up, heads just
above the vegetation; down among the plantains are four forest-hog,
immense backs grey with dried mud. There's one good boar, a hundred
yards about, the hunters steady their guns, elbows on knees, crack,
crack, a miss...No, the boar runs fifty yards and drops.

But we are actively employed, two for one tree, two for another. We
wakened from her siesta an irate old forest rhino, and down the hill she
comes, right in our backs; I just swing clear as thunderingly she goes
by, bumping, slithering down the slope, nearly squashing the dead pig,
to disappear in the thick bush; leaving a levelled path behind, she
won't stop for half a mile. Gingerly we climb down, retrieve our
implements, sending the guide back for the boys. We inspect the
sacrifice, a good size boar, magnificent but unattractive sight.

It took thirteen boys to turn the boar over. After the usual rites, the
caravan re-forms and we trudge home in the red sun to a whistled tune of
some "Jim crow" melody.


We were up before dawn, shivering in our light clothes; in damp, and
damp smoky fire beginning to glow as a shining boy blew and blew. A cup
of scalding tea and we glided away in single file, two trackers ahead, a
native between each of us to hold our faltering footsteps, to be our
eyes, our ears, until the rising sun showed the over-civilised white man
where to step and what to see.

After half an hour the caravan stopped; shadows began to show, a slight
greening in the east, a shaft of light and it was dawn, sprung from
heaven in a second to wake the restless birds and throw open in one
great yawn the gates of light.

On the banks of a wide sandy river-bed: bushy trees interspaced with
swinging dôm palms rigidly lean over the banks. A tiny rivulet of water
wanders, twisting about the bed of the draw.

A faint low on our right and off we go; the wind is right, away at our
very best pace, it begins to tell on some of us; Bettina comes up beside
me, lips just apart, dewing about the forehead, "shall we see them
soon." On we go, the gunbearers have to be hastened, any moment we may
be upon them. The sand dulls our footsteps, dragging us at each stride.
Circuiting a bunch of thorn, cutting across from one bend of the river
to another, at last around a corner our trackers freeze; dead still we
wait. A beckoning and we crawl, about a hundred yards away up the
opposite bank a last large form scrambles...have they seen us?

We follow down our side, across the yielding sandy bottom, across the
slowly drifting film of water on the glowing crystal floor, scarcely
wetting our shoes; up the bank with a dreadful scraping sound and then
on at the double, and so, more rushing behind our guides until we are up
to them, luckily, as here the bush thins and we see the massive forms
wandering along.

Powerful shoulders, sloping rumps, slate grey in the rising sun. I make
Bettina kneel, she pants, and her rifle wobbles, but she must shoot or
it will be too late. A towering bull with great curved horns shiny and
black; not yet old enough for them to be going back.

At the crack the whole herd stampedes, but he holds his ground hit
through the shoulder, there seems a moment of indecision, he does not
know where to look, then like a whirlwind he comes; less time than it
takes to think this and he is on us. The dull boom of my 470, right
barrel, then left, he staggers then on again, Bettina statue-like at my
side. My hands seem all thumbs, the cartridges won't go in, then up and
both barrels at it again; again the stagger, a step, a sudden crumple
and with a throbbing shudder he hits the ground, his legs twitching
still to propel him towards us. Game to the last, after he is dead his
nerves still drive him on until his last ounce of blood was pumped
through his heart, the heart of the African buffalo. Bettina's 275 solid
had gone clean through the greater arteries above the heart, and he came
on still, my four solid bullets from a 470 broke a shoulder and tore him
through and through, heart, lungs, guts, and yet he came on until he was

We walked away, Bettina and I. Back in camp we were still silent; the
others went on after some antelope they saw further on, hoping but not
saying that they might catch the herd that had stampeded.

The native brought in the skin and the head, great shining horns.
Bettina's Somali gunbearer is wild with joy. As I write he capers around
shouting on Allah to witness the prowess that is his to have been beside
the memsahib when the buffalo charged.

Bettina in the shade, sitting on a rock; her helmet tilted over her
eyes, her chin on her knees drawn up, one long hand playing, finger
after finger, with a necklace of amber beads strung on scarlet silk.

Wondering of what...perhaps of the "Ambassadeurs" or of "Zellis"
the fever bird wakes up across the plain: ding-dong, ding-dong, doc--and
then on some. We are in a bad country, fifteen grains of quinine
to-night. ...Wondering what...

_An Ivory Trail._

We have been out on a hunting trip with a party of Americans who have
come this far to get elephant. They have suffered a long journey with
porters and then by dug-out canoe. No luck so far.

Bettina is pleased to see some of her erstwhile compatriots; they gossip
of Broadway and the Great White lights far into the night.

Starting at dawn we marched for three hours until it became too hot even
to think, camping at last by a little water hole hidden in a murderous
clump of thorns and twining vegetation. We crossed tracks of the "Tembo"
during the march, a day old I should think. We settle down for the
night, trying to collect strength and patience for the morrow. Boys have
been sent out in every direction scouting for news or fresh spoor; they
ought to be here soon as the sun is going down across the plain in a
glory of golden sparks.

The safari huddle about the fire, their heads in the twirling smoke,
trying to protect themselves from the million flying pests come from
evrey nook and cranny that conceals a particle of water. At the hour of
the dying day they surge forth in the search of the warm blood necessary
to their welfare. And the glory of the last sunray passes unnoticed amid
much slapping of bare parts and curses to boys who will not hurry with
the mosquito boots.

We started early before sunrise. The scouts brought news of a herd going
westwards, we followed their trail all spread with half-chewed branches
and still warm droppings. We could never get up within even dust-seeing
distance, and soon we were deadbeat, so we stopped. They cannot have
been more than two or three miles ahead of us, but always out of reach.
We must have covered twenty miles at least, heading continually
westwards towards the Congo. I expect they will soon turn south-east
towards the Nile as there is no water further on for about two hundred
miles, and they did not drink last night, or so swears my Somali

We are at the last water hole. I suppose we are in for a pretty
disturbed night, being in a thickly rhino-populated region--they have no
other place to drink. As the Safari only caught up at five-thirty this
evening, the camp is a little rudimentary; no protection.

Against all rules of the game we had an undisturbed night's rest except
for a jackal trying to steal one of m'pishi's saucepans. We set out
again before dawn, and after an hour's trudging in Indian file were
brought to a halt by an excited waving in front of us. Our theory had
been right--they were coming back. At first cracking of branches and
low, deep intestinal rumblings, then the unmistakable odour. We moved
for position well to windward of the herd.

As the sun rose we were all in place. The first to get a shot was
Bettina. Head on at about thirty yards, his mighty shoulders well above
the scrub. He caught sight of her the moment before she fired, and had
just started to raise his trunk when the double crash of the 470 brought
him to his knees and Bettina flat on her back. Luckily he was knocked
stone cold as there was a moment's confusion. Where was the herd? Not a
sound. As we moved over to inspect the fallen hero a trumpet-call echoed
off to our right, in a southerly direction.

We sped off towards it, leaving a boy to guard the carcass; the herd had
stopped a mile or so off; not having winded or seen us, it was still
unruffled. We dashed on to try to cut them of and very nearly stumbled
right on top of them. A large herd this time, mostly cows and totos. In
the van a very fair bull; in the rearguard three more shootable ones,
but none anything like Bettina's.

We let them go by, and slinking from thorn patch to thorn patch,
separated into two parties, one heading towards the vanguard of the
herd, the other towards its rear. We were about a hundred yards away, a
trifle far, perhaps, but safer, being as numerous as we were; the wind
was right, the place ideal for this sort of ambush; thorn bush and no

A shrill whistle echoed and the battle began. It was over in a second. A
rumble and a cloud of dust on the horizon was all that was left. No!
What is that grey patch behind that thorn tree? An elephant on his side
kicking in agony of death; incautiously we join together and move up; at
that instant a shrill trumpet peal breaks out, and from the side dashes
one of the huge beasts with the rush of a mountain slide. I don't quite
know what happened. There was banging off of guns and a great commotion.
All I remember was being knocked over and seeing a snake-like trunk
snatch one of the trackers and whirl him with a crunching sound against
the trunk of a tree. Then everything went black. I woke up to find them
all around me looking very concerned. I sat up, and the first thing that
caught my eye was the twitching leg of the monster as he had fallen head
over heels in his stride.

Nothing broken, I got up and went to the side of our poor tracker. He
was a complete mess.

We set the boys to burying him and tried as best we could to protect his
grave from straying jackals and hyenas. Then we took stock of the
results; three bull elephants done to death. Two around fifty pounds and
one big one, Bettina's. (It scaled larger, when weighed properly, 112
and 108 respectively, a real triumph for her.)

By the time we had set a guard over them and were ready to start home an
army of natives had materialized apparently out of thin air. I believe
these meat-hungry demons set a watch on the vultures; when they see them
drop in any quantities they go out and investigate. Certainly less than
two hours after the actual shots, over four hundred natives were hard at
it, tearing, rending; all their female relations having a little
Kilkenny argument over the dainty morsels thrown them by their lords and
masters. The men hew and hack away, getting right into the carcass,
while the women grab and shriek around the outside; thoroughly nauseated
we departed, leaving a Somali gunbearer and two native ascaris to escort
the ivory home.

The road had seemed short enough in the morning, especially after
sighting the quarry. What a diference the return under the blazing sun.
Each foot seemed of lead; my side ached like fury. The women,
disregarding our advice, began to suck at the water-bottles, and in
consequence were soon foundered. We helped them along as best we could,
though as a part cripple myself I hindered more than I helped. Each step
was a torture with that demoniacal sun beating us, burning right down to
our boots, the "wait a bit" thorns clutching at every square inch of
exposed flesh, tearing our clothes from our backs, rending cloth or
leather. At length we reached camp to fall into chairs or on to the
beds. Our boys undressed us and we lay in the shade of the bower-like
trees, elated though entirely knocked out. The girls fared worse than we
did, as for reasons of modesty they had to retire into the tent and
attend to their own comforts.

We were a happy company around the table to-night. Bettina, her eyes
shining, her black hair glistening in the moonbeams; the southern girl,
all gold and pale ivory, her scarlet lips trembling with excitement at
the idea that she had actually killed one of these prehistoric monsters.
The sorrow at the death of the native was short-lived among his own
kinsmen; a mountain of flesh was lying on the veldt; what mattered life
or death compared to glorious food in such quantities. The life of a man
was a fly's kiss to the meat hunger which cropped up on this occasion.
Anyway, death to the African is just a happening of everyday life; I
have seen them lay themselves to die after a curse from a witch doctor,
dying effectively within a few days, and no human remedy can ever save
them when in that state.

Well, we must all go some day soon; and so to bed.

Chapter VII

In Memory of the 5th K.A.R.

I. Commandant.
II. N.F.P.
III. The Patrol.


A slight figure wobbles in the haze; as it shimmies through the heat
waves, you wonder what matter it is.

Approaching, light of foot, silent of tread, knees bare, arms bare,
mahogany colour, topee over the eyes, rifle at the slouch, with the easy
stride of the desert wanderer.

In your chair, one hand on knee, the other waving a whisky and soda, a
flash of teeth, the curly, jet hair, energy and youth, the border patrol
of the 5th K.A.R.

His ascaris escorting the Safari trail in, his tent is pitched, fire
going, dinner on the grill; while he talks and smiles. Busily, order
reigns ...even in your camp.

An invitation to dinner gracefully accepted, another smile, you are
alone in front of your tent.

An hour later, as you stroll over to his camp, luscious smells and
Somali laughter greet you. Such a dinner in the winds, spectre of
Mayfair, nightmares of Harley Street; venison, pudding, champagne, just
in case you have a touch of fever...And then all is quiet, the moon
rising, the candle flickering on the table, the red glow of the fire
behind him, a wistful look in his eyes (an orderly, at attention,
suddenly perceived).

The orderly bends towards the table, salutes, is gone, and between us,
on the cloth, "The Green Hat" wonders if Michael Arlen really laughed.


Heaving, plunging, the camels are made to kneel at last, a case shaken
loose on the trek falls with a resounding crash. Drip...drip ...shrill
yells from the "M'pishi" careering madly with a saucepan to catch the
fast flowing drops of Dewar's Honeydew.

"Damn, why couldn't it have been a bottle of your vile gut-rotting
lemonade?" says the commandant. "We've still a month to go, and only two
bottles of whisky left."

After a twenty-five mile trek across the lava rock, footsore, weary,
blinded by the sand, we camp at dawn. Lake Rudolf in the distance
shimmers of salt and soda, while the thinly-spread thorn trees filter
the morning sunrise above the hills.

We march at night, every one hanging on to the former one's tail; then
if it happens to be a gracious camel, all is well enough, though one is
apt to get nipped by the next one in the string behind you. There is
much talk of the hyena's jaw power, but for plain malevolent biting, the
camel supersedes them all.

The camp fits itself out along the stony ridge, the machine gun at each
end sweeping the plain beneath us; a "Boma" in the middle, the camels
crunching contentedly for once.

Our tents are pitched with their backs to a one hundred feet drop;
elimination of the unwary or sleep-walking to-night. We are here until
midnight; when starting again, a short trek will take us up to Lake
Rudolf Fort.

I have never been this way before. My last glimpse of civilisation was
at Marsabit; Martin Johnson and his wife did us royally; the commandant
is a friend of theirs. Great "Tembo" hunter and great "Tembo"
photographer gossiped far on through the night, while Mrs. M. J. played
the Victor to us youngsters.

Fitz is just going out to get some meat, his dog at his heels. I'll go
too. This roaring heat gets us newcomers, we cannot keep still; the
commandant, under his mosquito net, sleeps peacefully, while his
faithful Daimano fusses with his things, and a tall, lithe "Nandi"
orderly lovingly oils the famous "Tembo" guns.

In the plains below, though 9 a.m. the heat is appalling, the world
seems to dance around me. Fitz's long thin form rocks and waves before
my eyes, his dog is beat. In the middle distance among some thorn scrub,
we sight some gazelles, "Waller's gazelle," says Fitz who has been
swotting up his "Rowland Ward."

We try a stalk around some bumpy ground, to find them moving across the
stark plain. A small "donga" stretches on our left, the wind towards us,
we clamber down, our shirts sticking to our backs, and crawl and creep
and run at times, till the ascaris with us being to show signs of

Cautiously we peer over the edge, there they are thirty yards away; Fitz
gets a buck. I miss, and little puffs of dust rise on the plain,
flickering tails outstretched, fifteen feet at every bound; we'll see
them no more to-day.

Fitz, already at the kill, tape in hand, measures twenty inches from tip
to skull. "Quite near a record head," says he importantly.

Oh, that walk home, barely two miles, what a torture; an ascari calmly
stalks, the buck across his shoulders. At last the rise; clambering over
the rocks, we thump down in our chairs, clamouring for water, by then
the temperature of newly-made tea.

The commandant yawns, rolls over, looking our way. "Got a Grant's, did
you, a young buck, good meat." Fitz's glad smile dies, the record for
Grant's gazelle in Rowland Ward is well over thirty inches. He won't own
up, I won't tell, but a Waller's neck is about three feet long.

We lapse into fitful slumber, slowly oozing moisture wetting our lips,
to feel it coming out through our eyes; and the day goes forward in the
land of the Vertical Sun.

_The Patrol._

We trudge along, the quiet squashy tread of the camels' feet beating
time to the rhythm of our brains; four miles an hour, and then again
another hour; the trail winds across the plain, then up a ridge and down
the other side or into a deep donga, then scrambles up again--miles of
thornbush and scrub. The askaris march along, joking among themselves,
it is all in the day's work.

It is less hot to-day, the sky is over-clouded, the light subdued. We
crawl on, a snake winding across the plain.

In front, the commandant swings his rifle across his back, his head bent
in thought or dreams of shikar among elephant grass and fly. Behind him
a stalwart sergeant-major, veteran of a hundred campaigns, remembering
long past fights and lost or damaged equipment, figuring how much this
Safari will cost the company. Then the camels, an askari on each side.
Perched on the last one, the company baboon reflectively scratching,
scans the horizon from his exalted position. I close the file, the
commandant's dog has elected to help me. Mixture of fox-terrier and pug,
she patiently puts up with all this nonsense, wondering why these
foolish humans should walk in the sun instead of staying in the lines at
Meru, where there are rats to chase and shadow-bound nooks and crannies
to sleep in on sweltering days, good water and cool nights. She trots
off to join her master.

Another hour, and a runner from the forward detachment chases down with
news; the column halts, the runner jabbers and gesticulates. A ringing
order. The camels will wait; they compose themselves to rest, a sullen
escort at either side. The baboon climbs down, scratches herself and
goes to the cook's box in high hopes. The commandant explains that the
scouts have sighted some Havashi raiders; we are going to head them off.
The company lines up and briskly marches out.

The pace begins to tell; we mop our brows and little trickles run down
our backs. Skirting a hill half-way up, having left the trail, we meet a
guide left for us; following along, we dodge in and out among boulders
and rocks in Indian file. Halting at last, just below the brow of a
hill, I go forward with the commandant to find the scouts lying flat on
a ledge overlooking a valley.

About ten miles away we see the Havashi coming fast on camels and
horses. They're the lot we're out to catch; been burning villages and
taking slaves around Lake Rudolf; shooting elephant too, they say. We'll
ambush them as they come into the defile, half the company to the
bottom, the other half split in two to the ridges on either side. The
Somali askaris are delighted and fidget behind their rocks.

An hour later the raiders are in the valley. They see someone, loose a
shot, and, leaping from their horses, they hide behind boulders and bits
of shrub, in the river bed at the bottom, the animals careering madly
off in all directions.

Down we come with a rush, cover to cover; they are nearly surrounded.
Popping fom all askari at my side jumps and flops, shot
through the brain. We stalk them from rock to rock, and with a last
rush, all is done. The priosners are led off with much lurid sarcasm by
the Somalis, the vultures are overhead, one swoops down already to perch
unabashedly on a nearby tree.

We march off, our wounded swung in blankets between two rifles. A few
mounds of piled stones no hyena could move, a few cartridge cases; we go
out down the valley, leaving it to regain its pristine quiet.

The commandant starts some Somali song; the men step out, all joining in
the chant.

The prisoners ask if we are recruiting any more; they know their jobs,
have fought the Italians some moons ago. "Silence, dogs," says a tall
sergeant, "if you live through the desert where we're taking you, your
bodies will swing from the trees in Meru, and carrion crows grow fat.
Dogs, eaters of dug-up bodies; we'll have no unbelievers in our ranks."
The prisoners' spirits do not fall; they know they've probably a little
carpet-weaving and stone-breaking to do, but nothing very heart-rending.
The white man's law is lenient, the food is good, the work is light and
their Ras is far away. The sergeant spits indignantly towards these
renegades, forgetting his own slight lapse ten years ago when he lead a
galloping rush against British horse, during his leave back in
Somaliland. The commandant, smiling, remembers the look of horror on the
sergeant's face when he was brought before him: "Effendi, is our
regiment there?" "No, Mohammed, but it is well that I am here to see
that thy neck should not be stretched. What have I taught thee? That
troops in formation cannot be broken by a rabble charge." "Oh, Effendi,
these pigs would not wait though I have drilled them for the past week."
"Dismissed, thou shalt have two hours more drill each day when we get
back." "Inchallah, Effendi."

Our Safari catches up and we tramp down to the thorn trees around the
camp; the dog and the baboon standing guard over the cook's box.

Chapter VIII


I. Why?
II. The King.
III. "Just like a Gipsy."
IV. Far Fly the Fireflies.
V. Breath of the Sand.
VI. The Sun.
VII. The Course of True Love.
VIII. Black Laughter.
IX. Just a Bold, Bad Man.
X. They Two?.
XI. "She."
XII. Philip.
XIII. Business as Usual.
XIV. Nigel.
XV. The Ranker.
XVI. A Bad Woman.
XVII. Barbara.
XVIII. The Lady from the North.
XIX. Curry Day.
XX. The "Boy Friend."


Why?--Why try to explain? Nothing matters enough to make much

If someone thinks they recognise themselves or others, let them be
lenient towards an author who has given only impressions--impressions
lasting a second, then passed for ever.

In his dim mind surges at times some queer mood, and then he sees in the
surrounding setting a personality take form. It may be through the
influence of a personality present, more often it is a vague growth of
his mind.

So to you who think you recognise yourself or another, I dedicate these
sketches as you alone can give them life, a heart to feel, a mind to
move, a body to break. They are the personalities I have felt in this
great land, they are mysteirous like her; they are immutable in all
their changes, like her.

Like her they have not lived, they have endured.

_The King._

The Masai driver swerved in at the gate, the Packard crunching the
pebbles on the drive.

The King stepped out. Neat feet quickly stepping across the verandah.

Flies rise in clouds and buzz against the wire netting. Cattle come
shuffling past, dust swirling about their bellies. A Kavirondo crane
comes flappily to rest on the rood by the rose-tinted smoke stack. The
setting sun glides the lake, rays bounding off into the air to lose
themselves in the leafy surges of the mountain range towering behind.

The presence is felt and he stands silver-headed between two swinging
ferns in blue-painted pots.

The cattle step briskly by, going back towards the grassy gorges. Masai
herders shout a salute. The crane chatters his beak, perched on one leg.
The manager slams the door and curses, sheaves of paper held in a
nervous hand.

The King sleeps this night on his cattle farm.

_"Just like a Gipsy."_

Wide eyes so calm, short slick hair, full red lips, a body to desire.
The powerful hands clutch and wave along the mandolin and the crooning
somnolent melody breaks; her throat trembles and her gleaming shoulders

That weird soul of mixtures is at the door! her cruelty and lascivious
thoughts clutch the thick lips on close white teeth.

She holds us with her song, and her body sways towards ours. No man will
ouch her exclusive soul, shadowy with memories, unstable, suicidal.

She drops a hand, another hand reaches towards her a dull amber glass;
the lion cub hisses and strikes. She shudders, and we smile,
uncomfortably aware of our indecent stare.

_Far Fly the Fireflies._

With her back to the fire, gold hair aflame in red and gold kekoi. She

The dark hall around, the sylph-like, immaterial face framed by the dull
beam, topped by buffalo horns. Like a weird lily swaying on a Japanese
screen, she alone is living in that room.

Sunk in chairs, legs crossed on the floor, propped up against the wall,
all our eyes hang fascinated on that slight figure. Elsewhere have I
seen her: a flash of lightning across some dance floor; drooping
lily-like at some spa; laughing excitedly while the gold piles up at her
side as she bancos once again. Everywhere so different, always the same
power. Men leave their ploughs, their horses are laid to rest, and,
wonderingly, they follow her never to forget.

The flames flicker; her half-closed eyes awaken to our mute appeal. As
ever, desire and the long drawn tobacco smoke weave around her ankles,
slowly entwining that slight frame; around her neck it curls; a shudder,
eyes close. Contentment! Power!

The figure in the golden kekoi!

_Breath of the Sand._

The sun sweeps down, the cattle are coming in.

On a corral rail, she sits dangling her long legs. In flaming kilts,
brown riding boots, silk shirt and flapping soft terai.

Supple figure, breath of the sand; green eyes aslant, jewelled hand so
white in the setting sun.

Languidly at her feet the cattle low, move on towards water. Among them
the Masai herders jostle and a broad back pats; hand in hand, close-cut
curly hair, sunburned and efficient, the manager enjoys his pleasure
this day's work done.

As the sun slowly sinks behind that supple figure, naked in its
transparency, the corral bars go black, and lower down by the shores of
the lake the flamingoes turn red, waving the beath in their numbers.

The girl leaps down, her hand pulls off the hat, a startled hippo snorts
and dives again; no twilight, it's nearly dark over Elementeita; the
mountains on the horizon loose a shaft of light, which high up in the
sky curls a pink-edged cloud and dies.

"Boy, come home and play," she calls.

_The Sun._

With thoughtful eyes, fingers entwined, he stares through you into
space. His grave, calm head grey-thatched, his bronze bearded face might
be of some great university in a haven of retorts and microscopes.

Thirty years of this land, thirty years of fever and chattering have
deformed his mind, broken his will: but why?

Behind those eyes is a brain whirling with superstitions and beliefs. As
once his body ran naked with the native hunters; now his soul runs naked
to the bidding of the witch doctors. Why?

A paternal government keeps him in his hell, each day losing hope,
losing caste, to administer white man's law.

His hand trembles as it holds the pen, and yet he does not drink. Why?

You take your permit written in a shaky hand; he rises, accompanying
you, and you notice that he stands hatless by your side in the midday

He does not feel the sun any more!

_The Course of True Love._

As the Safari crossed the Uaso Njiro she slipped and got wet, he may
have laughed, he may not have been quick enough to her side.

As he stalked the buffalo, her foot caught in a twig, that buffalo still
fights his equals among the scrub.

When sentimentally inclined she sought the moonlight to think and love,
he, snoringly complacent, cared not that the stenches of his drying
heads and skins smote her to the core.

They had left New York so happy to be alone, their hearts yearning for
the great spaces of the earth; just they together. The danger and the
glory of big game hunting had drawn them to my land; to do things
together, to go where "men were men!"

The journey is long, hot and tedious; once out in the wilds they supped;
they dined, they slept, they breakfasted together.

She got freckles, he grew a beard.

She went back by sea, craving the solitudes of Paris.

He charged overland towards his easy chair in the Racquet Club.

The course of true love is mysterious in my land.

_Black Laughter._

Across the table we talk, just a Welshman and I. All through the
courses, while the silent boys served and moved, I have watched him:
Creature of moods, creature of instincts, untamed--untrained, a violent
mind of desires, flashes of genius--no achievement!

Across the table I've talked hard reason, facts bleak and unashamed; he
answered vaguely, "Maybe," sliding through one's grip each time; at each
trap hesitatingly he passed by, never to say "Yes," never to deny
without some restriction.

Across the table he talks of towns we have known, of people we have
seen, of pictures he might have painted, of Augustus John, of
Julian's--and I see him as he might have been: some knighted R.A.
gleaming with orders, his Rolls waiting at the door.

In some back room a brown woman laughs, her bracelets jingle, my host's
eyes wander.

Aross that dark table silent we will sit until I can bear it no more.

_Just a Bold, Bad Man._

As he sits over port, his slanting green eyes light when he sees one
shiver to his tales of goring buffalo or tossing rhino.

As he walks in the garden moonlight his sensuous mouth tightens when the
girl at his side gasps at his tales of debauch and treason.

His body, an athlete's, surges around a weird and lurid mind; diseased
things attract him in the abstract; rape and murder would be his

When 'flu breaks out he believes in being scarce. He loves a noise; is
spick and span, hair licked to perfection; he hunts by profession.

But all must think that:

"Nevil, Nevil, is such a little devil with the girls!"

_They Two?_

There is an argument, one of those discussions about nothing which are
good for digestions; keep one moving after dinner.

An argument? Well, it might be one if we last out, our firebrand has
always said that true oratory consists of making oneself heard when
others speak.

He waves his arms, thumps the table; when he stops for breath or another
Three Star Hennessy, we get in a word and he breaks out anew.

She watches him, smiling, her Mongolian eyes curl upward at the corners,
and a slight flush tinges her ivory-white face.

"You're drunk, my dear, come off to bed," and she leads him, still
discussing, backwards towards the door. Far into the night we hear the
fight rally to and fro.

With that outward directness, who will ever know the twistings of her
mind? With that facial lightness, who will discover her heart's desire,
and give her contentment?

Beneath his shouting is there a mind? Does his business-like
practicality hide his true love and generosity?

I would like to know?


She sits by my side laughing up at the boy. Amber liqueur; amber glass;
pink nails; white skin; cream silk shirt and red kekoi.

Her warmth by my side tingles my skin.

In a throaty voice she asks for another. "Let's be jolly and think of
Paris to-night."

Her hand creeps around my waist but she smiles up at another.

Someone begins to hum the tune and we all throb to it. The melody of the
corn brakes rises in the room. The buffalo horns shine and bow, the
rhythm twisting about them. Smoke hands around the backs of the chairs.
Her foot nods to the time. Her nails sere my flesh. A turn of her head,
a breath of a word; "to-night!"


When you think you've lost him, he snoops around a corner; when you go
out a second, coming in, you bump his head. He walks on your high-heeled
shoes, he sweats devotion.

At first interested, you now are bored. His clothes are an indiscretion;
his hats would make the "tembo" stop in his charge.

Just a rather dear little man, and it did amuse you to tease that
flustered little wife.

We all know now why they can't play bridge. She believes that hearts are
always trumps, he that spade work is necessary.

But he's better home, as the way she drives her car when he's away makes
me wonder what she'd really like to do to you.

_Business as Usual._

Smiling with twinkling eyes; the charming athlete is pleased to see you.

"Come on out to the golf club, I've got the new greens in. Will you play
for our side against Kikuyu a month from next Sunday?" You try to speak
of cattle land or water. "We'll go to the office later. Just come over
to our new courts. I hope to get some good games up every Sunday in the
evenings after polo."

He stands you a drink, takes you back to his house, and a wonderful
meal. "Old man, stay the night and we'll talk about that business
to-morrow." But you insist, and when he is in the office you state your
case. He sighs and shakes his head. "I'm sorry, old man, I'll have to
refer to the London office. I couldn't let you do that without. And
you'd better hurry. You know land is going up with the railroad coming
our way. It's worth five pounds an acre now. I can still let you have
six thousand."

"Don't forget a month from Sunday. I won't be here between times as I'm
playing at Nairobi, at Mombasa, and the week after next at Eldoret."


Nigel has had one too much, a big one, too!

He is suffering so to-night! We are all concerned.

He wipes his forehead, red and dewy.

He can't make up his mind! Which girl does he love? Which will be that
soul completing comfortress, that insurance policy he really needs.

Living alone he has passed danger by, but now he can't cross Government
Road without risking death; slim ankles, thick ankles, lofty or low. His
eye behind his glass just dims with sentiment.

His head drops on the bar, great tears roll through his fingers; all
consoling we pat him on the back. "Nigel, old man, can't we help?" The
tears grow harsher, the sobs shake a bottle from the shelf, tinkling
glasses crunch underfoot.

At last, truth will out.

His eyeglass hurts him so!

_The Ranker._

Our soldier has worked hard; years of toil, of unrest, of discomfort, of

Long hour fighting up the hill, moments of despair. But courage,
physical courage, and much more so mental courage has pulled him

Not a trace of bitterness, not a trace of arrogance; not a thought of
humility, not a word of self-praise. He is what he has made himself; he
is proud he started in the ranks, he is glad he once sailed to London
before the mast in a windjammer.

Efficient chief of real fighting troops, he is our soldier, a great
soldier, a greater gentleman.

_A Bad Woman._

She is not dainty; she is not distinguished.

She does not haggle about money, she takes it. She is violent in her
loves, choleric in her discussions.

She does not care who knows about her, she tries to know about others.
What she does not know she invents.

She is a good soul at heart; brave about things at times. I suppose her
life has made her bitter about others.

What will she do?

Every day on the wing, from here to there through mud and dust, fiercely
driving a car.

What can we say better than "Much will be forgiven her, she has nice


A swinging lantern goes fom door to door, a pat, a word, and she passes
on. The chief saïce at her heels walks in dread, well knowing the
outburst if some fault comes to light.

Barbara goes her rounds in grey slacks and an old mackintosh.

She is efficient, she craves fitness, fitness in horses, fitness in men.
Her mind is fit, her body fitter, no hesitation comes to her brain, no
slip causes her to move in the saddle as she goes over the jumps.

Young, eager, and yet restrained. Ploddingly she is making her way,
making a name. She is a great friend to have. She knows by instinct what
may help just as she completes her lack of experience by instinct.

She trains horses; horses of fire, to race and win.

_The Lady from the North._

From far away up north she comes down once in a while, to see the gay
lights, she says. Or buy household goods or clothes.

She sits calm-eyed in the Muthaiga lounge, sipping a drink, a curling
cigarette between her fingers. In her pale blonde youth and loveliness
she sits and watches, watches men go by.

Now and then one comes up and takes her hand, speaks a word and passes

For a day or so she sits and watches; her pale blue eyes wandering, no
place; her mind seems vacant, her body listless.

She is making up her mind!...One morning she departs, her interior
seethings are appeased, her mind is fixed. That evening we notice that
someone has gone, one of us has followed the pale gold figure, to return
soon hollow-eyed and hard-mouthed, never to speak of the north again.

_Curry Day._

Wednesday--Thursday--Friday--Saturday--Sunday--four days more to wait.

On Sunday at twelve-thirty I will be coming through your door, after
parking my car in the most inconvenient place!

I shall sit in the leather chair by the fireplace and finger absently
the polished hoof of your late greatly regretted pony.

We will talk of light things, of horses and the latest Government House
rumour, awaiting the other guests. As they come you shake another drink
and I wander to the show case where your cups and whips are resting
below the fox's mask.

As the fatal hour comes, reverently we troop into the dark room frosted
with white skulls.

We sit in silence as the dishes pass around, the heap growing before
each. Restrained, we eat thoughtfully, watching each other. Till the
first bead of perspiration breaks out on the first forehead. Silence is
the Ritual. And then, after a grab of grated cocoanut, we retire to
rest. Sahib, the Sunday curry is over, humbled and grateful we will wait
another week.

_The "Boy Friend."_

The "boy friend" holds her hand and argues in the dark.

Above, skimming clouds flash shadows in the wake of the moon. In the
house, before a log fire, the gramophone chants "Banana Oil," while the
cat upsets a cocktail glass with a whisk of his tail.

The "boy friend," his arm about her waist, speaks of love under the
calling Hyrax, under the spreading trees. Way out across the veldt a
car--just a sport of light--slowly crawls along the trail; now and then
the vanishing pin-points break out again like awakened glow-worms. The
neigh of a zebra; the stampeding of feet waft subdued and tenuous on the
breath of the wind.

The "boy friend" bows his lips to hers, slipping his hand through the
silk kekoi.

"Come on, we are starting another round, and you are two drinks down
already." The poker table is laid and the bodies tense press before it.
They come in, blinking towards the light, their pulses afire. He rests
his hand on the back of his wife's chair and she slips down at his
wife's side.

The "boy friend" deals the cards, his foot close pressed between hers.


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