By this time my followers numbered about thirty men, as when one is hunting in these plains natives seem to spring from nowhere in the most mysterious manner, and attach themselves to one in the hope of obtaining same portion of the kill. By signal I ordered them to advance in line on the thicket in which the lioness had just taken refuge, while I took up my position on one side, so as to obtain a good shot when she broke covert. The line of natives shouting their native cries and striking their spears together soon disturbed her, and out she sprang into the open, making for a clump of rushes close to the river. Unfortunately she broke out at the most unfavourable spot from my point of view, as some of the natives masked my fire, and I had consequently to wait until she got almost to the edge of the rushes. Whether or not I hit her then I cannot say; at any rate, she made good her escape into the reeds, where I decided to leave her until Brock should arrive.
I now retraced my steps towards the spot where I had shot the lion, expecting, of course, to find the man I had told to watch him still on guard. To my intense vexation, however, I found that my sentry had deserted his post and had joined the other men of the party, having become frightened when left by himself. The result of his disobedience was that now I could not tell where lay the dead lion—or, rather, the lion which I believed to be dead; but I had no intention of losing so fine a trophy, so I began a systematic search, dividing the jungle into strips, and thus going over the whole place thoroughly. The task of finding him, however, was not so easy as might be thought; the chase after the lioness had taken us some distance from where I had shot him, and as there were numbers of trees about similar to that under which he fell, it was really a very difficult matter to hit upon the right place. At last one of the men sang out joyfully that he had found the lion at the same time running away from the spot as hard as ever he could. A number of those nearest to him, both Indians and natives, had more courage or curiosity, and went up to have a look at the beast. I shouted to them as I hurried along to be careful and not to go too near, in case by any chance he might not be dead; but they paid little heed to the warning, and by the time I got up, some half-dozen of them were gathered in a group at the lion's tail, gesticulating wildly and chattering each in his own language, and all very pleased and excited. On getting near I asked if the lion was dead, and was told that he was nearly so, but that he still breathed. He was lying at full length on his side, and when I saw him at close quarters I was more delighted than I can tell, for he was indeed a very fine specimen. For a moment or two I stood with the group of natives, admiring him. He still breathed regularly, as his flanks heaved with each respiration; but as he lay absolutely still with all the men jabbering within a yard of him, I assumed that he was on the point of death and unable to rise. Possessed with this belief, I very foolishly allowed my curiosity to run away with my caution, and stepped round to have a look at his head. The moment I came into his view, however, he suddenly became possessed of a diabolical ferocity. With a great roar he sprang to his feet, as if he were quite unhurt; his eyes blazed with fury, and his lips were drawn well back, exposing his tusks and teeth in a way I hope never to witness again. When this perilous situation so unexpectedly developed itself, I was not more than three paces away from him.
The instant the lion rose, all the men fled as if the Evil One himself were after them, and made for the nearest trees—with one exception, for as I took a step backwards, keeping my eye on the infuriated animal, I almost trod on Roshan Khan, who had still remained close behind me. Fortunately for me, I had approached the lion's head with my rifle ready, and as I stepped back I fired. The impact of the .303 bullet threw him back on his haunches just as he was in the act of springing, but in an instant he was up again and coming for me so quickly that I had not even time to raise my rifle to my shoulder, but fired point blank at him from my hip, delaying him for a second or so as before. He was up again like lightning, and again at the muzzle of my rifle; and this time I thought that nothing on earth could save me, as I was almost within his clutches. Help came from an unexpected and unconscious quarter, for just at this critical moment Roshan Khan seemed all at once to realise the danger of the situation, and suddenly fled for his life, screaming and shrieking with all his might. Beyond all question this movement saved me, for the sight of something darting away from him diverted the lion's attention from me, and following his natural instinct, he gave chase instead to the yelling fugitive.
Roshan Khan having thus unwittingly rescued me from my perilous position, it now became my turn to do all I could to save him, if this were possible. In far less time than it takes to tell the story, I had swung round after the pursuing lion, levelled my rifle and fired; but whether because of the speed at which he was going, or because of my over-anxiety to save my "boy", I missed him completely, and saw the bullet raise the dust at the heels of a flying Masai. Like lightning I loaded again from the magazine, but now the lion was within a spring of his prey, and it seemed hopeless to expect to save poor Roshan Khan from his clutches. Just at this moment, however, the terrified youth caught sight of the brute over his left shoulder, and providentially made a quick swerve to the right. As the lion turned to follow him, he came broadside on to me, and just as he had Roshan Khan within striking distance and was about to seize him, he dropped in the middle of what would otherwise assuredly have been the fatal spring—bowled over with a broken shoulder. This gave me time to run up and give him a final shot, and with a deep roar he fell back full length on the grass, stone-dead.
I then looked round to see if Roshan Khan was all right, as I was not sure whether the lion had succeeded in mauling him or not. The sight that met my eyes turned tragedy into comedy in an instant, and made me roar with laughter; indeed, it was so utterly absurd that I threw myself down on the grass and rolled over and over, convulsed with uncontrollable mirth. For there was Roshan Khan, half-way up a thorn tree, earnestly bent on getting to the very topmost branch as quickly as ever he could climb; not a moment, indeed, was he able to spare to cast a glance at what was happening beneath. His puggaree had been torn off by one thorn, and waved gracefully in the breeze; a fancy waistcoat adorned another spiky branch, and his long white cotton gown was torn to ribbons in his mad endeavour to put as great a distance as possible between himself and the dead lion. As soon as I could stop laughing, I called out to him to come down, but quite in vain. There was no stopping him, indeed, until he had reached the very top of the tree; and even then he could scarcely be induced to come down again. Poor fellow, he had been thoroughly terrified, and little wonder.
My followers now began to emerge from the shelter of the various trees and bushes where they had concealed themselves after their wild flight from the resuscitated lion, and crowded round his dead body in the highest spirits. The Masai, especially, seemed delighted at the way in which he had been defeated, and to my surprise and amusement proved themselves excellent mimics, some three or four of them beginning at once to act the whole adventure. One played the part of the lion and jumped growling at a comrade, who immediately ran backwards just as I had done, shouting "Ta, Ta, Ta" and cracking his fingers to represent the rifle-shots. Finally the whole audience roared with delight when another bolted as fast as he could to Roshan Khan's tree with the pseudo lion roaring after him. At the end of these proceedings up came Brock, who had been attracted to the place by the sound of the firing. He was much astonished to see my fine dead lion lying stretched out, and his first remark was, "You are a lucky beggar!" Afterwards, when he heard the full story of the adventure, he rightly considered me even more lucky than he had first thought.
Our next business was to go back to the lioness which I had first shot and left for dead. Like her mate, however, she was still very much alive when we reached her, so I stalked carefully up to a neighbouring tree, from whose shelter I gave her the finishing shot. We then left Mahina and the other men to skin the two beasts, and went on to the rushes where the second lioness had taken cover. Here all our efforts to turn her out failed, so we reluctantly abandoned the chase and were fated to see no more lions that day.
Our only other adventure was with a stolid old rhino, who gave me rather a fright and induced Brock to indulge in some lively exercise. Separated by about a hundred yards or so, we were walking over the undulating ground a short distance from the river, when, on gaining the top of a gentle rise, I suddenly came upon the ungainly animal as it lay wallowing in a hollow. It jumped to its feet instantly and came for where I stood, and as I had no wish to shoot it, I made a dash for cover round the knoll. On reaching the top of the rise, the rhino winded my companion and at once changed its direction and made for him. Brock lost no time in putting on his best pace in an endeavour to reach the shelter of a tree which stood some distance off, while I sat down and watched the exciting race. I thought it would be a pretty close thing, but felt confident that Brock, who was very active, would manage to pull it off. When he got about half-way to the tree, however, he turned to see how far his pursuer was behind, and in doing so put his foot in a hole in the ground, and to my horror fell head over heels, his rifle flying from his grasp. I expected the great brute to be on him in a moment, but to my intense relief the old rhino stopped dead when he saw the catastrophe which had taken place, and then, failing (I suppose) to understand it, suddenly made off in the opposite direction as hard as he could go. In the meantime Brock had got to his feet again, and raced for dear life to the tree without ever looking round. It was a most comical sight, and I sat on the rise and for the second time that day laughed till my sides ached.
After this we returned to the scene of my morning's adventure, where we found that the invaluable Mahina had finished skinning the two lions. We accordingly made our way back to camp with our trophies, all of us, with perhaps the exception of Roshan Khan, well satisfied with the day's outing. Whenever afterwards I wanted to chaff this "boy", I had only to ask whether he would like to come and see some more shikar. He would then look very solemn, shake his head emphatically and assure me "Kabhi nahin, Sahib" ("Never again, Sir").
A SUCCESSFUL LION HUNT
When the Athi river had been bridged, the section of the line to Nairobi was pushed forward as rapidly as possible, and from dawn to dark we all exerted ourselves to the very utmost. One day (May 28) the weather was exceptionally hot, and I had been out in the broiling sun ever since daylight superintending the construction of banks and cuttings and the erection of temporary bridges. On returning to my hut, therefore, at about three o'clock in the afternoon, I threw myself into a long deck chair, too tired for anything beyond a long cool drink. Here I rested for an hour or so, amused by the bustle at the small wayside station we had just built, and idly watching our tiny construction engine forging its way, with a great deal of clanking and puffing, up a steep gradient just across the river. It was touch-and-go whether it would manage to get its heavy load of rails and sleepers to the top of the incline or not, and I became so interested in the contest between steam and friction and gravity, that I did not notice that a visitor had approached and was standing quietly beside me.
On hearing the usual salutation, however, I turned round and saw a lean and withered half-bred Masai, clothed in a very inadequate piece of wildebeeste hide which was merely slipped under the left arm and looped up in a knot over the right shoulder. He stood for a moment with the right hand held out on a level with his shoulder, the fingers extended and the palm turned towards me—all indicating that he came on a friendly visit. I returned his salutation, and asked him what he wanted. Before answering, he dropped down on his heels, his old bones cracking as he did so. "I want to lead the Great Master to two lions," he said; "they have just killed a zebra and are now devouring it." On hearing this I straightway forgot that I had already done a hard day's work in the full blaze of an equatorial sun; I forgot that I was tired and hungry; in fact, I forgot everything that was not directly connected with the excitement of lion-hunting. Even the old savage at my feet grinned when he saw how keen I was about it. I plied him with questions—were they both lions or lionesses? had they manes? how far away were they? and so on. Naturally, to the last question he was bound to answer "M'bali kidogo." Of course they were not far away; nothing ever is to a native of East Africa. However, the upshot was that in a very few minutes I had a mule saddled, and with the old Masai as guide, started off accompanied by my faithful Mahina and another coolie to help to bring home the skin if I should prove successful. I also left word for my friend Spooner, the District Engineer, who happened to be absent from camp just at the moment, that I had gone after two lions, but hoped to be back by nightfall.
We travelled at a good pace, and within an hour had covered fully six miles; still there was no sign of lions. On the way we were joined by some Wa Kamba, even more scantily attired than our guide, and soon a dispute arose between these hangers-on and the old Masai, who refused to allow them to accompany us, as he was afraid that they would seize all the zebra-meat that the lions had not already eaten. However, I told him not to bother, but to hurry up and show me the lions, and that I would look after him all right. Eventually, on getting to the low crest of one of the long swells in the ground, our guide extended a long skinny finger and said proudly, "Tazama, Bwana" ("See, Master"). I looked in the direction in which he pointed, and sure enough, about six hundred yards off were a lion and a lioness busily engaged on the carcase of a zebra. On using my field-glasses, I was amused to observe a jackal in attendance on the pair. Every now and then he would come too close to the zebra, when the lion would make a short rush at him and scare him away. The little jackal looked most ridiculous, scampering off before the huge beast with his tail well down; but no sooner did the lion stop and return to his meal than he crept nearer again. The natives say, by the way, that a lion will eat every kind of animal—including even other lions—except a jackal or a hyena. I was also interested to notice the way in which the lion got at the flesh of the zebra; he took a short run at the body, and putting his claws well into the skin, in this manner tore off great strips of the hide.
While I was thus studying the picture, my followers became impatient at my inactivity, and coming up to the top of the rise, showed themselves on the sky-line. The lions saw them at once, turning round and standing erect to stare at them. There was not an atom of cover to be seen, nor any chance of taking advantage of the rolling ground, for it did not slope in the required direction; so I started to walk in the open in a sidelong direction towards the formidable-looking pair. They allowed me to come a hundred yards or so nearer them, and then the lioness bolted, the lion following her at a more leisurely trot. As soon as they left the body of the zebra, my African following made a rush for it, and began a fierce fight over the remains, so that I had to restore order and leave a coolie to see that our guide got the large share, as he deserved. In the meantime the lion, hearing the noise of the squabble, halted on the crest of the hill to take a deliberate look at me, and then disappeared over the brow. I jumped on to my mule and galloped as hard as I could after him, and luckily found the pair still in sight when I reached the top of the rise. As soon as they saw me following them up, the lioness took covert in some long grass that almost concealed her when she lay down, but the lion continued to move steadily away. Accordingly I made for a point which would bring me about two hundred yards to the right of the lioness, and which would leave a deep natural hollow between us, so as to give me a better chance, in the event of a charge, of bowling her over as she came up the rise towards me. I could plainly make out her light-coloured form in the grass, and took careful aim and fired. In an instant she was kicking on her back and tossing about, evidently hard hit; in a few seconds more she lay perfectly still, and I saw that she was dead.
I now turned my attention to the lion, who meanwhile had disappeared over another rise. By this time Mahina and the other Indian, with three or four of the disappointed Wa Kamba, had come up, so we started off in a body in pursuit of him. I felt sure that he was lurking somewhere in the grass not far off, and I knew that I could depend upon the native eye to find him if he showed so much as the tip of his ear. Nor was I disappointed, for we had scarcely topped the next rise when one of the Wa Kamba spotted the dark brown head of the brute as he raised it for an instant above the grass in order to watch us. We pretended not to have seen him, however, and advanced to within two hundred yards or so, when, as he seemed to be getting uneasy, I thought it best to risk a shot even at this range. I put up the 200-yards sight and the bullet fell short; but the lion never moved. Raising the sight another fifty yards, I rested the rifle on Mahina's back for the next shot, and again missed; fortunately, however, the lion still remained quiet. I then decided to put into practice the scheme I had thought out the day I sat astride the lion I had killed on the Kapiti Plain: so I told all my followers to move off to the right, taking the mule with them, and to make a half-circle round the animal, while I lay motionless in the grass and waited. The ruse succeeded admirably, for as the men moved round so did the lion, offering me at last a splendid shoulder shot. I took very careful, steady aim and fired, with the result that he rolled over and over, and then made one or two attempts to get up but failed. I then ran up to within a few yards of him, and—helpless as he was with a bullet through both shoulders—he was still game, and twist round so as to face me, giving vent all the time to savage growls. A final shot laid him out, however, and we at once proceeded to skin him. While we were busy doing this, one of the Wa Kamba suddenly drew my attention to the fact that we were actually being stalked at that very moment by two other lions, who eventually approached to within five hundred yards' distance and then lay down to watch us skinning their dead brother, their big shaggy heads rising every now and again above the grass to give us a prolonged stare. At the time I little knew what a stirring adventure was in store for me next day while in pursuit of these same brutes.
It was almost dark when the skinning process was finished, so without delay we started on our way back to camp, which was about seven miles off. The lioness I thought I should leave to be skinned the next day; but the men I sent out to do the job on the morrow were unable to find any trace of her—they probably missed the place where she lay, for I am sure that I killed her. It was a good two hours after night had fallen before we got anywhere near the railway, and the last few miles I was obliged to do by the guidance of the stars. Tramping over the plain on a pitch-dark night, with lions and rhino all about, was by no means pleasant work and I heartily wished myself and my men safely back in camp. Indeed, I was beginning to think that I must have lost my bearings and was getting anxious about it, when to my relief I heard a rifle shot about half a mile ahead of us. I guessed at once that it was fired by my good friend Spooner in order to guide me, so I gave a reply signal; and on getting to the top of the next rise, I saw the plain in front of me all twinkling with lights. When he found that I had not returned by nightfall, Spooner had become nervous about me, and fearing that I had met with some mishap, had come out with a number of the workmen in camp to search for me in the direction I had taken in the afternoon. He was delighted to find me safe and sound and with a lion's skin as a trophy, while I was equally glad to have his escort and company back to camp, which was still over a mile away.
When we had settled down comfortably to dinner that night, I fired Spooner's sporting ardour by telling him of the fine pair of lions who had watched us skinning their companion, and we agreed at once to go out next day and try to bag them both. Spooner and I had often had many friendly arguments in regard to the comparative courage of the lion and the tiger, he holding the view that "Stripes" was the more formidable foe, while I, though admitting to the full-the courage of the tiger, maintained from lively personal experience that the lion when once roused was unequalled for pluck and daring, and was in fact the most dangerous enemy one could meet with. He may at times slink off and not show fight; but get him in the mood, or wound him, and only his death or yours will end the fray—that, at least, was my experience of East African lions. I think that Spooner has now come round to my opinion, his conversion taking place the next day in a very melancholy manner.
BHOOTA'S LAST SHIKAR
Long after I had retired to rest that night I lay awake listening to roar answering roar in every direction round our camp, and realised that we were indeed in the midst of a favourite haunt of the king of beasts. It is one thing to hear a lion in captivity, when one knows he is safe behind iron bars; but quite another to listen to him when he is ramping around in the vicinity of one's fragile tent, which with a single blow he could tear to pieces. Still, all this roaring was of good omen for the next day's sport.
According to our over-night arrangement, we were up betimes in the morning, but as there was a great deal of work to be done before we could get away, it was quite midday before we made ready to start. I ought to mention before going further that as a rule Spooner declined my company on shooting trips, as he was convinced that I should get "scuppered" sooner or later if I persisted in going after lions with a "popgun," as he contemptuously termed my .303. Indeed, this was rather a bone of contention between us, he being a firm believer (and rightly) in a heavy, weapon for big and dangerous game, while I always did my best to defend the .303 which I was in the habit of using. On this occasion we effected a compromise for the day, I accepting the loan of his spare 12-bore rifle as a second gun in case I should get to close quarters. But my experience has been that it is always a very dangerous thing to rely on a borrowed gun or rifle, unless it has precisely the same action as one's own; and certainly in this instance it almost proved disastrous.
Having thus seen to our rifles and ammunition and taken care also that some brandy was put in the luncheon-basket in case of an accident, we set off early in the afternoon in Spooner's tonga, which is a two-wheeled cart with a hood over it. The party consisted of Spooner and myself, Spooner's Indian shikari Bhoota, my own gun-boy Mahina, and two other Indians, one of whom, Imam Din, rode in the tonga, while the other led a spare horse called "Blazeaway." Now it may seem a strange plan to go lion-hunting in a tonga, but there is no better way of getting about country like the Athi Plains, where—so long as it is dry—there is little or nothing to obstruct wheeled traffic. Once started, we rattled over the smooth expanse at a good rate, and on the way bagged a hartebeeste and a couple of gazelle, as fresh meat was badly needed in camp; besides, they offered most tempting shots, for they stood stock-still gazing at us, struck no doubt by the novel appearance of our conveyance. Next we came upon a herd of wildebeeste, and here we allowed Bhoota, who was a wary shikari and an old servant of Spooner's, to stalk a solitary bull. He was highly pleased at this favour, and did the job admirably.
At last we reached the spot where I had seen the two lions on the previous day—a slight hollow, covered with long grass; but there was now no trace of them to be discovered, so we moved further on and had another good beat round. After some little time the excitement began by our spying the black-tipped ears of a lioness projecting above the grass, and the next moment a very fine lion arose from beside her and gave us a full view of his grand head and mane. After staring fixedly at us in an inquiring sort of way as we slowly advanced upon them, they both turned and slowly trotted off, the lion stopping every now and again to gaze round in our direction. Very imposing and majestic he looked, too, as he thus turned his great shaggy head defiantly towards us, and Spooner had to admit that it was the finest sight he had ever seen. For a while we followed them on foot; but finding at length that they were getting away from us and would soon be lost to sight over a bit of rising ground, we jumped quickly into the tonga and galloped round the base of the knoll so as to cut off their retreat, the excitement of the rough and bumpy ride being intensified a hundred-fold by the probability of our driving slap into the pair on rounding the rise. On getting to the other side, however, they were nowhere to be seen, so we drove on as hard as we could to the top, whence we caught sight of them about four hundred yards away. As there seemed to be no prospect of getting nearer we decided to open fire at this range, and at the third shot the lioness tumbled over to my .303. At first I thought I had done for her, as for a few minutes she lay on the ground kicking and struggling; but in the end, although evidently badly hit, she rose to her feet and followed the lion, who had escaped uninjured, into some long grass from which we could not hope to dislodge them.
As it was now late in the afternoon, and as there seemed no possibility of inducing the lions to leave the thicket in which they had concealed themselves, we turned back towards camp, intending to come out again the next day to track the wounded lioness. I was now riding "Blazeaway" and was trotting along in advance of the tonga, when suddenly he shied badly at a hyena, which sprang up out of the grass almost from beneath his feet and quickly scampered off. I pulled up for a moment and sat watching the hyena's ungainly bounds, wondering whether he were worth a shot. Suddenly I felt "Blazeaway" trembling violently beneath me, and on looking over my left shoulder to discover the reason, I was startled to see two fine lions not more than a hundred yards away, evidently the pair which I had seen the day before and which we had really come in search of. They looked as if they meant to dispute our passage, for they came slowly towards me for about ten yards or so and then lay down, watching me steadily all the time. I called out to Spooner, "Here are the lions I told you about," and he whipped up the ponies and in a moment or two was beside me with the tonga.
By this time I had seized my .303 and dismounted, so we at once commenced a cautious advance on the crouching lions, the arrangement being that Spooner was to take the right-hand one and I the other. We had got to within sixty yards' range without incident and were just about to sit down comfortably to "pot" them, when they suddenly surprised us by turning and bolting off. I managed, however, to put a bullet into the one I had marked just as he crested a bank, and he looked very grand as he reared up against the sky and clawed the air on feeling the lead. For a second or two he gave me the impression that he was about to charge; but luckily he changed his mind and followed his companion, who had so far escaped scot free. I immediately mounted "Blazeaway" and galloped off in hot pursuit, and after about half a mile of very stiff going got up with them once more. Finding now that they could not get away, they halted; came to bay and then charged down upon me, the wounded lion leading. I had left my rifle behind, so all I could do was to turn and fly as fast as "Blazeaway" could go, praying inwardly the while that he would not put his foot into a hole. When the lions saw that they were unable to overtake me, they gave up the chase and lay down again, the wounded one being about two hundred yards in front of the other. At once I pulled up too, and then went back a little way, keeping a careful eye upon them; and I continued these tactics of riding up and down at a respectful distance until Spooner came up with the rifles, when we renewed the attack.
As a first measure I thought it advisable to disable the unhurt lion if possible, and, still using the .303, I got him with the second shot at a range of about three hundred yards. He seemed badly hit, for he sprang into the air and apparently fell heavily. I then exchanged my .303 for Spooner's spare 12-bore rifle, and we turned our attention to the nearer lion, who all this time had been lying perfectly still, watching our movements closely, and evidently just waiting to be down upon us the moment we came within charging distance. He was never given this opportunity, however, for we did not approach nearer than ninety yards, when Spooner sat down comfortably and knocked him over quite dead with one shot from his .577, the bullet entering the left shoulder obliquely and passing through the heart.
It was now dusk, and there was no time to be lost if we meant to bag the second lion as well. We therefore resumed our cautious advance, moving to the right, as we went, so as to get behind us what light there was remaining. The lion of course twisted round in the grass in such a way as always to keep facing us, and looked very ferocious, so that I was convinced that unless he were entirely disabled by the first shot he would be down on us like a whirlwind. All the same, I felt confident that, even in this event, one of us would succeed in stopping him before he could do any damage; but in this I was unfortunately to be proved mistaken.
Eventually we managed to get within eighty yards of the enraged animal, I being about five yards to the left front of Spooner, who was followed by Bhoota at about the same distance to his right rear. By this time the lion was beside himself with fury, growling savagely and raising quite a cloud of dust by lashing his tail against the ground. It was clearly high time that we did something, so asking Spooner to fire, dropped on one knee and waited. Nor was I kept long in suspense, for the moment Spooner's shot rang out, up jumped the lion and charged down in a bee-line for me, coming in long, low bounds at great speed. I fired the right barrel at about fifty yards, but apparently missed; the left at about half that range, still without stopping effect. I knew then that there was no time reload, so remained kneeling, expecting him to be on me the next moment. Suddenly, just as he was within a bound of me, he made a quick turn, to my right. "Good heavens," I thought, "he is going for Spooner." I was wrong in this, however, for like a flash he passed Spooner also, and with a last tremendous bound seized Bhoota by the leg and rolled over and over with him for some yards in the impetus of the rush. Finally he stood over him and tried to seize him by the throat, which the brave fellow prevented by courageously stuffing his left arm right into the great jaws. Poor Bhoota! By moving at the critical moment, he had diverted the lion's attention from me and had drawn the whole fury of the charge on to himself.
All this, of course, happened in only a second or two. In the short instant that intervened, I felt a cartridge thrust into my hand by Spooner's plucky servant, Imam Din, who had carried the 12-bore all day and who had stuck to me gallantly throughout the charge; and shoving it in, I rushed as quickly as I could to Bhoota's rescue. Meanwhile, Spooner had got there before me and when I came up actually had his left hand on the lion's flank, in a vain attempt to push him off Bhoota's prostrate body and so get at the heavy rifle which the poor fellow still stoutly clutched. The lion, however, was so busily engaged mauling Bhoota's arm that he paid not the slightest attention to Spooner's efforts. Unfortunately, as he was facing straight in my direction, I had to move up in full view of him, and the moment I reached his head, he stopped chewing the arm, though still holding it in his mouth, and threw himself back on his haunches, preparing for a spring, at the same time curling back his lips and exposing his long tusks in a savage snarl. I knew then that I had not a moment to spare, so I threw the rifle up to my shoulder and pulled the trigger. Imagine my utter despair and horror when it did not go off! "Misfire again," I thought, and my heart almost stopped beating. As took a step backwards, I felt it was all over no for he would never give me time to extract the cartridge and load again. Still I took another step backwards, keeping my eyes fixed on the lion's, which were blazing with rage; and in the middle of my third step, just as the brute was gathering himself for his spring, it suddenly struck me that in my haste and excitement, I had forgotten that I was using a borrowed rifle and had not pulled back the hammer (my own was hammerless). To do this and put a bullet through the lion's brain was then the work of a moment; and he fell dead instantly right on the top of Bhoota.
We did not lose a moment in rolling his great carcase off Bhoota's body and quickly forced opening the jaws so as to disengage the mangled arm which still remained in his mouth. By this time the poor shikari was in a fainting condition, and we flew to the tonga for the brandy flask which we had so providentially brought with us. On making a rough examination of the wounded man, we found that his left arm and right leg were both frightfully mauled, the latter being broken as well. He was lifted tenderly into the tonga—how thankful we now were to have it with us!—and Spooner at once set off with him to camp and the doctor.
Before following them home I made a hasty examination of the dead lion and found him to be a very good specimen in every way. I was particularly satisfied to see that one of the two shots I had fired as he charged down upon me had taken effect. The bullet had entered below the right eye, and only just missed the brain. Unfortunately it was a steel one which Spooner had unluckily brought in his ammunition bag by mistake; still one would have thought that a shot of this kind, even with a hard bullet, would at least have checked the lion for the moment. As a matter of fact, however, it went clean through him without having the slightest stopping effect. My last bullet, which was of soft lead, had entered close to the right eye and embedded itself in the brain. By this time it had grown almost dark, so I left the two dead lions where they lay and rode for camp, which I was lucky enough to reach without further adventure or mishap. I may mention here that early next morning two other lions were found devouring the one we had first shot; but they had not had time to do much damage, and the head, which I have had mounted, makes a very fine trophy indeed. The lion that mauled Bhoota was untouched.
On my arrival in camp I found that everything that was possible was being done for poor Bhoota by Dr. McCulloch, the same who had travelled up with me to Tsavo and shot the ostrich from the train on my first arrival in the country, and who was luckily on the spot. His wounds had been skilfully dressed, the broken leg put in splints, and under the influence of a soothing draught the poor fellow was soon sleeping peacefully. At first we had great hope of saving both life and limb, and certainly for some days he seemed to be getting on as well as could be expected. The wounds, however, were very bad ones, especially those on the leg where the long tusks had met through and through the flesh, leaving over a dozen deep tooth marks; the arm, though dreadfully mauled, soon healed. It was wonderful to notice how cheerfully the old shikari, bore it all, and a pleasure to listen to his tale of how he would have his revenge on the whole tribe of lions as soon as he was able to get about again. But alas, his shikar was over. The leg got rapidly worse, and mortification setting in, it had to be amputated half way up the thigh.
Dr. Winston Waters performed the operation most skilfully, and curiously enough the operating table was canopied with the skin of the lion which had been responsible for the injury. Bhoota made a good recovery from the operation, but seemed to lose heart when he found that he had only one leg left, as according to his ideas he had now but a poor chance of being allowed to enter Heaven. We did all that was possible for him, and Spooner especially could not have looked after a brother more tenderly; but to our great sorrow he sank gradually, and died on July 19.
The hunt which had such a disastrous sequel proved to be the last occasion on which I met a lion in the open, as we got out of the hunting country shortly afterwards and for the rest of my stay in East Africa I had too much work to do to be able to go any distance in search of big game.
A MAN-EATER IN A RAILWAY CARRIAGE
Towards the end of my stay in British East Africa, I dined one evening with Mr. Ryall, the Superintendent of the Police, in his inspection carriage on the railway. Poor Ryall! I little thought then what a terrible fate was to overtake him only a few months later in that very carriage in which we dined.
A man-eating lion had taken up his quarters at a little roadside station called Kimaa, and had developed an extraordinary taste for the members of the railway staff. He was a most daring brute, quite indifferent as to whether he carried off the station-master, the signalman, or the pointsman; and one night, in his efforts to obtain a meal, he actually climbed up on to the roof of the station buildings and tried to tear off the corrugated-iron sheets. At this the terrified baboo in charge of the telegraph instrument below sent the following laconic message to the Traffic Manager: "Lion fighting with station. Send urgent succour." Fortunately he was not victorious in his "fight with the station"; but he tried so hard to get in that he cut his feet badly on the iron sheeting, leaving large blood-stains on the roof. Another night, however, he succeeded in carrying off the native driver of the pumping-engine, and soon afterwards added several other victims to his list. On one occasion an engine-driver arranged to sit up all night in a large iron water-tank in the hope of getting a shot at him, and had a loop-hole cut in the side of the tank from which to fire. But as so often happens, the hunter became the hunted; the lion turned up in the middle of the night, overthrew the tank and actually tried to drag the driver out through the narrow circular hole in the top through which he had squeezed in. Fortunately the tank was just too deep for the brute to be able to reach the man at the bottom; but the latter was naturally half paralysed with fear and had to crouch so low down as to be unable to take anything like proper aim. He fired, however, and succeeded in frightening the lion away for the time being.
It was in a vain attempt to destroy this pest that poor Ryall met his tragic and untimely end. On June 6, 1900, he was travelling up in his inspection carriage from Makindu to Nairobi, accompanied by two friends, Mr. Huebner and Mr. Parenti. When they reached Kimaa, which is about two hundred and fifty miles from Mombasa, they were told that the man-eater had been seen close to the station only a short time before their train arrived, so they at once made up their minds to remain there for the night and endeavour to shoot him. Ryall's carriage was accordingly detached from the train and shunted into a siding close to the station, where, owing to the unfinished state of the line, it did not stand perfectly level, but had a pronounced list to one side. In the afternoon the three friends went out to look for the lion, but, finding no traces of him whatever, they returned to the carriage for dinner. Afterwards they all sat up on guard for some time; but the only noticeable thing they saw was what they took to be two very bright and steady glow-worms. After-events proved that these could have been nothing else than the eyes of the man-eater steadily watching them all the time and studying their every movement. The hour now growing late, and there being apparently no sign of the lion, Ryall persuaded his two friends to lie down, while he kept the first watch. Huebner occupied the high berth over the table on the one side of the carriage, the only other berth being on the opposite side of the compartment and lower down. This Ryall offered to Parenti, who declined it, saying that he would be quite comfortable on the floor and he accordingly lay down to sleep, with his feet towards the sliding door which gave admission the carriage.
It is supposed that Ryall, after watching for some considerable time, must have come to the conclusion that the lion was not going to make its appearance that night, for he lay down on the lower berth and dozed off. No sooner had he done so, doubtless, than the cunning man-eater began cautiously to stalk the three sleepers. In order to reach the little platform at the end of the carriage, he had to mount two very high steps from the railway line, but these he managed to negotiate successfully and in silence. The door from this platform into the carriage was a sliding one on wheels, which ran very easily on a brass runner; and as it was probably not quite shut, or at any rate not secured in any way, it was an easy matter for the lion to thrust in a paw and shove it open. But owing to the tilt of the carriage and to his great extra weight on the one side, the door slid to and snapped into the lock the moment he got his body right in, thus leaving him shut up with the three sleeping me in the compartment.
He sprang at once at Ryall, but in order to reach him had actually to plant his feet on Parenti, who, it will be remembered, was sleeping on the floor. At this moment Huebner was suddenly awakened by a loud cry, and on looking down from his berth was horrified to see an enormous lion standing with his hind feet on Parenti's body, while his forepaws rested on poor Ryall. Small wonder that he was panic-stricken at the sight. There was only one possible way of escape, and that was through the second sliding door communicating with the servants' quarters, which was opposite to that by which the lion had entered. But in order to reach this door Huebner had literally to jump on to the man-eater's back, for its great bulk filled up all the space beneath his berth. It sounds scarcely credible, but it appears that in the excitement and horror of the moment he actually did this, and fortunately the lion was too busily engaged with his victim to pay any attention to him. So he managed to reach the door in safety; but there, to his dismay, he found that it was held fast on the other side by the terrified coolies, who had been aroused by the disturbance caused by the lion's entrance. In utter desperation he made frantic efforts to open it, and exerting all his strength at last managed to pull it back sufficiently far to allow him to squeeze through, when the trembling coolies instantly tied it up again with their turbans. A moment afterwards a great crash was heard, and the whole carriage lurched violently to one side; the lion had broken through one of the windows, carrying off poor Ryall with him. Being now released, Parenti lost no time in jumping through the window on the opposite side of the carriage, and fled for refuge to one of the station buildings; his escape was little short of miraculous, as the lion had been actually standing on him as he lay on the floor. The carriage itself was badly shattered, and the wood-work of the window had been broken to pieces by the passage of the lion as he sprang through with his victim in his mouth.
All that can be hoped is that poor Ryall's death was instantaneous. His remains were found next morning about a quarter of a mile away in the bush, and were taken to Nairobi for burial. I am glad to be able to add that very shortly afterwards the terrible brute who was responsible for this awful tragedy was caught in an ingenious trap constructed by one of the railway staff. He was kept on view for several days, and then shot.
WORK AT NAIROBI
Although the lion which caused poor Bhoota's death was the last I managed to shoot in East Africa, I saw several others afterwards while travelling up and down the line at different times on construction work. In particular, I remember one very curious incident which happened early on the morning of June 2, when I was travelling towards Nairobi, accompanied by Dr. McCulloch. The Doctor was going home on leave in the course of a few days, and was bemoaning to me his bad luck in never having shot or even seen a lion all the time he had been in the country. We were standing on the engine at the time, facing each other, he with his back to the north.
"My dear Mac," I said, "it is because you don't look out for them."
"Rubbish," he retorted; "I do nothing else when I am out hunting."
"Well," I replied, "are you really very anxious to shoot one before you go home?"
"I would rather get a lion than anything else in the world," was the emphatic reply.
"Very good, then. Sultan," I called to the driver, "stop the engine."
"Now, Mac," I continued, as the train was quickly brought to a standstill, "here's a chance for you. Just jump off and bag those two over there."
He turned round in blank astonishment and could hardly believe his eyes when he saw two fine lions only about two hundred yards off, busily engaged in devouring a wildebeeste which they had evidently just killed. I had spotted them almost as soon as Mac had begun to talk of his bad luck, and had only waited to tell him until we got nearer, so as to give him a greater surprise. He was off the engine in a second and made directly for the two beasts. Just as he was about to fire one of them bolted, so I called out to him to shoot the other quickly before he too made good his escape. This one was looking at us over his shoulder with one paw on the dead wildebeeste, and while he stood in this attitude Mac dropped him with a bullet through the heart. Needless to say he was tremendously delighted with his success, and after the dead lion had been carried to the train and propped up against a carriage, I took a photograph of him standing beside his fine trophy.
Three days after this incident railhead reached Nairobi, and I was given charge of the new division of the line. Nairobi was to be the headquarters of the Railway Administration, so there was an immense amount of work to be done in converting an absolutely bare plain, three hundred and twenty-seven miles from the nearest place where even a nail could be purchased, into a busy railway centre. Roads and bridges had to be constructed, houses and work-shops built, turntables and station quarters erected, a water supply laid on, and a hundred and one other things done which go to the making of a railway township. Wonderfully soon, however, the nucleus of the present town began to take shape, and a thriving "bazaar" sprang into existence with a mushroom-like growth. In this, however, a case or two of plague broke out before very long, so I gave the natives and Indians who inhabited it an hour's notice to clear out, and on my own responsibility promptly burned the whole place to the ground. For this somewhat arbitrary proceeding I was mildly called over the coals, as I expected; but all the same it effectually stamped out the plague, which did not reappear during the time I was in the country.
With a little persuasion I managed to induce several hundred of the Wa Kikuyu, in whose country we now were, to come and work at Nairobi, and very useful and capable they proved themselves after a little training. They frequently brought me in word that the shambas (plantations, gardens) at the back of the hill on which my camp was pitched were being destroyed by elephants, but unfortunately I could never spare time to go out in quest of them. On one occasion, however, I passed the news on to my friend, Dr. Winston Waters, with the result that he had a most exciting adventure with a big bull elephant. He set out in quest of the depredator, and, guided by a few of the Wa Kikuyu, soon came upon him hidden among some shady trees. Waters was a great believer in a close shot, so he stalked up to within a few yards of the animal and then fired his .577, aiming for the heart. The elephant responded by a prompt and determined charge, and although Waters quickly let him have the left barrel as well, it proved of no effect; and on he came, screaming and trumpeting with rage. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to fly for dear life; so down a path raced Waters for all he was worth, the elephant giving vigorous chase and gaining rapidly. In a few seconds matters began to look very serious for the sportsman, for the huge monster was almost on him; but at the critical moment he stepped on to the false cover of a carefully-concealed game pit and disappeared from view as if by magic. This sudden descent of his enemy apparently into the bowels of the earth so startled the elephant that he stopped short in his career and made off into the jungle. As for Waters, he was luckily none the worse for his fall, as the pit was neither staked at the bottom nor very deep; he soon scrambled out, and, following up the wounded elephant, succeeded in finishing him off without further trouble.
Towards the end of 1899 I left for England. A few days before I started all my Wa Kikuyu "children", as they called themselves, came in a body and begged to be taken with me. I pictured to them the cold, wet climate of England and its great distance from their native land; but they assured me that these were nothing to them, as they only wished to continue my "children" and to go wherever I went. I could hardly imagine myself arriving in London with a body-guard of four hundred more or less naked savages, but it was only with difficulty that I persuaded them that they had better remain in their own country. The ever-faithful Mahina, my "boy" Roshan Khan, my honest chaukidar, Meeanh, and a few other coolies who had been a long time with me, accompanied me to the coast, where they bade me a sorrowful farewell and left for India the day before I sailed on my homeward journey.
THE FINDING OF THE NEW ELAND
During the early part of last year (1906) I revisited the scene of my former labours and adventures on a shooting trip. Unfortunately the train by which I travelled up from Mombasa reached Tsavo at midnight, but all the same I got out and prowled about as long as time would permit, half wondering every moment if the ghosts of the two man-eaters would spring at me out of the bushes. I wanted very much to spend a day or two in the old place, but my companions were anxious to push on as quickly as possible to better hunting-grounds. I took the trouble, however, to wake them out of their peaceful slumbers in order to point out to them, by the pale moonlight, the strength and beauty of the Tsavo bridge; but I fear this delicate little attention was scarcely appreciated as it deserved. Naturally I could not expect them, or anyone else, to view the bridge quite from my point of view; I looked on it as a child of mine, brought up through stress and danger and troubles of all kinds, but the ordinary traveller of course knows nothing of this and doubtless thinks it only a very commonplace and insignificant structure indeed.
We spent a few days at Nairobi, now a flourishing town of some 6,000 inhabitants, supplied with every modern comfort and luxury, including a well laid-out race course; and after a short trip to Lake Victoria Nyanza and Uganda, we made our way back to the Eldama Ravine, which lies some twenty miles north of Landiani Station in the province of Naivasha. Here we started in earnest on our big game expedition, which I am glad to say proved to be a most delightful and interesting one in every way. The country was lovely, and the climate cool and bracing. We all got a fair amount of sport, our bag including rhino, hippo, waterbuck, reedbuck, hartebeeste, wildebeeste, ostrich, impala, oryx, roan antelope, etc.; but for the present I must confine myself to a short account of how I was lucky enough to shoot a specimen of an entirely new race of eland.
Our party of five, including one lady who rode and shot equally straight, left the Eldama Ravine on January 22, and trekked off in an easterly direction across the Laikipia Plateau. As the trail which we were to take was very little known and almost impossible to follow without a guide, Mr. Foaker, the District Officer at the Ravine, very kindly procured us a reliable man—a young Uashin Gishu Masai named Uliagurma. But as he could not speak a word of Swahili, we had also to engage an interpreter, an excellent, cheery fellow of the same tribe named Landaalu; and he in his turn possessed a kinsman who insisted on coming too, although he was no earthly use to us. Our route took us through the Solai Swamp, over the Multilo and Subu Ko Lultian ranges, and across many unexpected rivers and streamlets. On our first march I noticed that Uliagurma, our kirongozi (guide), was suffering extremely, though uncomplainingly, from earache, so I told him to come to me when we got to camp and I would see what I could do for him. Strange to say, my doctoring proved most successful, and Uliagurma was so grateful that he spread my fame as a "medicine-man" far and wide among the natives wherever we trekked. The consequence was that men, women and children in every state of disease and crippledom came and besieged our camps, begging for some of the magical dawa (medicine). I used to do what I could, and only hope I did not injure many of them; but it was heartrending to see some of the quite hopeless cases I was expected to cure.
After we had climbed the Subu Ko Lultian and got a footing on the plateau, we pitched our camp on the banks of the Angarua river, where we found a big Masai kraal, the inhabitants of which seemed much astonished at our sudden appearance in their neighbourhood. They were very friendly, however, and visited our camp in swarms an hour or so after our arrival. Riding my pony and accompanied by Landaalu as interpreter, and my gun-bearer Juma, I returned their call in the afternoon, when the elmorani (warriors) gave for my entertainment an exhibition of the gymnastic exercises which they practise regularly in order more particularly to strengthen their legs and render them supple. After the performance I asked if there was any game about and was told that some might be found a few miles to the north of the kraal; so I set out at once with Landaalu and Juma to try my luck. It was a perfect afternoon, and no sooner had I cleared the belt of scrub which grew round the kraal, when by the aid of my glasses I saw a herd of zebra and other game away in the distance, feeding peacefully on the rolling prairie. I made my way steadily towards them, and noticed as I went that a couple of eland were gradually drawing away from the rest of the herd. I marked these for my own, and carefully noting the direction they were taking, I dismounted and made a detour round a rise so as to lie in wait for them and cut them off. My plan succeeded admirably, for the two fine animals continued to come straight towards me without suspicion, feeding quietly by the way. When they got to within eighty yards or so, I picked out the bigger head and was only waiting for him to make a slight turn before pulling the trigger, when bang went the heavy rifle of one of my companions about half a mile away. In an instant the two eland had bounded off, and I decided not to risk a shot, in the hope that they would soon settle down again and give me another chance.
Mentally blessing my friend for firing at this untimely moment, I watched them make for a belt of wood about a mile further on, hoping against hope that they would remain on the near side of it. No such luck, however, for they plunged into it and were quickly swallowed up out of my sight. Running to my pony, which Landaalu had dexterously brought up, I galloped in the direction of the spot in the trees where the eland had disappeared; but imagine my vexation when I found that I had to pull up sharp on the edge of a nasty-looking swamp, which at first sight appeared too boggy and treacherous to attempt to cross. I rode up and down it without being able to find anything like a really safe crossing place, so in desperation I at last determined to take the risk of crossing it along an old rhino path where the reeds were flattened down. My pony floundered bravely through, and eventually succeeded in getting safely to the other side. I then made my way cautiously through the belt of trees, and was relieved to find that it was only half a mile or so broad. I dismounted as I neared the further side, and, tying my pony to a tree, crept quietly forward, expecting to see the eland not far off; but to my disappointment there was no trace of game of any kind on the whole wide stretch of country that met my view. I therefore tried another direction, and, taking a half turn to my left, made my way carefully through some open glades to the top of a little rise not far off.
The sight that now met my eyes fairly took my breath away; for there, not three hundred yards off and stalking placidly along at a slow walk, was a herd of fully a hundred eland of all ages and sizes. The rear of the column was brought up by a magnificent old bull, and my heart jumped for joy as I watched him from the shelter of the bushes behind which I lay concealed. The next thing to be done was to decide on a plan of attack, and this had to be thought of without loss of time, for the wind was blowing from me almost in the direction of the eland, who would certainly scent me very soon if I did not get away. Quickly noting the direction in which they were moving, I saw that if all went well they ought to pass close to a little hillock about a mile or so off; and if I were very sharp about it, I thought I could make a circuit through the wood and be on this rise, in a good position for both wind and cover, before the herd could reach it. Accordingly I crept away with the object of finding my mount, but to my delight—just behind me and well hidden—stood the undefeated Landaalu, who in some mysterious way had followed me up, found the pony where I had left it tied to a tree, and brought it on to me. With a bright grin on his face he thrust the reins into my hand, and I was up and galloping off in an instant.
I soon discovered that I had further to go than I expected, for I was forced to make a big detour in order to keep out of sight of the herd; but on halting once or twice and peeping through the trees I saw that all was going well and that they were still calmly moving on in the right direction. The last quarter of a mile had to be negotiated in the open, but I found that by lying flat down on my pony's back I was completely hidden from the advancing herd by an intervening swell in the ground. In this manner I managed to get unobserved to the lee of my hillock, where I dismounted, threw the reins over a stump, and crawled stealthily but as quickly as I could to the top. I was in great doubt as to whether I should be in time or not, but on peering, hatless, over the crest, I was overjoyed to find the whole herd just below me. One of the eland, not twenty yards off, saw me at once, and stood still to gaze at me in astonishment. It was a female, however, so I took no notice of her, but looked round to see if my great bull were anywhere near. Yes, there he was; he had passed the spot where I lay, but was not more than forty yards off, moving in the same leisurely fashion as when I first saw him. An instant later, he noticed the general alarm caused by my appearance, and stopped and turned half round to see what was the matter. This gave me my opportunity, so I fired, aiming behind the shoulder. The way in which he jumped and kicked on feeling the lead told me I had hit him hard, and I got two more bullets into him from the magazine of my .303 before he managed to gain the shelter of a neighbouring thicket and was lost to sight. In the meantime the whole herd had thundered off at full gallop, disappearing in a few minutes in a cloud of dust.
I was confident that there would be little difficulty in finding the wounded eland, and on Landaalu coming up—which, by the way, he did almost immediately, for he was a wonderful goer—we started to make a rough search through the thicket. Owing to the growing darkness, however, we met with no success, so I decided to return to camp, which was many miles away, and to resume the quest at daybreak the following morning. It turned out that we were even further from home than I thought, and black night came upon us before we had covered a quarter of the distance. Fortunately the invaluable Landaalu had discovered a good crossing over the swamp, so we were able to press on at a good pace without losing any time in overcoming the obstacle. After an hour or so of hard travelling, we were delighted to see a rocket go up, fired by my friends to guide us on our way. Such a sight is wonderfully cheering when one is far away from camp, trudging along in the inky darkness and none too certain of one's direction; and a rocket equipment should invariably be carried by the traveller in the wilds. Several more were sent up before we got anywhere near camp, and I remarked to Landaalu that we must have gone a very long way after the eland. "Long way," he replied; "why, Master, we have been to Baringo!" This lake as a matter of fact was fully fifty miles away. When finally we arrived I fired the ardour of my companions by relating the adventures of the afternoon and telling them of the wonderful herd I had seen; and it was at once agreed that we should stay where we were for a day or two in the hope of good sport being obtained.
As soon as it was daylight the next morning I sent out a party of our porters with full instructions where to find my eland, which I was sure must be lying somewhere in the thicket close to the hill from where I had shot him; and very shortly afterwards we ourselves made a start. After a couple of hours' travelling we were lucky enough to catch sight of a portion of the herd of eland, when we dismounted and stalked them carefully through the long grass. All of a sudden one popped up its head unexpectedly about fifty yards away. One of my companions immediately levelled his rifle at it, but from where I was I could see better than he that the head was a poor one, and so called out to him not to fire. The warning came too late, however, for at that moment he pulled the trigger. It was rather a difficult shot, too, as the body of the animal could not be seen very well owing to the height of the grass; still, as the head instantly disappeared we hoped for the best and ran up to the place, but no trace of the eland could be found. Accordingly we pushed on again and after a little rested for a short time under the shade of some trees. We had gone about three miles after resuming our search for game, when one of the porters remembered that he had left the water-bottle he was carrying at the trees where we had halted, so he was sent back for it with strict injunctions to make haste and to rejoin us as quickly as possible. Curiously enough, this trifling incident proved quite providential; for the porter (whose name was Sabaki), after recovering the water-bottle, found himself unable to trace us through the jungle and accordingly struck home for camp. On his way back he actually stumbled over the dead body of the eland which I had shot the previous day and which the search party I had sent out in the morning had failed to find. They were still looking for it close at hand, however, so Sabaki hailed them and they at once set to work to skin and cut up the animal, and then carried it to the camp.
Meanwhile, of course, we knew nothing of all this, and continued our hunt for game. Shortly after noon we had a light lunch, and while we were eating it our guides, Uliagurma and Landaalu, discovered a bees' nest in a fallen tree and proceeded to try to extract the honey, of which the Masai are very fond. This interference was naturally strongly resented by the bees, and soon the semi-naked youths ran flying past us with the angry swarm in full pursuit. I laughed heartily at Landaalu, and chaffed him unmercifully for allowing himself, a Masai, to be put to flight by a few bees. This the jolly fellow took very good-humouredly, saying that if he only had a jacket like mine he would soon go and get the honey. I gave him my jacket at once, and a most comical figure he cut in it, as it was very short and he had practically nothing else on. When the nest was properly examined, however, it was found that the bees had eaten all the honey; so after taking some photographs of our guides at work among the bees we all proceeded homewards, reaching camp about dusk, with nothing to show for our long day's hunt.
We were met by Sabaki, who was in a great state of excitement, and who started to explain in very bad Swahili how he had come across the dead eland. Misunderstanding what he said, I told my friend that Sabaki had found the eland which he had shot in the morning, and rejoiced heartily with him at this piece of good luck. On viewing the head, however, we could not understand it, as it was very much bigger than the one he had fired at; and it was not till later in the evening when I visited Landaalu, curled up at the camp fire, that the mystery was explained. He greeted me by saying that after all we had not gone to Baringo for nothing the previous day, and on my asking him what he meant he told me about the finding of the eland, taking, it for granted that I knew it was mine. I quickly called up Sabaki and after some trouble got from him the whole story of how he had found the body close to my little hillock and near where my men were searching for it. So I broke the truth gently to my friend, who at once acknowledged my claim and congratulated me on my good fortune.
How great this good fortune was I did not know till long after; but even then, when I came to examine the head and skin carefully, I found that they both differed materially from those of any other eland that I had ever seen. For one thing, there was no long tuft of hair on the forehead, while from the lower corner of each eye ran an incomplete white stripe similar to, though smaller than, those found in the giant eland. The sides of the forehead were of a reddish colour, and on the lower part of the face there was a much larger brown patch than is to be seen on the ordinary eland. The striping on the body was very slight, the chief markings being three lines across the withers. On my return to England in April. I sent the head to Rowland Ward's to be set up, and while there it was seen by Mr. R. Lydekker, F.R.S., of the British Museum, the well-known naturalist and specialist in big game, who wrote to tell me that it possessed great zoological interest, as showing the existence of a hitherto unknown race of eland. Mr. Lydekker also contributed the following notice describing the animal to The Field of September 29, 1906:
"Considerable interest attaches to the head of an eland, killed by Colonel J.H. Patterson in Portuguese East Africa, and set up by Mr. Rowland Ward, on account of certain peculiarities in colouring and markings, which indicate a transition from the ordinary South African animal in the direction of the giant eland (Taurotragus derbianus) of the Bahr-el-Ghazal district and West Africa. In the striped variety (Taurotragus oryx livingstonianus) of the ordinary South African eland, the whole middle line of the face of the adult bull is uniformly dark, or even blackish-brown, with a tuft of long bushy hair on the forehead, and no white stripe from the lower angle of the eye. On the other hand, in the Sudani form of the giant eland (T. derbianus gigas), as represented by a bull figured by Mr. Rothschild in Novitates Zoologicae for 1905, the upper part of the face has the hair rufous and shorter than in the ordinary eland, while from the lower angle of each eye a white stripe runs inwards and downwards, recalling the white chevron of the kudu, although the two stripes do not meet in the middle line.
"In Colonel Patterson's eland (which may well be designated T. oryx pattersonianus) there is an incomplete white chevron similar to, although rather smaller than, the one found in the giant eland, while only a narrow stripe in the middle line of the face, above and between the eyes, is dark-brown, the sides of the forehead being rufous. On the lower part of the face there is a larger dark-brown area than in the ordinary eland, although there is a rufous fawn-coloured patch on each side above the nostril. In both the latter respects Colonel Patterson's specimen recalls the giant eland, although it apparently lacks the dark white-bordered band on the side of the neck, characteristic of the latter. If all the elands from that part of Portuguese East Africa where Colonel Patterson's specimen was obtained turn out to be of the same type, there will be a strong presumption that the true and the giant eland, like the various local forms of giraffe and bonte-quagga, are only races of one and the same species. While, even if the present specimen be only a 'sport' (which I consider unlikely), it will serve to show that the southern and northern elands are more nearly related than has hitherto been supposed."
1 In error for "British."
As my eland thus proved to be of some considerable scientific value, and as the authorities of the British Museum expressed a desire to possess its head, I gladly presented it to the Trustees, so that all sportsmen and naturalists might have an opportunity of seeing it at the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, where it now is.
SPORTSMEN who think of visiting British East Africa on a shooting trip may be glad of a few general hints on points of interest and importance.
The battery, to be sufficient for all needs, should consist of a .450 express, a .303 sporting rifle, and a 12-bore shot gun; and I should consider 250 rounds of .450 (50 hard and 200 soft), 300 rounds of .303 (100 hard and 200 soft), and 500 12-bore shot cartridges of say, the 6 and 8 sizes, sufficient for a three months' trip. Leather bandoliers to carry 50 each of these different cartridges would also prove very useful.
A couple of hundred rockets of various colours should certainly be taken, as they are invaluable for signalling to and from camp after dark. These can be obtained so as to fire from a 12-bore shot gun or from a short pistol, and some should always be left with the camp neopara (Headman) for use as occasion requires.
The rifles, cartridges, and rockets should be consigned to an agent in Mombasa, and sent off from London in tin-lined cases at least a month before the sportsman himself intends to start. It must be remembered that the Customs House at Mombasa charges a 10 per cent duty on the value of all articles imported, so that the invoices should be preserved and produced for inspection.
The hunter's kit should include a good pith sunhat, a couple of suits of khaki, leather gaiters or a couple of pairs of puttees, wash-leather gloves to protect the hands from the sun, and two pairs of boots with hemp soles; long Norwegian boots will also be found very useful. The usual underclothing worn in England is all that is required if the shooting is to be done in the highlands. A good warm overcoat will be much appreciated up-country in the cool of the evenings, and a light mackintosh for wet weather ought also to be included. For use in rocky or thorny country, a pair of knee and elbow pads will be found invaluable, and those who feel the sun should also provide themselves with a spine-protector. The latter is a most useful article of kit, for although the air may be pretty cool, the sun strikes down very fiercely towards midday. A well-filled medicine chest should of course not be forgotten.
A good field glass, a hunting and skinning knife or two, and a Kodak with about 200 films should also be carried. With regard to the last item, I should strongly advise all who intend to take photographs on their trip to pay a visit to Mr. W.D. Young on arriving at Nairobi. He is an enthusiastic photographer, and will gladly give advice to all as to light and time of exposure; and as these are the two points which require most attention, hints from some one of experience in the country are most useful. I myself am much indebted to Mr. Young's kindly advice, and I am sure I should not have achieved much success in my pictures without it. I made it a practice on my last visit to the country to send him the exposed films for development whenever I reached a postal station, and I should recommend others to do the same, as films deteriorate rapidly on the voyage home; indeed I had nearly four hundred spoiled in this way, taken when I was in the country in 1898-99.
As regards camp equipment, all that need be taken out from England are a small double-fly tent, three Jaeger blankets, a collapsible bath, a Wolseley valise, and a good filter; and even these can be obtained just as good locally. Chop boxes (food) and other necessary camp gear should be obtained at Mombasa or Nairobi, where the agents will put up just what is necessary. About a month before sailing from England a letter should be sent to the agents, stating the date of arrival and what porters, etc., will be required. The sportsman will then find everything ready for him, so that an immediate start may be made.
Unless money is no object, I should not advise anyone to engage porters at Mombasa, as equally good men can be obtained at Nairobi, thus saving 20 rupees per head in return railway fares. It must be remembered that for transport work men are infinitely preferable to donkeys, as the latter are exasperatingly slow and troublesome, especially on rough ground or on crossing streams, where every load has to be unpacked, carried over, and then reloaded on the animal's back. The caravan for one sportsman—if he intends going far from the railway—is usually made up as follows, though the exact numbers depend upon many considerations:
1 Headman ................ 50 rupees per month. 1 Cook ................... 35 " " 1 Gun-bearer ............. 20 " " 1 "Boy" (personal servant) 20 " " 2 Askaris (armed porters). 12 " " each. 30 Porters ................ 10 " " each.
 The rupee in British East Africa is on the basis of 15 to the pound sterling.
The porters are all registered, the Government taking a small fee for the registration; and according to custom half the wages due for the whole trip are advanced to the men before a start is made. The sportsman is obliged to provide each porter with a jersey, blanket and water-bottle, while the gun-bearer and "boy" get a pair of boots in addition. A cotton shelter-tent and a cooking pot must also be furnished for every five men.
The food for the caravan is mostly rice, of which the Headman gets two kibabas (a kibaba is about 1-1/2 lb.) per day; the cook, gun-bearer, "boy" and askaris one and a half kibabas, and the ordinary porters, one kibaba, each per day.
It is the duty of the Headman to keep discipline on the safari (caravan journey), both in camp and on the march, and to see to the distribution and safety of the loads, the pitching and striking of camp, the issue of posho (food) to the porters, etc. He always brings up the rear of the caravan, and on him depends greatly the general comfort of the sportsman. For our trip at the beginning of 1906, we managed to secure a splendid neapara, and never had the least trouble with the porters all the time. His only drawback was that he could not speak English, but he told me when he left us that he was going to learn. Anybody securing him as Headman will be lucky; his name is Munyaki bin Dewani, and he can easily be found at Mombasa.
The cook is also an important member of the caravan, and a good one should be procured if possible. It is wonderful what an experienced native mpishi (cook) can turn out in the way of a meal in a few minutes after camp is pitched.
As gun-bearer, most hunters prefer a Somali. I have never tried one, but am told that they are inclined to be troublesome; they certainly rate themselves very highly, and demand about four times as much wages as an equally good Swahili.
In camp, the duties of the askaris are to keep up the fire and watch at night, and to pitch and strike the Bwana's (Master's) tent. On the march one leads the caravan, the other brings up the rear; they give assistance in the event of any trouble with the loads, see that no desertions take place, allow no straggling and generally do what they can to protect the caravan. They are each armed with an old snider rifle and 10 rounds of ball cartridge, and are generally very dangerous men to their friends when they take it into their heads to fire their weapons.
The ordinary porters will carry their 60-lb. loads day in and day out without complaint, so long as they are, well fed; but stint them of their rice, and they at once become sulky mutineers. In addition to carrying the loads, they pitch and strike camp, procure firewood and water, and build grass huts if a stay of more than a day is intended to be made at one place. On the whole, the Swahili porter is one of the jolliest and most willing fellows in the world, and I have nothing but praise for him.
It may be that our sportsman intends to confine his shooting trip to the neighbourhood of the railway; in this case, the best plan is to hire one of the special carriages from the Traffic Manager of the Uganda Railway. These carriages, which have good sleeping, cooking, and bath accommodation, can be attached to almost any train, and moved from station to station or left standing in a siding at the directions of the hunter. This is the cheapest and most comfortable way of spending a short time in the country, as no tent, camp equipment, or regular porters are required; and some quite good sport can be obtained into the bargain.
Again, if the hunter intends shooting, say, in the Kenya Province, as many porters as he requires may be obtained from the official in charge at Fort Hall. The pay of the Kikuyu porter in such circumstances is only two annas a day, while he provides his own food; neither is the sportsman asked to furnish him with a blanket, jersey, and water-bottle so long as he is not taken out of his own Province. Each Province is, in fact, governed as regards porters by its own special conditions, which can easily be ascertained on arrival in the country.
There are three lines of steamers which have direct sailings to Mombasa about once a month. Two of these (the Union-Castle and the German East African Lines) sail from Southampton, calling at Marseilles, while the third (the Messageries-Maritimes) starts from the latter port. As a rule travellers to East Africa journey by the overland route to Marseilles and thence on by steamer to Mombasa—the whole journey from London averaging about eighteen days.
The present fares for the best accommodation from London to Mombasa by the Union-Castle Line (including railway ticket to Marseilles) are as follows First-Class Single, about 48 pounds; Return (available for one year) about 93 pounds.
The fares by the German East African Line (including railway ticket to Marseilles) are:—First-Class; Single, about 48 pounds. The Return fare (available for one; year) is double the Single fare, less 10 per cent, of ocean part of journey.
By the Messageries-Maritimes Line the through First-Class Single fare from London to Mombasa (including railway ticket to Marseilles) is about 48 pounds. The Return fare (available for two years) is about 72 pounds.
Fairly good hotel accommodation can be had at both Mombasa and Nairobi.
Before any shooting can be done it is necessary to take out a Game License, which may be obtained without difficulty at either of these two centres. This license (which costs 50 pounds) imposes an obligation on the sportsman to make a return before he leaves the country of every animal shot by him. By obtaining a special license two elephants, a giraffe, greater kudu, buffalo and eland may be shot; but there are various stipulations and fees attaching to this license which alter from time to time.
Fairly good maps of the country may be obtained at Stanford's, Long Acre, W.C., while the Game Laws and Regulations can be procured from the Colonial Office in Downing Street.