The immediate neighbourhood was a perfect exhibition of gum-arabic-bearing mimosas. At this season the gum was in perfection, and the finest quality was now before us in beautiful amber-coloured masses upon the stems and branches, varying from the size of a nutmeg to that of an orange. So great was the quantity, and so excellent were the specimens, that, leaving our horses tied to trees, both the Arabs and myself gathered a large collection. This gum, although as hard as ice on the exterior, was limpid in the centre, resembling melted amber, and as clear as though refined by some artificial process. The trees were perfectly denuded of leaves from the extreme drought, and the beautiful balls of frosted yellow gum recalled the idea of the precious jewels upon the trees in the garden of the wonderful lamp of the "Arabian nights." This gum was exceedingly sweet and pleasant to the taste; but, although of the most valuable quality, there was no hand to gather it in this forsaken, although beautiful country; it either dissolved during the rainy season, or was consumed by the baboons and antelopes. The aggageers took off from their saddles the skins of tanned antelope leather that formed the only covering to the wooden seats, and with these they made bundles of gum. When we remounted, every man was well laden.
We were thus leisurely returning home through alternate plains and low open forest of mimosa, when Taher Sheriff, who was leading the party, suddenly reined up his horse, and pointed to a thick bush, beneath which was a large grey, but shapeless, mass. He whispered, as I drew near, "Oom gurrin" (mother of the horn), their name for the rhinoceros. I immediately dismounted, and, with the short No. 10 Tatham rifle I advanced as near as I could, followed by Suleiman, as I had sent all my gun-bearers direct home by the river when we had commenced our circuit. As I drew near, I discovered two rhinoceros asleep beneath a thick mass of bushes; they were lying like pigs, close together, so that at a distance I had been unable to distinguish any exact form. It was an awkward place; if I were to take the wind fairly, I should have to fire through the thick bush, which would be useless; therefore I was compelled to advance with the wind direct from me to them. The aggageers remained about a hundred yards distant, while I told Suleiman to return, and hold my horse in readiness with his own. I then walked quietly to within about thirty yards of the rhinoceros, but so curiously were they lying that it was useless to attempt a shot. In their happy dreams they must have been suddenly disturbed by the scent of an enemy, for, without the least warning, they suddenly sprang to their feet with astonishing quickness, and with a loud and sharp whiff, whiff, whiff! one of them charged straight at me. I fired my right-hand barrel in his throat, as it was useless to aim at the head protected by two horns at the nose. This turned him, but had no other effect, and the two animals thundered off together at a tremendous pace.
Now for a "tally ho!" Our stock of gum was scattered on the ground, and away went the aggageers in full speed after the two rhinoceros. Without waiting to reload, I quickly remounted my horse Tetel, and, with Suleiman in company, I spurred hard to overtake the flying Arabs. Tetel was a good strong cob, but not very fast; however, I believe he never went so well as upon that day, for, although an Abyssinian horse, I had a pair of English spurs, which worked like missionaries, but with a more decided result. The ground was awkward for riding at full speed, as it was an open forest of mimosas, which, although wide apart, were very difficult to avoid, owing to the low crowns of spreading branches; these, being armed with fish-hook thorns, would have been serious on a collision. I kept the party in view, until in about a mile we arrived upon open ground. Here I again applied the spur, and by degrees I crept up, always gaining, until I at length joined the aggageers.
Here was a sight to drive a hunter wild! The two rhinoceros were running neck and neck, like a pair of horses in harness, but bounding along at tremendous speed within ten yards of the leading Hamran. This was Taher Sheriff, who, with his sword drawn, and his long hair flying wildly behind him, urged his horse forward in the race, amidst a cloud of dust raised by the two huge but active beasts, that tried every sinew of the horses. Roder Sheriff, with the withered arm, was second; with the reins hung upon the hawk-like claw that was all that remained of a hand, but with his naked sword grasped in his right, he kept close to his brother, ready to second his blow. Abou Do was third; his hair flying in the wind—his heels dashing against the flanks of his horse, to which he shouted in his excitement to urge him to the front, while he leant forward with his long sword, in the wild energy of the moment, as though hoping to reach the game against all possibility. Now for the spurs! and as these, vigorously applied, screwed an extra stride out of Tetel, I soon found myself in the ruck of men, horses, and drawn swords. There were seven of us,—and passing Abou Do, whose face wore an expression of agony at finding that his horse was failing, I quickly obtained a place between the two brothers, Taher and Roder Sheriff. There had been a jealousy between the two parties of aggageers, and each was striving to outdo the other; thus Abou Do was driven almost to madness at the superiority of Taher's horse, while the latter, who was the renowned hunter of the tribe, was determined that his sword should be the first to taste blood. I tried to pass the rhinoceros on my left, so as to fire close into the shoulder my remaining barrel with my right hand, but it was impossible to overtake the animals, who bounded along with undiminished speed. With the greatest exertion of men and horses we could only retain our position within about three or four yards of their tails—just out of reach of the swords. The only chance in the race was to hold the pace until the rhinoceros should begin to flag. The horses were pressed to the utmost; but we had already run about two miles, and the game showed no signs of giving in. On they flew,—sometimes over open ground, then through low bush, which tried the horses severely; then through strips of open forest, until at length the party began to tail off, and only a select few kept their places. We arrived at the summit of a ridge, from which the ground sloped in a gentle inclination for about a mile towards the river; at the foot of this incline was thick thorny nabbuk jungle, for which impenetrable covert the rhinoceros pressed at their utmost speed. Never was there better ground for the finish of a race; the earth was sandy, but firm, and as we saw the winning-post in the jungle that must terminate the hunt, we redoubled our exertions to close with the unflagging game. Suleiman's horse gave in—we had been for about twenty minutes at a killing pace. Tetel, although not a fast horse, was good for a distance, and he now proved his power of endurance, as I was riding at least two stone heavier than any of the party. Only four of the seven remained; and we swept down the incline, Taher Sheriff still leading, and Abou Do the last! His horse was done, but not the rider; for, springing to the ground while at full speed, sword in hand, he forsook his tired horse, and, preferring his own legs, he ran like an antelope, and, for the first hundred yards, I thought he would really pass us, and win the honour of first blow. It was of no use, the pace was too severe, and, although running wonderfully, he was obliged to give way to the horses. Only three now followed the rhinoceros—Taher Sheriff, his brother Roder, and myself. I had been obliged to give the second place to Roder, as he was a mere monkey in weight; but I was a close third. The excitement was intense—we neared the jungle, and the rhinoceros began to show signs of flagging, as the dust puffed up before their nostrils, and, with noses close to the ground, they snorted as they still galloped on. Oh for a fresh horse! "A horse ! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" We were within two hundred yards of the jungle; but the horses were all done. Tetel reeled as I urged him forward, Roder pushed ahead; we were close to the dense thorns, and the rhinoceros broke into a trot; they were done! "Now, Taher, for-r-a-a-r-r-d! for-r-r-a-a-r-d, Taher!!!" Away he went—he was close to the very heels of the beasts; but his horse could do no more than his present pace; still he gained upon the nearest; he leaned forward with his sword raised for the blow—another moment, and the jungle would be reached! One effort more, and the sword flashed in the sunshine, as the rearmost rhinoceros disappeared in the thick screen of thorns, with a gash about a foot long upon his hind-quarters. Taher Sheriff shook his bloody sword in triumph above his head; but the rhinoceros was gone. We were fairly beaten, regularly outpaced; but I believe another two hundred yards would have given us the victory. "Bravo, Taher," I shouted. He had ridden splendidly, and his b]ow had been marvellously delivered at an extremely long reach, as he was nearly out of his saddle when he sprang forward to enable the blade to obtain a cut at the last moment. He could not reach the hamstring, as his horse could not gain the proper position.
We all immediately dismounted; the horses were thoroughly done, and I at once loosened the girths and contemplated my steed Tetel, who with head lowered, and legs wide apart, was a tolerable example of the effects of pace. The other aggageers shortly arrived, and as the rival Abou Do joined us, Taher Sheriff quietly wiped the blood off his sword without making a remark; this was a bitter moment for the discomfited Abou Do.
Although we had failed, I never enjoyed a hunt so much either before or since; it was a magnificent run, and still more magnificent was the idea that a man, with no weapon but a sword, could attack and generally vanquish every huge animal of creation. I felt inclined to discard all my rifles, and to adopt the sabre, with a first-class horse instead of the common horses of this country, that were totally unfit for such a style of hunting, when carrying nearly fifteen stone.
Taher Sheriff explained that at all times the rhinoceros was the most difficult animal to sabre, on account of his extraordinary swiftness, and, although he had killed many with the sword, it was always after a long and fatiguing hunt: at the close of which, the animal becoming tired, generally turned to bay, in which case one hunter occupied his attention, while another galloped up behind, and severed the hamstring. The rhinoceros, unlike the elephant, can go very well upon three legs, which enhances the danger, as one cut will not utterly disable him.
There is only one species of this animal in Abyssinia; this is the two-horned black rhinoceros, known in South Africa as the keitloa. This animal is generally five feet six inches to five feet eight inches high at the shoulder, and, although so bulky and heavily built, it is extremely active, as our long and fruitless hunt had exemplified. The skin is about half the thickness of that of the hippopotamus, but of extreme toughness and closeness of texture; when dried and polished it resembles horn. Unlike the Indian species of rhinoceros, the black variety of Africa is free from folds, and the hide fits smoothly on the body like that of the buffalo. This two-horned black species is exceedingly vicious; it is one of the very few animals that will generally assume the offensive; it considers all creatures to be enemies, and, although it is not acute in either sight or hearing, it possesses so wonderful a power of scent, that it will detect a stranger at a distance of five or six hundred yards should the wind be favourable.
I have observed that a rhinoceros will generally charge down upon the object that it smells, but does not see; thus when the animal is concealed either in high grass or thick jungle, should it scent a man who may be passing unseen to windward, it will rush down furiously upon the object it has winded, with three loud whiffs, resembling a jet of steam from a safety-valve. As it is most difficult and next to impossible to kill a rhinoceros when charging, on account of the protection to the brain afforded by the horns, an unexpected charge in thick jungle is particularly unpleasant; especially when on horseback, as there is no means of escape but to rush headlong through all obstacles, when the rider will most likely share the fate that befell the unfortunate Jali.
The horns of the black Abyssinian species seldom exceed two feet in length, and are generally much shorter; they are not fitted upon the bone like the horns of all other animals, but are merely rooted upon the thick skin, of which they appear to be a continuation. Although the horn of a rhinoceros is a weapon of immense power, it has no solid foundation, but when the animal is killed, it can be separated from its hold upon the second day after death, by a slight blow with a cane. The base forms an exceedingly shallow cup, and much resembles the heart of an artichoke when the leaves have been picked off. The teeth are very peculiar, as the molars have a projecting cutting edge on the exterior side; thus the jaws when closed form a pair of shears, as the projecting edges of the upper and lower rows overlap: this makes a favourable arrangement of nature to enable the animal to clip off twigs and the branches upon which it feeds, as, although it does not absolutely refuse grass, the rhinoceros is decidedly a wood eater. There are particular bushes which form a great attraction, among these is a dwarf mimosa with a reddish bark: this tree grows in thick masses, which the rhinoceros clips so closely that it frequently resembles a quickset hedge that has been cut by the woodman's shears. These animals are generally seen in pairs, or the male, female, and calf; the mother is very affectionate, and exceedingly watchful and savage. Although so large an animal, the cry is very insignificant, and is not unlike the harsh shrill sound of a penny trumpet. The drinking hour is about 8 P.M. or two hours after sunset, at which time the rhinoceros arrives at the river from his daily retreat, which is usually about four miles in the interior. He approaches the water by regular paths made by himself, but not always by the same route; and, after drinking, he generally retires to a particular spot beneath a tree that has been visited upon regular occasions; in such places large heaps of dung accumulate. The hunters take advantage of this peculiarity of the rhinoceros, and they set traps in the path to his private retreat; but he is so extremely wary, and so acute is the animal's power of scent, that the greatest art is necessary in setting the snare. A circular hole about two feet deep and fifteen inches in diameter is dug in the middle of his run, near to the tree that has been daily visited; upon this hole is placed a hoop of tough wood arranged with a vast number of sharp spikes of a strong elastic wood, which, fastened to the rim, meet in the centre, and overlap each other as would the spokes of a wheel in the absence of the nave, if lengthened sufficiently. We will simplify the hoop by calling it a wheel without a centre, the spokes sharpened and overlapping the middle. The instrument being fitted neatly above the hole, a running noose of the strongest rope is laid in the circle upon the wheel; the other extremity of the rope is fastened to the trunk of a tree that has been felled for that purpose, and deeply notched at one end to prevent the rope from slipping. This log, which weighs about five or six hundredweight, is then buried horizontally in the ground, and the entire trap is covered with earth and carefully concealed; the surface is smoothed over with a branch instead of the hand, as the scent of a human touch would at once be detected by the rhinoceros. When completed, a quantity of the animal's dung is swept from the heap upon the snare. If the trap is undiscovered, the rhinoceros steps upon the hoop, through which his leg sinks into the hole, and upon his attempt to extricate his foot, the noose draws tight over the legs; as the spiked hoop fixing tightly into the skin prevents the noose from slipping over the foot. Once caught, his first effort to escape drags the heavy log from the trench, and as the animal rushes furiously away, this acts as a drag, and by catching in the jungle and the protruding roots of trees, it quickly fatigues him. On the following morning the hunters discover the rhinoceros by the track of the log that has ploughed along the ground, and the animal is killed by lances, or by the sword. The hide of a rhinoceros will produce seven shields; these are worth about two dollars each, as simple hide before manufacture; the horn is sold in Abyssinia for about two dollars per pound, for the manufacture of sword-hilts, which are much esteemed if of this material.
Upon our return to camp, I found that the woman Barrake was ill. She had insisted upon eating a large quantity of the fruit of the hegleek tree (Balanites Aegyptiaca), which abounded in this neighbourhood. This tree is larger than the generality in that country, being about thirty feet in height and eighteen inches in diameter; the ashes of the burnt wood are extremely rich in potash, and the fruit, which is about the size and shape of a date, is sometimes pounded and used by the Arabs in lieu of soap for washing their clothes. This fruit is exceedingly pleasant, but in a raw state it has an irritating effect upon the bowels, and should be used in small quantities. Barrake had been cautioned by the Arabs and ourselves, but she had taken a fancy that she was determined to gratify; therefore she had eaten the forbidden fruit from morning until night, and a grievous attack of diarrhoea was the consequence. My wife had boiled the fruit with wild honey, and had made a most delicious preserve; in this state it was not unwholesome. She had likewise preserved the fruit of the nabbuk in a similar manner: the latter resembles minute apples in appearance, with something of the medlar in flavour; enormous quantities were produced upon the banks of the river, which, falling when ripe, were greedily eaten by guinea-fowl, wild hogs, antelopes, and monkeys. Elephants are particularly fond of the fruit of the hegleek, which, although apparently too insignificant for the attention of such mighty animals, they nevertheless enjoy beyond any other food, and they industriously gather them one by one. At the season when the fruit is ripe, the hegleek tree is a certain attraction to elephants, who shake the branches and pick up the fallen berries with their trunks; frequently they overturn the tree itself, as a more direct manner of feeding.
Florian was quite incapable of hunting, as he was in a weak state of health, and had for some months been suffering from chronic dysentery. I had several times cured him, but, as Barrake insisted upon eating fruit, so he had a weakness for the strongest black coffee, which, instead of drinking, like the natives, in minute cups, he swallowed wholesale in large basins, several times a day; this was actual poison with his complaint, and he was completely ruined in health. He had excellent servants,—Richarn, whom I subsequently engaged, who was my only faithful man in my journey up the White Nile, and two good Dongalowas.
At this time, his old companion, Johann Schmidt, the carpenter, arrived, having undertaken a contract to provide, for the Italian Zoological Gardens, a number of animals. I therefore proposed that the two old friends should continue together, while I would hunt by myself, with the aggageers, towards the east and south.
This arrangement was agreed to, and we parted. In the following season, I engaged this excellent man, Johann Schmidt, as my lieutenant for the White Nile expedition, on the banks of which fatal river he now lies, with the cross that I erected over his grave.
Poor Florian at length recovered from his complaint, but was killed by a lion. He had wounded an elephant, which on the following morning he found dead; a lion had eaten a portion during the night. While he was engaged with his men in extracting the tusks, one of his hunters (a Tokroori) followed the track of the lion on the sand, and found the animal lying beneath a bush; he fired a single-barrelled rifle, and wounded it in the thigh. He at once returned to his master, who accompanied him to the spot, and the lion was found lying under the same bush, licking the wound. Florian fired and missed; the lion immediately crouched for a spring; Florian fired his remaining barrel, the ball merely grazed the lion, who almost in the same instant bounded forward, and struck him upon the head with a fearful blow of the paw, at the same time it seized him by the throat.
The Tokroori hunter, instead of flying from the danger, placed the muzzle of his rifle to the lion's ear, and blew its brains out on the body of his master. The unfortunate Florian had been struck dead, and great difficulty was found in extracting the claws of the lion, which had penetrated the skull. Florian, although a determined hunter, was an exceedingly bad shot, and withal badly armed for encounters with dangerous game; I had frequently prophesied some calamity from the experience I had had in a few days' shooting in his society, and most unhappily my gloomy prediction was fulfilled.
This was the fate of two good and sterling Germans, who had been my companions in this wild country, where degrees of rank are entirely forgotten, provided a man be honest and true. I constantly look back to the European acquaintances and friends that I made during my sojourn in Africa, nearly all of whom are dead: a merciful Providence guided us through many dangers and difficulties, and shielded us from all harm, during nearly five years of constant exposure. Thanks be to God.
Our camels returned from Geera with corn, accompanied by an Abyssinian hunter, who was declared by Abou Do to be a good man, and dexterous with the sword. We accordingly moved our camp, said adieu to Florian and Johann, and penetrated still deeper into the Base.
ANTELOPES ON THE SETTITE.
OUR course lay as usual along the banks of the river, which we several times forded to avoid the bends. Great numbers of antelopes were upon the river's bed, having descended to drink; by making a circuit, I cut off one party upon their retreat, and made two good shots with the Fletcher No. 24, bagging two tetel (Antelopus Bubalis), at considerable ranges. I also shot an ariel (G. Dama), and, upon arriving at a deep pool in the river, I shot a bull hippopotamus, as a present for Taher Sheriff and his brothers. We decided upon encamping at a spot known to the Arabs as Delladilla; this was the forest upon the margin of the river where I had first shot the bull elephant, when the aggageers fought with him upon foot. The trees were larger in this locality than elsewhere, as a great portion of the country was flooded by the river dnring the rainy season, and much rich soil had been deposited; this, with excessive moisture, had produced a forest of fine timber, with an undergrowth of thick nabbuk. We fixed upon a charming spot for a camp, beneath a large tree that bore a peculiar fruit, suspended from the branches by a strong but single fibre, like a cord; each fruit was about eighteen inches in length, by six in diameter; it was perfectly worthless, but extremely ornamental. We had arrived beneath this tree, and were still on horseback; my wife had just suggested that it would be unpleasant should one of the large fruit fall upon our heads if we camped under the branches, when suddenly a lioness glided by us, within three yards of the horses, and almost immediately disappeared in the thick thorns; unfortunately, I had the moment before given my rifle to a servant, prior to dismounting. I searched the bushes in every direction, but to no purpose.
This spot was so favourably situated that I determined to remain for some time, as I could explore the country on horseback to a great distance upon all sides. We immediately set to work to construct our new camp, and by the evening our people had cleared a circle of fifty yards diameter; this was swept perfectly clean, and the ground being hard, though free from stones, the surface was as even as a paved floor. The entire circle was well protected with a strong fence of thorn bushes, for which the kittar is admirably adapted; the head being mushroom-shaped, the entire tree is cut down, and the stem being drawn towards the inside of the camp, the thick and wide-spreading thorny crest covers about twelve feet of the exterior frontage; a fence thus arranged is quickly constructed, and is quite impervious. Two or three large trees grew within the camp; beneath the shade of this our tent was pitched. This we never inhabited, but it served as an ordinary room, and a protection to the luggage, guns, &c. The horses were well secured within a double circle of thorns, and the goats wandered about at liberty, as they were too afraid of wild animals to venture from the camp: altogether this was the most agreeable spot we had ever occupied; even the night-fires would be perfectly concealed within the dense shade of the nabbuk jungle, thus neither man nor beast would be aware of our presence. We were about a hundred paces distant from the margin of the river; late in the evening I took my rod, and fished in the deep bend beneath a cliff of conglomerate pebbles. I caught only one fish, a baggar, about twelve pounds, but I landed three large turtles; these creatures were most determined in taking the bait; they varied in size from fifty to about ninety pounds, and were the same species as that which inhabits the Nile (Trionis Nilotica). From one of them we took upwards of a hundred eggs which we converted into omelettes, but they were rather strong in flavour.
Although this species of turtle is unprepossessing in appearance, having a head very like that of a snake, with a dark green shell spotted with yellow, it produces excellent soup; the body is exceedingly flat, and the projecting edges of the shell are soft; it runs extremely fast upon the shore, and is suggestive of the tortoise that beat the hare in the well-known race. Throughout the Nile and its tributaries there are varieties of fish and reptiles closely connected, and the link can be distinctly traced in the progression of development. There is a fish with a hard bony frame, or shell, that includes the head, and extends over more than half the body; this has two long and moveable spikes beneath the fore fins, upon which it can raise itself as upon legs when upon the land; when first caught, this fish makes a noise something like the mewing of a cat: this appears to be closely linked to the tortoise. The Lepidosiren Annectens, found in the White Nile, is a link between the fish and the frog; and certain varieties of mud fish that remain alive throughout a dry season in the sun-baked earth, and reappear with the following rains exhibit a close affinity to reptiles.
On the morning after our arrival, I started to explore the country with the aggageers, and rode about forty miles, From this point, hills of basalt and granite commenced, connected by rugged undulations of white quartz, huge blocks of which were scattered upon the surface; in many of these I found thin veins of galena.
All the rocks were igneous; we had left the sandstone that had marked the course of the Atbara and the valley of the Settite as far as Ombrega, and I was extremely puzzled to account for the presence of the pure white and rose-coloured limestone that we had found only in one place—Geera. As we were now among the hills and mountains, the country was extremely beautiful; at the farthest point of that day's excursion we were close to the high range from which, in the rainy season, innumerable torrents pour into the Settite; some of these gorges were ornamented with the dark foliage of large tamarind trees, while upon rocks that did not appear to offer any sustenance, the unsightly yet mighty baobab* grasped with its gnarled roots the blocks of granite, and formed a peculiar object in the wild and rugged scenery.
* The largest baobab (Adansonia digitata) that I have
measured was fifty-one feet and one inch in circumference.
Through this romantic wilderness, the Settite flowed in a clear and beautiful stream, sometimes contracted between cliffs to a width of a hundred yards, at others stretching to three times that distance. The hippopotami were in great numbers; many were lying beneath the shady trees upon the banks, and splashed into the water as we appeared; others were basking in large herds upon the shallows; while the young calves, supported upon the backs of their mothers, sailed about upon their animated rafts in perfect security. The Base had been here recently, as we discovered their footprints upon the sand, and we arrived at some tobacco plantations that they had formed upon the sandbanks of the river. The aggageers expressed their determination to sabre them should we happen to meet, and were much displeased at my immediately placing a veto upon their bloody intentions, with a reservation for necessity in self-defence.
The Base were far too wide awake, and, although seen once during the day by my people, they disappeared like monkeys; their spies had doubtless reported our movements ever since we had entered their country, and, fearing the firearms, they had retreated to their fastnesses among the mountains.
During the day's march we had seen a large quantity of game, but I had not wished to shoot until on our return towards the camp. We were about four miles from home, when a nellut (A. Strepsiceros) bounded away from a ravine. I was riding Tetel, whom I had taught to stand fire, in which he was remarkably steady. I made a quick shot with the little Fletcher from the saddlle; but, as the nellut ran straight before me, the bullet struck the haunch: away went the aggageers after the wounded animal, like greyhounds, and in a few hundred yards the sword finished the hunt.
The Nellut is the handsomest of all the large antelopes; the male is about thirteen hands high, and carries a pair of beautiful spiral horns, upwards of three feet in length; the colour of the hide is a dark mouse-grey, ornamented with white stripes down the flanks, and a white line along the back from the shoulder to the tail. The female is without horns, but is in other respects similar to the male. These beautiful animals do not inhabit the plains like the other varieties of antelopes, but are generally found in deep-wooded ravines. In South Africa it is known as the koodoo.
The aggageers quickly flayed and quartered the game, which was arranged upon the horses, and thus it was carried to our camp, at which we arrived late in the evening.
On the following morning, at my usual hour of starting, a little before sunrise, we crossed a deep portion of the river, through which the horses were obliged to swim; on this occasion I rode Aggahr, who was my best hunter. In that very charming and useful book by Mr. Francis Galton, "The Art of Travel," advice is given for crossing a deep river, by holding to the tail of the swimming horse. In this I cannot agree; the safety of the man is much endangered by the heels of the horse, and his security depends upon the length of the animal's tail. In rivers abounding in crocodiles, which generally follow an animal before they seize, the man hanging on to the tail of the horse is a most alluring bait, and he would certainly be taken, should one of these horrible monsters be attracted to the party. I have always found great comfort in crossing a river by simply holding to the mane, just in front of the saddle, with my left hand, with the bridle grasped as loosely as possible, so that the horse does not feel the bit; in this position, on the off side, the animal does not feel any hindrance; the man not only can direct his horse, but his presence gives it confidence, as he can speak to it coaxingly while swimming with one arm by its side. Upon landing, he at once controls the horse by the reins within his left grasp.
Many horses become exceedingly scared in swimming a rapid river, and will frequently lose their presence of mind, and swim with the current, in which case they may miss the favourable landing place; if the man holds by the tail, he has no control over the horse upon landing, and, if wild or vicious, the animal will probably kick up its heels and bolt away, leaving the unfortunate proprietor helpless. In swimming a river with the horse, the powder, &c. should be made into a parcel with your outer garment, and tied upon the head; then lead your horse gently into the water, and for a moment allow it to drink, to prevent all shyness; continue to lead it until you lose your depth, when, by holding with your left hand to the mane, both horse and man will cross with perfect ease.
We had crossed the river, and, as we passed through an opening in the belt of jungle on the banks, and entered upon a plain interspersed with clumps of bush, we perceived, at about two hundred yards distance, a magnificent lion, whose shaggy yellow mane gave him a colossal appearance, as he stalked quietly along the flat sandy ground towards the place of his daily retreat. The aggageers whispered, "El Assut!" (the lion), and instinctively the swords flashed from their sheaths. In an instant, the horses were at full speed sweeping over the level ground. The lion had not observed us; but, upon hearing the sound of the hoofs, he halted and raised his head, regarding us for a moment with wonder, as we rapidly decreased our distance, when, thinking retreat advisable, he bounded off, followed by the excited hunters, as hard as the horses could be pressed. Having obtained a good start, we had gained upon him, and we kept up the pace until we at length arrived within about eighty yards of the lion, who, although he appeared to fly easily along like a cat, did not equal the speed of the horses. It was a beautiful sight. Aggahr was an exceedingly fast horse, and, having formerly belonged to one of the Hamran hunters, he thoroughly understood his work. His gallop was perfection, and his long steady stride was as easy to himself as to his rider; there was no necessity to guide him, as he followed an animal like a greyhound, and sailed between the stems of the numerous trees, carefully avoiding their trunks, and choosing his route where the branches allowed ample room for the rider to pass beneath. In about five minutes we had run the lion straight across the plain, through several open strips of mimosas, and we were now within a few yards, hut unfortunately, just as Taher and Abou Do dashed forward in the endeavour to ride upon either flank, he sprang down a precipitous ravine, and disappeared in the thick thorns.
The ravine formed a broad bottom, which, covered with dense green nabbuk, continued for a great distance, and effectually saved the lion. I was much disappointed, as we should have had a glorious fight, and I had long sought for an opportunity of witnessing an attack upon the lion with the sword. The aggageers were equally annoyed, and they explained that they should have been certain to kill him. Their plan was to ride upon either flank, at a few yards' distance, when he would have charged one man, who would have dashed away, while the other hunter would have slashed the lion through the back with his sword. They declared that a good hunter should be able to protect himself by a back-handed blow with his sword, should the lion attack the horse from behind; but that the great danger in a lion hunt arose when the animal took refuge in a solitary bush, and turned to bay. In such instances the hunters surrounded the bush, and rode direct towards him, when he generally sprang out upon some man or horse; he was then cut down immediately by the sabre of the next hunter. The aggageers declared that, in the event of an actual fight, the death of the lion was certain, although one or more men or horses might be wounded, or perhaps killed.
The morning gallop had warmed our nags after their bath in the cool river, and we now continued leisurely towards the stream, upon the margin of which we rode for several miles. We had determined to set fire to the grass, as, although upon poorer soil it had almost disappeared through the withering of the roots, upon fertile ground it was almost nine feet high, and not only concealed the game, but prevented us from riding. We accordingly rode towards a spot where bright yellow herbage invited the fire-stick; but hardly had we arrived, when we noticed a solitary bull buffalo (Bos Caffer), feeding within about a hundred and fifty yards. I immediately dismounted, and, creeping towards him to within fifty paces, I shot him through the neck with one of my Reilly No. 10 rifles. I had hoped to drop him dead by the shot, instead of which he galloped off, of course followed by the aggageers, with the exception of one, who held my horse. Quickly mounted, we joined in the hunt, and in about three minutes we ran the buffalo to bay in a thicket of thorns on the margin of the river. These thorns were just thick enough to conceal him at times, but to afford us a glance of his figure as he moved from his position. There was a glade which cut through and divided the jungle, and I wished the aggageers to drive him, if possible, across this, when I should have a good opportunity of shooting. To my astonishment, one of the most daring hunters jumped off his horse with his drawn sword, and, telling me to look out, he coolly entered the jungle alone to court the attack of the buffalo. I would not allow him to risk his life for an animal that I had been the first to wound, therefore I insisted upon his return, and begging Abou Do to hold my bridle when I should fire, I rode with him carefully along the skirts of the jungle along the glade, keeping a good look-out among the thorns for the buffalo. Presently I heard a short grunt within twenty yards of us, and I quickly perceived the buffalo standing broadside on, with his head to the wind, that brought down the scent of the people on the other side.
I had my little Fletcher No. 24 in my hand—that handy little weapon that almost formed an extra bone of myself, and, whispering to Abou Do to hold my bridle close to the bit, as Aggahr was not very steady under fire, I took a clean shot direct at the centre of the shoulder. The ball smacked as though it had struck an iron target. Aggahr gave a start, and for the moment both Abou Do and myself were prepared for a rush; but the buffalo had never flinched, and he remained standing as though immoveable. Abon Do whispered, "You missed him, I heard the bullet strike the tree;" I shook my head, and quickly re-loaded—it was impossible to miss at that distance, and I knew that I had fired steadily. Hardly had I rammed the bullet down, when, with a sudden thump, down fell the buffalo upon his side, and, rolling over upon his back, he gave a few tremendous struggles, and lay dead.
Great caution should be invariably used in approaching a fallen buffalo and all other dangerous animals, as they are apt to recover sufficiently, upon seeing the enemy, to make a last effort to attack, which is generally more serious than any other phase of the hunt. We accordingly pitched a few large stones at him to test the reality of death, and then walked up and examined him. The Reilly No. 10 had gone quite through the neck, but had missed a vital part. The little Fletcher had made a clean and minute hole exactly through the shoulder, and upon opening the body we found the ball sticking in the ribs on the opposite side, having passed through the very centre of the lungs.
The aggageers now carefully flayed it, and divided the tough hide into portions accurately measured for shields. One man galloped back to direct the two water-camels that were following in our tracks, while others cut up the buffalo, and prepared the usual disgusting feast by cutting up the reeking paunch, over which they squeezed the contents of the gall-bladder, and consumed the whole, raw and steaming.* On the arrival of the camels they were quickly loaded, and we proceeded to fire the grass on our return to camp. The Arabs always obtained their fire by the friction of two pieces of wood; accordingly, they set to work. A piece of dry nabbuk was selected, about as thick as the little finger. A notch was cut in this, and it was laid horizontally upon the ground, with the notch uppermost; into this was fixed the sharp point of a similar piece of wood, about eighteen inches long, which, being held perpendicularly with both hands, was worked between the palms like a drill, with as great a pressure as possible, from the top to the bottom, as the hands descended with the motion of rubbing or rolling the stick. After about two minutes of great labour, the notch began to smoke, a brown dust, like ground coffee, fell from the singed wood, and this charred substance, after increased friction, emitted a still denser smoke, and commenced smouldering; the fire was produced. A rag was torn from the thorn-brushed drawers of one of the party, in which the fire was carefully wrapped and fanned with the breath; it was then placed in a wisp of dry grass, and rapidly turned in the air until the flame burst forth. A burning-glass should be always carried in these countries, where a cloudless sky ensures an effect. Although in Arab hands the making of fire appears exceedingly simple, I have never been able to effect it. I have worked at the two sticks until they have been smoking and I have been steaming, with my hands blistered, but I have never got beyond the smoke; there is a peculiar knack which, like playing the fiddle, must be acquired, although it looks very easy. It is not every wood that will produce fire by this method; those most inflammable are the cotton-tree and the nabbuk. We now descended to the river, and fired the grass; the north wind was brisk, and the flames extended over miles of country within an hour.
* All these Arabs, in like manner with the Abyssinians,
are subject to the attacks of intestinal worms, induced
by their habit of eating raw flesh.
We returned towards the camp. On the way we saw numerous antelopes; and, dismounting, I ordered one of the hunters to lead my horse while I attempted to stalk a fine buck mehedehet (Redunca Ellipsyprimna). There were several in the herd, but there was a buck with a fine head a few yards in advance; they were standing upon an undulation on open ground backed by high grass. I had marked a small bush as my point of cover, and creeping unobserved towards this, I arrived unseen within about a hundred and twenty yards of the buck. With the Fletcher 24 I made a good shoulder-shot; the buck gave a few bounds and fell dead; the does looked on in astonishment, and I made an equally lucky shot with the left-hand barrel, bringing down what I at first had mistaken to be a doe, but I discovered it to be a young buck.
The Mehedehet is an antelope of great beauty; it resembles the red deer in colour, but the coat is still rougher; it stands about thirteen hands in height, with a pair of long slightly-curved annulated horns. The live weight of the male would be about five hundred pounds; the female, like the nellut (Tragelaphus Strepsiceros), is devoid of horns, and much resembles the female of the Sambur deer of India. This antelope is the "water-buck" of South Africa.
On arrival at the camp, I resolved to fire the entire country on the following day, and to push still farther up the course of the Settite to the foot of the mountains, and to return to this camp in about a fortnight, by which time the animals that had been scared away by the fire would have returned. Accordingly, on the following morning, accompanied by a few of the aggageers, I started upon the south bank of the river, and rode for some distance into the interior, to the ground that was entirely covered with high withered grass. We were passing through a mass of kittar and thorn-bush, almost hidden by the immensely high grass, when, as I was ahead of the party, I came suddenly upon the tracks of a rhinoceros; these were so unmistakeably recent that I felt sure we were not far from the animals themselves. As I had wished to fire the grass, I was accompanied by my Tokrooris, and my horse-keeper, Mahomet No. 2. It was difficult ground for the men, and still more unfavourable for the horses, as large disjointed masses of stone were concealed in the high grass.
We were just speculating as to the position of the rhinoceros, and thinking how uncommonly unpleasant it would be should he obtain our wind, when whiff! whiff! whiff! We heard the sharp whistling snort, with a tremendous rush through the high grass and thorns close to us; and at the same moment two of these determined brutes were upon us in full charge. I never saw such a scrimmage; sauve qui peut! There was no time for more than one look behind. I dug the spurs into Aggahr's flanks, and clasping him round the neck, I ducked my head down to his shoulder, well protected with my strong hunting-cap, and I kept the spurs going as hard as I could ply them, blindly trusting to Providence and my good horse, over big rocks, fallen trees, thick kittar thorns, and grass ten feet high, with the two infernal animals in full chase only a few feet behind me. I heard their abominable whiffing close to me, but so did good horse also, and the good old hunter flew over obstacles that I should have thought impossible, and he dashed straight under the hooked thorn bushes and doubled like a hare. The aggageers were all scattered; Mahomet No. 2 was knocked over by a rhinoceros; all the men were sprawling upon the rocks with their guns, and the party was entirely discomfited. Having passed the kittar thorn, I turned, and, seeing that the beasts had gone straight on, I brought Aggahr's head round, and tried to give chase, but it was perfectly impossible; it was only a wonder that the horse had escaped in ground so difficult for riding. Although my clothes were of the strongest and coarsest Arab cotton cloth, which seldom tore, but simply lost a thread when caught in a thorn, I was nearly naked. My blouse was reduced to shreds; as I wore sleeves only half way from the shoulder to the elbow, my naked arms were streaming with blood; fortunately my hunting cap was secured with a chin strap, and still more fortunately I had grasped the horse's neck, otherwise I must have been dragged out of the saddle by the hooked thorns. All the men were cut and bruised, some having fallen upon their heads among the rocks, and others had hurt their legs in falling in their endeavours to escape. Mahomet No. 2, the horse-keeper, was more frightened than hurt, as he had been knocked down by the shoulder and not by the horn of the rhinoceros, as the animal had not noticed him; its attention was absorbed by the horse.
I determined to set fire to the whole country immediately, and descending the hill towards the river to obtain a favourable wind, I put my men in a line, extending over about a mile along the river's bed, and they fired the grass in different places. With a loud roar, the flame leapt high in air and rushed forward with astonishing velocity; the grass was as inflammable as tinder, and the strong north wind drove the long line of fire spreading in every direction through the country.
We now crossed to the other side of the river to avoid the flames, and we returned towards the camp. On the way, I made a long shot and badly wounded a tetel, but lost it in thick thorns; shortly after, I stalked a nellut (A. Strepsiceros), and bagged it with the Fletcher rifle.
We arrived early in camp, and on the following day we moved sixteen miles farther up stream, and camped under a tamarind tree by the side of the river. No European had ever been farther than our last camp, Delladilla, and that spot had only been visited by Johann Schmidt and Florian. In the previous year, my aggageers had sabred some of the Base at this very camping-place; they accordingly requested me to keep a vigilant watch during the night, as they would be very likely to attack us in revenge, unless they had been scared by the rifles and by the size of our party. They advised me not to remain long in this spot, as it would be very dangerous for my wife to be left almost alone during the day, when we were hunting, and that the Base would be certain to espy us from the mountains, and would most probably attack and carry her off when they were assured of our departure. She was not very nervous about this, but she immediately called the dragoman, Mahomet, who knew the use of a gun, and she asked him if he would stand by her in case they were attacked in my absence; the faithful servant replied, "Mahomet fight the Base? No, Missus; Mahomet not fight; if the Base come, Missus fight; Mahomet run away; Mahomet not come all the way from Cairo to get him killed by black fellers; Mahomet will run—Inshallah!" (please God).
This frank avowal of his military tactics was very reassuring. There was a high hill of basalt, something resembling a pyramid, within a quarter of a mile of us; I accordingly ordered some of my men every day to ascend this look-out station, and I resolved to burn the high grass at once, so as to destroy all cover for the concealment of an enemy. That evening I very nearly burnt our camp; I had several times ordered the men to clear away the dry grass for about thirty yards from our resting-place; this they had neglected to obey. We had been joined a few days before by a party of about a dozen Hamran Arabs, who were hippopotami hunters; thus we mustered very strong, and it would have been the work of about half an hour to have cleared away the grass as I had desired.
The wind was brisk, and blew directly towards our camp, which was backed by the river. I accordingly took a fire-stick, and I told my people to look sharp, as they would not clear away the grass. I walked to the foot of the basalt hill, and fired the grass in several places. In an instant the wind swept the flame and smoke towards the camp. All was confusion; the Arabs had piled the camel-saddles and all their corn and effects in the high grass about twenty yards from the tent; there was no time to remove all these things; therefore, unless they could clear away the grass so as to stop the fire before it should reach the spot, they would be punished for their laziness by losing their property. The fire travelled quicker than I had expected, and, by the time I had hastened to the tent, I found the entire party working frantically; the Arabs were slashing down the grass with their swords, and sweeping it away with their shields, while my Tokrooris were beating it down with long sticks and tearing it from its withered and fortunately tinder-rotten roots, in desperate haste. The flames rushed on, and we already felt the heat, as volumes of smoke enveloped us; I thought it advisable to carry the gunpowder (about 20 lbs.), down to the river, together with the rifles; while my wife and Mahomet dragged the various articles of luggage to the same place of safety. The fire now approached within about sixty yards, and dragging out the iron pins, I let the tent fall to the ground. The Arabs had swept a line like a highroad perfectly clean, and they were still tearing away the grass, when they were suddenly obliged to rush back as the flames arrived.
Almost instantaneously the smoke blew over us, but the fire had expired upon meeting the cleared ground. I now gave them a little lecture upon obedience to orders; and from that day, their first act upon halting for the night was to clear away the grass, lest I should repeat the entertainment. In countries that are covered with dry grass, it should be an invariable rule to clear the ground around the camp before night; hostile natives will frequently fire the grass to windward of a party, or careless servants may leave their pipes upon the ground, which fanned by the wind would quickly create a blaze. That night the mountain afforded a beautiful appearance as the flames ascended the steep sides, and ran flickering up the deep gullies with a brilliant light.
We were standing outside the tent admiring the scene, which perfectly illuminated the neighbourhood, when suddenly an apparition of a lion and lioness stood for an instant before us at about fifteen yards distance, and then disappeared over the blackened ground before I had time to snatch a rifle from the tent. No doubt they had been disturbed from the mountain by the fire, and had mistaken their way in the country so recently changed from high grass to black ashes. In this locality I considered it advisable to keep a vigilant watch during the night, and the Arabs were told off for that purpose.
A little before sunrise I accompanied the howartis, or hippopotamus hunters, for a day's sport. There were numbers of hippos in this part of the river, and we were not long before we found a herd. The hunters failed in several attempts to harpoon them, but they succeeded in stalking a crocodile after a most peculiar fashion. This large beast was lying upon a sandbank on the opposite margin of the river, close to a bed of rushes.
The howartis, having studied the wind, ascended for about a quarter of a mile, and then swam across the river, harpoon in hand. The two men reached the opposite bank, beneath which they alternately waded or swam down the stream towards the spot upon which the crocodile was lying. Thus advancing under cover of the steep bank, or floating with the stream in deep places, and crawling like crocodiles across the shallows, the two hunters at length arrived at the bank of rushes, on the other side of which the monster was basking asleep upon the sand. They were now about waist-deep, and they kept close to the rushes with their harpoons raised, ready to cast the moment they should pass the rush bed and come in view of the crocodile. Thus steadily advancing, they had just arrived at the corner within about eight yards of the crocodile, when the creature either saw them, or obtained their wind; in an inatant it rushed to the water; at the same moment, the two harpoons were launched with great rapidity by the hunters. One glanced obliquely from the scales; the other stuck fairly in the tough hide, and the iron, detached from the bamboo, held fast, while the ambatch float, running on the surface of the water, marked the course of the reptile beneath.
The hunters chose a convenient place, and recrossed the stream to our side, apparently not heeding the crocodiles more than we should fear pike when bathing in England. They would not waste their time by securing the crocodile at present, as they wished to kill a hippopotamus; the float would mark the position, and they would be certain to find it later. We accordingly continued our search for hippopotami; these animals appeared to be on the qui vive, and, as the hunters once more failed in an attempt, I made a clean shot behind the ear of one, and killed it dead. At length we arrived at a large pool in which were several sandbanks covered with rushes, and many rocky islands. Among these rocks was a herd of hippopotami, consisting of an old bull and several cows; a young hippo was standing, like an ugly little statue, on a protruding rock, while another infant stood upon its mother's back that listlessly floated on the water.
This was an admirable place for the hunters. They desired me to lie down, and they crept into the jungle out of view of the river; I presently observed them stealthily descending the dry bed about two hundred paces above the spot where the hippos were basking behind the rocks. They entered the river, and swam down the centre of the stream towards the rock. This was highly exciting:—the hippos were quite unconscious of the approaching danger, as, steadily and rapidly, the hunters floated down the strong current; they neared the rock, and both heads disappeared as they purposely sunk out of view; in a few seconds later they reappeared at the edge of the rock upon which the young hippo stood. It would be difficult to say which started first, the astonished young hippo into the water, or the harpoons from the hands of the howartis! It was the affair of a moment; the hunters dived directly they had hurled their harpoons, and, swimming for some distance under water, they came to the surface, and hastened to the shore lest an infuriated hippopotamus should follow them. One harpoon had missed; the other had fixed the bull of the herd, at which it had been surely aimed. This was grand sport! The bull was in the greatest fury, and rose to the surface, snorting and blowing in his impotent rage; but as the ambatch float was exceedingly large, and this naturally accompanied his movements, he tried to escape from his imaginary persecutor, and dived constantly, only to find his pertinacious attendant close to him upon regaining the surface. This was not to last long; the howartis were in earnest, and they at once called their party, who, with two of the aggageers, Abou Do and Suleiman, were near at hand; these men arrived with the long ropes that form a portion of the outfit for hippo hunting.
The whole party now halted on the edge of the river, while two men swam across with one end of the long rope. Upon gaining the opposite bank, I observed that a second rope was made fast to the middle of the main line; thus upon our side we held the ends of two ropes, while on the opposite side they had only one; accordingly, the point of junction of the two ropes in the centre formed an acute angle. The object of this was soon practically explained. Two men upon our side now each held a rope, and one of these walked about ten yards before the other. Upon both sides of the river the people now advanced, dragging the rope on the surface of the water until they reached the ambatch float that was swimming to and fro, according to the movements of the hippopotamus below. By a dexterous jerk of the main line, the float was now placed between the two ropes, and it was immediately secured in the acute angle by bringing together the ends of these ropes on our side.
The men on the opposite bank now dropped their line, and our men hauled in upon the ambatch float that was held fast between the ropes. Thus cleverly made sure, we quickly brought a strain upon the hippo, and, although I have had some experience in handling big fish, I never knew one pull so lustily as the amphibious animal that we now alternately coaxed and bullied. He sprang out of the water, gnashed his huge jaws, snorted with tremendous rage, and lashed the river into foam; he then dived, and foolishly approached us beneath the water. We quickly gathered in the slack line, and took a round turn upon a large rock, within a few feet of the river. The hippo now rose to the surface, about ten yards from the hunters, and, jumping half out of the water, he snapped his great jaws together, endeavouring to catch the rope, but at the same instant two harpoons were launched into his side. Disdaining retreat, and maddened with rage, the furious animal charged from the depths of the river, and, gaining a footing, he reared his bulky form from the surface, came boldly upon the sandbank, and attacked the hunters open-mouthed. He little knew his enemy; they were not the men to fear a pair of gaping jaws, armed with a deadly array of tusks, but half a dozen lances were hurled at him, some entering his mouth from a distance of five or six paces, at the same time several men threw handfuls of sand into his enormous eyes. This baffled him more than the lances; he crunched the shafts between his powerful jaws like straws, but he was beaten by the sand, and, shaking his huge head, he retreated to the river. During his sally upon the shore, two of the hunters had secured the ropes of the harpoons that had been fastened in his body just before his charge; he was now fixed by three of these deadly instruments, but suddenly one rope gave way, having been bitten through by the enraged beast, who was still beneath the water. Immediately after this he appeared on the surface, and, without a moment's hesitation, he once more charged furiously from the water straight at the hunters, with his huge mouth open to such an extent that he could have accommodated two inside passengers. Suleiman was wild with delight, and springing forward lance in hand, he drove it against the head of the formidable animal, but without effect. At the same time, Abou Do met the hippo sword in hand, reminding me of Perseus slaying the sea-monster that would devour Andromeda, but the sword made a harmless gash, and the lance, already blunted against the rocks, refused to penetrate the tough hide; once more handfuls of sand were pelted upon his face, and, again repulsed by this blinding attack, he was forced to retire to his deep hole and wash it from his eyes. Six times during the fight the valiant bull hippo quitted his watery fortress, and charged resolutely at his pursuers; he had broken several of their lances in his jaws, other lances had been hurled, and, falling upon the rocks, they were blunted, and would not penetrate. The fight had continued for three hours, and the sun was about to set, accordingly the hunters begged me to give him the coup de grace, as they had hauled him close to the shore, and they feared he would sever the rope with his teeth. I waited for a good opportunity, when he boldly raised his head from water about three yards from the rifle, and a bullet from the little Fletcher between the eyes closed the last act. This spot was not far from the pyramidical hill beneath which I had fixed our camp, to which I returned after an amusing day's sport.
The next morning, I started to the mountains to explore the limit that I had proposed for my expedition on the Settite. The Arabs had informed me that a river of some importance descended from the mountains, and joined the main stream about twelve miles from our camp. The aggageers were seriously expecting an attack from the Base, and they advised me not to remain much longer in this spot. The route was highly interesting: about five miles to the south-east of the camp we entered the hilly and mountainous country; to the east rose the peaked head of Allatakoora, about seven thousand feet from the base, while S.S.E. was the lofty table-mountain, known by the Arabs as Boorkotan. We rode through fertile valleys, all of which were free from grass, as the various fires had spread throughout the country; at times we entered deep gorges between the hills, which were either granite, quartz, or basalt, the latter predominating. In about three hours and a half we arrived at Hor Mehetape, the stream that the Arabs had reported. Although a powerful torrent during the rains, it was insignificant as one of the tributaries to the Settite, as the breadth did not exceed twenty-five yards. At this season it was nearly dry, and at no time did it appear to exceed a depth of ten or twelve feet. As we had arrived at this point, some distance above the junction, we continued along the margin of the stream for about two miles until we reached the Settite. The Hor (a ravine) Mehetape was the limit of my exploration; it was merely a rapid mountain torrent, the individual effect of which would be trifling; but we were now among the mountains whose drainage caused the sudden rise of the Atbara river and the Nile. Far as the eye could reach to the south and east, the range extended in a confused mass of peaks of great altitude, from the sharp granite head of one thousand, to flat-topped basalt hills of five or six thousand feet, and other conical points far exceeding, and perhaps double, that altitude.
The Settite was very beautiful in this spot, as it emerged from the gorge between the mountains, and it lay in a rough stony valley about two hundred feet below our path as we ascended from the junction of the Hor to better riding ground. In many places, our route lay over broken stones, which sloped at an inclination of about thirty degrees throughout the entire distance of the river below; these were formed of decomposed basalt rocks that had apparently been washed from decaying hills by the torrents of the rainy season. At other parts of the route, we crossed above similar debris of basalt that lay at an angle of about sixty degrees, from a height of perhaps two hundred feet to the water's edge, and reminded me of the rubbish shot from the side of a mountain when boring a tunnel. The whole of the basalt in this portion of the country was a dark slate colour; in some places it was almost black; upon breaking a great number of pieces I found small crystals of olivine. Much of the granite was a deep red, but the exterior coating was in all cases decomposed, and crumbled at a blow; exhibiting a marked contrast to the hard-faced granite blocks in the rainless climate of Lower Egypt. We saw but little game during the march—a few nellut and tetel, and the smaller antelopes, but no larger animals.
We returned to camp late in the evening, and I found the howartis had secured the crocodile of yesterday, but the whole party was anxious to return to the camp at Delladilla, as unpleasant reports were brought into camp by our spies, who had seen parties of the Base in several directions.
ABOU DO IS GREEDY.
ABOU DO and Suleiman had lately given me some trouble, especially the former, whose covetous nature had induced him to take much more than his share of the hides of buffaloes and other animals that I had shot; all of which I had given to my head camel-man and tracker, Taher Noor, to divide among his people and the Tokrooris. This conduct was more improper, since the aggageers had become perfectly useless as elephant-hunters; they had ridden so recklessly upon unnecessary occasions, that all their horses were lamed, and, with the exception of Abou Do's, they were incapable of hunting. My three, having been well cared for, were in excellent condition. Abou Do coolly proposed that I should lend him my horses, which I of course refused, as I had a long journey before me; this led to disagreement, and I ordered him and his people to leave my camp, and return to Geera. During the time they had been with me, I had shot great numbers of animals, including large antelopes, buffaloes, elephants, &c.; and about twenty camel-loads of dried flesh, hides, fat, &c. had been transported to Geera as the Arabs' share of the spoils. They had also the largest share of ivory, and altogether they had never made so successful a hunting expedition. It was time to part; their horses being used up, they began to be discontented, therefore I had concluded that it would be advisable to separate, to avoid a graver misunderstanding.
I warned them not to disturb my hunting-grounds by attempting to hunt during their journey, but they were to. ride straight home, which they could accomplish in four days, without baggage camels. This they promised to do, and we parted.
I was now without aggageers, as Taher Sheriff's party had disagreed with Abou Do some time before, and they were hunting on their own account on the banks of the river Royan, which I intended to visit after I should have thoroughly explored the Settite. I made up my mind to have one more day in the neighbourhood of my present camp, and then to return to our old quarters at Delladilla, previous to our journey to the Royan junction.
Within three hundred yards of the camp was a regular game path, by which the animals arrived at the river to drink every morning from seven to nine. I had shot several tetel and ariel by simply waiting behind a rock at this place, and, as this was my last day, I once more concealed myself, and was shortly rewarded by the arrival of several herds, including nellut (A. Strepsiceros), tetel (A. Bubalis), ariel (G. Dama), the black-striped gazelle (G. Dorcas), the small oterop (Calotragus Montanus); and, among these, two ostriches. I had seen very few ostriches in this country. I now had a good chance, as the herd of animals returned from drinking by charging at full speed up the steep bank from the water, and they passed about ninety yards from my hiding-place, headed by the ostriches. Having the little Fletcher, I was suddenly tempted to fire a right and left, so as to bag an ostrich with one barrel, and a tetel with the other. Both fell for an instant; the tetel dead, shot through the neck; but my ostrich, that was a fine cock bird, immediately recovered, and went off with his wife as hard as their long legs could carry them. I was exceedingly disgusted; I had evidently fired too far behind, not having allowed sufficiently for the rapidity of their speed. However, to make amends, I snatched a spare single-rifle from Hassan, and knocked over another tetel that was the last of the herd. For about an hour I attempted to follow up the tracks of the ostrich, but among the rocky hills this was impossible. I therefore mounted Aggahr, and with my tracker, Taher Noor, and the Tokrooris as gun-bearers, I crossed the river and rode straight into the interior of the country. This was now thoroughly clear, as the fire had consumed the grass, and had left the surface perfectly black. Upon the ashes, the track of every animal could be seen distinctly.
I had ridden about four miles, followed, as usual, by two camels, with water, ropes, &c. when we observed in a perfectly open place, about three hundred yards from us, a rhinoceros standing alone. Fortunately, there was little or no wind, or, as we were to windward of him, he would instantly have perceived us. The moment that I saw him, I backed my horse and motioned to my people to retreat out of sight, which they did immediately. Dismounting, I gave them the horse, and, accompanied only by Taher Noor, who carried one of my spare rifles, I took a Reilly No. 10, and we made a circuit so as to obtain the wind, and to arrive upon the lee side of the rhinoceros. This was quickly accomplished, but upon arrival at the spot, he was gone. The black ashes of the recent fire showed his, foot-marks as clearly as though printed in ink, and as these were very close together, I knew that he had walked slowly off, and that he had not been disturbed, otherwise he would have started quickly. He had gone down wind; it would, therefore, be impossible to follow upon his tracks. Our only resource was to make another circuit, when, should his tracks not have crossed the arc, we should be sure that he was to windward. Accordingly, we described half a circle of about five hundred yards. No tracks had crossed our path; the ground was stony and full of hollows, in which grew a few scattered mimosas, while the surface of the earth was covered in many places with dark brown masses of basalt rock. We carefully stepped over this uneven ground, lest some falling stone might give the alarm, and we momentarily expected to be in view of the enemy as we arrived at the edge of each successive hollow. Sure enough, as I glanced down a sudden inclination covered with scorched mimosas, I perceived him standing on the slope beneath a tree within five-and-thirty paces; this was close enough, and I took a steady shot behind the shoulder. The instant that I fired, he whisked sharply round, and looked upon all sides for the cause of his wound. I had taken the precaution to kneel down immediately after firing, and I now crouched close to a rock about two feet high, with which my brown blouse matched exactly, as well as my skin-covered hunting-cap. For a few moments he sought upon all sides for an enemy, during which I remained like a block of stone, but with my finger on the trigger ready for the left-hand barrel should he charge. Taher Noor was lying on the ground behind a stone about five yards from me, and the rhinoceros, having failed to discover us, walked slowly past me within less than ten yards, and gained the summit of the inclination, where the ground was level. As he passed, I reloaded quickly, and followed behind him. I saw that he was grievously wounded, as he walked slowly, and upon arrival at a thickly-spreading mimosa he lay down. We now advanced towards the tree, and I sent Taher Noor round to the other side in order to divert his attention should he be able to rise. This he quickly proved by springing up as I advanced; accordingly, I halted until Taher Noor had taken his stand about eighty paces beyond the tree. The rhinoceros now turned and faced him; this gave me the opportunity that I had expected, and I ran quickly to within thirty yards, just in time to obtain a good shoulder shot, as hearing my footsteps he turned towards me. Whiff! whiff! and he charged vigorously upon the shot; but just as I prepared to fire the remaining barrel, he ran round and round in a narrow circle, uttering a short, shrill cry, and fell heavily upon his side. I threw a stone at him, but he was already dead. Taher Noor returned for the people, who shortly arrived with the camels. I found that the last bullet of quicksilver and lead from my Reilly No. 10 had passed completely through the body, just behind the shoulder. The first shot was also a mortal wound, having broken one rib upon either side, and passed through the posterior portion of the lungs; the bullet was sticking under the skin on the opposite flank. The hide of the rhinoceros is exceedingly easy to detach from the body, as the quality is so hard and stiff that it separates from the flesh like the peel of a ripe orange.
In a couple of hours, the hide had been detached in sections for shields, and sufficient flesh was loaded upon the camel, together with the vicious-looking head, which was secured by ropes upon the saddle. We were en route for the camp, when we suddenly came upon fresh elephant tracks, upon following which, we discovered, after about an hour's march, the spoor of horses on the same path. At once the truth flashed upon me that, although Abou Do had promised to return direct home, he was somewhere in the neighbourhood, and he and his two companions were disturbing the country by hunting. I at once gave up the idea of following the elephants, as, in all probability, these aggageers had pursued them some hours ago. In a very bad humour I turned my horse's head and took the direction for the Settite river. As we descended from the hilly ground, after the ride of about four miles, we arrived upon an extensive plain, upon which I noticed a number of antelopes galloping as though disturbed; a few moments later I observed three horsemen, a camel, and several men on foot, steering in the same direction as ourselves for the river, but arriving from the high ground upon which we had seen the elephants. These were soon distinguished, and I rode towards them with my people; they were the aggageers, with some of the hippopotami hunters.
Upon our arrival among them, they looked exceedingly sheepish, as they were caught in the act. Suspended most carefully upon one side of the camel, in a network of ropes, was a fine young rhinoceros which they had caught, having hunted the mother until she forsook the calf. Johann Schmidt had offered forty dollars for any young animal of this species, for the Italian menageries, therefore to the aggageers this was a prize of great value. I had hardly directed my attention to the calf, when I noticed a rope that was forcibly placed under the throat to support the heavy head, the weight of which bearing upon the cord was evidently producing strangulation. The tongue of the animal was protruding, and the tail stiffened and curled convulsively above the back, while a twitching of the hind legs, that presently stretched to their full extent, persuaded me that the rhinoceros was in his last gasp. As I looked intently at the animal, while my Tokrooris abused Abou Do for having deceived us, I told the aggageers that they had not gained much by their hunt, as the rhinoceros was dead. For a moment Abou Do smiled grimly, and, quite unconscious of the real fact, Suleiman replied, "It is worth forty dollars to us." "Forty dollars for a dead rhinoceros calf!" I exclaimed; "who is fool enough to give it?"
Abou Do glanced at the rhinoceros; his expression changed; he jumped from his horse, and, assisted by the other aggageers, he made the camel kneel as quickly as possible, and they hastened to unstrap the unfortunate little beast, which, upon being released and laid upon its side, convulsively stretched out its limbs, and lay a strangled rhinoceros. The aggageers gazed with dismay at their departed prize, and, with superstitious fear, they remounted their horses without uttering a word, and rode away; they attributed the sudden death of the animal to the effect of my "evil eye." We turned towards our camp. My Tokrooris were delighted, and I heard them talking and laughing together upon the subject, and remarking upon the extremely "bad eye" of their master.
On the rising of the sun next day we had struck our camp, and were upon the march to Delladilla. On the way I shot a splendid buck mehedehet (R. Ellipsyprimna), and we arrived at our old quarters, finding no change except that elephants had visited them in our absence, and our cleanly swept circus was covered with the dung of a large herd. As this spot generally abounded with game, I took a single-barrelled small rifle, while the men were engaged in pitching the tent and arranging the camp, and with Taher Noor as my only companion, I strolled through the forest, expecting to obtain a shot at a nellut within a quarter of a mile. I had walked about that distance, and had just entered upon a small green glade, when I perceived, lying at full length upon the sand, a large lion, who almost immediately sprang up, and at the same moment received a bullet from my rifle as he bounded beneath a bush and crouched among some withered grass. I was unloaded, when, to my astonishment, Taher Noor immediately drew his sword, and, with his shield in his left hand, he advanced boldly towards the wounded lion. I reloaded as quickly as possible, just as this reckless Hamran had arrived within springing distance of the lion, who positively slunk away and declined the fight; retreating into the thick thorns, it disappeared before I could obtain a shot. Taher Noor explained, that his object in advancing towards the lion was to attract its attention; he had expected that it would have remained in a crouching position until I should have reloaded; but he ran the extreme risk of a charge, in which case he would have fared badly with simple sword and shield. Being close to the tent, I returned, and, in addition to my single-barrelled rifle, I took my two Reillys No. 10, with Hassan and Hadji Ali. In company with Taher Noor we searched throughout the bushes for the wounded lion, but without success. I now determined to make a cast, hoping that we might succeed in starting some other animal that would give us a better chance. The ground was sandy but firm, therefore we made no sound in walking, and, as the forest was bounded upon two sides by the river, and separated from the main land by a ravine, the fire that had cleared the country of grass had spared this portion, which was an asylum for all kinds of game, as it afforded pasturage and cover. We had not continued our stroll for five minutes beyond the spot lately occupied by the lion, when we suddenly came upon two bull buffaloes, who were lying beneath a thick bush on the edge of a small glade: they sprang up as we arrived, and started off. I made a quick shot as they galloped across the narrow space, and dropped one apparently dead with a Reilly No. 10. My Tokrooris were just preparing to run in and cut the throat, as good Mussulmans, when the buffalo, that was not twenty yards distant, suddenly sprang to his feet and faced us. In another moment, with a short grunt, he determined upon a charge, but hardly was he in his first bound, when I fired the remaining barrel aimed at the point of the nose, as this was elevated to such a degree that it would have been useless to have fired at the forehead. He fell stone dead at the shot; we threw some clods of earth at him, but this time there was no mistake. Upon an examination of the body, we could only find the marks of the first bullet that had passed through the neck; there was no other hole in the skin, neither was there a sign upon the head or horns that he had been shot; at length I noticed blood issuing from the nose, and we found that the bullet had entered the nostril; I inserted a ramrod as a probe, and we cut to the extremity and found the bullet imbedded in the spine, which was shattered to pieces in a portion of the neck. As a souvenir of this very curious shot, I preserved the skull. My men now flayed the buffalo and took a portion of the meat, but I ordered them to leave the carcase as a bait for lions, with which this neighbourhood abounded, although it was exceedingly difficult to see them, as they were concealed in the dense covert of nabbuk bush. I left the buffalo, and strolled through the jungle towards the river. As I was leisurely walking through alternate narrow glades and thick jungle, I heard a noise that sounded like the deep snort of the hippopotamus. I approached the steep bank of the river, and crept carefully to the edge, expecting to see the hippo as I peered over the brink. Instead of the hippopotamus, a fine lion and lioness were lying on the sand about sixty yards to my left, at the foot of the bank. At the same instant they obtained our wind, and sprang up the high bank into the thick jungle, without giving me a better chance than a quick shot through a bush as they were disappearing.
I now returned home, determined to circumvent the lions if possible in this very difficult country. That night we were serenaded by the roaring of these animals in all directions, one of them having visited our camp, around which we discovered his footprints on the following morning. I accordingly took Taher Noor, with Hadji Ali and Hassan, two of my trusty Tokrooris, and went straight to the spot where I had left the carcase of the buffalo. As I had expected, nothing remained—not even a bone: the ground was much trampled, and tracks of lions were upon the sand; but the body of the buffalo had been dragged into the thorny jungle. I was determined, if possible, to get a shot, therefore I followed carefully the track left by the carcase, which had formed a path in the withered grass. Unfortunately the lions had dragged the buffalo down wind; therefore, after I had arrived within the thick nabbuk and high grass, I came to the conclusion that my only chance would be to make a long circuit, and to creep up wind through the thorns, until I should be advised by my nose of the position of the carcase, which would by this time lie in a state of putrefaction, and the lions would most probably be with the body. Accordingly, I struck off to my left, and continuing straight forward for some hundred yards, I again struck into the thick jungle, and came round to the wind. Success depended on extreme caution, therefore I advised my three men to keep close behind me with the spare rifles, as I carried my single-barrelled Beattie. This rifle was extremely accurate, therefore I had chosen it for this close work, when I expected to get a shot at the eye or forehead of a lion crouching in the bush. Softly and with difficulty I crept forward, followed closely by my men; through the high withered grass, beneath the dense green nabbuk bushes; peering through the thick covert, with the nerves turned up to full pitch, and the finger on the trigger ready for any emergency. We had thus advanced for about half an hour, during which I frequently applied my nose to within a foot of the ground to catch the scent, when a sudden puff of wind brought the unmistakeable smell of decomposing flesh. For the moment I halted, and, looking round to my men, I made a sign that we were near to the carcase, and that they were to be ready with the rifles. Again I crept gently forward, bending, and sometimes crawling, beneath the thorns to avoid the slightest noise. As I approached, the scent became stronger, until I at length felt that I must be close to the cause. This was highly exciting. Fully prepared for a quick shot, I stealthily crept on. A tremendous roar in the dense thorns within a few feet of me suddenly brought my rifle to the shoulder: almost in the same instant I observed the three-quarter figure of either a lion or a lioness within three yards of me, on the other side of the bush, under which I had been creeping—the foliage concealed the head, but I could almost have touched the shoulder with my rifle. Much depended upon the bullet; and I fired exactly through the shoulder. Another tremendous roar! and a crash in the bushes as the animal made a bound forward, was succeeded immediately by a similar roar, as another lion took the exact position of the last, and stood wondering at the report of the rifle, and seeking for the cause of the intrusion. This was a grand lion with a shaggy mane; but I was unloaded, keeping my eyes fixed on the beast, while I stretched my hand back for a spare rifle; the lion remained standing, but gazing up wind with his head raised, snuffing in the air for a scent of the enemy. No rifle was put in my hand. I looked back for an instant, and saw my Tokrooris faltering about five yards behind me. I looked daggers at them, gnashing my teeth and shaking my fist. They saw the lion, and Taher Noor snatching a rifle from Hadji Ali, was just about to bring it, when Hassan, ashamed, ran forward—the lion disappeared at the same moment! Never was such a fine chance lost through the indecision of the gun-bearers! I made a vow never to carry a single-barrelled rifle again when hunting large game. If I had had my dear little Fletcher 24, I should have nailed the lion to a certainty.
However, there was not much time for reflection—where was the first lion? Some remains of the buffalo lay upon my right, and I expected to find the lion most probably crouching in the thorns somewhere near us. Having reloaded, I took one of my Reilly No. 10 rifles and listened attentively for a sound. Presently I heard within a few yards a low growl. Taher Noor drew his sword, and, with his shield before him, he searched for the lion, while I crept forward towards the sound, which was again repeated. A low roar, accompanied by a rush in the jungle, showed us a glimpse of the lion, as he bounded off within ten or twelve yards: but I had no chance to fire. Again the low growl was repeated, and upon quietly creeping towards the spot, I saw a splendid animal crouched upon the ground among the withered and broken grass. The lioness lay dying with the bullet wound in the shoulder. Occasionally, in her rage, she bit her own paw violently, and then struck and clawed the ground. A pool of blood lay by her side. She was about ten yards from us, and I instructed my men to throw a clod of earth at her (there were no stones), to prove whether she could rise, while I stood ready with the rifle. She merely replied with a dull roar, and I terminated her misery by a ball through the head. She was a beautiful animal; the patch of the bullet was sticking in the wound; she was shot through both shoulders, and as we were not far from the tent, I determined to have her brought to camp upon a camel as an offering to my wife. Accordingly I left my Tokrooris, while I went with Taher Noor to fetch a camel.
On our road through the thick jungle, I was startled by a rush close to me: for the moment I thought it was a lion, but almost at the same instant I saw a fine nellut dashing away before me, and I killed it immediately with a bullet through the back of the neck. This was great luck, and we now required two camels, as in two shots I had killed a lioness and a nellut (A. Strepsiceros).
We remained for some time at our delightful camp at Delladilla. Every day, from sunrise to sunset, I was either on foot or in the saddle, without rest, except upon Sundays, which I generally passed at home, with the relaxation of fishing in the beautiful river Settite. There was an immense quantity of large game, and I had made a mixed bag of elephants, hippopotami, buffaloes, rhinoceros, giraffes, and great numbers of the large antelopes. Lions, although numerous, were exceedingly difficult to bag; there was no chance but the extreme risk of creeping through the thickest jungle. Upon two or three occasions I had shot them by crawling into their very dens, where they had dragged their prey; and I must acknowledge that they were much more frightened of me than I was of them. I had generally obtained a most difficult and unsatisfactory shot at close quarters; sometimes I rolled them over with a mortal wound, and they disappeared to die in impenetrable jungle; but at all times fortune was on my side. On moonlight nights I generally lay in wait for these animals with great patience; sometimes I shot hippopotami, and used a hind-quarter as a bait for lions, while I watched in ambush at about twenty yards distance; but the hyaenas generally appeared like evil spirits, and dragged away the bait before the lions had a chance. I never fired at these scavengers, as they are most useful creatures, and are contemptible as game. My Arabs had made their fortune, as I had given them all the meat of the various animals, which they dried and transported to Geera, together with fat, hides, &c. It would be wearying to enumerate the happy hunting-days passed throughout this country. We were never ill for a moment; although the thermometer was seldom below 88 degrees during the day, the country was healthy, as it was intensely dry, and therefore free from malaria: at night the thermometer averaged 70 degrees, which was a delightful temperature for those who exist in the open air.
As our camp was full of meat, either dried or in the process of drying in festoons upon the trees, we had been a great attraction to the beasts of prey, who constantly prowled around our thorn fence during the night. One night in particular a lion attempted to enter, but had been repulsed by the Tokrooris, who pelted him with firebrands; my people woke me up and begged me to shoot him, but, as it was perfectly impossible to fire correctly through the hedge of thorns, I refused to be disturbed, but I promised to hunt for him on the following day. Throughout the entire night the lion prowled around the camp, growling and uttering his peculiar guttural sigh. Not one of my people slept, as they declared he would bound into the camp and take somebody, unless they kept up the watch-fires and drove him away with brands. The next day, before sunrise, I called Hassan and Hadji Ali, whom I lectured severely upon their cowardice on a former occasion, and I received their promise to follow me to death. I entrusted them with my two Reillys No. 10; and with my little Fletcher in hand, I determined to spend the whole day in searching every thicket of the forest for lions, as I felt convinced that the animal that had disturbed us during the night was concealed somewhere within the neighbouring jungle.
The whole day passed fruitlessly; I had crept through the thickest thorns in vain; having abundance of meat, I had refused the most tempting shots at buffaloes and large antelopes, as I had devoted myself exclusively to lions. I was much disappointed, as the evening had arrived without a shot having been fired, and as the sun had nearly set, I wandered slowly towards home. Passing through alternate open glades of a few yards width, hemmed in on all sides by thick jungle, I was carelessly carrying my rifle upon my shoulder, as I pushed my way through the opposing thorns, when a sudden roar, just before me, at once brought the rifle upon full cock, and I saw a magnificent lion standing in the middle of the glade, about ten yards from me: he had been lying on the ground, and had started to his feet upon hearing me approach through the jungle. For an instant he stood in an attitude of attention, as we were hardly visible; but at the same moment I took a quick but sure shot with the little Fletcher. He gave a convulsive bound, but rolled over backwards: before he could recover himself, I fired the left-hand barrel. It was a glorious sight. I had advanced a few steps into the glade, and Hassan had quickly handed me a spare rifle, while Taher Noor stood by me sword in hand. The lion in the greatest fury, with his shaggy mane bristled in the air, roared with death-like growls, as open-mouthed he endeavoured to charge upon us; but he dragged his hind-quarters upon the ground, and I saw immediately that the little Fletcher had broken his spine. In his tremendous exertions to attack, he rolled over and over, gnashing his horrible jaws, and tearing holes in the sandy ground at each blow of his tremendous paws, that would have crushed a man's skull like an egg-shell. Seeing that he was hors de combat, I took it coolly, as it was already dusk, and the lion having rolled into a dark and thick bush, I thought it would be advisable to defer the final attack, as he would be dead before morning. We were not ten minutes' walk from the camp, at which we quickly arrived, and my men greatly rejoiced at the discomfiture of their enemy, as they were convinced that he was the same lion that had attempted to enter the zareeba.
On the following morning, before sunrise, I started with nearly all my people and a powerful camel, with the intention of bringing the lion home entire. I rode my horse Tetel, who had frequently shown great courage, and I wished to prove whether he would advance to the body of a lion.
Upon arrival near the spot which we supposed to have been the scene of the encounter, we were rather puzzled, as there was nothing to distinguish the locality; one place exactly resembled another, as the country was flat and sandy, interspersed with thick jungle of green nabbuk; we accordingly spread out to beat for the lion. Presently Hadji Ali cried out: "There he lies dead!" and I immediately rode to the spot, together with the people. A tremendous roar greeted us, as the lion started to his fore-feet, and with his beautiful mane erect, and his great hazel eyes flashing fire, he gave a succession of deep short roars, and challenged us to fight. This was a grand picture; he looked like a true lord of the forest, but I pitied the poor brute, as he was helpless, and, although his spirit was game to the last, his strength was paralysed by a broken back.
It was a glorious opportunity for the horse. At the first unexpected roar, the camel had bolted with its rider; the horse had for a moment started on one side, and the men had scattered; but in an instant I had reined Tetel up, and I now rode straight towards the lion, who courted the encounter about twenty paces distant. I halted exactly opposite the noble-looking beast, who, seeing me in advance of the party, increased his rage, and growled deeply, fixing his glance upon the horse. I now patted Tetel on the neck, and spoke to him coaxingly; he gazed intently at the lion, erected his mane, and snorted, but showed no signs of retreat. "Bravo! old boy!" I said, and, encouraging him by caressing his neck with my hand, I touched his flank gently with my heel; I let him just feel my hand upon the rein, and with a "Come along, old lad," Tetel slowly but resolutely advanced step by step towards the infuriated lion, that greeted him with continued growls. The horse several times snorted loudly, and stared fixedly at the terrible face before him; but as I constantly patted and coaxed him, he did not refuse to advance. I checked him when within about six yards from the lion. This would have made a magnificent picture, as the horse, with astounding courage, faced the lion at bay; both animals kept their eyes fixed upon each other, the one beaming with rage, the other with cool determination. This was enough—I dropped the reins upon his neck; it was a signal that Tetel perfectly understood, and he stood firm as a rock; for he knew that I was about to fire. I took aim at the head of the glorious but distressed lion, and a bullet from the little Fletcher dropped him dead. Tetel never flinched at a shot. I now dismounted, and having patted and coaxed the horse, I led him up to the body of the lion, which I also patted, and then gave my hand to the horse to smell. He snorted once or twice, and as I released my hold of the reins, and left him entirely free, he slowly lowered his head, and sniffed the mane of the dead lion: he then turned a few paces upon one side, and commenced eating the withered grass beneath the nabbuk bushes. My Arabs were perfectly delighted with this extraordinary instance of courage exhibited by the horse. I had known that the beast was disabled, but Tetel had advanced boldly towards the angry jaws of a lion that appeared about to spring. The camel was now brought to the spot and blindfolded, while we endeavoured to secure the lion upon its back. As the camel knelt, it required the united exertions of eight men, including myself, to raise the ponderous animal, and to secure it across the saddle.
Although so active and cat-like in its movements, a full-grown lion weighs about five hundred and fifty pounds. Having secured it, we shortly arrived in camp; the coup d'oeil was beautiful, as the camel entered the inclosure with the shaggy head and massive paws of the dead lion hanging upon one flank, while the tail nearly descended to the ground upon the opposite side. It was laid at full length before my wife, to whom the claws were dedicated as a trophy to be worn around the neck as a talisman. Not only are the claws prized by the Arabs, but the moustache of the lion is carefully preserved and sewn in a leather envelope, to be worn as an amulet; such a charm is supposed to protect the wearer from the attacks of wild animals.