S I X
The Natives Weren't Always Hostile
If the Wanderobo, the little shenzi of the forests, were my friends, so too were the Lumbwa. My boys were usually Lumbwa elmorani. With the Masai and the Nandi they were the peerage of the plateau country. The lands of the Lumbwa stretched south of the Uganda Railway for about eighty miles, and along it for twenty; and at Kericho, to keep the Masai and the Lumbwa and the Nandi tractable, were two British officers and a company of African Rifles, a District Commissioner and fifty police.
The natives weren't always hostile, said Jordan, and
They were slender, graceful, chocolate men, with regular features and thin, straight noses; with the great gifts of laughter and honesty, and the rarer virtue of loyalty. They robbed each other, stole each other's women, fought little, futile and bloody battles in which there was no strategy but the breaking of shield-wave on shield-wall. They mustered their elmorani in proud regiments under the insignia of the Buffalo, or the Lion, of the Leopard, or the Rhino. To see a line of such spearmen coming through the yellow grass was to be the witness of a barbaric and splendid thing. The sunlight held on a spear-point until a turn of the haft sent it running liquidly down the yard-long blade. The leather-sheen of brown skin, red-clayed hair swinging, white-beaded gaiters coming up and going down. Naked swords hanging from shoulder-slings. Now the shields going out, now the shields coming back body-close, with a great and thunderous 'HuwP of contempt and challenge. The regimental leaders proud in leopard-hoods. The dance of black and white ostrich feathers. These were the Masai and the Lumbwa and the Nandi in their youth.
And when they grew old they sat outside their huts and talked of their valiant youth, and made their imagination drunk with the tobacco-juice they poured into their nostrils.
Toroni was a great chief of the Loita Masai. His munyatas, his villages stretched through belts of timber in the highlands to break on the country of the Setick Lumbwa. His munyatas were fortresses, and studded the Loita Plains like the old keeps of the Border clans. A thorn zareba, three hundred feet in diameter, enclosed the long, low, round-topped, dung-plastered, thatch and wattle huts. Into this circle at night were herded piebald sheep, sleek humped cattle, and the gap in the zareba was closed after them. A Masai munyata, a munyata of the Lumbwa or the Nandi, was built for defence. Each hut was built for defence. Its doorway did not open at right-angles to the hut, but ran inward along the wall, a low passage, so low that an enemy would have to crawl oh his hands and knees and bring himself helpless to the thrust of a spear.
The Masai, pre-eminently, were men who lived for battle, against other men or against animals, and the young boys herding cattle eagerly awaited the coming of a lion so that by killing it they could become elmorani. The Masai ploughed nothing, grew nothing, reaped nothing. They tapped the necks of their cattle for blood, mixed it with milk, drank it and were men on it.
They traded goats and sheep with Hindus and Arabs and Somalis, and you saw them at this trading, long arrogant men standing on one leg, holding their spears, and sneering at the Hindus, the Arabs and the Somalis.
When I first went to British East it was considered foolhardy for a white man to go down to where the Setick sept of the Lumbwa held their land, and when I went into it some of the Lumbwa had never seen a white man, and they climbed to the roofs of their huts to see me better, while the women and children hid behind the cattle.
Warriors, their faces striped with paint, would walk up to me and stare insolently, or straddle a narrow path with spear levelled. When I walked on, as I knew I must walk on or take the spear in my back, they stepped aside with a dignity that made me feel that I was deferring to them.
My friends were Arab Changalla, chief of the Setick Lumbwa (who was not an Arab, since the word is merely a prefix meaning son of), and Mataia, chief of the Manga Lumbwa. These were not my friends as you might make friends of your neighbours, these were my brothers. When I first met Arab Changalla, standing in his leopardskin before his old men, we stared at each other for many seconds, and then we gripped hands. We both knew instinctively that there was a deep friendship between us. In Arab Changalla I had a friend you could not buy with a ten-pound tin of beads or a bolt of Americani cotton. I traded well with Arab Changalla. He never cheated me, his warriors never betrayed me, his munyatas never rejected me.
Mataia's elmorani ranged down the Engabai plains, and those who questioned his despotism he killed. Yet he was a boy, he hunted like a boy, and would leave his hunt to join my safaris. His wives were always young, with round, shining, hairless heads. His children ran round-bellied about his blanket-fringe. A wife whose cooking offended him would be forced to eat all of it, pot after pot, and this followed by quarts of water until she understood the passion of his anger. If another stitched his cloak too clumsily he would lay a heated sword-blade across her stomach. If another looked too lingeringly on a young elmoran he would slash her with his sword to mark or to kill according to the length and the longing of her glance.
Without the friendship of Mataia and the friendship of Arab Changalla, without an intangible passport from the Masai, I could never have traded and hunted ivory across the Loita Plains and into German territory. But with their friendship I did so much trade that I employed a Goanese clerk in Kericho to keep my books, and I had a house there too, wattle and daub with three large rooms, doors and windows of elephant cane, a verandah for my chair. I had a Somali cook and a house-boy. This was when I was young to Africa and thought it fine to be a property-owner, as if the rest of society needed the sight of my house and my house-boys to be assured of my success.
But Africa caught my feet, and my friend Mataia knew this when he raised his spear and called 'Hodi, eldama elmoran! Hodi, Mongaso! Greetings, elephant warrior! Greetings, man who is always moving!'
I made so much money trading out of Kericho that I started other posts at Terna and Muronea. I made so much money that I lost interest in it, which is perhaps
the best thing that can happen to a young man.
* * *
I did not feel one way or the other about the Nandi because my heart had gone out to the Lumbwa, as it was later to go out to the Wanderobo. But the Nandi were warriors like the Lumbwa or the Masai, and they had their splendid swordsmen and their regimental insignia on their buffalo shields.
The Nandi lived north-west of the railway line, on a river-drained plateau between Kisumu and Mount Elgon. They were more feared by others than the Masai, and I believe them to be greater warriors, although, like the lion, the Masai have had their press agents too.
The Nandi decided to go to war while I was trading among the Lumbwa fifty years ago, and they went to war with a shrewd idea of what should come first. They tore down the telegraph lines, having learnt the importance of these to the white men, and they made bracelets and necklaces from the copper. They took the bolts and fishplates from the railway lines, melted down the iron and fashioned the metal into spears and swords, and when this was done, and they were properly ornamented and adequately armed, they padded out in their regiments and went raiding southwards.
They sent messengers to the Lumbwa inviting them to join the foray. The Lumbwa replied that they were friends to the Nandi, of course, but was this the time for war? The Nandi replied that any time was the time for war, and if the Lumbwa were women they could stay in their munyatas while the Nandi enjoyed themselves. So the Nandi regiments raided on their own and came further southwards every day until they were burning and looting, stabbing and stealing all around Kericho.
The company of Rifles had gone up to Murhoni on the Uganda Railway, and in Kericho the D.C.'s assistant, Ainsworth, got everybody into the fort and, looking like a beleaguered garrison commander, asked for someone to go to Murhoni and inform the Rifles that the people they were looking for were in fact down south.
I found myself volunteering.
I went off in the moonlight on my own, and it was twenty-five miles to Murhoni. It was quiet and I saw no war-parties until I struck the railway, four miles from the station. At that moment the moon set and I sat in the brush until dawn.
At daylight I had trekked two miles along the rails when I saw a company of Nandi on a rise to my left. There were perhaps fifty of them, silently watching me, a ripple of brown and white, of black and red and blue, their spears slanting across their shields and the wind moving in their plumes.
I ran. I was tired. I was wearing heavy boots. But these were not the real handicap. The Nandi were great runners and they could have caught me had I been barefoot and in my first wind. They flooded down the rise, slapping their shields.
I got to a bridge, with gaps between the sleepers, and the river in flood below, and I went over, jumping from sleeper to sleeper, with the Nandi after me. They called on me to stop and be killed. About a mile from Murhoni I accepted the invitation, to stop at any rate. I stopped with the breath in me hot, and I fired. They slipped into the trees and taunted me, and I knew that some of them were slipping up through the forest to outflank me.
But my firing brought the askaris from Murhoni, and with them a regiment of Masai levies who were happy to meet the Nandi. They came on at a trot, shields forward, spears up, their red hair dancing, and they went past me, with the Nandi coming out of the trees one by one and running.
There wasn't much to that little Nandi war after that. The young elmorani had enjoyed it. They had made at least one white man run for his life, and they finally let the old men hold a shauri and call off the war. They handed back some of the women they had captured, they paid a few fines in cattle, and they closed their eyes when the Hone stole a few more to even the loss.
But something worse than a tribal war happened then—famine. I have seen few things worse in Africa than famine, perhaps sleeping-sickness, but famine makes it longer in the dying. It was bad, very bad. Mothers left their children by the trail for the hyenas to eat. One morning I opened my house door in Kericho and found twenty abandoned Lumbwa children, none of them older than eight and most of them babies, sitting in the dust with their bellies blown out and their hands and feet ridiculously large at the end of thin legs and arms. The flesh had gone from their faces until you could see just the skull and their brown, melancholy eyes.
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Hyena and leopard and lion gorged on the bodies of children left like this to die. At night I could not sleep. I heard the triumphant cries of these animals as they found another child.
The famine seemed to kill Kericho. The troops went, the Hindu shops closed and their corrugated iron roofs rusted and fell in. I think it was then that John Boyes went up alone among the Kikuyu to get food for the famine area. I went down among the Setick and shot
game to feed the people of my friend Arab Changalla.
* * *
I went searching for rubber while I stayed with Arab Changalla, and I found it in the forests. Rubber vines as thick as your thigh, their leaves as flat and as broad as a Zulu assegai. I went into Nairobi to get a concession and I ceased to be a happy hunter and became a worried man who needed signatures to pieces of paper. While the lawyers and the desk-men were arranging these pieces of paper into neat, consequential order I went north. I went prospecting and trading northwards to the Eldama Ravine and the Kamasi country, and on still further, dropping ten thousand feet into the Mutey Valley where I found the peace and beauty of God.
A thousand streams drained the highlands, and sang through banks of moss and orchids, dropped into black pools where the rhino and buffalo cooled themselves at noon. The air was sweet and the game was placid. I found garnets and cat's-eyes in the blue soil, which was about the extent of my prospecting. But since every Eden must have its serpent, I heard about the Maraquet. Very bad people, the Maraquet, I was told. Even the women fought with bows and poisoned arrows.
The serpent had an apple, however, and the Maraquet had ivory, and this I was told too, and remembered. I did not meet the Maraquet then, but I remembered the stories about them.
A year, two years later, I do not remember, I was back in that country. My rubber-tapping scheme had passed, as many schemes passed with me, and I was ivory-hunting again, and feeling good about it. I sold the ivory to a Hindu storekeeper called Mohammed, although he never had enough cash to pay me. He told me that the Maraquet had many tusks and a man could buy them for cattle, as well as hides and goatskins.
Mohammed told me he would pay me top prices for any ivory I brought in from the Maraquet. He told me happily that the Maraquet had recently ambushed a platoon of askaris on the Torkwell river, between Baringo and the Ravine, and had murdered them all. And I looked at him, and having told me the risk he now dangled the bait. He said that a Persian called Hadji Askar was even then preparing a safari to go ivory-trading among the Maraquet. Surely the sahib would want to get there before a Persian ?
I bought twenty heifers, and I bought ten donkeys at two pounds a head to carry the ivory I thought I was going to get. I hired twenty Kavirondo as porters, a cook, a gun-bearer, a boy, and two Arab traders. We took blankets, iron wire, beads, calico, unbleached cotton. With the cook and the boy driving the herd we set out on a seventy-miles' trek, forty of them through the hard Mutey hills. On the crest of those hills you are nearly ten thousand feet nearer to God. The Ushangish Plateau is behind you, the Elgeyo Valley ahead, and when we went down into that valley we discovered that we had arrived in the middle of a tribal war.
It was the Nandi again. Their regiments were raiding and the people of the Elgeyo were under arms. When we reached the first village we found Elgeyo warriors strutting about the huts, their bodies smeared with red clay that the rhino like to wallow in, their faces painted, their spears burnished, and their tongues clacking as they bragged of what they would do to the Nandi. They were going to have their chance, for as we came in we had seen three or four Nandi regiments over the hill, a mile from the village.
The Elgeyo knew they were there. Our safari was ignored as the warriors shuffled around outside the village, falling into the regiments with the same dispirited disorganization you see in a European regiment before it is called on parade. Then, before the Elgeyo were ready, the Nandi appeared out of the grass on the rise, and looked down. There must have been fifteen hundred of them.
I got out my glasses and focussed on them. They were magnificent. I could pick out the Buffalo Regiment and the Zebra Regiment from the insignia on the shields. They stood there, stamping the grass and crying 'Hum!' while the wind tossed their plumes, and their long stabbing spears went up and down, and the sun shone on black arms, on iron swords.
The appearance of them brought a thousand or more Elgeyo into line, and the Nandi trotted down the slope of the hill to the level ground, and although the tactical advantage of surprise was theirs they went over to the defensive and formed a shield wall.
In the Elgeyo village the women began to scream as they drove the cattle away eastwards, toward the nearest village of their neighbours, the Mutey.
Ignored by both Nandi and Elgeyo I decided that this was a private war and no one was going to bother us so long as we minded our own business. My Kavirondo had formed themselves into a little phalanx, but I broke them up and told them to lower their spears, or did they think they could fight fifteen hundred Nandi and fifteen hundred Elgeyo on their own ? Yet I put on my revolver and I tucked the stock of my sporting -303 beneath my arm. I was in the front row of the stalls, and I could become part of the play any time the cast chose to make me.
The Elgeyo took the initiative. The sun was at their backs, which shows how little of a tactician the Nandi leader was. The Elgeyo went forward in three lines, feet thumping, war-crying, a wall of shields going up, tufts of lion-hair bobbing on their buttocks. Twenty-five yards from the Nandi battle-line they halted. They threw stones, and for a moment or so it was like a boy's game, with more courage in words than in actions. The Nandi stopped the stones with their shields and jeered. Sometimes an Elgeyo threw a rhino-club or a spear, and the Nandi endured this for a while before they charged.
The two shield walls went together with a crash and the lines broke, into little swirling groups, with warriors crouching, striking, stabbing, until there was little I could see but the red dust and the shine of spears.
They were evenly matched and there was much noise. When the Elgeyo gave ground the Nandi roared. Then the Nandi gave ground and the Elgeyo went forward with a great triumphant grunt. There were bodies on the ground, and others staggered out of the dust with sword gashes on their chests and arms. And they looked as all men look coming wounded from a battle, as though glory is not worth it.
My tent came under range of the spears and the stones. I told my boys to pull it down and get under cover in the trees. They were doing this when the Elgeyo gave ground again and the flank of the Nandi came swarming over us. They drove my carriers off and one big elmoran came swinging at me, with his spear up and his eyes bloodshot. I could have shot him. I felt like shooting him for the impertinence. But when he was a few yards off I began to swear at him in Nandi. He stopped, grunted, and came on at me with his spear again, until his chief called him off, and he went back to hit at the Elgeyo.
Small parties broke from the wings of the Nandi line, outflanked the village and set off in pursuit of the Elgeyo women and cattle. It was a foolish move, for it weakened the Nandi strength and the Elgeyo, driven back to within a hundred yards of their huts, moved forward again. And now a band of Mutey came thudding through the village to help them. The Nandi war-chief gave out a high, gobbling cry, and his regiments backed up the hill, paused to call obscenely, and then were gone.
It was a surprise to count only twenty dead in the grass.
* * *
After the Elgeyo had got over their celebrations they told me that the nearest Maraquet village was forty miles away. I sent on two Kavirondo to tell the Maraquet that I wished to trade with them, and while I waited I went hunting rhino for the horn. My porters came in four days later with the news that the Maraquet would be pleased to sell me their ivory, and had I the courage to go and get it. It was the sort of brag that cowards make, and the Maraquet lost some stature by it.
I left most of my equipment behind, but I took the cattle, six Lumbwa and one of the Arab traders. When we reached the edge of the Maraquet country, I built a zareba and herded the cattle into it. I pitched a ground sheet in place of a tent, about a hundred yards from the nearest Maraquet village, and the Maraquet themselves came out to watch me. After the Lumbwa, the Masai and the Nandi they were unimpressive, short, ugly, and without pride. My elmorani went into a sulk of disgust.
A deputation came out to ask how many cattle for a tusk. I said, how about showing me a tusk first? They went off and came back with a small thing, not much more than twenty pounds, and I began to wonder where Mohammed had got his information. I said, big ivory. They said, two head of cattle, Bwana, and big ivory shall be brought. I looked disgusted, and to emphasize my disgust I said that I would buy goatskins instead.
At this a warrior shifted his spear and shield and offered me a skin about the size of a rabbit. I kept my temper. I think I kept my temper. But the warrior lost his. He threw the skin in my face and snatched one of my trading blankets. As he straightened up I hit him as hard as I could under the jaw, and then I beat him over the head with his own shield. This delighted his friends.
I told my boys to pack up, we would return to the Elgeyo, but an old chief hobbled out from the huts and waved his skinny arms at his people. His indignation almost convinced me, and I accepted his invitation to stay. As a token of his regret he had his women bring some goatskins which were superlatively better than the rag I had just been offered. He saw this approval on my face and grinned at me from naked gums. Would the Bwana allow his warriors to examine the cattle?
They separated two heifers from the herd and went over them thoroughly with their hands, grunting their satisfaction. The chief said that in the morning much ivory would be brought in exchange for these heifers.
But at nine, in the dark, when I was lying under my netting counting the stars, Mabrukie the Arab came up whispering. He said that the two heifers that the Maraquet had chosen were dead. Poisoned thorns had been driven deep into their polls.
I sat up and looked across to the village. It was quiet, but I put a revolver under my pillow and lay down again. Mabrukie came again after the moon rose. He said that he had seen fifty spearmen slipping away from the village to the forest, and there were others awake in the village, for he had seen them moving close to the ground.
We moved out quickly. I had the boys drive the cattle from the zareba and we made good time, and I do not know now why the Maraquet did not come out of their village once they saw us moving. Instead they beat their drums and sounded horns, and if those fifty spearmen intended to ambush us they must either have lost their nerve or chosen the wrong spot, for by dawn we were back in the Mutey country without seeing them.
The Mutey were very unhappy about the whole affair, and I suspected that the rumour about the Maraquet being great ivory-owners had started with the Mutey. They sat in shauri and decided to help me. They said that if I gave them four heifers they would go off and trade them to a well-inclined friend of theirs among the Maraquet. I trusted them, and they returned in two days with two tusks weighing forty pounds each. And this was little enough for a man who had set off with twenty heifers, ten donkeys, twenty elmorani, beads, calico, blankets and cotton. That was not what you would call a successful trading expedition.
But in view of the news which the Mutey also brought me I had small reason to complain.
The Persian trader, Hadji Askar, had arrived in the Maraquet country a day after we left. The Maraquet stole his cattle and drove him in a bloody spear-fight all
the way to the Suk country.
* * *
I hunted okapi among the Mabuti in the Belgian Congo. I had been shooting elephant and trading ivory out of the Semiliki forests and had seen what I believed to be okapi spoor now and then, a clean, darted track like an eland's. I wanted an okapi, the way you want something that is rare just because it is rare, and the way you want to do something that no one else has done, for this is the vanity of all hunters. There was no danger in hunting okapi, as there is with the lion, the elephant and the buffalo. In the hunting of the okapi the credit lies in finding the animal.
So when I saw this spoor in the Semiliki forests, the spoor that looked so much like an eland's but was not, I knew that perhaps I had found an okapi. I sent for the old men of the nearest village and I described the eland to them, but they shook their heads and said that they had never seen one. With a stick I drew the horns of an eland in the dust, and still they did not recognize it. So I knew I had seen okapi spoor, and when I found it again I sent for the old men once more and showed them. They nodded and said 'KengiP
They took me back to their village and produced a skin, a beautiful skin, white on the belly, the neck and back a purple-black, the buttocks barred with black and white. This was the skin of an okapi, that gentle, douce animal so uncharitably described as half-antelope, half-giraffe.
Where, I said, do I find a kengi ? They said, in the forests, deep in the forests among the Mabuti, the little people. They said no one had killed a kengi without the help of the Mabuti. I said, bring me a Mabuti who will talk to me.
Two days later they brought me three of them.
They were not beautiful. They were monkeys without fur. Little, hump-buttocked men with flat, expressionless faces, and curled beards like Spanish hidalgos. They were ageless, but they were powerful within their tiny frames, and they stank from the stale grease on them. I told my gun-bearer to take them away and feed them, and ask them about the kengi.
In the afternoon my bearer said the Mabuti were happy now, having discovered that I wanted something which, in their opinion, only they could get for me. They offered me a skin if I shot some meat for them.
I wanted to shoot my own okapi, not buy a skin, but I agreed to go on an elephant hunt in the hope that if we struck okapi spoor we could follow that as well.
The Mabuti disappointed me. I had heard, and I had believed that the pygmies were warlike, brave, great hunters. I had heard that even the biggest tusker could not frighten them. But this was not so.
For two miles into the forest the paths were strewn with fresh elephant sign. The light was a pale blue twilight, and where the sun came through the roof of the trees it fell in bars that were almost tangible. The paths were walled with bushes eight, ten feet high, broad and black-leaved like rhododendrons, but carrying great masses of lemon-yellow fruit. The air steamed and broke the focus of one's sight, and I sweated until my brown cord jacket doubled its weight.
We heard the Big One at last, the crash of branches and the rumble of his stomach. The Mabuti heard him and trembled and chattered among themselves. They said that the bull was full of devils. They said he knew that we were coming and was laughing because he would kill us all. I said where were these brave Mabuti I had heard about, and before they could tell me the Big One scented us. His trumpet blared and the Mabuti ran.
One ran through the legs of my bearer, upsetting him just as the bull charged into view, coming down the path like a train emerging from a tunnel.
I brought it down with three shots. The Mabuti came back, but not with haste. I could see their faces peering from the bushes at first, and then their tiny bodies emerging, until they ran out and climbed all over the Big One, strutting like peacocks as if they had killed him. I said, bring your families and have a feast.
The headman plucked at his beard, puffed out his belly, and said that the elephant rightly belonged to him and two or three others whose shambas had been destroyed by this elephant. The rest of the tribe could find their own elephant.
I said that if it came to the point the elephant belonged to the Belgians, and they had sold it to me. I had a piece of paper that said this. But the Mabuti were sly. They knew that all I wanted was the tusks, that was all any white man wanted.
I settled the problem by having some of my boys cut out some meat and give it to the pygmies. They went away and came back with three more of their tribe and also some women. The women were, if possible, more ugly than the men, but their naked bodies were smooth and beautiful, like exquisitely-proportioned statuettes of ebony.
I still wanted my okapi, and now that the Mabuti had their elephant they had no excuse for not helping me. We moved camp twenty-five miles, and took the nomadic dwarfs with us. On the second day we saw fresh okapi spoor, and the Mabuti took it up enthusiastically. The country here was bad, and it took us all morning to struggle through three miles of swamp and underbrush, and we made too much noise to hope for a sight of the animal. I went back to camp and told my best gun-bearer to take two of the Mabuti and find a pool where the okapi came regularly to drink.
They found one and I left at five the next morning, down a broad, straight avenue made by elephant through the trees. Within the hour we got to the pool. It was the saucer of a swamp, perhaps five hundred yards by eighty, with a stream curling the length of it, and red and scarlet flowers set in the green sunlight.
I put up a crude blind on the incline that gave me a clear line of fire, and I sat back on my heels biting a dry pipe, waiting. It was like watching a film, like looking at the illustrations in a smooth-papered encyclopaedia where all the animals of Africa are miraculously gathered around one drinking-pool. They came down from the trees and they drank, and sometimes they stood with head and body tense in suspicion before they went away at last.
A leopard came and the Mabuti wanted me to shoot it, but I was not shooting leopard just for their amusement, and scaring away my okapi by the shot. It was a temptation, however, the brute was so damn sure of itself. It sat at the edge of the pool and licked its chest like a cat.
Four elephants came and wallowed in the mud, and squirted the water at each other, and had great fun before they pulled themselves out and ambled away, and they were a temptation too, for one had fine tusks. I sent a pygmy back to bring some food and a camera, and he came back, and we sat on until five o'clock. Twelve hours now. It was tea-time. The forest came to drink, pretty little duikers drinking daintily. A lone bull elephant with only one tusk and I photographed him while he posed. A small herd of elephant came after him, had their drink and water-play, and went. But still no okapi.
Then he came.
He came in a herd of buffalo, the clever one. I tried to photograph him but he was screened by those big black brutes with their pulled-down horns and their dancer's hips. Then my gun-bearer sneezed. He got his hands over his mouth but just the same he made a choked, graveyard moan in his throat. I saw the horns of the buffaloes go up, saw the herd break, and saw the okapi clearly for the first time.
He was fine. He stood about five feet at the shoulder, the same height as an eland, the black and white fetlock rings making him seem oddly unfinished about the legs.
His head was cocked on his long neck, slanting his four-inch horns in their soft skin jackets, his eyes moist and alarmed.
'Kengi /' whispered an old Mabuti, as if seeing a vision.
Then he was away, this fine okapi. He slewed round and went with the bouncing black rumps of the buffalo. I gave him a snap shot and saw his haunches slither. I had hit him. I said I had hit him, and my bearer agreed. lPiga.r he said.
We went over, but the blood-spoor was slight, and it was late. Always it is late when you have this luck. I gave up the trail and worked out my impatience on the gun-bearer. Him and his sneeze.
We found the trail in the morning, although some elephant had kindly walked over it in the night. We followed it and then lost it. I moved camp, but I saw no okapi again, and I was hard to live with. A week later the little people came in with a skin and offered it to me. They said they had found the okapi in one of their pits and this was the okapi we had seen at the pool. I examined it carefully but there was no bullet mark on its flanks, and I knew I had hit my okapi. But I thanked the Mabuti and I rewarded them for their trouble, and
I never again did shoot an okapi.
* * *
The Kisi were an odd people. You knew where you were with the Lumbwa and the Masai and they remained your friends. But all I ever got from the Kisi was a spear-thrust in the thigh, and it was the same leg that had taken a Boer bullet.
It was after that bloody slaughter of the elephants with the Wanderobo. I went north of the line and hunted in the Rift Valley. I met Major R. F. Carnegie up there who had just given up his commission in the Gordon Highlanders, and who wanted to take up farm-ing. I said I would find land for him if he would buy cattle from me once he was settled. And we drank to that and I went land-hunting.
I found him some land, sold some ivory for cattle, sold the cattle to him, and was having another celebration drink with him when the D.C. from Kericho came in with an escort of police. He said that he had been attacked by the Kisi while collecting taxes. D.C.s' men were always being attacked while collecting taxes, and this one was no happier than most were at the experience. I knew little about the Kisi then, and he was eager to tell me. He said they were bad-tempered and warlike, even raiding the Lumbwa sometimes, which shows what a high opinion they had of themselves. Their country lapped on the border, and among their spearmen were a few warriors armed with old, brass-bound muzzle-loaders they had taken from Arab slave-traders decades before. The D.C. said sourly that he hoped the Government would make war on the Kisi once the Civil Servants found the money.
I asked him for permission to trade among the Kisi. He said no white man would last five minutes among them, but when he had gone I told Carnegie that I would try anyway, and I left the next morning loaded with trade goods, escorted by twenty Lumbwa and accompanied by a boy who had been a slave of the Kisi and could speak their tongue.
The first of the Kisi villages was twenty miles from Carnegie's farm and we reached it about four in the afternoon. It looked formidable, round-top huts surrounded by a pointed stockade. The Kisi flooded out of it, waving spears and stomping, and when I had their attention for a moment I asked for wood and water. They were surprised, but no more surprised than I when they brought the wood and the water.
And they left us alone that night. I was giving myself a sponge bath in my tent next morning, gravely watched by two Kisi children, when there was a great thumping of drums and a gabble of voices from the village. I towelled quickly and went outside. There was a stocky, pock-marked villain with a great scar across his forehead and two yellow hippo tusks hanging from his temples. He said what did the Bwana want in his country, and I said who was he?
He was En Dobee, Paramount Chief of the Kisi, and still he wanted to know what I wanted. I said that I wanted ivory and he thought about this and finally decided that I could have my life, but he would have my equipment and my carriers. The spears of his warriors went up in approval.
I took a cartridge in one hand and a bead in the other and I held them out to him. Which did he want, a fight or a trade? He scratched his arm-pit and went away and talked it over with his old men. Then he came back and took the bead. I smiled and gave him a roll of brass wire. He grinned, rattled the hippo tusks, and gave me a fat bullock. He looked sly and then said that I could do something that would make his people very happy. The way he said it indicated that while he had got a roll of brass wire, and I had got a fat bullock, his people so far had nothing. Nothing had changed their minds about me.
I asked him what would make them happy. He said 'Shoot some hippo.'
The river was wide and milky with mud. I could see no hippo, but I stood on the bank and trilled to them and they came up one by one, two tons each of rubber-wet skin and yawning jaws. I shot two bulls and they went down quickly with the water red. It takes two hours for a dead hippo to float to the surface and while we waited I told my interpreter to inform the Kisi that when the bulls were dragged ashore my men would cut a little of the mutton-sweet meat for themselves. Then the Kisi could have the rest.
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It was a wasted instruction. As soon as the hippo were ashore the Kisi fell on them like animals, hacking, slashing, turning their knives on each other until their blood was mixed with the hippos'. I knocked them down and swore at them, but it did not stop them, and I went up and found En Dobee and told him what I thought of the Kisi, which was very shortly put. He sent orders for the meat to be brought to me, and when it was stacked I told my men to take their share. Then En Dobee and his petty chiefs helped themselves, and the villagers fell on the rest.
Altogether I didn't think much of the Kisi, although I traded twenty small tusks from them. En Dobee's two sons came back with me to Carnegie's farm, and on the trek they told me about their people.
En Dobee had a brother called Majori. This Majori, it seemed, was the usual Prince who was angry at not being Crown Prince, and he had quarrelled with En Dobee. After some spear-play between their followers they agreed to live apart. Not very far apart. Majori's nearest village was two miles from En Dobee's. The land between the two factions was barren and uncultivated. Nobody crossed it, no cattle were allowed to stray on it. The villages might have been two hundred miles apart.
If anything Majori had the advantage over his brother for his village possessed a very powerful medicine man. The two boys told me that if I had the courage to visit Majori I would find four great tusks of ivory in his hut.
I told Carnegie that I liked the sound of those tusks, and he said that was fine, but if I were going back into Kisi country he would go hunting along the border of it in case I needed him.
I got some more trade goods and some cattle and went back. En Dobee was waiting for me with a big grin on his pocked cheeks. Also awaiting me was a message from Majori in the shape of a rhino club. The words that went with it said that if I cared to visit him he would show me what a true Kisi did to a white man.
I sent back the messenger to say that I would be happy to visit him, and En Dobee suggested that I took his sons with me. I trekked into Majori's country and the villages emptied behind me until there were hundreds of Kisi following along behind to see the play.
We camped outside Majori's kraal and waited for him. When he came out he was a fine-looking man in a yellow and blue blanket which he held like a toga. If he scowled at me he smiled at his nephews, and these made the air much more pleasant by explaining that I was not a tax-collector but a hunter and trader. So I shot some hippo for Majori too, and there would have been no trouble but for his very powerful Medicine Man.
He came out of his hut and I was downwind of him and could smell him. Skulls hung from his waist, bones from his shoulders. His skinny arms and neck were decorated with the teeth of lion and leopard. He wore a kaross of monkeyskin, and his eyes were yellow and his gums were white with saliva, and I knew from the look of him that he was going to use me as an experiment.
He stood there sneering and snorting, and the Kisi got behind him expectantly. He had his eyes fixed on my rifle and I knew what was in his mind.
He turned and raised his skinny arms. He had medicine, powerful medicine, he said, to take away the tongue and the voice of my gun. He would make it as useless as a stick. And he turned to me and grinned, holding out his hand.
I put the -303 in it politely.
He thought the rifle was a muzzle-loader, and that all he had to do was blow the powder from the pan and replace it with dust.
He turned it upside down. He brought the breech close to his face and sniffed. He fingered the magazine. He looked down the barrel, and the cunning and the guile passed from his face, leaving an expression of venom that was oddly mixed with pathos. He raised the rifle above his head, swung with it, and gabbled to the Kisi, and then he handed it back to me, but with less arrogance and confidence than when he had taken it.
The Kisi looked on with interest.
I told my bearer to put an empty cigarette tin in the fork of a tree, eighty yards away. My first round knocked it from the fork, and a great grunt of surprise came from the Kisi. The Medicine Man shuffled his feet and yipped once or twice. I had the tin put back, and with the four soft-nosed left in the magazine I splashed it on the tree-trunk.
The Medicine Man began to scream, to jab his finger at me, coming so close that his spittle struck my face. I disliked him intensely, everything about him, his pendent bones, his monkeyskin kaross, his toothless mouth, and the smell of death's decay on him. I had the happy wish to discredit him still further.
I went into my tent, took two water-bottles, filled one with water and the other with kerosene. I came out and asked the Doctor if he could make water burn. He sneered all over his face. I allowed him, and Majori, and a few other Kisi to drink from the bottle that held water, and when I took it from them I switched it with the bottle that held kerosene. I poured the oil into a tin plate and set fire to it.
The Medicine Man started backing toward the village, killing me with his face, but I held his arm and said there was one more thing I wished to show him, and his respect for his reputation made him stay. I painted his stomach with pure essence of mustard. As soon as it began to burn he screamed and bounded away.
Now all of this was out of a schoolboy's humour, and is only made excusable by the fact that had I not proved myself to have stronger medicine than the Witch Doctor he could have easily persuaded the Kisi to add my head to his cincture of skulls.
On the profit side I traded cattle for the four good tusks that stood in Majori's hut.
We left in the morning, and the Kisi sped us with the beat of drums and the bray of horns. There was no sign of the Witch Doctor during this pleasant valediction, and as we marched I told my bearer to take a rifle and guard my back. We met the old man on the slope of a ravine, where a line of warriors stood at his back, prodding the air with their spears and calling loudly of their courage.
I stopped with my bearer, and I told the other boys to go on down the trail at the run. I called out and asked if these Kisi had forgotten my friendship with their chief. The Witch Doctor came down, hopping from stone to stone, skulls and teeth clattering. He came up to me and leant on his ceremonial spear, and he looked sideways out of his dishonest face and said that he wished to be my friend. To prove this he was ready to give me a fat ox.
I stepped back from his breath, and as I moved he stabbed at me. The blade missed my stomach but went into my thigh, and the thrust was strong. I went back with it but I fired, and he skipped with a hop and a flap of his feet back to his warriors. I fired again, and my bearer fired too, and the Kisi dropped behind the stones.
The blood was coming out of my leg, but I felt no pain, only the sickness in stomach which you get at the sight of your own wound. I took a scarf from my neck and tied it above the wound, with a pebble on the artery. My bearer was pumping with the rifle, keeping the Kisi at their distance, and when their spears did come thwanging they fell short.
I got up, and we went down the hill to where my boys were waiting, and I fainted. I came to, very sick in the stomach, and I told them to pitch my tent and leave me, and go on to En Dobee for help. This, they said, they would not do. I told them that if they did not I would not hire them again, and that I would let it be known to Arab Changalla that I had no faith in them. They looked at me very sadly, and they pitched my tent and they went.
I lay there all night. I filled the magazine of my rifle and I put one round in the breech and disengaged the safety-catch. I took more shells from my jacket pocket and laid them by my thigh, and I tried not to move much because I was afraid of fainting again. I watched the night through the tent flap and wished there were a fire.
Drums and horns sounded all night long, and I did not know why the Kisi did not come in.
En Dobee's men arrived at dawn, and carried me out on a blanket to Carnegie. He sent me on and wired for a doctor to meet me at Lumbwa station.
I remember little of the journey. I remember my leg burning from groin to ankle. Then there would be no sensation in it at all, and I had the delirious notion that I had shed it, as a crab sheds a claw. Then it burnt again, and it smelt. The doctor who met me at Lumbwa Station was full of whisky. He looked at the leg and he wanted to cut it off. He behaved as if all his life he had wanted to amputate a leg and had never had the opportunity until now. I told him that he was a drunken oaf, and that even if he were sober, and the best surgeon in Africa, I would not let him cut off my leg. All right, he said, I don't want the case. And he went away, probably to find more whisky.
There was a good Indian Compounder attached to the African Rifles at Lumbwa, and someone brought him to me as I lay on the platform raving. By that time my leg was blown up with pus. I yelled and swore at him when he pushed in the drains and pulled them out, but he was a good and gentle man, and he saved my leg. When it was healed it was bent like the branch of a mimosa tree, but Arab Changalla sent me some of his women and they massaged it day after day until I could straighten it and walk on it again.