Part 1 out of 2
Etext prepared by John Bickers, email@example.com
and Emma Dudding, firstname.lastname@example.org
The War of the Little Hand
by H. Rider Haggard
It may be well to state that the incident of the "Thing that
bites" recorded in this tale is not an effort of the imagination.
On the contrary, it is "plagiarized." Mandara, a well-known chief
on the east coast of Africa, has such an article, /and uses it/.
In the same way the wicked conduct attributed to Wambe is not
without a precedent. T'Chaka, the Zulu Napoleon, never allowed a
child of his to live. Indeed he went further, for on discovering
that his mother, Unandi, was bringing up one of his sons in
secret, like Nero he killed her, and with his own hand.
One day--it was about a week after Allan Quatermain told me his story
of the "Three Lions," and of the moving death of Jim-Jim--he and I
were walking home together on the termination of a day's shooting. He
owned about two thousand acres of shooting round the place he had
bought in Yorkshire, over a hundred of which were wood. It was the
second year of his occupation of the estate, and already he had reared
a very fair head of pheasants, for he was an all-round sportsman, and
as fond of shooting with a shot-gun as with an eight-bore rifle. We
were three guns that day, Sir Henry Curtis, Old Quatermain, and
myself; but Sir Henry was obliged to leave in the middle of the
afternoon in order to meet his agent, and inspect an outlying farm
where a new shed was wanted. However, he was coming back to dinner,
and going to bring Captain Good with him, for Brayley Hall was not
more than two miles from the Grange.
We had met with very fair sport, considering that we were only going
through outlying cover for cocks. I think that we had killed twenty-
seven, a woodcock and a leash of partridges which we secured out of a
driven covey. On our way home there lay a long narrow spinney, which
was a very favourite "lie" for woodcocks, and generally held a
pheasant or two as well.
"Well, what do you say?" said old Quatermain, "shall we beat through
this for a finish?"
I assented, and he called to the keeper who was following with a
little knot of beaters, and told him to beat the spinney.
"Very well, sir," answered the man, "but it's getting wonderful dark,
and the wind's rising a gale. It will take you all your time to hit a
woodcock if the spinney holds one."
"You show us the woodcocks, Jeffries," answered Quatermain quickly,
for he never liked being crossed in anything to do with sport, "and we
will look after shooting them."
The man turned and went rather sulkily. I heard him say to the under-
keeper, "He's pretty good, the master is, I'm not saying he isn't, but
if he kills a woodcock in this light and wind, I'm a Dutchman."
I think that Quatermain heard him too, though he said nothing. The
wind was rising every minute, and by the time the beat begun it blew
big guns. I stood at the right-hand corner of the spinney, which
curved round somewhat, and Quatermain stood at the left, about forty
paces from me. Presently an old cock pheasant came rocketing over me,
looking as though the feathers were being blown out of his tail. I
missed him clean with the first barrel, and was never more pleased
with myself in my life than when I doubled him up with the second, for
the shot was not an easy one. In the faint light I could see
Quatermain nodding his head in approval, when through the groaning of
the trees I heard the shouts of the beaters, "Cock forward, cock to
the right." Then came a whole volley of shouts, "Woodcock to the
right," "Cock to the left," "Cock over."
I looked up, and presently caught sight of one of the woodcocks coming
down the wind upon me like a flash. In that dim light I could not
follow all his movements as he zigzagged through the naked tree-tops;
indeed I could see him when his wings flitted up. Now he was passing
me--/bang/, and a flick of the wing, I had missed him; /bang/ again.
Surely he was down; no, there he went to my left.
"Cock to you," I shouted, stepping forward so as to get Quatermain
between me and the faint angry light of the dying day, for I wanted to
see if he would "wipe my eye." I knew him to be a wonderful shot, but
I thought that cock would puzzle him.
I saw him raise his gun ever so little and bend forward, and at that
moment out flashed two woodcocks into the open, the one I had missed
to his right, and the other to his left.
At the same time a fresh shout arose of, "Woodcock over," and looking
down the spinney I saw a third bird high up in the air, being blown
along like a brown and whirling leaf straight over Quatermain's head.
And then followed the prettiest little bit of shooting that I ever
saw. The bird to the right was flying low, not ten yards from the line
of a hedgerow, and Quatermain took him first because he would become
invisible the soonest of any. Indeed, nobody who had not his hawk's
eyes could have seen to shoot at all. But he saw the bird well enough
to kill it dead as a stone. Then turning sharply, he pulled on the
second bird at about forty-five yards, and over he went. By this time
the third woodcock was nearly over him, and flying very high, straight
down the wind, a hundred feet up or more, I should say. I saw him
glance at it as he opened his gun, threw out the right cartridge and
slipped in another, turning round as he did so. By this time the cock
was nearly fifty yards away from him, and travelling like a flash.
Lifting his gun he fired after it, and, wonderful as the shot was,
killed it dead. A tearing gust of wind caught the dead bird, and blew
it away like a leaf torn from an oak, so that it fell a hundred and
thirty yards off or more.
"I say, Quatermain," I said to him when the beaters were up, "do you
often do this sort of thing?"
"Well," he answered, with a dry smile, "the last time I had to load
three shots as quickly as that was at rather larger game. It was at
elephants. I killed them all three as dead as I killed those
woodcocks; but it very nearly went the other way, I can tell you; I
mean that they very nearly killed me."
Just at that moment the keeper came up, "Did you happen to get one of
them there cocks, sir?" he said, with the air of a man who did not in
the least expect an answer in the affirmative.
"Well, yes, Jeffries," answered Quatermain; "you will find one of them
by the hedge, and another about fifty yards out by the plough there to
The keeper had turned to go, looking a little astonished, when
Quatermain called him back.
"Stop a bit, Jeffries," he said. "You see that pollard about one
hundred and forty yards off? Well, there should be another woodcock
down in a line with it, about sixty paces out in the field."
"Well, if that bean't the very smartest bit of shooting," murmured
Jeffries, and departed.
After that we went home, and in due course Sir Henry Curtis and
Captain Good arrived for dinner, the latter arrayed in the tightest
and most ornamental dress-suit I ever saw. I remember that the
waistcoat was adorned with five pink coral buttons.
It was a very pleasant dinner. Old Quatermain was in an excellent
humour; induced, I think, by the recollection of his triumph over the
doubting Jeffries. Good, too, was full of anecdotes. He told us a most
miraculous story of how he once went shooting ibex in Kashmir. These
ibex, according to Good, he stalked early and late for four entire
days. At last on the morning of the fifth day he succeeded in getting
within range of the flock, which consisted of a magnificent old ram
with horns so long that I am afraid to mention their measure, and five
or six females. Good crawled upon his stomach, painfully taking
shelter behind rocks, till he was within two hundred yards; then he
drew a fine bead upon the old ram. At this moment, however, a
diversion occurred. Some wandering native of the hills appeared upon a
distant mountain top. The females turned, and rushing over a rock
vanished from Good's ken. But the old ram took a bolder course. In
front of him stretched a mighty crevasse at least thirty feet in
width. He went at it with a bound. Whilst he was in mid-air Good
fired, and killed him dead. The ram turned a complete somersault in
space, and fell in such fashion that his horns hooked themselves upon
a big projection of the opposite cliffs. There he hung, till Good,
after a long and painful détour, gracefully dropped a lasso over him
and fished him up.
This moving tale of wild adventure was received with undeserved
"Well," said Good, "if you fellows won't believe my story when I tell
it--a perfectly true story mind--perhaps one of you will give us a
better; I'm not particular if it is true or not." And he lapsed into a
"Now, Quatermain," I said, "don't let Good beat you, let us hear how
you killed those elephants you were talking about this evening just
after you shot the woodcocks."
"Well," said Quatermain, dryly, and with something like a twinkle in
his brown eyes, "it is very hard fortune for a man to have to follow
on Good's "spoor." Indeed if it were not for that running giraffe
which, as you will remember, Curtis, we saw Good bowl over with a
Martini rifle at three hundred yards, I should almost have said that
this was an impossible tale."
Here Good looked up with an air of indignant innocence.
"However," he went on, rising and lighting his pipe, "if you fellows
like, I will spin you a yarn. I was telling one of you the other night
about those three lions and how the lioness finished my unfortunate
'voorlooper,' Jim-Jim, the boy whom we buried in the bread-bag.
"Well, after this little experience I thought that I would settle down
a bit, so I entered upon a venture with a man who, being of a
speculative mind, had conceived the idea of running a store at
Pretoria upon strictly cash principles. The arrangement was that I
should find the capital and he the experience. Our partnership was not
of a long duration. The Boers refused to pay cash, and at the end of
four months my partner had the capital and I had the experience. After
this I came to the conclusion that store-keeping was not in my line,
and having four hundred pounds left, I sent my boy Harry to a school
in Natal, and buying an outfit with what remained of the money,
started upon a big trip.
"This time I determined to go further afield than I had ever been
before; so I took a passage for a few pounds in a trading brig that
ran between Durban and Delagoa Bay. From Delagoa Bay I marched inland
accompanied by twenty porters, with the idea of striking up north,
towards the Limpopo, and keeping parallel to the coast, but at a
distance of about one hundred and fifty miles from it. For the first
twenty days of our journey we suffered a good deal from fever, that
is, my men did, for I think that I am fever proof. Also I was hard put
to it to keep the camp in meat, for although the country proved to be
very sparsely populated, there was but little game about. Indeed,
during all that time I hardly killed anything larger than a waterbuck,
and, as you know, waterbuck's flesh is not very appetising food. On
the twentieth day, however, we came to the banks of a largish river,
the Gonooroo it was called. This I crossed, and then struck inland
towards a great range of mountains, the blue crests of which we could
see lying on the distant heavens like a shadow, a continuation, as I
believe, of the Drakensberg range that skirts the coast of Natal. From
this main range a great spur shoots out some fifty miles or so towards
the coast, ending abruptly in one tremendous peak. This spur I
discovered separated the territories of two chiefs named Nala and
Wambe, Wambe's territory being to the north, and Nala's to the south.
Nala ruled a tribe of bastard Zulus called the Butiana, and Wambe a
much larger tribe, called the Matuku, which presents marked Bantu
characteristics. For instance, they have doors and verandahs to their
huts, work skins perfectly, and wear a waistcloth and not a moocha. At
this time the Butiana were more or less subject to the Matuku, having
been surprised by them some twenty years before and mercilessly
slaughtered down. The tribe was now recovering itself, however, and as
you may imagine, it did not love the Matuku.
"Well, I heard as I went along that elephants were very plentiful in
the dense forests which lie upon the slopes and at the foot of the
mountains that border Wambe's territory. Also I heard a very ill
report of that worthy himself, who lived in a kraal upon the side of
the mountain, which was so strongly fortified as to be practically
impregnable. It was said that he was the most cruel chief in this part
of Africa, and that he had murdered in cold blood an entire party of
English gentlemen, who, some seven years before, had gone into his
country to hunt elephants. They took an old friend of mine with them
as guide, John Every by name, and often had I mourned over his
untimely death. All the same, Wambe or no Wambe, I determined to hunt
elephants in his country. I never was afraid of natives, and I was not
going to show the white feather now. I am a bit of a fatalist, as you
fellows know, so I came to the conclusion that if it was fated that
Wambe should send me to join my old friend John Every, I should have
to go, and there was an end of it. Meanwhile, I meant to hunt
elephants with a peaceful heart.
"On the third day from the date of our sighting the great peak, we
found ourselves beneath its shadow. Still following the course of the
river which wound through the forests at the base of the peak, we
entered the territory of the redoubtable Wambe. This, however, was not
accomplished without a certain difference of opinion between my
bearers and myself, for when we reached the spot where Wambe's
boundary was supposed to run, the bearers sat down and emphatically
refused to go a step further. I sat down too, and argued with them,
putting my fatalistic views before them as well as I was able. But I
could not persuade them to look at the matter in the same light. 'At
present,' they said, 'their skins were whole; if they went into
Wambe's country without his leave they would soon be like a water-
eaten leaf. It was very well for me to say that this would be Fate.
Fate no doubt might be walking about in Wambe's country, but while
they stopped outside they would not meet him.'
"'Well,' I said to Gobo, my head man, 'and what do you mean to do?'
"'We mean to go back to the coast, Macumazahn,' he answered
"'Do you?' I replied, for my bile was stirred. 'At any rate, Mr. Gobo,
you and one or two others will never get there; see here, my friend,'
and I took a repeating rifle and sat myself comfortably down, resting
my back against a tree--'I have just breakfasted, and I had as soon
spend the day here as anywhere else. Now if you or any of those men
walk one step back from here, and towards the coast, I shall fire at
you; and you know that I don't miss.'
"The man fingered the spear he was carrying--luckily all my guns were
stacked against the tree--and then turned as though to walk away, the
others keeping their eyes fixed upon him all the while. I rose and
covered him with the rifle, and though he kept up a brave appearance
of unconcern, I saw that he was glancing nervously at me all the time.
When he had gone about twenty yards I spoke very quietly--
"'Now, Gobo,' I said, 'come back, or I shall fire.'
"Of course this was taking a very high hand; I had no real right to
kill Gobo or anybody else because they objected to run the risk of
death by entering the territory of a hostile chief. But I felt that if
I wished to keep up any authority it was absolutely necessary that I
should push matters to the last extremity short of actually shooting
him. So I sat there, looking fierce as a lion, and keeping the sight
of my rifle in a dead line for Gobo's ribs. Then Gobo, feeling that
the situation was getting strained, gave in.
"'Don't shoot, Boss,' he shouted, throwing up his hand, 'I will come
"'I thought you would,' I answered quietly; 'you see Fate walks about
outside Wambe's country as well as in it.'
"After that I had no more trouble, for Gobo was the ringleader, and
when he collapsed the others collapsed also. Harmony being thus
restored, we crossed the line, and on the following morning I began
shooting in good earnest.
A MORNING'S SPORT
"Moving some five or six miles round the base of the great peak of
which I have spoken, we came the same day to one of the fairest bits
of African country that I have seen outside of Kukuanaland. At this
spot the mountain spur that runs out at right angles to the great
range, which stretches its cloud-clad length north and south as far as
the eye can reach, sweeps inwards with a vast and splendid curve. This
curve measures some five-and-thirty miles from point to point, and
across its moon-like segment the river flashed, a silver line of
light. On the further side of the river is a measureless sea of
swelling ground, a natural park covered with great patches of bush--
some of them being many square miles in extent. These are separated
one from another by glades of grass land, broken here and there with
clumps of timber trees; and in some instances by curious isolated
koppies, and even by single crags of granite that start up into the
air as though they were monuments carved by man, and not tombstones
set by nature over the grave of ages gone. On the west this beautiful
plain is bordered by the lonely mountain, from the edge of which it
rolls down toward the fever coast; but how far it runs to the north I
cannot say--eight days' journey, according to the natives, when it is
lost in an untravelled morass.
"On the hither side of the river the scenery is different. Along the
edge of its banks, where the land is flat, are green patches of swamp.
Then comes a wide belt of beautiful grass land covered thickly with
game, and sloping up very gently to the borders of the forest, which,
beginning at about a thousand feet above the level of the plain,
clothes the mountain-side almost to its crest. In this forest grow
great trees, most of them of the yellow-wood species. Some of these
trees are so lofty, that a bird in their top branches would be out of
range of an ordinary shot gun. Another peculiar thing about them is,
that they are for the most part covered with a dense growth of the
Orchilla moss; and from this moss the natives manufacture a most
excellent deep purple dye, with which they stain tanned hides and also
cloth, when they happen to get any of the latter. I do not think that
I ever saw anything more remarkable than the appearance of one of
these mighty trees festooned from top to bottom with trailing wreaths
of this sad-hued moss, in which the wind whispers gently as it stirs
them. At a distance it looks like the gray locks of a Titan crowned
with bright green leaves, and here and there starred with the rich
bloom of orchids.
"The night of that day on which I had my little difference of opinion
with Gobo, we camped by the edge of this great forest, and on the
following morning at daylight I started out shooting. As we were short
of meat I determined to kill a buffalo, of which there were plenty
about, before looking for traces of elephants. Not more than half a
mile from camp we came across a trail broad as a cart-road, evidently
made by a great herd of buffaloes which had passed up at dawn from
their feeding ground in the marshes, to spend the day in the cool air
of the uplands. This trail I followed boldly; for such wind as there
was blew straight down the mountain-side, that is, from the direction
in which the buffaloes had gone, to me. About a mile further on the
forest began to be dense, and the nature of the trail showed me that I
must be close to my game. Another two hundred yards and the bush was
so thick that, had it not been for the trail, we could scarcely have
passed through it. As it was, Gobo, who carried my eight-bore rifle
(for I had the .570-express in my hand), and the other two men whom I
had taken with me, showed the very strongest dislike to going any
further, pointing out that there was 'no room to run away.' I told
them that they need not come unless they liked, but that I was
certainly going on; and then, growing ashamed, they came.
"Another fifty yards, and the trail opened into a little glade. I
knelt down and peeped and peered, but no buffalo could I see.
Evidently the herd had broken up here--I knew that from the spoor--and
penetrated the opposite bush in little troops. I crossed the glade,
and choosing one line of spoor, followed it for some sixty yards, when
it became clear to me that I was surrounded by buffaloes; and yet so
dense was the cover that I could not see any. A few yards to my left I
could hear one rubbing its horns against a tree, while from my right
came an occasional low and throaty grunt which told me that I was
uncomfortably near an old bull. I crept on towards him with my heart
in my mouth, as gently as though I were walking upon eggs for a bet,
lifting every little bit of wood in my path, and placing it behind me
lest it should crack and warn the game. After me in single file came
my three retainers, and I don't know which of them looked the most
frightened. Presently Gobo touched my leg; I glanced round, and saw
him pointing slantwise towards the left. I lifted my head a little and
peeped over a mass of creepers; beyond the creepers was a dense bush
of sharp-pointed aloes, of that kind of which the leaves project
laterally, and on the other side of the aloes, not fifteen paces from
us, I made out the horns, neck, and the ridge of the back of a
tremendous old bull. I took my eight-bore, and getting on to my knee
prepared to shoot him through the neck, taking my chance of cutting
his spine. I had already covered him as well as the aloe leaves would
allow, when he gave a kind of sigh and lay down.
"I looked round in dismay. What was to be done now? I could not see to
shoot him lying down, even if my bullet would have pierced the
intervening aloes--which was doubtful--and if I stood up he would
either run away or charge me. I reflected, and came to the conclusion
that the only thing to do was to lie down also; for I did not fancy
wandering after other buffaloes in that dense bush. If a buffalo lies
down, it is clear that he must get up again some time, so it was only
a case of patience--'fighting the fight of sit down,' as the Zulus
"Accordingly I sat down and lighted a pipe, thinking that the smell of
it might reach the buffalo and make him get up. But the wind was the
wrong way, and it did not; so when it was done I lit another.
Afterwards I had cause to regret that pipe.
"Well, we squatted like this for between half and three quarters of an
hour, till at length I began to grow heartily sick of the performance.
It was about as dull a business as the last hour of a comic opera. I
could hear buffaloes snorting and moving all round, and see the red-
beaked tic birds flying up off their backs, making a kind of hiss as
they did so, something like that of the English missel-thrush, but I
could not see a single buffalo. As for my old bull, I think he must
have slept the sleep of the just, for he never even stirred.
"Just as I was making up my mind that something must be done to save
the situation, my attention was attracted by a curious grinding noise.
At first I thought that it must be a buffalo chewing the cud, but was
obliged to abandon the idea because the noise was too loud. I shifted
myself round and stared through the cracks in the bush, in the
direction whence the sound seemed to come, and once I thought that I
saw something gray moving about fifty yards off, but could not make
certain. Although the grinding noise still continued I could see
nothing more, so I gave up thinking about it, and once again turned my
attention to the buffalo. Presently, however, something happened.
Suddenly from about forty yards away there came a tremendous snorting
sound, more like that made by an engine getting a heavy train under
weigh than anything else in the world.
"'By Jove,' I thought, turning round in the direction from which the
grinding sound had come, 'that must be a rhinoceros, and he has got
our wind.' For, as you fellows know, there is no mistaking the sound
made by a rhinoceros when he gets wind of you.
"Another second, and I heard a most tremendous crashing noise. Before
I could think what to do, before I could even get up, the bush behind
me seemed to burst asunder, and there appeared not eight yards from
us, the great horn and wicked twinkling eye of a charging rhinoceros.
He had winded us or my pipe, I do not know which, and, after the
fashion of these brutes, had charged up the scent. I could not rise, I
could not even get the gun up, I had no time. All that I was able to
do was to roll over as far out of the monster's path as the bush would
allow. Another second and he was over me, his great bulk towering
above me like a mountain, and, upon my word, I could not get his smell
out of my nostrils for a week. Circumstances impressed it on my
memory, at least I suppose so. His hot breath blew upon my face, one
of his front feet just missed my head, and his hind one actually trod
upon the loose part of my trousers and pinched a little bit of my
skin. I saw him pass over me lying as I was upon my back, and next
second I saw something else. My men were a little behind me, and
therefore straight in the path of the rhinoceros. One of them flung
himself backwards into the bush, and thus avoided him. The second with
a wild yell sprung to his feet, and bounded like an india-rubber ball
right into the aloe bush, landing well among the spikes. But the
third, it was my friend Gobo, could not by any means get away. He
managed to gain his feet, and that was all. The rhinoceros was
charging with his head low; his horn passed between Gobo's legs, and
feeling something on his nose, he jerked it up. Away went Gobo, high
into the air. He turned a complete somersault at the apex of the
curve, and as he did so, I caught sight of his face. It was gray with
terror, and his mouth was wide open. Down he came, right on to the
great brute's back, and that broke his fall. Luckily for him the
rhinoceros never turned, but crashed straight through the aloe bush,
only missing the man who had jumped into it by about a yard.
"Then followed a complication. The sleeping buffalo on the further
side of the bush, hearing the noise, sprang to his feet, and for a
second, not knowing what to do, stood still. At that instant the huge
rhinoceros blundered right on to him, and getting his horn beneath his
stomach gave him such a fearful dig that the buffalo was turned over
on to his back, while his assailant went a most amazing cropper over
his carcase. In another moment, however, the rhinoceros was up, and
wheeling round to the left, crashed through the bush down-hill and
towards the open country.
"Instantly the whole place became alive with alarming sounds. In every
direction troops of snorting buffaloes charged through the forest,
wild with fright, while the injured bull on the further side of the
bush began to bellow like a mad thing. I lay quite still for a moment,
devoutly praying that none of the flying buffaloes would come my way.
Then when the danger lessened I got on to my feet, shook myself, and
looked round. One of my boys, he who had thrown himself backward into
the bush, was already half way up a tree--if heaven had been at the
top of it he could not have climbed quicker. Gobo was lying close to
me, groaning vigorously, but, as I suspected, quite unhurt; while from
the aloe bush into which No. 3 had bounded like a tennis ball, issued
a succession of the most piercing yells.
"I looked, and saw that this unfortunate fellow was in a very tight
place. A great spike of aloe had run through the back of his skin
waist-belt, though without piercing his flesh, in such a fashion that
it was impossible for him to move, while within six feet of him the
injured buffalo bull, thinking, no doubt, that he was the aggressor,
bellowed and ramped to get at him, tearing the thick aloes with his
great horns. That no time was to be lost, if I wished to save the
man's life, was very clear. So seizing my eight-bore, which was
fortunately uninjured, I took a pace to the left, for the rhinoceros
had enlarged the hole in the bush, and aimed at the point of the
buffalo's shoulder, since on account of my position I could not get a
fair side shot for the heart. As I did so I saw that the rhinoceros
had given the bull a tremendous wound in the stomach, and that the
shock of the encounter had put his left hind-leg out of joint at the
hip. I fired, and the bullet striking the shoulder broke it, and
knocked the buffalo down. I knew that he could not get up any more,
because he was now injured fore and aft, so notwithstanding his
terrific bellows I scrambled round to where he was. There he lay
glaring furiously and tearing up the soil with his horns. Stepping up
to within two yards of him I aimed at the vertebra of his neck and
fired. The bullet struck true, and with a thud he dropped his head
upon the ground, groaned, and died.
"This little matter having been attended to with the assistance of
Gobo, who had now found his feet, I went on to extricate our
unfortunate companion from the aloe bush. This we found a thorny task,
but at last he was dragged forth uninjured, though in a very pious and
prayerful frame of mind. His 'spirit had certainly looked that way,'
he said, or he would now have been dead. As I never like to interfere
with true piety, I did not venture to suggest that his spirit had
deigned to make use of my eight-bore in his interest.
"Having despatched this boy back to the camp to tell the bearers to
come and cut the buffalo up, I bethought me that I owed that
rhinoceros a grudge which I should love to repay. So without saying a
word of what was in my mind to Gobo, who was now more than ever
convinced that Fate walked about loose in Wambe's country, I just
followed on the brute's spoor. He had crashed through the bush till he
reached the little glade. Then moderating his pace somewhat, he had
followed the glade down its entire length, and once more turned to the
right through the forest, shaping his course for the open land that
lies between the edge of the bush and the river. Having followed him
for a mile or so further, I found myself quite on the open. I took out
my glasses and searched the plain. About a mile ahead was something
brown--as I thought, the rhinoceros. I advanced another quarter of a
mile, and looked once more --it was not the rhinoceros, but a big ant-
heap. This was puzzling, but I did not like to give it up, because I
knew from his spoor that he must be somewhere ahead. But as the wind
was blowing straight from me towards the line that he had followed,
and as a rhinoceros can smell you for about a mile, it would not, I
felt, be safe to follow his trail any further; so I made a détour of a
mile and more, till I was nearly opposite the ant-heap, and then once
more searched the plain. It was no good, I could see nothing of him,
and was about to give it up and start after some oryx I saw on the
skyline, when suddenly at a distance of about three hundred yards from
the ant-heap, and on its further side, I saw my rhino stand up in a
patch of grass.
"'Heavens!' I thought to myself, 'he's off again;' but no, after
standing staring for a minute or two he once more lay down.
"Now I found myself in a quandary. As you know, a rhinoceros is a very
short-sighted brute, indeed his sight is as bad as his scent is good.
Of this fact he is perfectly aware, but he always makes the most of
his natural gifts. For instance, when he lies down he invariably does
so with his head down wind. Thus, if any enemy crosses his wind he
will still be able to escape, or attack him; and if, on the other
hand, the danger approaches up wind he will at least have a chance of
seeing it. Otherwise, by walking delicately, one might actually kick
him up like a partridge, if only the advance was made up wind.
"Well, the point was, how on earth should I get within shot of this
rhinoceros? After much deliberation I determined to try a side
approach, thinking that in this way I might get a shoulder shot.
Accordingly we started in a crouching attitude, I first, Gobo holding
on to my coat tails, and the other boy on to Gobo's moocha. I always
adopt this plan when stalking big game, for if you follow any other
system the bearers will get out of line. We arrived within three
hundred yards safely enough, and then the real difficulties began. The
grass had been so closely eaten off by game that there was scarcely
any cover. Consequently it was necessary to go on to our hands and
knees, which in my case involved laying down the eight-bore at every
step and then lifting it up again. However, I wriggled along somehow,
and if it had not been for Gobo and his friend no doubt everything
would have gone well. But as you have, I dare say, observed, a native
out stalking is always of that mind which is supposed to actuate an
ostrich--so long as his head is hidden he seems to think that nothing
else can be seen. So it was in this instance, Gobo and the other boy
crept along on their hands and toes with their heads well down, but,
though unfortunately I did not notice it till too late, bearing the
fundamental portions of their frames high in the air. Now all animals
are quite as suspicious of this end of mankind as they are of his
face, and of that fact I soon had a proof. Just when we had got within
about two hundred yards, and I was congratulating myself that I had
not had this long crawl with the sun beating on the back of my neck
like a furnace for nothing, I heard the hissing note of the rhinoceros
birds, and up flew four or five of them from the brute's back, where
they had been comfortably employed in catching tics. Now this
performance on the part of the birds is to a rhinoceros what the word
'cave' is to a schoolboy--it puts him on the /qui vive/ at once.
Before the birds were well in the air I saw the grass stir.
"'Down you go,' I whispered to the boys, and as I did so the
rhinoceros got up and glared suspiciously around. But he could see
nothing, indeed if we had been standing up I doubt if he would have
seen us at that distance; so he merely gave two or three sniffs and
then lay down, his head still down wind, the birds once more settling
on his back.
"But it was clear to me that he was sleeping with one eye open, being
generally in a suspicious and unchristian frame of mind, and that it
was useless to proceed further on this stalk, so we quietly withdrew
to consider the position and study the ground. The results were not
satisfactory. There was absolutely no cover about except the ant-heap,
which was some three hundred yards from the rhinoceros upon his up-
wind side. I knew that if I tried to stalk him in front I should fail,
and so I should if I attempted to do so from the further side--he or
the birds would see me; so I came to a conclusion: I would go to the
ant-heap, which would give him my wind, and instead of stalking him I
would let him stalk me. It was a bold step, and one which I should
never advise a hunter to take, but somehow I felt as though rhino and
I must play the hand out.
"I explained my intentions to the men, who both held up their arms in
horror. Their fears for my safety were a little mitigated, however,
when I told them that I did not expect them to come with me.
"Gobo breathed a prayer that I might not meet Fate walking about, and
the other one sincerely trusted that my spirit might look my way when
the rhinoceros charged, and then they both departed to a place of
"Taking my eight-bore, and half-a-dozen spare cartridges in my pocket,
I made a détour, and reaching the ant-heap in safety lay down. For a
moment the wind had dropped, but presently a gentle puff of air passed
over me, and blew on towards the rhinoceros. By the way, I wonder what
it is that smells so strong about a man? Is it his body or his breath?
I have never been able to make out, but I saw it stated the other day,
that in the duck decoys the man who is working the ducks holds a
little piece of burning turf before his mouth, and that if he does
this they cannot smell him, which looks as though it were the breath.
Well, whatever it was about me that attracted his attention, the
rhinoceros soon smelt me, for within half a minute after the puff of
wind had passed me he was on his legs, and turning round to get his
head up wind. There he stood for a few seconds and sniffed, and then
he began to move, first of all at a trot, then, as the scent grew
stronger, at a furious gallop. On he came, snorting like a runaway
engine, with his tail stuck straight up in the air; if he had seen me
lie down there he could not have made a better line. It was rather
nervous work, I can tell you, lying there waiting for his onslaught,
for he looked like a mountain of flesh. I determined, however, not to
fire till I could plainly see his eye, for I think that rule always
gives one the right distance for big game; so I rested my rifle on the
ant-heap and waited for him, kneeling. At last, when he was about
forty yards away, I saw that the time had come, and aiming straight
for the middle of the chest I pulled.
"/Thud/ went the heavy bullet, and with a tremendous snort over rolled
the rhinoceros beneath its shock, just like a shot rabbit. But if I
had thought that he was done for I was mistaken, for in another second
he was up again, and coming at me as hard as ever, only with his head
held low. I waited till he was within ten yards, in the hope that he
would expose his chest, but he would do nothing of the sort; so I just
had to fire at his head with the left barrel, and take my chance.
Well, as luck would have it, of course the animal put its horn in the
way of the bullet, which cut clean through it about three inches above
the root and then glanced off into space.
"After that things got rather serious. My gun was empty and the
rhinoceros was rapidly arriving, so rapidly indeed that I came to the
conclusion that I had better make way for him. Accordingly I jumped to
my feet and ran to the right as hard as I could go. As I did so he
arrived full tilt, knocked my friendly ant-heap flat, and for the
third time that day went a most magnificent cropper. This gave me a
few seconds' start, and I ran down wind--my word, I did run!
Unfortunately, however, my modest retreat was observed, and the
rhinoceros, as soon as he had found his legs again, set to work to run
after me. Now no man on earth can run so fast as an irritated
rhinoceros can gallop, and I knew that he must soon catch me up. But
having some slight experience of this sort of thing, luckily for
myself, I kept my head, and as I fled I managed to open my rifle, get
the old cartridges out, and put in two fresh ones. To do this I was
obliged to steady my pace a little, and by the time that I had snapped
the rifle to I heard the beast snorting and thundering away within a
few paces of my back. I stopped, and as I did so rapidly cocked the
rifle and slued round upon my heel. By this time the brute was within
six or seven yards of me, but luckily his head was up. I lifted the
rifle and fired at him. It was a snap shot, but the bullet struck him
in the chest within three inches of the first, and found its way into
his lungs. It did not stop him, however, so all I could do was to
bound to one side, which I did with surprising activity, and as he
brushed past me to fire the other barrel into his side. That did for
him. The ball passed in behind the shoulder and right through his
heart. He fell over on to his side, gave one more awful squeal--a
dozen pigs could not have made such a noise--and promptly died,
keeping his wicked eyes wide open all the time.
"As for me, I blew my nose, and going up to the rhinoceros sat on his
head, and reflected that I had done a capital morning's shooting.
THE FIRST ROUND
"After this, as it was now midday, and I had killed enough meat, we
marched back triumphantly to camp, where I proceeded to concoct a stew
of buffalo beef and compressed vegetables. When this was ready we ate
the stew, and then I took a nap. About four o'clock, however, Gobo
woke me up, and told me that the head man of one of Wambe's kraals had
arrived to see me. I ordered him to be brought up, and presently he
came, a little, wizened, talkative old man, with a waistcloth round
his middle, and a greasy, frayed kaross made of the skins of rock
rabbits over his shoulders.
"I told him to sit down, and then abused him roundly. 'What did he
mean,' I asked, 'by disturbing me in this rude way? How did he dare to
cause a person of my quality and evident importance to be awakened in
order to interview his entirely contemptible self?'
"I spoke thus because I knew that it would produce an impression on
him. Nobody, except a really great man, he would argue, would dare to
speak to him in that fashion. Most savages are desperate bullies at
heart, and look on insolence as a sign of power.
"The old man instantly collapsed. He was utterly overcome, he said;
his heart was split in two, and well realized the extent of his
misbehaviour. But the occasion was very urgent. He heard that a mighty
hunter was in the neighbourhood, a beautiful white man, how beautiful
he could not have imagined had he not seen (this to me!), and he came
to beg his assistance. The truth was, that three bull elephants such
as no man ever saw had for years been the terror of their kraal, which
was but a small place--a cattle kraal of the great chief Wambe's,
where they lived to keep the cattle. And now of late these elephants
had done them much damage; but last night they had destroyed a whole
patch of mealie land, and he feared that if they came back they would
all starve next season for want of food. Would the mighty white man
then be pleased to come and kill the elephants? It would be easy for
him to do--oh, most easy! It was only necessary that he should hide
himself in a tree, for there was a full moon, and then when the
elephants appeared he would speak to them with the gun, and they would
fall down dead, and there would be an end of their troubling.
"Of course I hummed and hawed, and made a great favour of consenting
to his proposal, though really I was delighted to have such a chance.
One of the conditions that I made was that a messenger should at once
be despatched to Wambe, whose kraal was two days' journey from where I
was, telling him that I proposed to come and pay my respects to him in
a few days, and to ask his formal permission to shoot in his country.
Also I intimated that I was prepared to present him with 'hongo,' that
is, blackmail, and that I hoped to do a little trade with him in
ivory, of which I heard he had a great quantity.
"This message the old gentleman promised to despatch at once, though
there was something about his manner which showed me that he was
doubtful as to how it would be received. After that we struck our camp
and moved on to the kraal, which we reached about an hour before
sunset. This kraal was a collection of huts surrounded by a slight
thorn-fence, perhaps there were ten of them in all. It was situated in
a kloof of the mountain down which a rivulet flowed. The kloof was
densely wooded, but for some distance above the kraal it was free from
bush, and here on the rich deep ground brought down by the rivulet
were the cultivated lands, in extent somewhere about twenty or twenty-
five acres. On the kraal side of these lands stood a single hut, that
served for a mealie store, which at the moment was used as a dwelling-
place by an old woman, the first wife of our friend the head man.
"It appears that this lady, having had some difference of opinion with
her husband about the extent of authority allowed to a younger and
more amiable wife, had refused to dwell in the kraal any more, and, by
way of marking her displeasure, had taken up her abode among the
mealies. As the issue will show, she was, it happened, cutting off her
nose to spite her face.
"Close by this hut grew a large baobab tree. A glance at the mealie
grounds showed me that the old head man had not exaggerated the
mischief done by the elephants to his crops, which were now getting
ripe. Nearly half of the entire patch was destroyed. The great brutes
had eaten all they could, and the rest they had trampled down. I went
up to their spoor and started back in amazement--never had I seen such
a spoor before. It was simply enormous, more especially that of one
old bull, that carried, so said the natives, but a single tusk. One
might have used any of the footprints for a hip-bath.
"Having taken stock of the position, my next step was to make
arrangements for the fray. The three bulls, according to the natives,
had been spoored into the dense patch of bush above the kloof. Now it
seemed to me very probable that they would return to-night to feed on
the remainder of the ripening mealies. If so, there was a bright moon,
and it struck me that by the exercise of a little ingenuity I might
bag one or more of them without exposing myself to any risk, which,
having the highest respect for the aggressive powers of bull
elephants, was a great consideration to me.
"This then was my plan. To the right of the huts as you look up the
kloof, and commanding the mealie lands, stands the baobab tree that I
have mentioned. Into that baobab tree I made up my mind to go. Then if
the elephants appeared I should get a shot at them. I announced my
intentions to the head man of the kraal, who was delighted. 'Now,' he
said, 'his people might sleep in peace, for while the mighty white
hunter sat aloft like a spirit watching over the welfare of his kraal
what was there to fear?'
"I told him that he was an ungrateful brute to think of sleeping in
peace while, perched like a wounded vulture on a tree, I watched for
his welfare in wakeful sorrow; and once more he collapsed, and owned
that my words were 'sharp but just.'
"However, as I have said, confidence was completely restored; and that
evening everybody in the kraal, including the superannuated victim of
jealousy in the little hut where the mealie cobs were stored, went to
bed with a sense of sweet security from elephants and all other
animals that prowl by night.
"For my part, I pitched my camp below the kraal; and then, having
procured a beam of wood from the head man--rather a rotten one, by the
way--I set it across two boughs that ran out laterally from the baobab
tree, at a height of about twenty-five feet from the ground, in such
fashion that I and another man could sit upon it with our legs hanging
down, and rest our backs against the bole of the tree. This done I
went back to the camp and ate my supper. About nine o'clock, half-an-
hour before the moon-rise, I summoned Gobo, who, thinking that he had
seen about enough of the delights of big game hunting for that day,
did not altogether relish the job; and, despite his remonstrances,
gave him my eight-bore to carry, I having the .570-express. Then we
set out for the tree. It was very dark, but we found it without
difficulty, though climbing it was a more complicated matter. However,
at last we got up and sat down, like two little boys on a form that is
too high for them, and waited. I did not dare to smoke, because I
remembered the rhinoceros, and feared that the elephants might wind
the tobacco if they should come my way, and this made the business
more wearisome, so I fell to thinking and wondering at the
completeness of the silence.
"At last the moon came up, and with it a moaning wind, at the breath
of which the silence began to whisper mysteriously. Lonely enough in
the newborn light looked the wide expanse of mountain, plain, and
forest, more like some vision of a dream, some reflection from a fair
world of peace beyond our ken, than the mere face of garish earth made
soft with sleep. Indeed, had it not been for the fact that I was
beginning to find the log on which I sat very hard, I should have
grown quite sentimental over the beautiful sight; but I will defy
anybody to become sentimental when seated in the damp, on a very rough
beam of wood, and half-way up a tree. So I merely made a mental note
that it was a particularly lovely night, and turned my attention to
the prospect of elephants. But no elephants came, and after waiting
for another hour or so, I think that what between weariness and
disgust, I must have dropped into a gentle doze. Presently I awoke
with a start. Gobo, who was perched close to me, but as far off as the
beam would allow--for neither white man nor black like the aroma which
each vows is the peculiar and disagreeable property of the other--was
faintly, very faintly clicking his forefinger against his thumb. I
knew by this signal, a very favourite one among native hunters and
gun-bearers, that he must have seen or heard something. I looked at
his face, and saw that he was staring excitedly towards the dim edge
of the bush beyond the deep green line of mealies. I stared too, and
listened. Presently I heard a soft large sound as though a giant were
gently stretching out his hands and pressing back the ears of standing
corn. Then came a pause, and then, out into the open majestically
stalked the largest elephant I ever saw or ever shall see. Heavens!
what a monster he was; and how the moonlight gleamed upon his one
splendid tusk--for the other was missing--as he stood among the
mealies gently moving his enormous ears to and fro, and testing the
wind with his trunk. While I was still marvelling at his girth, and
speculating upon the weight of that huge tusk, which I swore should be
my tusk before very long, out stepped a second bull and stood beside
him. He was not quite so tall, but he seemed to me to be almost
thicker-set than the first; and even in that light I could see that
both his tusks were perfect. Another pause, and the third emerged. He
was shorter than either of the others, but higher in the shoulder than
No. 2; and when I tell you, as I afterwards learnt from actual
measurement, that the smallest of these mighty bulls measured twelve
feet one and a half inches at the shoulder, it will give you some idea
of their size. The three formed into line and stood still for a
minute, the one-tusked bull gently caressing the elephant on the left
with his trunk.
"Then they began to feed, walking forward and slightly to the right as
they gathered great bunches of the sweet mealies and thrust them into
their mouths. All this time they were more than a hundred and twenty
yards away from me (this I knew, because I had paced the distances
from the tree to various points), much too far to allow of my
attempting a shot at them in that uncertain light. They fed in a
semicircle, gradually drawing round towards the hut near my tree, in
which the corn was stored and the old woman slept.
"This went on for between an hour and an hour and a half, till, what
between excitement and hope, that maketh the heart sick, I grew so
weary that I was actually contemplating a descent from the tree and a
moonlight stalk. Such an act in ground so open would have been that of
a stark staring lunatic, and that I should even have been
contemplating it will show you the condition of my mind. But
everything comes to him who knows how to wait, and sometimes too to
him who doesn't, and so at last those elephants, or rather one of
them, came to me.
"After they had fed their fill, which was a very large one, the noble
three stood once more in line some seventy yards to the left of the
hut, and on the edge of the cultivated lands, or in all about eighty-
five yards from where I was perched. Then at last the one with a
single tusk made a peculiar rattling noise in his trunk, just as
though he were blowing his nose, and without more ado began to walk
deliberately toward the hut where the old woman slept. I made my rifle
ready and glanced up at the moon, only to discover that a new
complication was looming in the immediate future. I have said that a
wind rose with the moon. Well, the wind brought rain-clouds along its
track. Several light ones had already lessened the light for a little
while, though without obscuring it, and now two more were coming up
rapidly, both of them very black and dense. The first cloud was small
and long, and the one behind big and broad. I remember noticing that
the pair of them bore a most comical resemblance to a dray drawn by a
very long raw-boned horse. As luck would have it, just as the elephant
arrived within twenty-five yards or so of me, the head of the horse-
cloud floated over the face of the moon, rendering it impossible for
me to fire. In the faint twilight which remained, however, I could
just make out the gray mass of the great brute still advancing towards
the hut. Then the light went altogether and I had to trust to my ears.
I heard him fumbling with his trunk, apparently at the roof of the
hut; next came a sound as of straw being drawn out, and then for a
little while there was complete silence.
"The cloud began to pass; I could see the outline of the elephant; he
was standing with his head quite over the top of the hut. But I could
not see his trunk, and no wonder, for it was /inside the hut/. He had
thrust it through the roof, and, attracted no doubt by the smell of
the mealies, was groping about with it inside. It was growing light
now, and I got my rifle ready, when suddenly there was a most awful
yell, and I saw the trunk reappear, and in its mighty fold the old
woman who had been sleeping in the hut. Out she came through the hole
like a periwinkle on the point of a pin, still wrapped up in her
blanket, and with her skinny arms and legs stretched to the four
points of the compass, and as she did so, gave that most alarming
screech. I really don't know who was the most frightened, she, or I,
or the elephant. At any rate the last was considerably startled; he
had been fishing for mealies--the old woman was a mere accident, and
one that greatly discomposed his nerves. He gave a sort of trumpet,
and threw her away from him right into the crown of a low mimosa tree,
where she stuck shrieking like a metropolitan engine. The old bull
lifted his tail, and flapping his great ears prepared for flight. I
put up my eight-bore, and aiming hastily at the point of his shoulder
(for he was broadside on), I fired. The report rang out like thunder,
making a thousand echoes in the quiet hills. I saw him go down all of
a heap as though he were stone dead. Then, alas! whether it was the
kick of the heavy rifle, or the excited bump of that idiot Gobo, or
both together, or merely an unhappy coincidence, I do not know, but
the rotten beam broke and I went down too, landing flat at the foot of
the tree upon a certain humble portion of the human frame. The shock
was so severe that I felt as though all my teeth were flying through
the roof of my mouth, but although I sat slightly stunned for a few
seconds, luckily for me I fell light, and was not in any way injured.
"Meanwhile the elephant began to scream with fear and fury, and,
attracted by his cries, the other two charged up. I felt for my rifle;
it was not there. Then I remembered that I had rested it on a fork of
the bough in order to fire, and doubtless there it remained. My
position was now very unpleasant. I did not dare to try and climb the
tree again, which, shaken as I was, would have been a task of some
difficulty, because the elephants would certainly see me, and Gobo,
who had clung to a bough, was still aloft with the other rifle. I
could not run because there was no shelter near. Under these
circumstances I did the only thing feasible, clambered round the trunk
as softly as possible, and keeping one eye on the elephants, whispered
to Gobo to bring down the rifle, and awaited the development of the
situation. I knew that if the elephants did not see me--which,
luckily, they were too enraged to do--they would not smell me, for I
was up-wind. Gobo, however, either did not, or, preferring the safety
of the tree, would not hear me. He said the former, but I believed the
latter, for I knew that he was not enough of a sportsman to really
enjoy shooting elephants by moonlight in the open. So there I was
behind my tree, dismayed, unarmed, but highly interested, for I was
witnessing a remarkable performance.
"When the two other bulls arrived the wounded elephant on the ground
ceased to scream, but began to make a low moaning noise, and to gently
touch the wound near his shoulder, from which the blood was literally
spouting. The other two seemed to understand; at any rate, they did
this. Kneeling down on either side, they placed their trunks and tusks
underneath him, and, aided by his own efforts, with one great lift got
him on to his feet. Then leaning against him on either side to support
him, they marched off at a walk in the direction of the village.[*] It
was a pitiful sight, and even then it made me feel a brute.
[*] The Editor would have been inclined to think that in relating this
incident Mr. Quatermain was making himself interesting at the
expense of the exact truth, did it not happen that a similar
incident has come within his knowledge.--Editor.
"Presently, from a walk, as the wounded elephant gathered himself
together a little, they broke into a trot, and after that I could
follow them no longer with my eyes, for the second black cloud came up
over the moon and put her out, as an extinguisher puts out a dip. I
say with my eyes, but my ears gave me a very fair notion of what was
going on. When the cloud came up the three terrified animals were
heading directly for the kraal, probably because the way was open and
the path easy. I fancy that they grew confused in the darkness, for
when they came to the kraal fence they did not turn aside, but crashed
straight through it. Then there were 'times,' as the Irish servant-
girl says in the American book. Having taken the fence, they thought
that they might as well take the kraal also, so they just ran over it.
One hive-shaped hut was turned quite over on to its top, and when I
arrived upon the scene the people who had been sleeping there were
bumbling about inside like bees disturbed at night, while two more
were crushed flat, and a third had all its side torn out. Oddly
enough, however, nobody was hurt, though several people had a narrow
escape of being trodden to death.
"On arrival I found the old head man in a state painfully like that
favoured by Greek art, dancing about in front of his ruined abodes as
vigorously as though he had just been stung by a scorpion.
"I asked him what ailed him, and he burst out into a flood of abuse.
He called me a Wizard, a Sham, a Fraud, a Bringer of bad luck! I had
promised to kill the elephants, and I had so arranged things that the
elephants had nearly killed him, etc.
"This, still smarting, or rather aching, as I was from that most
terrific bump, was too much for my feelings, so I just made a rush at
my friend, and getting him by the ear, I banged his head against the
doorway of his own hut, which was all that was left of it.
"'You wicked old scoundrel,' I said, 'you dare to complain about your
own trifling inconveniences, when you gave me a rotten beam to sit on,
and thereby delivered me to the fury of the elephant' (/bump! bump!
bump!/), 'when your own wife' (/bump!/) 'has just been dragged out of
her hut' (/bump!/) 'like a snail from its shell, and thrown by the
Earth-shaker into a tree' (/bump! bump!/).
"'Mercy, my father, mercy!' gasped the old fellow. 'Truly I have done
amiss--my heart tells me so.'
"'I should hope it did, you old villain' (/bump!/).
"'Mercy, great white man! I thought the log was sound. But what says
the unequalled chief--is the old woman, my wife, indeed dead? Ah, if
she is dead all may yet prove to have been for the very best;' and he
clasped his hands and looked up piously to heaven, in which the moon
was once more shining brightly.
"I let go his ear and burst out laughing, the whole scene and his
devout aspirations for the decease of the partner of his joys, or
rather woes, were so intensely ridiculous.
"'No, you old iniquity,' I answered; 'I left her in the top of a
thorn-tree, screaming like a thousand bluejays. The elephant put her
"'Alas! alas!' he said, 'surely the back of the ox is shaped to the
burden. Doubtless, my father, she will come down when she is tired;'
and without troubling himself further about the matter, he began to
blow at the smouldering embers of the fire.
"And, as a matter of fact, she did appear a few minutes later,
considerably scratched and startled, but none the worse.
"After that I made my way to my little camp, which, fortunately, the
elephants had not walked over, and wrapping myself up in a blanket,
was soon fast asleep.
"And so ended my first round with those three elephants.
THE LAST ROUND
"On the morrow I woke up full of painful recollections, and not
without a certain feeling of gratitude to the Powers above that I was
there to wake up. Yesterday had been a tempestuous day; indeed, what
between buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant, it had been very
tempestuous. Having realized this fact, I next bethought me of those
magnificent tusks, and instantly, early as it was, broke the tenth
commandment. I coveted my neighbours tusks, if an elephant could be
said to be my neighbour /de jure/, as certainly, so recently as the
previous night, he had been /de facto/--a much closer neighbour than I
cared for, indeed. Now when you covet your neighbour's goods, the best
thing, if not the most moral thing, to do is to enter his house as a
strong man armed, and take them. I was not a strong man, but having
recovered my eight-bore I was armed, and so was the other strong man--
the elephant with the tusks. Consequently I prepared for a struggle to
the death. In other words, I summoned my faithful retainers, and told
them that I was now going to follow those elephants to the edge of the
world, if necessary. They showed a certain bashfulness about the
business, but they did not gainsay me, because they dared not. Ever
since I had prepared with all due solemnity to execute the rebellious
Gobo they had conceived a great respect for me.
"So I went up to bid adieu to the old head man, whom I found
alternately contemplating the ruins of his kraal and, with the able
assistance of his last wife, thrashing the jealous lady who had slept
in the mealie hut, because she was, as he declared, the fount of all
"Leaving them to work a way through their domestic differences, I
levied a supply of vegetable food from the kraal in consideration of
services rendered, and left them with my blessing. I do not know how
they settled matters, because I have not seen them since.
"Then I started on the spoor of the three bulls. For a couple of miles
or so below the kraal--as far, indeed, as the belt of swamp that
borders the river--the ground is at this spot rather stony, and
clothed with scattered bushes. Rain had fallen towards the daybreak,
and this fact, together with the nature of the soil, made spooring a
very difficult business. The wounded bull had indeed bled freely, but
the rain had washed the blood off the leaves and grass, and the ground
being so rough and hard did not take the footmarks so clearly as was
convenient. However, we got along, though slowly, partly by the spoor,
and partly by carefully lifting leaves and blades of grass, and
finding blood underneath them, for the blood gushing from a wounded
animal often falls upon their inner surfaces, and then, of course,
unless the rain is very heavy, it is not washed away. It took us
something over an hour and a half to reach the edge of the marsh, but
once there our task became much easier, for the soft soil showed
plentiful evidences of the great brutes' passage. Threading our way
through the swampy land, we came at last to a ford of the river, and
here we could see where the poor wounded animal had lain down in the
mud and water in the hope of easing himself of his pain, and could see
also how his two faithful companions had assisted him to rise again.
We crossed the ford, and took up the spoor on the further side, and
followed it into the marsh-like land beyond. No rain had fallen on
this side of the river, and the blood-marks were consequently much
"All that day we followed the three bulls, now across open plains, and
now through patches of bush. They seemed to have travelled on almost
without stopping, and I noticed that as they went the wounded bull
recovered his strength a little. This I could see from his spoor,
which had become firmer, and also from the fact that the other two had
ceased to support him. At last evening closed in, and having travelled
some eighteen miles, we camped, thoroughly tired out.
"Before dawn on the following day we were up, and the first break of
light found us once more on the spoor. About half-past five o'clock we
reached the place where the elephants had fed and slept. The two
unwounded bulls had taken their fill, as the condition of the
neighbouring bushes showed, but the wounded one had eaten nothing. He
had spent the night leaning against a good-sized tree, which his
weight had pushed out of the perpendicular. They had not long left
this place, and could not be very far ahead, especially as the wounded
bull was now again so stiff after his night's rest that for the first
few miles the other two had been obliged to support him. But elephants
go very quick, even when they seem to be travelling slowly, for shrub
and creepers that almost stop a man's progress are no hindrance to
them. The three had now turned to the left, and were travelling back
again in a semicircular line toward the mountains, probably with the
idea of working round to their old feeding grounds on the further side
of the river.
"There was nothing for it but to follow their lead, and accordingly we
followed with industry. Through all that long hot day did we tramp,
passing quantities of every sort of game, and even coming across the
spoor of other elephants. But, in spite of my men's entreaties, I
would not turn aside after these. I would have those mighty tusks or
"By evening we were quite close to our game, probably within a quarter
of a mile, but the bush was dense, and we could see nothing of them,
so once more we must camp, thoroughly disgusted with our luck. That
night, just after the moon rose, while I was sitting smoking my pipe
with my back against a tree, I heard an elephant trumpet, as though
something had startled it, and not three hundred yards away. I was
very tired, but my curiosity overcame my weariness, so, without saying
a word to any of the men, all of whom were asleep, I took my eight-
bore and a few spare cartridges, and steered toward the sound. The
game path which we had been following all day ran straight on in the
direction from which the elephant had trumpeted. It was narrow, but
well trodden, and the light struck down upon it in a straight white
line. I crept along it cautiously for some two hundred yards, when it
opened suddenly into a most beautiful glade some hundred yards or more
in width, wherein tall grass grew and flat-topped trees stood singly.
With the caution born of long experience I watched for a few moments
before I entered the glade, and then I saw why the elephant had
trumpeted. There in the middle of the glade stood a large maned lion.
He stood quite still, making a soft purring noise, and waving his tail
to and fro. Presently the grass about forty yards on the hither side
of him gave a wide ripple, and a lioness sprang out of it like a
flash, and bounded noiselessly up to the lion. Reaching him, the great
cat halted suddenly, and rubbed her head against his shoulder. Then
they both began to purr loudly, so loudly that I believe that in the
stillness one might have heard them two hundred yards or more away.
"After a time, while I was still hesitating what to do, either they
got a whiff of my wind, or they wearied of standing still, and
determined to start in search of game. At any rate, as though moved by
a common impulse, they bounded suddenly away, leap by leap, and
vanished in the depths of the forest to the left. I waited for a
little while longer to see if there were any more yellow skins about,
and seeing none, came to the conclusion that the lions must have
frightened the elephants away, and that I had taken my stroll for
nothing. But just as I was turning back I thought that I heard a bough
break upon the further side of the glade, and, rash as the act was, I
followed the sound. I crossed the glade as silently as my own shadow.
On its further side the path went on. Albeit with many fears, I went
on too. The jungle growth was so thick here that it almost met
overhead, leaving so small a passage for the light that I could
scarcely see to grope my way along. Presently, however, it widened,
and then opened into a second glade slightly smaller than the first,
and there, on the further side of it, about eighty yards from me,
stood the three enormous elephants.
"They stood thus:--Immediately opposite and facing me was the wounded
one-tusked bull. He was leaning his bulk against a dead thorn-tree,
the only one in the place, and looked very sick indeed. Near him stood
the second bull as though keeping a watch over him. The third elephant
was a good deal nearer to me and broadside on. While I was still
staring at them, this elephant suddenly walked off and vanished down a
path in the bush to the right.
"There are now two things to be done--either I could go back to the
camp and advance upon the elephants at dawn, or I could attack them at
once. The first was, of course, by far the wiser and safer course. To
engage one elephant by moonlight and single-handed is a sufficiently
rash proceeding; to tackle three was little short of lunacy. But, on
the other hand, I knew that they would be on the march again before
daylight, and there might come another day of weary trudging before I
could catch them up, or they might escape me altogether.
"'No,' I thought to myself, 'faint heart never won fair tusk. I'll
risk it, and have a slap at them. But how?' I could not advance across
the open, for they would see me; clearly the only thing to do was to
creep round in the shadow of the bush and try to come upon them so. So
I started. Seven or eight minutes of careful stalking brought me to
the mouth of the path down which the third elephant had walked. The
other two were now about fifty yards from me, and the nature of the
wall of bush was such that I could not see how to get nearer to them
without being discovered. I hesitated, and peeped down the path which
the elephant had followed. About five yards in, it took a turn round a
shrub. I thought that I would just have a look behind it, and
advanced, expecting that I should be able to catch a sight of the
elephant's tail. As it happened, however, I met his trunk coming round
the corner. It is very disconcerting to see an elephant's trunk when
you expect to see his tail, and for a moment I stood paralyzed almost
under the vast brute's head, for he was not five yards from me. He too
halted, threw up his trunk and trumpeted preparatory to a charge. I
was in for it now, for I could not escape either to the right or left,
on account of the bush, and I did not dare turn my back. So I did the
only thing that I could do--raised the rifle and fired at the black
mass of his chest. It was too dark for me to pick a shot; I could only
brown him, as it were.
"The shot rung out like thunder on the quiet air, and the elephant
answered it with a scream, then dropped his trunk and stood for a
second or two as still as though he had been cut in stone. I confess
that I lost my head; I ought to have fired my second barrel, but I did
not. Instead of doing so, I rapidly opened my rifle, pulled out the
old cartridge from the right barrel and replaced it. But before I
could snap the breech to, the bull was at me. I saw his great trunk
fly up like a brown beam, and I waited no longer. Turning, I fled for
dear life, and after me thundered the elephant. Right into the open
glade I ran, and then, thank Heaven, just as he was coming up with me
the bullet took effect on him. He had been shot right through the
heart, or lungs, and down he fell with a crash, stone dead.
"But in escaping from Scylla I had run into the jaws of Charybdis. I
heard the elephant fall, and glanced round. Straight in front of me,
and not fifteen paces away, were the other two bulls. They were
staring about, and at that moment they caught sight of me. Then they
came, the pair of them--came like thunderbolts, and from different
angles. I had only time to snap my rifle to, lift it, and fire, almost
at haphazard, at the head of the nearest, the unwounded bull.
"Now, as you know, in the case of the African elephant, whose skull is
convex, and not concave like that of the Indian, this is always a most
risky and very frequently a perfectly useless shot. The bullet loses
itself in the masses of bone, that is all. But there is one little
vital place, and should the bullet happen to strike there, it will
follow the channel of the nostrils--at least I suppose it is that of
the nostrils--and reach the brain. And this was what happened in the
present case--the ball struck the fatal spot in the region of the eye
and travelled to the brain. Down came the great bull all of a heap,
and rolled on to his side as dead as a stone. I swung round at that
instant to face the third, the monster bull with one tusk that I had
wounded two days before. He was already almost over me, and in the dim
moonlight seemed to tower above me like a house. I lifted the rifle
and pulled at his neck. It would not go off! Then, in a flash, as it
were, I remembered that it was on the half-cock. The lock of this
barrel was a little weak, and a few days before, in firing at a cow
eland, the left barrel had jarred off at the shock of the discharge of
the right, knocking me backwards with the recoil; so after that I had
kept it on the half-cock till I actually wanted to fire it.
"I gave one desperate bound to the right, and, my lame leg
notwithstanding, I believe that few men could have made a better jump.
At any rate, it was none too soon, for as I jumped I felt the wind
made by the tremendous downward stroke of the monster's trunk. Then I
ran for it.
"I ran like a buck, still keeping hold of my gun, however. My idea, so
far as I could be said to have any fixed idea, was to bolt down the
pathway up which I had come, like a rabbit down a burrow, trusting
that he would lose sight of me in the uncertain light. I sped across
the glade. Fortunately the bull, being wounded, could not go full
speed; but wounded or no, he could go quite as fast as I could. I was
unable to gain an inch, and away we went, with just about three feet
between our separate extremities. We were at the other side now, and a
glance served to show me that I had miscalculated and overshot the
opening. To reach it now was hopeless; I should have blundered
straight into the elephant. So I did the only thing I could do: I
swerved like a course hare, and started off round the edge of the
glade, seeking for some opening into which I could plunge. This gave
me a moment's start, for the bull could not turn as quickly as I
could, and I made the most of it. But no opening could I see; the bush
was like a wall. We were speeding round the edge of the glade, and the
elephant was coming up again. Now he was within about six feet, and
now, as he trumpeted or rather screamed, I could feel the fierce hot
blast of his breath strike upon my head. Heavens! how it frightened
"We were three parts round the glade now, and about fifty yards ahead
was the single large dead thorn-tree against which the bull had been
leaning. I spurted for it; it was my last chance of safety. But spurt
as I would, it seemed hours before I got there. Putting out my right
hand, I swung round the tree, thus bringing myself face to face with
the elephant. I had not time to lift the rifle to fire, I had barely
time to cock it, and run sideways and backward, when he was on to me.
Crash! he came, striking the tree full with his forehead. It snapped
like a carrot about forty inches from the ground. Fortunately I was
clear of the trunk, but one of the dead branches struck me on the
chest as it went down and swept me to the ground. I fell upon my back,
and the elephant blundered past me as I lay. More by instinct than
anything else I lifted the rifle with one hand and pulled the trigger.
It exploded, and, as I discovered afterwards, the bullet struck him in
the ribs. But the recoil of the heavy rifle held thus was very severe;
it bent my arm up, and sent the butt with a thud against the top of my
shoulder and the side of my neck, for the moment quite paralyzing me,
and causing the weapon to jump from my grasp. Meanwhile the bull was
rushing on. He travelled for some twenty paces, and then suddenly he
stopped. Faintly I reflected that he was coming back to finish me, but
even the prospect of imminent and dreadful death could not rouse me
into action. I was utterly spent; I could not move.
"Idly, almost indifferently, I watched his movements. For a moment he
stood still, next he trumpeted till the welkin rang, and then very
slowly, and with great dignity, he knelt down. At this point I swooned
"When I came to myself again I saw from the moon that I must have been
insensible for quite two hours. I was drenched with dew, and shivering
all over. At first I could not think where I was, when, on lifting my
head, I saw the outline of the one-tusked bull still kneeling some
five-and-twenty paces from me. Then I remembered. Slowly I raised
myself, and was instantly taken with a violent sickness, the result of
over-exertion, after which I very nearly fainted a second time.
Presently I grew better, and considered the position. Two of the
elephants were, as I knew, dead; but how about No. 3? There he knelt
in majesty in the lonely moonlight. The question was, was he resting,
or dead? I rose on my hands and knees, loaded my rifle, and painfully
crept a few paces nearer. I could see his eye now, for the moonlight
fell full upon it--it was open, and rather prominent. I crouched and
watched; the eyelid did not move, nor did the great brown body, or the
trunk, or the ear, or the tail--nothing moved. Then I knew that he
must be dead.
"I crept up to him, still keeping the rifle well forward, and gave him
a thump, reflecting as I did so how very near I had been to being
thumped instead of thumping. He never stirred; certainly he was dead,
though to this day I do not know if it was my random shot that killed
him, or if he died from concussion of the brain consequent upon the
tremendous shock of his contact with the tree. Anyhow, there he was.
Cold and beautiful he lay, or rather knelt, as the poet nearly puts
it. Indeed, I do not think that I have ever seen a sight more imposing
in its way than that of the mighty beast crouched in majestic death,
and shone upon by the lonely moon.
"While I stood admiring the scene, and heartily congratulating myself
upon my escape, once more I began to feel sick. Accordingly, without
waiting to examine the other two bulls, I staggered back to the camp,
which in due course I reached in safety. Everybody in it was asleep. I
did not wake them, but having swallowed a mouthful of brandy I threw
off my coat and shoes, rolled myself up in a blanket, and was soon
"When I woke it was already light, and at first I thought that, like
Joseph, I had dreamed a dream. At that moment, however, I turned my
head, and quickly knew that it was no dream, for my neck and face were
so stiff from the blow of the butt-end of the rifle that it was agony
to move them. I collapsed for a minute or two. Gobo and another man,
wrapped up like a couple of monks in their blankets, thinking that I
was still asleep, were crouched over a little fire they had made, for
the morning was damp and chilly, and holding sweet converse.
"Gobo said that he was getting tired of running after elephants which
they never caught. Macumazahn (that is, myself) was without doubt a
man of parts, and of some skill in shooting, but also he was a fool.
None but a fool would run so fast and far after elephants which it was
impossible to catch, when they kept cutting the spoor of fresh ones.
He certainly was a fool, but he must not be allowed to continue in his
folly; and he, Gobo, had determined to put a stop to it. He should
refuse to accompany him any further on so mad a hunt.
"'Yes,' the other answered, 'the poor man certainly was sick in his
head, and it was quite time that they checked his folly while they
still had a patch of skin left upon their feet. Moreover, he for his
part certainly did not like this country of Wambe's, which really was
full of ghosts. Only the last night he had heard the spooks at work--
they were out shooting, at least it sounded as though they were. It
was very queer, but perhaps their lunatic of a master----'
"'Gobo, you scoundrel!' I shouted out at this juncture, sitting bolt
upright on the blankets, 'stop idling there and make me some coffee.'
"Up sprang Gobo and his friend, and in half a moment were respectfully
skipping about in a manner that contrasted well with the lordly
contempt of their previous conversation. But all the time they were in
earnest in what they said about hunting the elephants any further, for
before I had finished my coffee they came to me in a body, and said
that if I wanted to follow those elephants I must follow them myself,
for they would not go.
"I argued with them, and affected to be much put out. The elephants
were close at hand, I said; I was sure of it; I had heard them trumpet
in the night.
"'Yes,' answered the men mysteriously, 'they too had heard things in
the night, things not nice to hear; they had heard the spooks out
shooting, and no longer would they remain in a country so vilely
"'It was nonsense,' I replied. 'If ghosts went out shooting, surely
they would use air-guns and not black powder, and one would not hear
an air-gun. Well, if they were cowards, and would not come, of course
I could not force them to, but I would make a bargain with them. They
should follow those elephants for one half-hour more, then if we
failed to come upon them I would abandon the pursuit, and we would go
straight to Wambe, chief of the Matuku, and give him hongo.'
"To this compromise the men agreed readily. Accordingly about half-an-
hour later we struck our camp and started, and notwithstanding my
aches and bruises, I do not think that I ever felt in better spirits
in my life. It is something to wake up in the morning and remember
that in the dead of the night, single-handed, one has given battle to
and overthrown three of the largest elephants in Africa, slaying them
with three bullets. Such a feat to my knowledge had never been done
before, and on that particular morning I felt a very 'tall man of my
hands' indeed. The only thing I feared was, that should I ever come to
tell the story nobody would believe it, for when a strange tale is
told by a hunter, people are apt to think it is necessarily a lie,
instead of being only probably so.[*]
[*] For the satisfaction of any who may be so disbelieving as to take
this view of Mr. Quatermain's story, the Editor may state that a
gentleman with whom he is acquainted, and whose veracity he
believes to be beyond doubt, not long ago described to him how he
chanced to kill /four/ African elephants with four consecutive
bullets. Two of these elephants were charging him simultaneously,
and out of the four three were killed with the head shot, a very
uncommon thing in the case of the African elephant.--Editor.
"Well, we passed on till, having crossed the first glade where I had
seen the lions, we reached the neck of bush that separated it from the
second glade, where the dead elephants were. And here I began to take
elaborate precautions, amongst others ordering Gobo to keep some yards
ahead and look out sharp, as I thought that the elephants might be
about. He obeyed my instructions with a superior smile, and pushed
ahead. Presently I saw him pull up as though he had been shot, and
begin to snap his fingers faintly.
"'What is it?' I whispered.
"'The elephant, the great elephant with one tusk kneeling down.'
"I crept up beside him. There knelt the bull as I had left him last
night, and there too lay the other bulls.
"'Do these elephants sleep?' I whispered to the astonished Gobo.
"'Yes, Macumazahn, they sleep.'
"'Nay, Gobo, they are dead.'
"'Dead? How can they be dead? Who killed them?'
"'What do people call me, Gobo?'
"'They call you Macumazahn.'
"'And what does Macumazahn mean?'
"'It means the man who keeps his eyes open, the man who gets up in the
"'Yes, Gobo, and I am that man. Look, you idle, lazy cowards; while
you slept last night I rose, and alone I hunted those great elephants,
and slew them by the moonlight. To each of them I gave one bullet and
only one, and it fell dead. Look,' and I advanced into the glade,
'here is my spoor, and here is the spoor of the great bull charging
after me, and there is the tree that I took refuge behind; see, the
elephant shattered it in his charge. Oh, you cowards, you who would
give up the chase while the blood spoor steamed beneath your nostrils,
see what I did single-handed while you slept, and be ashamed.'
"'/Ou!/' said the men, '/ou!/ Koos! Koos y umcool!' (Chief, great
Chief!) And then they held their tongues, and going up to the three
dead beasts, gazed upon them in silence.
"But after that those men looked upon me with awe as being almost more
than mortal. No mere man, they said, could have slain those three
elephants alone in the night-time. I never had any further trouble
with them. I believe that if I had told them to jump over a precipice
and that they would take no harm, they would have believed me.
"Well, I went up and examined the bulls. Such tusks as they had I
never saw and never shall see again. It took us all day to cut them
out; and when they reached Delagoa Bay, as they did ultimately, though
not in my keeping, the single tusk of the big bull scaled one hundred
and sixty pounds, and the four other tusks averaged ninety-nine and a
half pounds--a most wonderful, indeed an almost unprecedented, lot of
ivory.[*] Unfortunately I was forced to saw the big tusk in two,
otherwise we could not have carried it."
[*] The largest elephant tusk of which the Editor has any certain
knowledge scaled one hundred and fifty pounds.
"Oh, Quatermain, you barbarian!" I broke in here, "the idea of
spoiling such a tusk! Why, I would have kept it whole if I had been
obliged to drag it myself."
"Oh yes, young man," he answered, "it is all very well for you to talk
like that, but if you had found yourself in the position which it was
my privilege to occupy a few hours afterwards, it is my belief that
you would have thrown the tusks away altogether and taken to your
"Oh," said Good, "so that isn't the end of the yarn? A very good yarn,
Quatermain, by the way--I couldn't have made up a better one myself."
The old gentleman looked at Good severely, for it irritated him to be
chaffed about his stories.
"I don't know what you mean, Good. I don't see that there is any
comparison between a true story of adventure and the preposterous
tales which you invent about ibex hanging by their horns. No, it is
not the end of the story; the most exciting part is to come. But I
have talked enough for to-night; and if you go on in that way, Good,
it will be some time before I begin again."
"Sorry I spoke, I'm sure," said Good, humbly. "Let's have a split to
show that there is no ill-feeling." And they did.
THE MESSAGE OF MAIWA
On the following evening we once more dined together, and Quatermain,
after some pressure, was persuaded to continue his story--for Good's
remark still rankled in his breast.
"At last," he went on, "a few minutes before sunset, the task was
finished. We had laboured at it all day, stopping only once for
dinner, for it is no easy matter to hew out five such tusks as those
which now lay before me in a white and gleaming line. It was a dinner
worth eating, too, I can tell you, for we dined off the heart of the
great one-tusked bull, which was so big that the man whom I sent
inside the elephant to look for his heart was forced to remove it in
two pieces. We cut it into slices and fried it with fat, and I never
tasted heart to equal it, for the meat seemed to melt in one's mouth.
By the way, I examined the jaw of the elephant; it never grew but one
tusk; the other had not been broken off, nor was it present in a
"Well, there lay the five beauties, or rather four of them, for Gobo
and another man were engaged in sawing the grand one in two. At last
with many sighs I ordered them to do this, but not until by practical
experiment I had proved that it was impossible to carry it in any
other way. One hundred and sixty pounds of solid ivory, or rather more
in its green state, is too great a weight for two men to bear for long
across a broken country. I sat watching the job and smoking the pipe
of contentment, when suddenly the bush opened, and a very handsome and
dignified native girl, apparently about twenty years of age, stood
before me, carrying a basket of green mealies upon her head.
"Although I was rather surprised to see a native girl in such a wild
spot, and, so far as I knew, a long way from any kraal, the matter did
not attract my particular notice; I merely called to one of the men,
and told him to bargain with the woman for the mealies, and ask her if
there were any more to be bought in the neighbourhood. Then I turned
my head and continued to superintend the cutting of the tusk.
Presently a shadow fell upon me. I looked up, and saw that the girl
was standing before me, the basket of mealies still on her head.
"'Marême, Marême,' she said, gently clapping her hands together. The
word Marême among these Matuku (though she was no Matuku) answers to
the Zulu 'Koos,' and the clapping of hands is a form of salutation
very common among the tribes of the Basutu race.
"'What is it, girl?' I asked her in Sisutu. 'Are those mealies for
"'No, great white hunter,' she answered in Zulu, 'I bring them as a
"'Good,' I replied; 'set them down.'
"'A gift for a gift, white man.'
"'Ah,' I grumbled, 'the old story--nothing for nothing in this wicked
world. What do you want--beads?'
"She nodded, and I was about to tell one of the men to go and fetch
some from one of the packs, when she checked me.
"'A gift from the giver's own hand is twice a gift,' she said, and I
thought that she spoke meaningly.
"'You mean that you want me to give them to you myself?'
"I rose to go with her. 'How is it that, being of the Matuku, you
speak in the Zulu tongue?' I asked suspiciously.
"'I am not of the Matuku,' she answered as soon as we were out of
hearing of the men. 'I am of the people of Nala, whose tribe is the
Butiana tribe, and who lives there,' and she pointed over the
mountain. 'Also I am one of the wives of Wambe,' and her eyes flashed
as she said the name.
"'And how did you come here?'
"'On my feet,' she answered laconically.
"We reached the packs, and undoing one of them, I extracted a handful
of beads. 'Now,' I said, 'a gift for a gift. Hand over the mealies.'
"She took the beads without even looking at them, which struck me as
curious, and setting the basket of mealies on the ground, emptied it.
"At the bottom of the basket were some curiously-shaped green leaves,
rather like the leaves of the gutta-percha tree in shape, only
somewhat thicker and of a more fleshy substance. As though by hazard,
the girl picked one of these leaves out of the basket and smelt it.
Then she handed it to me. I took the leaf, and supposing that she
wished me to smell it also, was about to oblige her by doing so, when
my eye fell upon some curious red scratches on the green surface of
"'Ah,' said the girl (whose name, by the way, was Maiwa), speaking
beneath her breath, 'read the signs, white man.'
"Without answering her I continued to stare at the leaf. It had been
scratched or rather written upon with a sharp tool, such as a nail,
and wherever this instrument had touched it, the acid juice oozing
through the outer skin had turned a rusty blood colour. Presently I
found the beginning of the scrawl, and read this in English, and
covering the surface of the leaf and of two others that were in the
"'I hear that a white man is hunting in the Matuku country. This is
to warn him to fly over the mountain to Nala. Wambe sends an impi
at daybreak to eat him up, because he has hunted before bringing
hongo. For God's sake, whoever you are, try to help me. I have
been the slave of this devil Wambe for nearly seven years, and am
beaten and tortured continually. He murdered all the rest of us,
but kept me because I could work iron. Maiwa, his wife, takes
this; she is flying to Nala her father because Wambe killed her
child. Try to get Nala to attack Wambe; Maiwa can guide them over
the mountain. You won't come for nothing, for the stockade of
Wambe's private kraal is made of elephants' tusks. For God's sake,
don't desert me, or I shall kill myself. I can bear this no
"'Great heavens!' I gasped. 'Every!--why, it must be my old friend.'
The girl, or rather the woman Maiwa, pointed to the other side of the
leaf, where there was more writing. It ran thus--'I have just heard
that the white man is called Macumazahn. If so, it must be my friend
Quatermain. Pray Heaven it is, for I know he won't desert an old chum
in such a fix as I am. It isn't that I'm afraid of dying, I don't care
if I die, but I want to get a chance at Wambe first.'
"'No, old boy,' thought I to myself, 'it isn't likely that I am going
to leave you there while there is a chance of getting you out. I have
played fox before now--there's still a double or two left in me. I
must make a plan, that's all. And then there's that stockade of tusks.
I am not going to leave that either.' Then I spoke to the woman.
"'You are called Maiwa?'
"'It is so.'
"'You are the daughter of Nala and the wife of Wambe?'
"'It is so.'
"'You fly from Wambe to Nala?'
"'Why do you fly? Stay, I would give an order,'--and calling to Gobo,
I ordered him to get the men ready for instant departure. The woman,
who, as I have said, was quite young and very handsome, put her hand
into a little pouch made of antelope hide which she wore fastened
round the waist, and to my horror drew from it the withered hand of a
child, which evidently had been carefully dried in the smoke.
"'I fly for this cause,' she answered, holding the poor little hand
towards me. 'See now, I bore a child. Wambe was its father, and for
eighteen months the child lived and I loved it. But Wambe loves not
his children; he kills them all. He fears lest they should grow up to
slay one so wicked, and he would have killed this child also, but I
begged its life. One day, some soldiers passing the hut saw the child
and saluted him, calling him the "chief who soon shall be." Wambe
heard, and was mad. He smote the babe, and it wept. Then he said that
it should weep for good cause. Among the things that he had stolen
from the white men whom he slew is a trap that will hold lions. So
strong is the trap that four men must stand on it, two on either side,
before it can be opened.'"
Here old Quatermain broke off suddenly.
"Look here, you fellows," he said, "I can't bear to go on with this
part of the story, because I never could stand either seeing or
talking of the sufferings of children. You can guess what that devil
did, and what the poor mother was forced to witness. Would you believe
it, she told me the tale without a tremor, in the most matter-of-fact
way. Only I noticed that her eyelid quivered all the time.
"'Well,' I said, as unconcernedly as though I had been talking of the
death of a lamb, though inwardly I was sick with horror and boiling
with rage, 'and what do you mean to do about the matter, Maiwa, wife
"'I mean to do this, white man,' she answered, drawing herself up to
her full height, and speaking in tones as hard as steel and cold as
ice--'I mean to work, and work, and work, to bring this to pass, and
to bring that to pass, until at length it comes to pass that with
these living eyes I behold Wambe dying the death that he gave to his
child and my child.'
"'Well said,' I answered.
"'Ay, well said, Macumazahn, well said, and not easily forgotten. Who
could forget, oh, who could forget? See where this dead hand rests
against my side; so once it rested when alive. And now, though it is
dead, now every night it creeps from its nest and strokes my hair and
clasps my fingers in its tiny palm. Every night it does this, fearing
lest I should forget. Oh, my child! my child! ten days ago I held thee
to my breast, and now this alone remains of thee,' and she kissed the
dead hand and shivered, but never a tear did she weep.
"'See now,' she went on, 'the white man, the prisoner at Wambe's
kraal, he was kind to me. He loved the child that is dead, yes, he
wept when its father slew it, and at the risk of his life told Wambe,
my husband--ah, yes, my husband!--that which he is! He too it was who
made a plan. He said to me, "Go, Maiwa, after the custom of thy
people, go purify thyself in the bush alone, having touched a dead
one. Say to Wambe thou goest to purify thyself alone for fifteen days,
according to the custom of thy people. Then fly to thy father, Nala,
and stir him up to war against Wambe for the sake of the child that is
dead." This then he said, and his words seemed good to me, and that
same night ere I left to purify myself came news that a white man
hunted in the country, and Wambe, being mad with drink, grew very
wrath, and gave orders that an impi should be gathered to slay the
white man and his people and seize his goods. Then did the "Smiter of
Iron" (Every) write the message on the green leaves, and bid me seek
thee out, and show forth the matter, that thou mightest save thyself
by flight; and behold, this thing have I done, Macumazahn, the hunter,
the Slayer of Elephants.'
"'Ah,' I said, 'I thank you. And how many men be there in the impi of
"'A hundred of men and half a hundred.'
"'And where is the impi?'
"'There to the north. It follows on thy spoor. I saw it pass
yesterday, but myself I guessed that thou wouldst be nigher to the
mountain, and came this way, and found thee. To-morrow at the daybreak
the slayers will be here.'
"'Very possibly,' I thought to myself; 'but they won't find
Macumazahn. I have half a mind to put some strychnine into the
carcases of those elephants for their especial benefit though.' I knew
that they would stop to eat the elephants, as indeed they did, to our
great gain, but I abandoned the idea of poisoning them, because I was
rather short of strychnine."
"Or because you did not like to play the trick, Quatermain?" I
suggested with a laugh.
"I said because I had not enough strychnine. It would take a great
deal of strychnine to poison three elephants effectually," answered
the old gentleman testily.
I said nothing further, but I smiled, knowing that old Allan could
never have resorted to such an artifice, however severe his strait.
But that was his way; he always made himself out to be a most
"Well," he went on, "at that moment Gobo came up and announced that we
were ready to march. 'I am glad that you are ready,' I said, 'because
if you don't march, and march quick, you will never march again, that
is all. Wambe has an impi out to kill us, and it will be here
"Gobo turned positively green, and his knees knocked together. 'Ah,
what did I say?' he exclaimed. 'Fate walks about loose in Wambe's
"'Very good; now all you have to do is to walk a little quicker than
he does. No, no, you don't leave those elephant tusks behind--I am not
going to part with them I can tell you.'
"Gobo said no more, but hastily directed the men to take up their
loads, and then asked which way we were to run.
"'Ah,' I said to Maiwa, 'which way?'
"'There,' she answered, pointing towards the great mountain spur which
towered up into the sky some forty miles away, separating the
territories of Nala and Wambe--'there, below that small peak, is one
place where men may pass, and one only. Also it can easily be blocked
from above. If men pass not there, then they must go round the great
peak of the mountain, two days' journey and half a day.'
"'And how far is the peak from us?'
"'All to-night shall you walk and all to-morrow, and if you walk fast,
at sunset you shall stand on the peak.'
"I whistled, for that meant a five-and-forty miles trudge without
sleep. Then I called to the men to take each of them as much cooked
elephant's meat as he could carry conveniently. I did the same myself,
and forced the woman Maiwa to eat some as we went. This I did with
difficulty, for at that time she seemed neither to sleep nor eat nor
rest, so fiercely was she set on vengeance.
"Then we started, Maiwa guiding us. After going for a half-hour over
gradually rising ground, we found ourselves on the further edge of a
great bush-clad depression something like the bottom of a lake. This
depression, through which we had been travelling, was covered with
bush to a very great extent, indeed almost altogether so, except where
it was pitted with glades such as that wherein I had shot the
"At the top of this slope Maiwa halted, and putting her hand over her
eyes looked back. Presently she touched me on the arm and pointed
across the sea of forest towards a comparatively vacant space of
country some six or seven miles away. I looked, and suddenly I saw
something flash in the red rays of the setting sun. A pause, and then
another quick flash.
"'What is it?' I asked.
"'It is the spears of Wambe's impi, and they travel fast,' she
"I suppose that my face showed how little I liked the news, for she
"'Fear not; they will stay to feast upon the elephants, and while they
feast we shall journey. We may yet escape.'
"After that we turned and pushed on again, till at length it grew so
dark that we had to wait for the rising of the moon, which lost us
time, though it gave us rest. Fortunately none of the men had seen
that ominous flashing of the spears; if they had, I doubt if even I
could have kept control of them. As it was, they travelled faster than
I had ever known loaded natives to go before, so thorough-paced was
their desire to see the last of Wambe's country. I, however, took the
precaution to march last of all, fearing lest they should throw away
their loads to lighten themselves, or, worse still, the tusks; for
these kind of fellows would be capable of throwing anything away if
their own skins were at stake. If the pious Æneas, whose story you
were reading to me the other night, had been a mongrel Delagoa Bay
native, Anchises would have had a poor chance of getting out of Troy,
that is, if he was known to have made a satisfactory will.
"At moonrise we set out again, and with short occasional halts
travelled till dawn, when we were forced to rest and eat. Starting
once more, about half-past five, we crossed the river at noon. Then
began the long toilsome ascent through thick bush, the same in which I
shot the bull buffalo, only some twenty miles to the west of that
spot, and not more than twenty-five miles on the hither side of
Wambe's kraal. There were six or seven miles of this dense bush, and
hard work it was to get through it. Next came a belt of scattered
forest which was easier to pass, though, in revenge, the ground was
steeper. This was about two miles wide, and we passed it by about four
in the afternoon. Above this scattered bush lay a long steep slope of
boulder-strewn ground, which ran up to the foot of the little peak
some three miles away. As we emerged, footsore and weary, on to this
inhospitable plain, some of the men looking round caught sight of the
spears of Wambe's impi advancing rapidly not more than a mile behind
"At first there was a panic, and the bearers tried to throw off their
loads and run, but I harangued them, calling out to them that
certainly I would shoot the first man who did so and that if they
would but trust in me I would bring them through the mess. Now, ever
since I had killed those three elephants single-handed, I had gained
great influence over these men, and they listened to me. So off we
went as hard as ever we could go--the members of the Alpine Club would
not have been in it with us. We made the boulders burn, as a Frenchman
"When we had done about a mile the spears began to emerge from the
belt of scattered bush, and the whoop of their bearers as they viewed
us broke upon our ears. Quick as our pace had been before, it grew
much quicker now, for terror lent wings to my gallant crew. But they
were sorely tired, and the loads were heavy, so that run, or rather
climb, as we would, Wambe's soldiers, a scrubby-looking lot of men
armed with big spears and small shields, but without plumes, climbed
considerably faster. The last mile of that pleasing chase was like a
fox hunt, we being the fox, and always in view. What astonished me was
the extraordinary endurance and activity shown by Maiwa. She never
even flagged. I think that girl's muscles must have been made of iron,
or perhaps it was the strength of her will that supported her. At any
rate she reached the foot of the peak second, poor Gobo, who was an
excellent hand at running away, being first.
"Presently I came up panting, and glanced at the ascent. Before us was
a wall of rock about one hundred and fifty feet in height, upon which
the strata were laid so as to form a series of projections
sufficiently resembling steps to make the ascent easy, comparatively
speaking, except at one spot, where it was necessary to climb over a
projecting angle of cliff and bear a little to the left. It was not a
really difficult place, but what made it awkward was, that immediately
beneath this projection gaped a deep fissure or donga, on the brink of
which we now stood, originally dug out, no doubt, by the rush of water
from the peak and cliff. This gulf beneath would be trying to the
nerves of a weak-headed climber at the critical point, and so it
proved in the result. The projecting angle once passed, the remainder
of the ascent was very simple. At the summit, however, the brow of the
cliff hung over and was pierced by a single narrow path cut through it
by water, in such fashion that a single boulder rolled into it at the
top would make the cliff quite impassable to men without ropes.
"At this moment Wambe's soldiers were about a thousand yards from us,
so it was evident that we had no time to lose. I at once ordered the
men to commence the ascent, the girl Maiwa, who was familiar with the
pass, going first to show them the way. Accordingly they began to
mount with alacrity, pushing and lifting their loads in front of them.
When the first of them, led by Maiwa, reached the projecting angle,
they put down their loads upon a ledge of rock and clambered over.
Once there, by lying on their stomachs upon a boulder, they could
reach the loads which were held to them by the men beneath, and in
this way drag them over the awkward place, whence they were carried
easily to the top.
"But all of this took time, and meanwhile the soldiers were coming up
fast, screaming and brandishing their big spears. They were now within
about four hundred yards, and several loads, together with all the
tusks, had yet to be got over the rock. I was still standing at the
bottom of the cliff, shouting directions to the men above, but it
occurred to me that it would soon be time to move. Before doing so,
however, I thought that it might be well to try and produce a moral
effect upon the advancing enemy. In my hand I held a Winchester
repeating carbine, but the distance was too great for me to use it
with effect, so I turned to Gobo, who was shivering with terror at my
side, and handing him the carbine, took my express from him.
"The enemy was now about three hundred and fifty yards away, and the
express was only sighted to three hundred. Still I knew that it could
be trusted for the extra fifty yards. Running in front of Wambe's
soldiers were two men--captains, I suppose--one of them very tall. I
put up the three hundred yard flap, and sitting down with my back
against the rock, I drew a long breath to steady myself, and covered
the tall man, giving him a full sight. Feeling that I was on him, I
pulled, and before the sound of the striking bullet could reach my
ears, I saw the man throw up his arms and pitch forward on to his
head. His companion stopped dead, giving me a fair chance. I rapidly
covered him, and fired the left barrel. He turned round once, and then
sank down in a heap. This caused the enemy to hesitate--they had never
seen men killed at such a distance before, and thought that there was
something uncanny about the performance. Taking advantage of the lull,
I gave the express back to Gobo, and slinging the Winchester repeater
over my back I began to climb the cliff.