The Leopard Woman
Stewart Edward White et al
Part 1 out of 5
THE LEOPARD WOMAN
STEWART EDWARD WHITE
Illustrated by W. H. D. Koerner
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. The March
II. The Camp
III. The Rhinoceros
IV. The Stranger
V. The Encounter
VI. The Leopard Woman
VII. The Water Hole
VIII. The Thirst
IX. On the Plateau
X. The _Suliani_
XI. The Ivory Stockade
XII. The Pilocarpin
XIII. The Tropic Moon
XIV. Over the Ranges
XV. The Sharpening of the Spear
XVI. The Murder
XVII. The Darkness
XVIII. The Leopard Woman Changes Her Spots
XIX. The Trial
XX. Kingozi's Ultimatum
XXI. The Messengers
XXII. The Second Messengers
XXIII. The Council of War
XXIV. M'tela's Country
XXVII. The Magic Bone
XXVIII. Simba's Adventure
XXIX. Winkleman's Safari Arrives
XXX. Winkleman Appears
XXXI. Light Again
XXXII. The Colours
"'Go, I say!' cried the Leopard Woman. 'And hold up your head. If this is
suspected of you, you will surely die'" ... _Frontispiece_
"'If you _will_ ride in a hammock, you ought to teach your men to shoot,'
was Kingozi's greeting"
"After the flat crack of the rifle a hollow _plunk_ indicated that the
bullet had told"
"Their eyes were large with curiosity as to this man and woman of a new
species ... Kingozi touched his lips to the _tembo_"
"'Cazi Moto, take this stick and make on the ground marks exactly like
those on the _barua_. Make them deep, so that I may feel them with my
"The search party found Winkleman, very dirty, quite hungry, profoundly
"At the top of the hill the guide stopped and pointed. Kingozi gathered
that through the distant cleft he indicated the strangers must come"
"So intent was the Leopard Woman on the examination and on Kingozi that
she seemed utterly unconscious of the men standing over opposite ... A
more startlingly exotic figure for the wilds of Central Africa could not
THE LEOPARD WOMAN
It was the close of the day. Over the baked veldt of Equatorial Africa a
safari marched. The men, in single file, were reduced to the unimportance
of moving black dots by the tremendous sweep of the dry country stretching
away to a horizon infinitely remote, beyond which lay single mountains,
like ships becalmed hull-down at sea. The immensities filled the world--
the simple immensities of sky and land. Only by an effort, a wrench of the
mind, would a bystander on the advantage, say, of one of the little rocky,
outcropping hills have been able to narrow his vision to details.
And yet details were interesting. The vast shallow cup to the horizon
became a plain sparsely grown with flat-topped thorn trees. It was not a
forest, yet neither was it open country. The eye penetrated the thin
screen of tree trunks to the distance of half a mile or more, but was
brought to a stop at last. Underfoot was hard-baked earth, covered by
irregular patches of shale that tinkled when stepped on. Well-defined
paths, innumerable, trodden deep and hard, cut into the iron soil. They
nearly all ran in a northwesterly direction. The few traversing paths took
a long slant. These paths, so exactly like those crossing a village green,
had in all probability never been trodden by human foot. They had been
made by the game animals, the swarming multitudinous game of Central
The safari was using one of the game trails. It was a compact little
safari, comprising not over thirty men all told. The single white man
walked fifty yards or so ahead of the main body. He was evidently tired,
for his shoulders drooped, and his shuffling, slow-swinging gait would
anywhere have been recognized by children of the wilderness as that which
gets the greatest result from the least effort. Dressed in the brown cork
helmet, the brown flannel shirt with spine-pad, the khaki trousers, and
the light boots of the African traveller little was to be made of either
his face or figure. The former was fully bearded, the latter powerful
across the shoulders. His belt was heavy with little leather pockets; a
pair of prismatic field-glasses, suspended from a strap around his neck,
swung across his chest; in the crook of his left arm he carried a light
Immediately at his heels followed a native. This man's face was in
conformation that of the typical negro; but there the resemblance ceased.
Behind the features glowed a proud, fierce spirit that transformed them.
His head was high but his eyes roved from right to left restlessly, never
still save when they paused for a flickering instant to examine some
gazelle, some distant herd of zebra or wildebeeste standing in the vista
of the flat-topped trees. His nostrils slowly expanded and contracted with
his breathing, as do those of a spirited horse. In contrast to the gait of
the white man he stepped vigorously and proudly as though the long day had
not touched his strength. He wore a battered old felt hat, a tattered
flannel shirt, a ragged pair of shorts, and the blue puttees issued by the
British to their native troops. The straps of two canteens crossed on his
breast; a full cartridge belt encircled his waist; he carried lightly and
easily one of those twelve-pound double cordite rifles that constitute the
only African life insurance.
Fifty yards in the rear marched the carriers. They were a straight, strong
lot, dressed according to their fancy or opportunity in the cast-off
garments of the coast; comical in the ensemble, perhaps, but worthy of
respect in that all day each had carried a seventy-pound load under a
tropical sun, and that they were coming in strong.
And finally, bringing up the rear, marched a small, lively, wizened little
fellow, dressed as nearly as possible like the white man, and carrying as
the badge of his office a bulging cotton umbrella and the _kiboko_--the
slender, limber, stinging rhinoceros-hide whip.
It was the end of a long march. This could be guessed by the hour, by the
wearied slouch of the white man, above all by the conduct of the safari.
The men were walking one on the heels of the other. Their burdens, carried
on their heads, held them erect. They stepped out freely. But against the
wooden chop boxes, the bags of cornmeal _potio_, the bundles of canvas
that made up some of the loads, the long safari sticks went _tap, tap,
tap_, in rhythm. This tapping was a steady undertone to the volume of
noise that arose from thirty throats. Every man was singing or shouting at
the full strength of his lungs. A little file of Wakamba sung in unison
one of the weird wavering minor chants peculiar to savage peoples
everywhere; some Kavirondos simply howled in staccato barks like beasts.
Between the extremes were many variations; but every man contributed to
the uproar, and tapped his load rhythmically with his long stick. By this
the experienced traveller would have known that the men were very tired,
tired to the point of exhaustion; for the more wearied the Central African
native, or the steeper the hill he, laden, must surmount, the louder he
sings or yells.
"_Maji hapana m'bale, bwana_," observed the gun bearer to the white man.
"Water is not far, master."
The white man merely nodded. These two had been together many years, and
explanations were not necessary between them. He, as well as Simba, had
noticed the gradual convergence of the game trails, the presence of small
grass birds that flushed under their feet, the sing-sing buck behind the
aloes, the increasing numbers of game animals that stared or fled at the
sight and sound of the safari.
Nothing more was said. The way led to the top of one of those low
transverse swells that conceal the middle distance without actually
breaking the surface of the veldt. In the corresponding depression beyond
now could be discerned a wandering slender line of green.
"_Maji huko!_" murmured Simba. "There is the water."
Suddenly he stooped low, uttering a peculiar hissing sound. The white man,
too, dropped to the ground, throwing his rifle forward.
"_Nyama, bwana!_" he whispered fiercely, "_karibu sana!_"
He pointed cautiously over the white man's shoulder. The safari, at the
sight of the two dropping to a crouch, had stopped as though petrified,
and stood waiting in silence.
"We have no meat," Simba reminded his master in Swahili.
The white man eased himself back to a sitting posture, resting his elbows
on his knees, as all sensible good rifle shots do when they have the
chance. Simba, his eyes glowing fiercely, staring with almost hypnotic
intensity over his master's shoulder, quivered like an eager dog.
"Hah!" he grunted as the loud spat of the bullet followed the rifle's
crack. "_Na kamata_--he has it!" he added as the wildebeeste plunged into
The hunter manipulated the bolt to throw in a new cartridge, but did not
shift his position. In less remote countries the sportsman, unlimited in
ammunition but restricted in chances, would probably have pumped in four
or five shots until the quarry was down. The traveller and Simba watched
closely, with expert eyes, to determine whether a precious second
cartridge should be expended.
"Where?" asked the white man briefly.
"Low in the shoulder," replied Simba.
The wildebeeste plunged wildly here and there, kicking, bucking, menacing
the unseen danger with his horns. For several seconds longer the two
watched, then rose leisurely to their feet. Simba motioned to the waiting
safari, who, correctly interpreting the situation, broke into a trot. Both
Simba and his master knew that had the animal not received a mortal wound
it would before this have whirled to look back. The fact that it still ran
proved its extremity. Sure enough, within the hundred yards it suddenly
plunged forward on its nose, rolled over, and lay still.
The fierce countenance of the gun bearer lit up in triumph. He shifted the
heavy rifle and reached out to touch the lighter weapon resting again in
the crook of his master's arm.
"_Nyama Yangu! Nyama Yangu!_" he murmured. That was Simba's name for the
light rifle that did most of the shooting. The words meant simply "my
meat." Simba had a name for everything from the sheath knife of his office
to the white man himself. Indeed Culbertson in the Central countries was
Culbertson to none. Should you inquire for news of him by that name news
you could not obtain; but of Bwana Kingozi you might learn from many
tribes and peoples.
But now the safari, topping the hill, swept down with a rapid fire of
safari sticks against the loads and a chorus whose single word was
Simba was already at the carcass, _Kisu M'kubwa_, his thin-bladed knife,
in his hand. The men eased their loads to the ground, and stood about with
eagerly gleaming eyes, as would well-trained dogs in like circumstances.
Simba briefly indicated the three nearest to act as his assistants. The
wildebeeste was rapidly skinned and as rapidly dismembered, the meat laid
aside. Only once did the white man speak or manifest the slightest
"_Sarrara indani yangu_--the tenderloin is mine."
The wizened little headman with the umbrella and the _kiboko_, who
answered to the name of Cazi Moto, stepped forward and took charge of the
indicated delicacy. Soon all was ready for a resumption of the march.
Nothing was left of the wildebeeste save the head and the veriest offal.
The stomach and intestines, even, had been emptied of their contents and
packed away in the hide.
Already the carrion birds had gathered in incredible numbers. The sky was
full of them circling; an encompassing ring of them sat a scant fifty
yards distant, their wings held half out from their bodies, as though they
felt overheated. And in the low bushes could be discerned the lurking,
furtive, shadowy jackals.
The men were laughing, their weariness forgotten. Maulo, the camp
humourist, declaimed loudly at the top of his lungs, mocking the
marabouts, the buzzards, the vultures great and small, the kites and the
"Go to the lion," he cried, "he kills much, and leaves. Little meat will
you get here. We keep what we get!"
And the men broke into meaningless but hearty laughter, as though at
But Bwana Kingozi's low voice cut across the merriment.
"_Bandika!_" he commanded.
And immediately Cazi Moto and Simba took up the cry.
"_Bandika! bandika! bandika!_" they vociferated over and over. Cazi Moto
moved here and there, lively as a cricket, his eyes alert for any
indication of slackness, his _kiboko_ held threateningly.
But there was no need for the latter. The men willingly enough swung aloft
their loads, now augmented by the meat, and the little caravan moved on.
Scarcely had Cazi Moto, bringing up the rear, quitted the scene when the
carrion birds swooped. They fell from the open sky like plummets, their
wings half folded. When within ten feet of the ground they checked their
fall with pinion and tail, and the sound of them was like the roar of a
cataract. Those seated on the ground moved forward in a series of ungainly
hops, trying for more haste by futile urgings of their wings. Where the
wildebeeste had fallen was a writhing, flopping, struggling brown mass. In
an incredibly brief number of seconds it was all over. The birds withdrew.
Some sat disgruntled and humpbacked in the low trees; some merely hopped
away a few yards to indulge in gloomy thoughts. A few of the more
ambitious rose heavily and laboriously with strenuous beating of pinions,
finally to soar grandly away into the infinities of the African sky. Of
the wildebeeste remained only a trampled bloody space and bones picked
clean. The jackals crept forward at last. So brief a time did all this
occupy that Maulo, looking back, saw them.
"Ho, little dogs!" he cried with one of his great empty laughs; "your
stomachs will go hollow but you can fill your noses!"
They tramped on steadily toward the low narrow line of green trees, and
the sun sank toward the hills.
The game trails converged at a point where the steep, eroded bank had been
broken down into an approach to a pool. The dust was deep here, and arose
in a cloud as a little band of zebra scrambled away. The borders of this
pool were a fascinating palimpsest: the tracks of many sorts of beast had
been impressed there in the mud. Both Kingozi and Simba examined them with
an approach to interest, though to an observer the examination would have
seemed but the most casual of glances. They saw the indications of zebra,
wildebeeste, hartebeeste, gazelles of various sorts, the deep, round,
well-like prints of the rhinoceros, and all the other usual inhabitants of
the veldt. But over these their eyes passed lightly. Only three things
could here interest these seasoned African travellers. Simba espied one of
them, and pointed it out, just at the edge of the narrow border of softer
"There is the lion," said he. "A big one. He was here this morning. But no
buffalo, _bwana_; and no elephant."
The water in the pool was muddy and foul. Thousands of animals drank from
it daily; and after drinking had stood or wallowed in it. The flavour
would be rich of the barnyard, which even a strong infusion of tea could
not disguise. _Kingozi_ had often been forced to worse; but here he hoped
The safari had dumped down the loads at the top of the bank, and were
resting in utter relaxation. The march was over, and they waited.
Bwana Kingozi threw off the carefully calculated listless slouch that had
conserved his strength for an unknown goal. His work was not yet done.
"Simba," he directed, "go that way, down the river and look for another
pool--of good water. Take the big rifle."
[Footnote 1: Every watercourse with any water at all, even in occasional
pools, is _m'to_--a river--in Africa.]
"And I to go in the other direction?" asked Cazi Moto.
Bwana Kingozi considered, glancing at the setting sun, and again up the
dry stream-bed where, as far as the eye could reach, were no more
indications of water.
"No," he decided. "It is late. Soon the lions will be hunting. I will go."
The men sprawled in abandon. After an interval a shrill whistle sounded
from the direction in which Bwana Kingozi had disappeared. The men
stretched and began to rise to their feet slowly. The short rest had
stiffened them and brought home the weariness to their bones. They
grumbled and muttered, and only the omnipresence of Cazi Moto and the
threat of his restless whip roused them to activity. Down the stream they
Kingozi stood waiting near the edge of the bank. The thicket here was very
"Water there," he briefly indicated. "The big tent here; the opening in
that direction. Cook fire over there. Loads here."
The men who had been standing, the burdens still on their heads, moved
forward. The tent porter--who, by the way, was the strongest and most
reliable of the men, so that always, even on a straggling march, the tent
would arrive first--threw it down at the place selected and at once began
to undo the cords. The bearers of the kitchen, who were also reliable
travellers, set about the cook camp.
A big Monumwezi unstrapped a canvas chair, unfolded it, and placed it near
his master. The other loads were arranged here, in a certain long-ordained
order; the meat piled there. Several men then went to the assistance of
Mali-ya-bwana, the tent bearer; and the others methodically took up
various tasks. Some began with their _pangas_ to hew a way to the water
through the dense thicket that had kept it sweet; others sought firewood;
still others began to pitch the tiny drill tents--each to accommodate six
men--in a wide circle of which the pile of loads was the centre. As the
men fell into the ordered and habitual routine their sullenness and
Kingozi dropped into the canvas chair, fumbled for a pipe, filled and
lighted it. With a sigh of relief he laid aside his cork helmet. The day
had not only been a hard one, but an anxious one, for this country was new
to every member of the little expedition, native guides had been
impossible to procure, and the chances of water had been those of an arid
The removal of the helmet for the first tune revealed the man's features.
A fine brow, upstanding thick and wavy hair, and the clearest of gray eyes
suddenly took twenty years from the age at first made probable by the
heavy beard. With the helmet pulled low this was late middle age; now
bareheaded it was only bearded youth. Nevertheless at the corners of the
eyes were certain wrinkles, and in the eyes themselves a direct competent
steadiness that was something apart from the usual acquisition of youth,
something the result of experience not given to most.
He smoked quietly, his eye wandering from one point to another of the new-
born camp's activities. One after another the men came to report the
completion of their tasks.
"_Pita ya maji tayiari_," said Sanguiki coming from the new-made water
"_I zuru_," approved Kingozi.
"_Hema tayiari_," reported Simba, reaching his hand for the light rifle.
Kingozi glanced toward the tent and nodded. A licking little fire
flickered in the cook camp. The tiny porter's tents had completed their
circle, and in front of each new smoke was beginning to rise. Cazi Moto
glided up and handed him the _kiboko_, the rhinoceros-hide whip, the
symbol of authority. Everything was in order.
The white man rose a little stiffly and walked over to the pile of meat.
For a moment he examined it contemplatively, aroused himself with an
apparent effort, and began to separate it into four piles. He did not
handle the meat himself, but silently indicated each portion with his
_kiboko_, and Simba or Cazi Moto swiftly laid it aside.
"This for the gun-bearer camp," commanded Kingozi, touching with his foot
the heavy "backstraps" and the liver--the next choicest bits after
tenderloin. He raised his voice.
"Kavirondo!" he called.
Several tall, well-formed black savages of this tribe arose from one of
the little fires and approached. The white man indicated one of the piles
"Wakamba!" he summoned; then "Monumwezi"; and finally "Baganda!"
Thus the four tribes represented in his caravan were supplied. The men
returned to their fires, and began the preparation of their evening meal.
Kingozi turned to his own tent with a sigh of relief. Within it a cot had
been erected, blankets spread. An officer's tin box stood open at one end.
On the floor was a portable canvas bath. While the white man was divesting
himself of his accoutrements, Cazi Moto entered bearing a galvanized pail
full of hot water which he poured into the tub. He disappeared only to
return with a pail of cold water to temper the first.
"Bath is ready, _bwana_," said he, and retired, carefully tying the tent
flaps behind him.
Fifteen minutes later Kingozi emerged. He wore now a suit of pajamas
tucked into canvas "mosquito boots," with very thin soles. He looked
scrubbed and clean, the sheen of water still glistening on his thick wavy
The canvas camp chair had been placed before two chop boxes piled one atop
the other to form a crude table on which were laid eating utensils. As
soon as Cazi Moto saw that his master was ready, he brought the meal. It
consisted simply of a platter of curry composed of rice and the fresh meat
that had been so recently killed that it had not time to get tough. This
was supplemented by bread and tea in a tall enamelware vessel known as a
_balauri_. From the simplicity of this meal one experienced would have
deduced--even had he not done so from a dozen other equally significant
nothings--that this was no sporting excursion, but an expedition grimly in
earnest about something.
The sun had set, and almost immediately the darkness descended, as though
the light had been turned off at a switch. The earth shrunk to a pool of
blackness, and the heavens expanded to a glory of tropical stars. All
visible nature contracted to the light thrown by the flickering fires
before the tiny white tents. The tatterdemalion crew had, after the
curious habit of Africans, cast aside its garments, and sat forth in a
bronze and savage nakedness. All day long under the blistering sun your
safari man will wear all that he hath, even unto the heavy overcoat
discarded by the latest arrival from England's winter; but when the chill
of evening descends, then he strips happily. The men were fed now, and
were content. A busy chatter, the crooning of songs, laughter, an
occasional shout testified to this. A general relaxation took the camp.
The white man finished his meal and lighted his pipe. Even yet his day's
work was not quite done, and he was unwilling to yield himself to rest
until all tasks were cleared away.
"Cazi Moto!" he called.
Instantly, it seemed, the headman stood at his elbow.
"To-morrow," said Kingozi deliberately, and paused in decision so long
that Cazi Moto ventured a "Yes, _bwana_."
"To-morrow we rest here. It will be your _cazi_ (duty) to find news of the
next water, or to find the water. See if there are people in this country.
Take one man with you. Let the men rest and eat."
"Are there sick?"
"Let them come."
Cazi Moto raised his voice.
"_N'gonjwa!_" he summoned them.
Kingozi looked at them in silence for a moment.
"What is the matter with you?" he asked of the first, a hulking, stupid-
looking Kavirondo with the muscles of a Hercules.
The man replied, addressing Cazi Moto, as is etiquette; and although
Kingozi understood perfectly, he awaited his headman's repetition of the
speech as though the Kavirondo had spoken a strange language.
"Fever, eh?" commented Kingozi aloud to himself, for the first time
speaking his own tongue. "We'll soon see. Cazi Moto," he instructed in
Swahili, "the medicine."
He thrust a clinical thermometer beneath the Kavirondo's tongue, glancing
at a wrist watch as he did so.
"Cazi Moto," he said calmly after three minutes, "this man is a liar. He
is not sick; he merely wants to get out of carrying a load."
The Kavirondo, his eyes rolling, shot forth a torrent of language.
"He says," Cazi Moto summarized all this, "that he was very sick, but that
this medicine"--indicating the thermometer--"cured him."
"He lies again," said Kingozi. "This is not medicine, but magic that tells
me when a man has uttered lies. This man must beware or he will get
The Kavirondo scuttled away, and Kingozi gave his attention to the second
patient. This man had an infected leg that required some minor surgery.
When the job was over and Kingozi had washed his hands, he relighted his
pipe and sat back in his chair with a sigh of content. The immediate
foreground sank below his consciousness. He stared across the flickering
fires at the velvet blackness; listened across the intimate, idle noise of
the camp to the voice of the veldt.
For with the fall of darkness and the larger silence of darkness, the
veldt awoke. Animals that had dozed through the hot hours and grazed
through the cooler hours in somnolent content now quivered alert. There
were runnings here and there, the stamp of hoofs, sharp snortings as taut
nerves stretched. Zebras uttered the absurd small-dog barks peculiar to
them; ostriches boomed; jackals yapped; unknown birds uttered hasty wild
calls. Numerous hyenas, near and far away, moaned like lost souls. Kingozi
listened as to the voice of an old acquaintance telling familiar things;
the men chattered on, their whole attention within the globe of light from
But suddenly the noise stopped as though it had been cut by a knife. Total
silence fell on the little encampment. The men, their various actions
suspended, listened intently. From far away, apparently, a low, vibrating
rumble stole out of the night's immensity. It rose and seemed to draw
near, growing hollow and great, until the very ground seemed to tremble as
though a heavy train were passing, or the lower notes of a great organ had
been played in a little church. And then it died down, and receded to the
great distance again, and was ended by three low, grunting coughs.
The veldt was silent. The zebra barkings were still; the night birds had
hushed; the hyenas and jackals and all the other night creatures down--it
almost seemed--to the very insects had ceased their calls and cries and
chirpings. One might imagine every living creature rigid, alert,
listening, as were these men about the little fires.
The tension relaxed. The men dropped more fuel on the fires, coaxing the
flame brighter. A whispering comment rose from group to group.
"_Simba! simba! simba!_" they hissed one to the other.
A lion had roared!
In the first gray dusk Simba and Cazi Moto slipped away on the errands
appointed for them--to find people and to find water, if possible. The
cook camp, too, was afoot, dark figures passing and repassing before a
fire. But the rest of the men slept heavily, seizing the unwonted chance.
When the first rays of the sun struck the fly of the small green master's-
tent Kingozi appeared, demanding water wherewith to wash. At the sound of
his voice men stirred sleepily, sat up, poked the remains of their tiny
fires. As though through an open tap the freshness of night-time drained
away. The hot, searching, stifling African day took possession of the
After breakfast Kingozi looked about him for shelter. A gorgeous, red-
flowering vine had smothered one of the flat-topped thorn trees in its
luxuriance. The growths of successive years had overlaid each other.
Kingozi called two men with _pangas_ who speedily cut out the centre,
leaving a little round green room in the heart of the shadow. Thither
Kingozi caused to be conveyed his chop-box table, his canvas chair, and
his tin box; and there he spent the entire morning writing in a blank book
and carefully drawing from field notes in a pocketbook a sketch map of the
country he had traversed. At noon he ate a light meal of bread, plain rice
with sugar, and a _balauri_ of tea. Then for a time he slept beneath the
mosquito bar in his tent.
At this hour of fiercest sun the whole world slept with him. From the
baked earth rose heat waves almost as tangible as gauze veils. Objects at
a greater distance than a hundred yards took on strange distortions. The
thorn trees shot up to great heights; animals stood on stilts; the tops of
the hills were flattened, and from their summits often reached out into
space long streamers. Sometimes these latter joined across wide intervals,
creating an illusion of natural bridges or lofty flat-topped cliffs with
holes clear through them to the open sky beyond. All these things
shimmered and flickered and wavered in the mirage of noon. Only the sun
itself stared clear and unchanging.
At about two o'clock Kingozi awoke and raised his voice. Mali-ya-bwana,
next in command after Cazi Moto and Simba, answered.
"Get the big gun," he was told, "and the water bottles."
Mali-ya-bwana was not a professed gun bearer, but he could load, and
Kingozi believed him staunch. Therefore, often, in absence of Simba, the
big Baganda had been pressed into this service.
The blasting heat was fiercest at this hour. The air was saturated by it
just as water may hold a chemical in solution. Every little while a wave
would beat against the cheek as though a furnace door had been opened.
Nevertheless Kingozi knew that this was also the hour when the sun's power
begins to decline; when the vertical rays begin to give place. For it is
not heat that kills, but the actinic power of rays unfiltered by a long
slant through the earth's atmosphere.
The two men tramped methodically along, paying little attention to their
surroundings. Game dozed everywhere beneath the scanty shade, sometimes
singly, sometimes in twos or threes, sometimes in herds. Motionless they
stood; and often, were it not for the switch of a tail, they would have
remained unobserved. Even the sentinel hartebeestes, posted atop high ant
hills on the outskirts of the herds, seemed half asleep. Nevertheless they
were awake enough for the job, as was evidenced when the two human figures
came too near. Then a snort brought every creature to its feet, staring.
The objective of the men seemed to be a rise of land which the lessening
mirage now permitted to appear as a small kopje, a solitary hill with
rocky outcrops. Toward this they plodded methodically: Kingozi slouching
ahead, Mali-ya-bwana close at his heels, very proud of his temporary
promotion from the ranks. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. At the signal
Kingozi stopped and looked back inquiringly over his shoulder.
Mali-ya-bwana was pointing cautiously to a low red clay ant hill
immediately in their path and about thirty yards ahead. To the casual
glance it looked no different from any of the hundreds of others of like
size and colour everywhere to be seen. Kingozi's attention, however, now
narrowed to a smaller circle than the casual. It did not need Mali-ya-
bwana's whispered "_faru_" (rhinoceros) to identify the mound.
Cautiously the two men began to back away. When they had receded some
twenty yards, however, the huge beast leaped to its feet. The rapidity of
its movements was extraordinary. There intervened none of the slow and
clumsy upheaval one would naturally expect from an animal of so massive a
body and such short, thick legs. One moment it slumbered, the next it was
afoot, warned by some slight sound or jar of the earth or--as some
maintain--by a telepathic sense of danger. Certainly, as far as they knew,
neither Kingozi nor Mali-ya-bwana had disturbed a pebble or broken a twig.
The rhinoceros faced them, snorting loudly. The sound was exactly that of
steam roaring from a locomotive's safety valve. Strangely enough, in spite
of the massive structure and the loose, thick skin of the beast, it
conveyed an impression of taut, nervous muscles. Though it faced directly
toward them, the men knew that they were as yet unseen. The rhinoceros'
eyesight is very short, or very circumscribed, or both; and only objects
in motion and comparatively close enter its range of vision. Kingozi and
his man held themselves rigidly immovable, waiting for what would happen.
The rhinoceros, too, held himself rigidly immovable, his nostrils dilating
between snorts, his ears turning; for his senses of smell and hearing made
up in their keenness for the defects of his eyes.
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, he stuck his tail perpendicular
and plunged forward at a clumsy-looking but exceedingly swift gallop.
An inexperienced man would have considered himself the object of a
deliberate "charge"; but an old African traveller, such as Kingozi, knew
this for a blind rush in the direction toward which the animal happened to
be headed. The rhinoceros, alarmed by the first intimation of danger,
unable to get further news from its keener senses, had been seized by a
panic. Were nothing to deflect him from the straight line, he would
continue ahead on it until the panic had run out.
But the two men were exactly in that line!
Kingozi hitched his light rifle forward imperceptibly. Although this was
at present only a blind rush, should the rhinoceros catch sight of them he
would fight; and within twenty-five yards or so his eyesight would be
quite good enough. As the beast did not slow up in the first ten yards,
but rather settled into its stride, Kingozi took rapid aim and fired.
His intention was neither to kill nor to cripple his antagonist. If that
had been the case, he would have used the heavy double rifle that Mali-ya-
bwana held ready near his elbow. The bullet inflicted a slight flesh wound
in the outer surface of the beast's left shoulder. Kingozi instantly
passed the light rifle back with his right hand, at the same motion
seizing the double rifle with his left.
But at the _spat_ of the bullet the rhino veered toward the direction from
which it seemed to his stupid brain the hurt had come. Tail erect, he
thundered away down the slope.
For a hundred yards he careered full speed, then slowed to a trot, finally
stopped, whirled, and faced to a new direction. The sound of his blowing
came clearly across the intervening distance.
A low bush grew near. The rhino attacked this savagely, horning it,
trampling it down. The dust arose in clouds. Then the huge brute trotted
slowly away, still snorting angrily, pausing to butt violently the larger
trees, or to tear into shreds some bush or ant hill that loomed
dangerously in the primeval fogs of his brain.
"Sorry, old chap," commented Kingozi in his own language, "but you're none
the worse. Only I'm afraid your naturally sweet temper is spoiled for to-
day, at least."
He turned to exchange guns with Mali-ya-bwana.
"_N'dio, bwana_," assented the latter to a speech of which he understood
not one word. Mali-ya-bwana was secretly a little proud of himself for
having stuck like a gun bearer, instead of shinning up a thorn tree like a
Kingozi slipped a cartridge into the rifle, and the two resumed their walk
toward the kopje.
By the time the two men had gained the top of the hill the worst heat of
the day had passed. Kingozi seated himself on a flat rock and at once
began to take sights through a prismatic compass, entering the
observations in a pocketbook. Mali-ya-bwana, bolt upright, stared out over
the thinly wooded plain below. He reported the result of his scouting in a
low voice, to which the white man paid no attention whatever.
"_Twiga bwana_," he said, and then, as his eye caught the flash of many
sing-sing horns, "_kuru, mingi_." Thus he named over the different
animals--the topi, the red hartebeeste, the eland, zebra, some warthogs,
and many others. The beasts were anticipating the cool of the afternoon,
and were grazing slowly out from beneath the trees, scattering abroad over
[Footnote 2: Giraffe.]
From even this slight elevation the outlook extended. Isolated mountain
ranges showed loftier; the tops of unguessed hills peeped above the curve
of the earth; the clear line of the horizon had receded to the outer
confines of terrestrial space, but even then not far enough to touch the
cup of the sky. Elsewhere the heavens meet the horizon: in Africa they lie
beyond it, so that when the round, fleecy clouds of the Little Rains sail
down the wind there is always a fleet of them beyond the earth
disappearing into the immensities of the infinite. There is space in
African skies beyond the experience of those who have dwelt only in other
lands. They dwarf the earth; and the plains and mountains, lying in weeks'
journeys spread before the eye, dwarf all living things, so that at the
last the man of imagination here becomes a humble creature.
For an hour the two remained on top the kopje. The details of the unknown
country ahead, toward which Kingozi gave his attention, were simple. From
the green line of the watercourse, near which the camp showed white and
tiny, the veldt swept away for miles almost unbroken. Here and there were
tiny parklike openings of clear grass; here and there more kopjes standing
isolated and alone, like fortresses. Far down over the edge of the world
showed dim and blue the tops of a short range of mountains. Vainly did
Kingozi sweep his glasses over the landscape in hope of another line of
green. No watercourse was visible. On the other hand, the scattered growth
of thorn trees showed no signs of thickening to the dense spiky jungle
that is one of the terrors of African travel. There might be a watercourse
hidden in the folds of the earth; there might be a rainwater "tank," or a
spring, on any of the kopjes. Simba and Cazi Moto were both experienced,
and capable of a long round trip. The problem of days' journeys was not
pressing at this moment. Kingozi noted the compass bearings of all the
kopjes; took back sights in the direction from which he had come; closed
his compass; and began idly to sweep the country with his glasses. In an
unwonted mood of expansion he turned to Mali-ya-bwana.
"We go there," he told the porter, indicating the blue mountain-tops.
"It is far," Mali-ya-bwana replied.
Kingozi continued to look through his glasses. Suddenly he stopped them on
an open plain three or four miles back in the direction from which he had
come the day before. Mali-ya-bwana followed his gaze.
"A safari, _bwana_," he observed, unmoved. "A very large safari," he
amended, after a moment.
Through his prismatic glasses Kingozi could see every detail plainly.
After his fashion of talking aloud, he reported what he saw, partly to the
black man at his side, but mostly to himself.
"_Askaris_," he said, "six of them. The man rides in a _machele_--he
is either a German or a Portuguese; only those people use _macheles_--
unless he is sick! Many porters--four are no more white men. More
_askaris!_" He smiled a little contemptuously under his beard. "This is a
great safari, Mali-ya-bwana. Four tin boxes and twelve _askaris_ to guard
them; and eighty or more porters; and sixteen men just to carry the
_machele!_ This must be a _Bwana M' Kubwa_."
[Footnote 3: Native troops, armed with Snider muskets.]
[Footnote 4: A hammock slung on a long pole, and carried by four men at
"That is what Kavirondos might think," replied Mali-ya-bwana calmly.
Kingozi looked up at him with a new curiosity.
"But not yourself?"
"A man who is a _Bwana M'kubwa_ does not have to be carried. He does not
need _askaris_ to guard him in this country. And where can he get _potio_
for so many?"
"Hullo!" cried Kingozi, surprised. "This is not porter's talk; this is
"In my own country I am headman of many people," replied Mali-ya-bwana
with a flash of pride.
"Yet you carry my tent load."
But Mali-ya-bwana made no reply, fixing his fierce eyes on the distant
"It must be a sportsman's safari," said Kingozi, this time to himself,
"though what a sportsman wants in this back-of-beyond is a fair conundrum.
Probably one of these chappies with more money than sense: wants to go
somewhere nobody else has been, and can't go there without his caviare and
his changes of clothes, and about eight guns--not to speak of a Complete
Sportsman's Outfit as advertised exclusively by some Cockney Tom Fool on
He contemplated a problem frowningly. "Whoever it is will be a nuisance--a
_damn_ nuisance!" he concluded.
"_N'dio, bwana_," came Mali-ya-bwana's cheerful response to this speech in
a language strange to him.
"You have asked a true question," Kingozi shifted to Swahili. "Where is
_potio_ to be had for so large a safari? Trouble--much trouble!" He arose
from the flat stone. "We will go and talk with this safari."
At an angle calculated to intercept the caravan, Kingozi set off down the
After twenty minutes' brisk walk it became evident that they were
approaching the route of march. Animals fled past them in increasing
numbers, some headlong, others at a dignified and leisurely gait, as
though performing a duty. The confused noise of many people became audible
and the tapping of safari sticks against the loads.
At the edge of a tiny opening Kingozi, concealed behind a bush, reviewed
the new arrivals at close range, estimating each element on which a
judgment could be based. As usual, he thought aloud, muttering his
speculations sometimes in his own language, sometimes in the equally
"_Askaris_ not _pukha askaris_ of the government. Those are not Sniders
they carry--don't know that kind of musket. Those boxes are not the usual
type--wonder where they were bought!"
[Footnote 5: Genuine--regular.]
The hammock came into view, swinging on the long pole. It was borne by
four men at each end--experienced _machele_ carriers who would keep step
with a gentle gliding. Eight more walked alongside as relay. They would
change places so skilfully that the occupant of the hammock could not have
told when the shift took place. Alongside walked a tall, bareheaded, very
black man. Kingozi's experienced eye was caught by differences.
"Of what tribe is that man?" he asked.
But Mali-ya-bwana was also puzzled.
"I do not know, bwana. He is a _shenzi_."
[Footnote 6: Wild Man.]
The unknown was very tall, very straight, most well formed. But his face
was extraordinarily ugly. His flat, wide nose, thick lips, and small
yellow eyes were set off by an upstanding mop of hair. His expression was
of extraordinary fierceness. He walked with a free and independent stride,
and carried a rifle.
"He is not of this country. He is from the west coast, or perhaps Nubia or
the Sudan," was Kingozi's conclusion.
"Many of these people are _shenzis_," Mali-ya-bwana pursued his own
"That is true," Kingozi acknowledged. "If this is a sportsman, from what
part did he hail to have got together this lot! We will see."
As the swinging hammock came opposite his concealment, Kingozi stepped
Every one in sight looked in his direction, but none showed any
astonishment at this apparition out of the wilderness. The sophisticated
African has ceased to be surprised at anything a white man may do. If he
can make fire by rubbing a tiny stick _once_, why should he not do
anything under heaven he wants to? A locomotive, an automobile, a flying
machine are miracles, but no less--and no greater--than ordinary matches.
Once admit the ability to transcend natural laws, once admit the
possibility of miracles, why be surprised at anything? If a white man
chose to appear thus in an unknown country, why not? If he chose again to
vanish into thin air, again why not? Only the fierce-looking savage
carrying the rifle rolled his eyes uneasily.
But at this precise moment a diversion on the opposite side of the line
attracted attention enough. A galvanic shiver ran down the string of
porters, succeeded at once by a crashing of loads cast hastily to the
ground. With unanimity the bearers swarmed across the little open space
toward and to either side of Kingozi and his attendant. Reaching the
fringe of flat-topped trees they sprang into the low branches, heedless of
the long thorns, and scrambled aloft until at least partially concealed. A
few of the bolder members lurked behind the trunks, but held themselves
ready for an instant ascent. From a hundred throats arose a confused cry
of "_Faru! Faru!_"
Not joining this first flight remained only the _askaris_, the eight men
bearing the hammock, and the tall Nubian. Of these the _askaris_ were far
ahead and to the rear; the hammock bearers were decidedly panicky; only
the Nubian seemed cool and self-possessed. The occupant of the hammock
thrust out a foot to descend.
But before this could be accomplished a rhinoceros burst fully into view
across the open space. His tail was up, he was snorting loudly, and he
headed straight for the hammock. That was large, moving, and directly in
his line of vision. The sight was too much for the bearers. With a howl
they dropped the pole and streaked it to join their brothers in the thorn
trees. The pole and the canopy of the hammock tangled inextricably its
A ragged volley from the muskets of the _askaris_ merely seemed to add to
the confusion. With great coolness the Nubian discharged first one barrel
then the other of the heavy rifle he carried. The recoil, catching him in
a bad posture, knocked him backward. The bullets kicked up a tremendous
dust part way between himself and the charging beast. He was now without
defence. Nevertheless he stepped in front of the entangled struggling
figure on the ground.
Before the appearance of the rhinoceros into the open Kingozi had
exchanged rifles, and stood at the ready. He was a good hundred yards from
the hammock. Even in the rush of events he, characteristically, found time
for comments, although they did not in the least interfere with his rapid
"Hope they don't wing one another," he remarked of the _askaris'_ volley.
"Rotten shooting! rotten!" as the Nubian stood his ground. At the same
time he pushed forward the safety catch and threw the heavy rifle to his
A charging rhinoceros--or one rushing near enough a man's direction to be
dangerous--is not a difficult problem. Given nerve enough, and barring
accidents--which might happen in a London flat--a man is in no danger. If
he opens fire too soon, indeed, he is likely to empty his weapon without
inflicting a stopping wound, but if he will wait until the beast is within
twenty yards or so, the affair is certain. For this reason: just before a
rhinoceros closes, he drops his head low in order to bring his long horn
into action. If the hunter fires then, over the horn, he will strike the
beast's backbone. The shot can hardly be missed, for the range is very
close and the outstanding flanges of the vertebrae make a large mark. The
formidable animal goes down like a stone. In country open enough to
preclude the deadly close-at-hand surprise rush, where one has no chance
to use his weapon at all, the rhinoceros is not dangerous to one who knows
But in this case Kingozi was nearer a hundred and twenty than twenty yards
from the animal. The mark to be hit was now very small; and it was moving.
In addition the heavy double rifle, while accurate enough at that range,
was not, owing to its weight and terrific recoil, as certain as a lighter
rifle. These things Kingozi knew perfectly. The muscles under his beard
tightened; his gray eyes widened into a glare like that of Simba in sight
Just before the rhinoceros dropped his head for the toss, the Nubian
stepped directly into the line of fire.
"_Lala!_--lie down!" Kingozi shouted.
Somehow the whip-snap of authority in his voice reached the Nubian's
consciousness. He dropped flat, and almost instantly the white man fired.
At the roar of the great gun the rhinoceros collapsed in mid career, going
down, as an animal always does under a successful spine shot, completely,
without a struggle or even a quiver.
"That was well shot, master," said Mali-ya-bwana.
Kingozi reloaded the rifle and started forward. At the same time the
occupant of the hammock finally emerged from the tangle and came erect.
Kingozi saw a tall figure without a coat, dressed in brown shirt, riding
breeches, and puttees. The Nubian had retrieved a spilled sun helmet even
before the stranger had scrambled erect, so the head and face were
invisible. Kingozi's countenance did not change, but a faint contempt
appeared in his eyes. The first impression conveyed by the numbers of the
tin boxes and their bearers and escort had been deepened. Why? Because the
riding breeches were of that exaggerated cut sometimes actually to be seen
outside tailor's advertisements. They were gathered trimly around an
effeminately slender waist, and then ballooned out to an absurd width,
only to contract again skin tight around the knees.
"_M'buzi!_" grunted Kingozi, applying to the stranger the superlative of
Swahili contempt. He did not know he spoke aloud; for it is not well for
one white man to criticise another to a native. But Mali-ya-bwana replied.
"_Bibi_," he corrected.
Kingozi stared. "By Jove, you're right!" he exclaimed in English. "It _is_
a woman!" He burst into an unexpected laugh. "It isn't balloon breeches;
it's _hips!_" he cried. This correction seemed to him singularly humorous.
He approached her, laughing.
It was evidently an angry woman, to judge by her gestures and the
deprecating attitude of the Nubian. Kingozi surmised that she probably did
not fancy being dumped down incontinently before an angry rhinoceros.
After a moment, however, her attitude lost its rigidity, she gestured
toward the dead monster, evidently commending the savage. He shook his
head and motioned in Kingozi's direction. The woman turned, showing an
Kingozi was now close up. He saw before him a personality. Physically she
was beautiful or not, according as one accepted conventional standards.
The dress she wore revealed fully the fact that she had a tall, well-knit
figure of long, full curves; a thoroughly feminine figure in conformation,
and yet one that looked competent to transcend the usual feminine
incompetencies. So far she measured to a high but customary standard. But
her face was as exotic as an orchid. It was long, narrow, and pale with
three accents to redeem it from what that ordinarily implies--lips of a
brilliant carmine, eyes of a deep sea-green, and eyebrows high, arched,
clean cut, narrow as though drawn by a camel's-hair brush. Indeed, in
civilization no one would have believed them to have been otherwise
produced. In spite of the awkward sun helmet she carried her head
"If you _will_ ride in a hammock, you ought to teach your men to shoot,"
was Kingozi's greeting. "It's absurd to go barging through a rhino country
like this. You look strong and healthy. Why don't you walk?"
Her crest reared and her nostrils expanded haughtily. For a half-minute
she stared at him, her sea-green eyes darkening to greater depths. This
did not disturb Kingozi in the least: indeed he did not see it. His eyes
were taking in the surroundings.
The dead rhinoceros lay a scant fifteen paces distant; loads were
scattered everywhere; the _askaris_, their ancient muskets reloaded, had
drawn near in curiosity. From the thorn trees across the tiny grass
opening porters were descending, very gingerly, and with lamentations. It
is comparatively easy to ascend a thorn tree with the fear of death
snapping at your heels: to descend in cold blood is another matter.
"Why don't you do your work!" he addressed the soldiers. "Do you want to
The startled _askaris_ scuttled away about their business, which was, at
this moment, to herd and hustle the reluctant porters back to their job.
Kingozi, his head and jaw thrust forward, stared after them, his eyes--
indeed, his whole personality--projecting aggressive force. The men
hurried to their positions, their loud laughter stilled, glancing
fearfully and furtively over their shoulders, whipped by the baleful glare
with which Kingozi silently battered them.
[Illustration: "'If you _will_ ride in a hammock, you ought to teach your
men to shoot,' was Kingozi's greeting"]
Only when the last man had picked up his load did Kingozi turn again to
the woman. Although her bosom still heaved with emotion, it was a
suppressed emotion. He met a face slightly and inscrutably smiling.
"You take it upon yourself to manage my safari?" she said. "You think I
cannot manage my men? It is kind of you."
Her English was faultless, but some slight unusual spacing of the words,
some ultra-clarity of pronunciation, rather than a recognizable accent,
made evident that the language was not her own.
"Your _askaris_ are slack," said Kingozi briefly.
"And how of these?" she demanded imperiously, sweeping with an almost
theatrical gesture the miserable-looking group of hammock bearers.
"They are at fault," replied Kingozi indifferently, "but after all they
are common porters. You can't expect gun-bearer service or _askari_
service from common porters, now can you?"
He looked at her directly, his clear, steady eyes conveying nothing but a
mild interest in the obvious. In contrast to his detached almost
indifferent calm, the woman was an embodiment of emotions. Head erect, red
lips compressed, breast heaving, she surveyed him through narrowed lids.
"So?" she contented herself with saying.
"It's the nature of the beast to run crazy," pursued Kingozi tranquilly.
"You really can't blame them."
"Then am I to be thrown down, like a sack, when it pleases them to run?"
she demanded tensely. "Really, you are incredible."
"I should expect it. The real point is that you have no business to ride
in a hammock through a rhino country."
The woman's control slipped a very little.
"Who are you to teach me my business?"
For the first time Kingozi's careless, candid stare narrowed to a focus.
"You have not told me what your business is," he replied with an edge of
intention in his tones. Their glances crossed like rapiers for the flash
of an instant.
She turned to the hammock bearers.
"Lie down!" she commanded. Then to the impassive Nubian, "The _kiboko!_ I
suppose," she observed politely to Kingozi, "that you will admit these men
should be punished, and that you will permit me to do so?"
"Surely they should be punished; that goes without saying."
"Give them thirty apiece," she ordered the Nubian.
"That is too many," interposed Kingozi. "Six is a great plenty for such
people. It is their nature to run away."
"Thirty," she repeated to the Nubian, without a glance in the white man's
The huge negro produced the rhinoceros-hide whip, and went to his task. To
lay thirty lashes on sixteen backs and to do justice to the occasion is a
great task. The Nubian's face streamed sweat when he had finished. The
bearers, who had taken the punishment in silence, arose, saluted, and
begun to skylark among themselves, which was their way of working off
"_Askaris!_" summoned the woman.
They came trotting.
"Lay down your guns! Lie down!"
A mild wonder appeared in Kingozi's gray eyes.
"Do you _kiboko_ your _askaris?_" he asked.
She jerked her head in his direction.
"Do you presume to question my actions?"
"By no means; I am interested in methods."
She paid him no more attention. Kingozi waited patiently until this second
bout of punishment was over. The _askaris_ lay quietly face down until
their mistress gave the word, then leaped to their feet, saluted smartly,
seized their guns, and marched jauntily to their appointed positions. The
woman watched them for a moment, and turned back to Kingozi.
Her mood had completely changed. The orgy of punishment had cleared away
the nervous effects of the fright she had undergone.
"So; that is done," she said. "I have travelled much in Africa. I what you
call know my way about. See how my men fall into line. It will be so at
camp. _Presto!_ Quick! The tents will be up, the fires made."
Her lips smiled at him, but her sea-green eyes remained steady and
"They seem smart enough," acknowledged Kingozi without interest. "Have you
ever tried them out?"
"Tried them out?" she repeated. "I do not understand."
"You never know what hold you really have until you get in a tight place."
"And if I get in a 'tight place,'" she rejoined haughtily, "I shall get
out again--without help from negroes--or anybody."
"Quite so," conceded Kingozi equably. His attitude and the tone of his
voice were indifferent, but the merest flicker of the tail of his eye
touched the dead rhino. His expression remained quite bland. She saw this.
The pallor of her cheek did not warm, but her strangely expressive eyes
"_Bandika!_" she cried sharply. The men began to take up their loads.
"I will wish you a good afternoon," observed Kingozi as though taking his
leave from an afternoon tea. "By the way, do you happen to care for
information about the next water, or do you know all that?" "Thank you, I
know all that," she replied curtly.
The _askaris_ began to shout the order for the advance, "_Nenda! nenda!_"
the men to swing forward. Kingozi stared after them, watching with a
professional eye the way they walked, the make-up of their loads, the
nature of their equipment; marking the lame ones, or the weak ones, or the
ones recently sick. His eye fell on the figure of the strange woman. She
was striding along easily, the hammock deserted, with a free swing of the
hips, an easy, slouch of the relaxed knees that indicated the accustomed
walker. Kingozi smiled.
"'I know all that,'" he repeated. "Now I wonder if you do, or if some idea
of silly pride makes you say so." He was talking aloud, in English. Mali-
ya-bwana stood attentive, waiting for something he could understand.
Kingozi's eye fell on the dead rhinoceros.
"There is good meat; tell the men they can come out to get what they wish
of it. There will be lions here to-night."
"If she 'knew all that,'" observed Kingozi, "she knew more than I did.
Small chance. Still, if she has information or guides, she may know the
next water. But how? Why?"
He shifted his rifle to the crook of his arm.
"That _bibi_ is a great _memsahib_," he told Mali-ya-bwana. "And this
evening we will go to see her. Be you ready to go also."
THE LEOPARD WOMAN
In the early darkness of equatorial Africa Kingozi, accompanied by Mali-
ya-bwana with a lantern, crossed over to the other camp. Simba and Cazi
Moto had come in almost at dusk; but they were very tired, and Kingozi
considered it advisable to let them rest. They had covered probably
thirty-five miles. Cazi Moto had found no water, and no traces of water.
Furthermore, the game had thinned and disappeared. Only old tracks, old
trails, old signs indicated that after the Big Rains the country might be
habitable for the beasts. But Simba had discovered a concealed "tank" in a
kopje. He had worked his way to it by "lining" the straight swift flight
of green pigeons, as a bee hunter on the plains used to line the flight of
bees. The tank proved to be a deep, hidden recess far back under
overhanging rocks, at once concealed and protected from the sun and
animals. Its water was sweet and abundant.
"No one has used that water. It is an unknown water," concluded Simba.
"_Vema_." Kingozi bestowed on him the word of highest praise.
The stranger woman's camp was not far away; in fact, but just across the
little dry stream-bed. Her safari was using the same pool with Kingozi's.
At the edge of the camp he paused to take in its disposition. From one
detail to another his eye wandered, and in it dawned a growing approval.
Your native, left to his own devices, pitches his little tents haphazard
here, there, and everywhere, according as his fancy turns to this or that
bush, thicket, or clump of grass. Such a camp straggles abominably. But
here was no such confusion. Back from the water-hole a hundred yards, atop
a slight rise, and under the thickest of the trees, stood a large green
tent with a projecting fly. A huge pile of firewood had been dumped down
in front of it, and at that very moment one of the _askaris_, kneeling,
was kindling a fire. Behind the big tent, and at some remove, gleamed the
circle of porters' tents each with its little blaze. Loads were piled
neatly, covered with a tarpaulin, and the pile guarded by an _askari_.
Kingozi strode across the intervening space.
Before the big tent a table had been placed, and beside the table a
reclining canvas chair of the folding variety. On a spread of figured blue
cloth stood a bottle of lime juice, a sparklets, and an enamelware bowl
containing flowers. The strange woman was stretched luxuriously in the
chair smoking a cigarette.
She wore a short-sleeved lilac tea gown of thin silk, lilac silk
stockings, and high-heeled slippers. Her hair fell in two long braids over
her shoulders and between her breasts, which the thin silk defined. Her
figure in the long chair fell into sinuous, graceful, relaxed lines. As he
approached she looked at him over the glowing cigarette; and her eyes
seemed to nicker with a strange restlessness. This contrast--of the
restless eyes and the relaxed, graceful body--reminded Kingozi of
something. His mind groped for a moment; then he had it.
"_Bibi ya chui!_" he said, half to himself, half to his companion, "The
And, parenthetically, from that moment _Bibi-ya-chui_--the Leopard Woman--
was the name by which she was known among the children of the sun.
She did not greet him in any way, but turned her head to address commands.
"Bring a chair for the _bwana_; bring cigarettes; bring _balauri--
Kingozi found himself established comfortably.
She moved her whole body slightly sidewise, the better to face him. The
soft silk fell in new lines about her, defining new curves. Her red lips
smiled softly, and her eyes were dark and inscrutable.
"I was what you call horrid to-day," she said. "It was not me: it was the
frightenedness from the rhinoceros. I was very much frightened, so I had
the porters beaten. That was horrid, was it not? Do you understand it? I
suppose not. Men have no nerves, like women. They are brave always. I have
not said what I feel. I have heard of you--the most wonderful shot in
Central Africa. I believe it--now."
Kingozi's eyes were lingering on her silk-clad form, the peep of ankles
below her robe. She observed him with slanted eyes, and a little breath of
satisfaction raised her bosom. Abruptly he spoke.
"Aren't you afraid of fever mosquitoes in that rig?" said he.
Her body stirred convulsively, and her finely pencilled eyebrows, with
their perpetual air of surprise, moved with impatience; but her voice
answered him equably:
"My friend, at the close of the hard day I must have my comfort. There can
be no fever here, for there are no people here. When in the fever country
I have my 'rig'"--subtly she shaded the word--"just the same. But I have a
net--a big net--like a tent beneath which I sit. Does that satisfy you?"
She spoke with the obvious painstaking patience that one uses to instruct
a child, but with a veiled irony meant for an older intelligence.
"I do appear to catechize you, don't I? But I am interested. It is
difficult to realize that a woman alone can understand this kind of
He had thrown off his guarded abstraction, and smiled across at her as
frankly as a boy. The gravity of his face broke into wrinkles of laughter;
his steady eyes twinkled; his smile showed strong white teeth. In spite of
his bushy beard he looked a boy. The woman stared at him, her cigarette
"You have instructed me about my camp; you have instructed me about my
men; you have instructed me about my marching; you have even instructed me
about my clothes." She tallied the counts on her slender fingers. "Now I
must instruct you."
"Guilty, I am afraid," he smiled; "but ready to take punishment."
"Very well." With a sinuous movement she turned on her elbow to face him.
"Listen! It is this: you should not wear that beard."
She fell back, and raised the cigarette to her lips.
For a moment Kingozi stared at her speechless with surprise; but
"I shall give to your advice the same respectful consideration you accord
mine," he assured her gravely.
She laughed in genuine amusement.
"Only I have more excuse," continued Kingozi. "A woman--alone--so far
"You said that before," she interrupted. "In other words, what in--what-
you-call? Oh, yes! what in hell am I doing up here? Is that it?"
She turned on him a wide-eyed stare. Kingozi chuckled.
"That's it. What in--in hell _are_ you doing up here?"
"Listen, my friend. In this world I do what I please--always. And when I
find that which people tell me cannot be done, that I do--at once. My life
is full of those things which could not be done, but which I have done."
"I believe you," said Kingozi, but he said it to himself.
"I have done them at home--where I live. I have done them in the cities
and courts. Whatever the people tell me is impossible--'Oh, it cannot be
done!'--with the uplifted hand and eye--you understand--that I do. Four
years ago I came to Africa, and in Africa I have done what they tell me
women have never done. I have travelled in the Kameroons, in Nyassaland,
in Somaliland, in Abyssinia. Then they tell me--'yes, that is very well,
but you follow a track. It is a dim track; but it is there. You go alone--
yes; but you have us at your back.' And I ask them: 'What then? where is
this place where there is no track?' And they wave their hands, and say
'Over yonder'; so I come!"
She recited all this dramatically, using her hands much in gesticulation,
her eyes flashing. In proportion as she became animated Kingozi withdrew
into his customary stolid calm.
"Quite so," he commented, "spirit of adventure, and all that sort of
thing. Where did you get this lot?"
He waved his hand.
She considered him a barely appreciable instant.
"Why--the usual way--from the coast."
"They are strange to me--I do not recognize their tribes," Kingozi replied
blandly. "So you are pushing out into the Unknown. How far do you consider
"Until it pleases me to stop."
Kingozi produced his pipe.
"If you do not mind?" he requested. He deliberately filled and lighted it.
After a few strong puffs he resumed:
"The country, you say, is unknown to you."
"I imagined you told me this afternoon that you knew of this water. I must
have been mistaken."
He blew a cloud, gazing straight ahead of him in obviously assumed
innocence. She examined him with a narrow, sidelong glance.
"No," she said at last, "you were not mistaken. I did tell you so."
"Well?" Kingozi turned to her.
"I was very angry, so I lied," she replied naively. "Women always lie when
they get very angry."
"Or tell the truth--uncomfortably," grinned Kingozi.
"Brava!" she applauded. "He does know something about women!" With one of
her sudden smooth movements she again raised herself on her elbow. "How
much?" she challenged.
"Enough," he replied enigmatically.
They both laughed.
Across the accustomed night noises came a long rumbling snarl ending
sharply with a snoring gasp. It was succeeded by another on a different
key. The two took up a kind of antiphony, one against the other, now
rising in volume, now dying down to a low grumble, again suddenly bursting
like an explosion.
"The lions have found that rhino," remarked Kingozi indifferently.
For a moment or so they listened to the distant thunders.
"I have not sufficiently thanked you even yet for this afternoon," she
said. "You saved my life--you know that."
"Happened to be there; and let off a rifle."
"I know shooting. It was a wonderful shot at that distance and in those
"Chancy shot. Had good luck," replied Kingozi shortly.
Undeterred by his tone, she persisted.
"But you are said by many to be the best shot in Africa."
He glanced at her.
"Indeed! I think that a mistake. For whom do you take me?"
"You are Culbertson," she told him. She pronounced the name slowly,
syllable by syllable, as though English proper names were difficult to
"Whoever he may be. I am known as Kingozi hereabouts."
"You are not Cul-bert-son?"
"I am anything it pleases you to have me. And who are you?"
She had become the spoiled darling, pouting at him in half-pretended
"You are playing with me. For that I shall not tell you who I am."
"It does not matter; I know."
"You know! But how?"
"I know many things."
"What is it then? Tell me!"
He hesitated, smiling at her inscrutably. The flames from the fire were
leaping high now, throwing the lantern-light into eclipse. An _askari_,
wearing on his head an individual fancy in marabout feathers, leaned on
his musket, his strong bronze face cast into the wistful lines of the
savage countenance in repose. The lions had evidently compounded their
quarrel. Only an occasional rasping cough testified to their presence. But
in the direction of the dead rhinoceros the air was hideous with the
plaints of the waiting hyenas. Their peculiarly weird moans came in
chorus; and every once in a while arose the shrill, prolonged titter that
has earned them the name of "laughing hyena."
"_Bibi-ya-chui_," he told her at length.
She considered this, her red lower lip caught between her teeth.
"The Leopard Woman," she repeated, "and it is thus that I am known! You,
Kingozi--the Bearded One; I, Bibi-ya-chui--the Leopard Woman!" She
laughed. "I think I like it," she decided.
"Now we know all about each other," he mocked.
"But no: you have asked many questions, which is your habit, but I have
asked few. What do you do in this strange land? Is it--what-you-call--
'spirit of adventure' also?"
"Not I! I am an ivory hunter."
"You expect to find the elephant here?"
"Who knows--or ivory to trade."
"And then you get your ivory and make the magic pass, and presto! it is in
Mombasa," she said, with a faint sarcasm.
"You mean I have not men enough to carry out ivory. Well, that is true.
But you see my habit is to get my ivory first and then to get _shenzis_
from the people roundabout to act as porters," he explained to her
Apparently she hesitated, in two minds as to what next to say. Kingozi
perceived a dancing temptation sternly repressed, and smiled beneath his
"I see," she said finally in a meek voice.
But Kingozi knew of what she was thinking. "She is a keen one," he
reflected admiringly. "Caught the weak point in that yarn straight off!"
He arose to his feet, knocking the ashes from his pipe.
"You travel to-morrow?" he asked politely.
"That I have not decided."
"This is a dry country," Kingozi suggested blandly. "Of course you will
not risk a blind push with so many men. You will probably send out scouts
to find the next water."
"That is possible," she replied gravely; but Kingozi thought to catch a
twinkle in her eye.
He raised his voice:
Mali-ya-bwana glided from one of the small porters' tents.
"_Qua heri_." Kingozi abruptly wished her farewell in Swahili.
"_Qua heri_," she replied without moving.
He turned into the darkness. The tropical stars blazed above him like
candles. Kingozi lapsed into half-forgotten slang.
"Downy bird!" he reflected, which was probably not exactly the impression
the Leopard Woman either intended or thought she had made.
A seasoned African traveller in ordinary circumstances sleeps very
soundly, his ear attuned only to certain things. So Kingozi hardly stirred
on his cork mattress, although the lions roared full-voiced satisfaction
when they left the rhinoceros, and the yells of the hyenas rose to a
pandemonium when at last they were permitted to join the feast. Likewise
the nearer familiar noises of men rising to their daily tasks at four
o'clock--the yawning, stretching, cracking of firewood, crackling of fire,
low-voiced chatter--did not disturb him. Yet, so strangely is the human
mind organized, had during the night a soft whisper of padded feet, even
the deep breathing of a beast, sounded within the precincts of the camp,
he would instantly have been broad awake, the rifle that stood loaded
nearby clasped in his hand. Thus he lay quietly through the noises of men
working, but came awake at the sound of men marching. He arose on his
elbow and drew aside the flap of his tent.
At the same instant Cazi Moto stopped outside. The usual formula ensued.
"_Hodie!_" called Cazi Moto.
"_Karibu_," replied Kingozi.
Thus Cazi Moto at once awakened and greeted his master, and Kingozi
Cazi Moto entered the tent and lighted the tiny lantern, for it was still
an hour and a half until daylight.
"I hear men marching," said Kingozi.
Cazi Moto stopped.
"It is the safari of Bibi-ya-chui." Already Kingozi's nickname for her
had been adopted.
Cazi Moto disappeared, and a moment later was heard outside pouring water
into the canvas basin.
Instead of arising immediately, as was his ordinary custom, Kingozi lay
still. The Leopard Woman was already travelling! What could that mean?
She was certainly taking some chances hiking around thus in the dark.
Perhaps some aged or weak lion had not been permitted a share of that
rhinoceros. And again she was taking chances pushing out blindly with
over a hundred men into the aridity of the desert. Kingozi contemplated
this thought for some time. Then, making up his mind, he arose and began
As he was drying his face Simba came for the guns, and a half-dozen of the
porters prepared to strike and furl the tent. Already the canvas
washstand had disappeared.
"Simba," observed Kingozi in English, of which language Simba knew but
three words, "she is no fool. She knows where there is water out yonder;
but it is water at least forty miles away. She's got to push and push hard
to make it, and that's why she's making so early a start. I had a notion
this 'country of the great Unknown' wasn't quite so 'unknown' as it might
He finished this speech coincidentally with the drying of his hands. The
impatient Cazi Moto snatched the towel deftly but respectfully and packed
it away. Simba, who had listened with deference until his _bwana_ should
finish this jargon, grinned.
"Yes, suh!" he used two of his English words at a bang.
Kingozi ate his breakfast by firelight. With the exception of his camp
chair and the eating service, the camp was by now all packed, and the men
were squatting before their fires waiting.
But there was a hitch. Kingozi called up Simba and began to question him.
"You say the water is four hours' march?"
"Four hours for you, or four hours for laden men?"
"The safari can go in four hours, _bwana_."
"Is there game there?"
"No, _bwana_. It is a guarded water, and there is no game."
"Very well. I want six men. Before the march we must get meat."
Some time since the flames of the African sunrise had spread to the
zenith, glowing and terrible as a furnace. Although the sky was thus
brilliantly illuminated, the earth, strangely enough, was still gray with
twilight. Objects fifty yards distant were indeterminate. Objects
farther away were lost. The light was daylight, but it was inadequate, as
though charged with mist.
And then suddenly the daylight was clear.
It was like the turning on by a switch. The dim shapes defined clearly,
becoming trees, rocks, distant hills. And almost immediately the rim of
the sun showed above the horizon.
Kingozi had already decided on the best direction in which to hunt.
Neither the direction taken by the Leopard Woman's safari nor the
immediate surroundings of the night's orgy over the rhino carcass was
desirable. The fact that the big water-hole below camp had not only
remained unvisited, but apparently even desired, led him to deduce the
existence of another, alternative, drinking place. He had yesterday
explored some distance downstream; therefore he now turned up.
Simba with the big rifle followed close at his heels. The six porters
stole along fifty yards in the rear. They were quite as anxious for meat
--promptly--as anybody, and were as unobtrusive as shadows.
For upward of a mile the hunters encountered nothing but a few dik-dik and
steinbuck--tiny grass antelope, too small for the purpose. Then a shift
of wind brought to them a medley of sound--a great persistent barking of
zebras supplying the main volume. At the same time they saw, over a
distant slight rise, a cloud of dust.
Simba's eyes were gleaming.
"Game! Much game there, _bwana!_" he cried.
"I see," replied Kingozi quietly.
The porters accompanied them to within a few rods of the top of the rise.
There they squatted, and the other two crawled up alone.
Below them, probably three hundred yards away, was a larger replica of the
other water-hole. At its edge and in its shallows stood a few beasts. But
the sun was now well above the horizon, the drinking time was practically
Three long strings of game animals were walking leisurely away in three
different directions. They were proceeding soberly, in single file, nose
to tail. The ranks ran with scarcely a break, to disappear over the low
swells of the plain. Alongside the plodders skipped and ran, rushed back
and forth the younger, frivolous characters, kicking up their heels,
biting at one another, or lowering their horns in short mimic charges--
gay, animated flankers to the main army. There were several sorts, each
in its little companies or bands, many times repeated, of from two or
three to several score; although occasionally strange assortments and
companionships were to be seen, as a black, shaggy-looking wildebeeste
with a troop of kongoni. Kingozi saw, besides these two, also the bigger
and smaller gazelles, many zebra, topi, the lordly eland; and, apart, a
dozen giraffes, two rhinoceros, and some warthogs. There were probably two
thousand wild animals in sight.
The hunters lay flat, watching. This multiplicity afforded them a
wonderful spectacle, but that was about all. If they should crawl three
yards farther they would indubitably be espied by some one. It was
impossible to single out a beast as the object of a stalk: all the others
must be considered, too. There was no cover.
Kingozi was too old at the business to hurry. He considered the elements
of his problem soberly before coming back to his first and most obvious
conclusion. Then he raised himself slowly to his favourite sitting
position and threw off the safety.
The distance was a fair three hundred yards, which is a long shot--when it
_is_ three hundred yards. The fireside and sporting magazine hunters of
big game are constantly hitting 'em through the heart at even greater
distances--estimated. It is actually a fact, proven many times, that those
estimates should be divided by two in order to get near the measured
truth! The "four hundred yards if it's an inch!" becomes two hundred--and
even two hundred yards at living game in natural surroundings is a long
and creditable shot.
In taking his aim Kingozi modified his usual custom because of the
distance. When one can get his beast broadside on, the most immediately
fatal shot is one high in the shoulder, about three-quarters of the way
up. That drops an animal dead in his tracks. The next best is a bullet
low in the shoulder. Third is a really accurate heart shot. This latter
is always fatal, of course; but ordinarily the quarry will run at racing
speed for some little distance before falling dead. In certain types of
country this means considerable tracking, may even mean the loss of the
animal. Next comes anywhere in the barrel forward of the short ribs--a
chancy proceeding, and one leading to long chases. After that the
likelihood of a cripple is too great.
Now it is evident that one must aim at what he can be sure of hitting.
The high shoulder shot is all right if the distance is so short that one
can be absolutely certain of placing his bullet within a six-inch circle.
Otherwise the chance of over-shooting--always great--becomes prohibitive.
The low shoulder shot increases the circle to from eight to twelve inches,
with the chance outside that of merely breaking a foreleg, grazing
brisket, or missing entirely under the neck. The heart shot--or rather an
attempt at it--is safer for a longer range, not because the mark is
larger, but because even if one misses the heart, he is apt to land either
the shoulder or the ribs well forward. The only miss is beneath, and that
is clear, as the heart is low in the body. And at extreme ranges, the
forward one-third of the barrel is the point of aim. It should only
rarely be attempted. Unless a man is certain he can hit that mark, _every
time_, he is not justified in taking the shot.
This principle applies to every one: as well to the beginner as to the
expert. The only difference between the two is the range at which this
certainty exists. The tyro's limit of absolute certainty for the heart
shot may be--and probably is--a hundred yards; for the high shoulder it
may be as near as thirty. This takes into consideration his inexperience
in the presence of game as well as his inaccuracy with the rifle, and it
keeps in mind that he must hit that mark not merely nine times out of ten,
but _every time_. If he cannot get within the hundred yards by stalking,
then he should refuse the chance. As expertness rises in the scale the
distances increase. Provided there were no such things as nerves, luck,
faulty judgment, and the estimate of distances one man should be as
mercifully deadly as another. Naturally the man who had to stalk to within
a hundred yards would not get as many shots as the one who could take his
chance at two hundred. This conduct of venery is an ideal that is only
approximated. Hence misses.
But even if a man lives rigorously up to his principles and knowledge,
there are other elements that bring in uncertainty. For one thing, he must
be able to estimate distance with some degree of accuracy. It avails
little to know that you can hit a given mark at two hundred and fifty
yards, if you do not know what two hundred and fifty yards is. And here
enter a thousand deceits: direction of light, slope of ground, nature of
cover, temperature, mirage, time of day, and the like. An apparent hundred
yards over water or across a canon would--were, by some dissolving-view-
change, bush-dotted plain to be substituted--become nearer three hundred
in the latter circumstances. There is a limit to the best man's
experience; a margin of error in the best man's judgment. Hence more
There is only one method for any man to acquire even this proximate skill;
and that requires long and patient practice. It is this: he should sight
over his rifle at a wild animal, noting carefully the apparent relative
size of the front sight-bead and the animal's body. He should then pace
the distance between himself and that animal. After he has done this a
hundred times, he will be able to make a pretty close guess by marking how
large the beast shows up through the sights. That is, for that one species
of game! In Central Africa, where in a well-stocked district there are
from twenty to thirty species, the practice becomes more onerous. This
same practice--of pacing the distances--however, has also trained a man's
eye for country. He is able to supplement the front-sight method by the
usual estimate by eye. Most men do not take this trouble. They practise at
target range until they can hit the bull's-eye with fair regularity, miss
with nearly equal regularity in the hunting field, and thenceforth talk
vaguely of "missed him at five hundred yards." It must have been five
hundred. The beast looked very small, there was an awful lot of country
between him and it, and "I wasn't a bit rattled--cool as a cucumber--and I
_know_ I never miss an object of that size at any reasonable range." He
was right: he shot as deliberately as he ever did at the butts. He missed,
not because of the distance, but because he did not know the distance. It
was exactly the range at which he had done the most of his practice--two
All these considerations have taken several pages to tell. Kingozi weighed
each one of them. Yet so long had been his experience, so habitual had
become his reactions, that his decision was made almost instantly. A
glance at the intervening ground, another through his sights. The top of
the bead covered half a zebra's shoulder. The distance was not far under
or over three hundred. Kingozi knew that, barring sheer accident, he could
hit his mark at that distance.
The animals meantime were moving forward slowly along the three diverging
trails. The last of them had left the water-hole. Kingozi nodded to Simba.
Simba, understanding from long association just what was required of him,
rose slowly and evenly to his feet.
The apparition of this strange figure on the skyline brought a score of
animals to a stand. They turned their heads, staring intently, making up
their minds, their nostrils wide. Kingozi, who had already picked his
beast and partially assured his aim, almost immediately squeezed the
Over a second after the flat crack of the rifle a hollow _plunk_ indicated
that the bullet had told. It was a strange sound, unmistakable to one who
has once heard it, much as though one brought a drinking glass smartly,
hollow down, into the surface of water.
[Illustration: "After the flat crack of the rifle a hollow _plunk_
indicated that the bullet had told"]
"Hah!" ejaculated Simba.
"Where?" asked Kingozi, who knew by long experience that Simba's sharp
eyes had noted the smallest particular of the beast's behaviour when the
bullet landed, and thence had already deduced its location.
Without removing his eyes, Simba indicated with his forefinger a shot
about midway of the ribs.
At the sound the rear guard of the animals raced madly away for about
seventy yards, whirled in a phalanx, and gazed back. Neither man moved.
Simba continued to stare, and Kingozi had lifted his prism glasses. A tyro
would have attempted to draw near for a finishing shot, and so would
probably have been let in for a long chase. A freshly wounded animal, if
kept moving, is capable of astonishing endurance. But these two knew
better than that. In a very few minutes the zebra, without fright, without
suffering--for a modern bullet benumbs--toppled over dead. Again Simba
raised his voice exultantly to the waiting porters.
"_Nyama! nyama!_" he shouted.
And they, racing eagerly forward, their faces illuminated with one of the
strongest joys the native knows, shouted back:
For another two days the provisioning was assured.
The little safari made the distance to Simba's guarded water in a trifle
over the four hours. Camp was made high up on the kopje whence the eye
could carry to immense distances. The wall of mountains was now nearer.
Through his glasses Kingozi could distinguish rounded foothills. He tried
to make out whether certain dark patches were groves or patches of bush--
they might have been either--but was unable to determine. Relative sizes
did not exist. The mountains might be five thousand feet tall or only a
fifth of that. And by exactly that proportion they might be a day's or a
five days' journey distant!
Carefully Kingozi examined the length of the range. At length his
attention was arrested. A thread of smoke, barely distinguishable against
the gray of distance, rose within the shadow of the hills.
"Simba!" Kingozi summoned. Then, on the gun bearer's approach: "Look
through the glasses and tell me whether that smoke is a house or a fire in
Simba accepted the glasses, but first took a good look with the naked eye.
He caught the location of the smoke almost at once. Then for a full two
minutes he stared through the lenses.
"It is a house, _bwana_," he decided.
As though the words had been a magic spell the mountains seemed in
Kingozi's imagination to diminish in size and to move forward. They had
assured a definite proportion, a definite position. Their distance could
"And how far?" he asked.
"Very far, _bwana_," replied Simba gravely, "eleven hours; twelve hours."
Kingozi reflected. The safari of the Leopard Woman had passed the kopje
not over a mile away; indeed Kingozi had left her trail only a short
distance back. On the supposition that she was well informed, it seemed
unlikely that she could expect to make the whole distance from the last
camp to the mountains in one march. Therefore there must be another water
between. In that case, if Kingozi followed her tracks, he would arrive at
that water. On the other supposition--that she was striking recklessly
into the unknown--well, all the more reason for following her tracks!
They commenced their journey before daylight the following morning. Each
man was instructed to fill his water bottle; and the instructions were
rigidly enforced. In the darkness they stumbled down the gentle slopes of
the kopjes, each steering by the man ahead, and Kingozi steering by the
stars. The veldt was still, as though all the silences, driven from those
portions inhabited by the beasts, had here made their refuge. The earth
lay like a black pool becalmed. Overhead the stars blazed clearly, slowly
faded, and gave way to the dawn. The men spoke rarely, and then in low
Kingozi led the way steadily, without hurrying, but without loitering.
Daylight came: the sun blazed. The country remained the same in character.
Behind them the kopje dwindled in importance until it took its place with
insignificant landmarks. The mountains ahead seemed no nearer.
At the end of three hours, by the watch Kingozi carried on his wrist, he
called the first halt. The men laid down their loads, and sprawled about
in abandon. Kingozi produced a pipe.
The rest lasted a full half hour. Then two hours more of marching, and
another rest. By now a normal day's march would be about over. But this
was different. Kingozi rigidly adhered to the plan for all forced marches
of this kind: three hours, a half-hour's rest; then two hours, a half-
hour's rest; and after that march and rest as the men can stand it,
according to their strength and condition.
This latter is the cruel period. At first the ranks hold together. Then,
in spite of the efforts of the headman to bring up the rear, the weaker
begin to fall back. They must rest oftener, they go on with ever-
increasing difficulty. The strong men ahead become impatient and push on.
The safari is no longer a coherent organization, but an aggregate of
units, each with his own problem of weariness, of thirst, finally of
suffering. More and more stretches the distance between the _bwana_ and
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