African Camp Fires eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about African Camp Fires.
to the depths by way of another plank.  The lights flickered across their dark faces, their gleaming teeth and eyes.  Somehow the work demanded a heap of screeching, shouting, and gesticulation; but somehow also it went forward rapidly.  Dozens of unattached natives lounged about the gunwales with apparently nothing to do but to look picturesque.  Shore boats moved into the narrow circle of light, drifted to our gangway, and discharged huge crates of vegetables, sacks of unknown stuffs, and returning passengers.  A vigilant police boat hovered near to settle disputes, generally with the blade of an oar.  For a long time we leaned over the rail watching them, and the various reflected lights in the water, and the very clear, unwavering stars.  Then, the coaling finished, and the portholes once more opened, we turned in.



Some time during the night we must have started, but so gently had we slid along it fractional speed that until I raised my head and looked out I had not realized the fact.  I saw a high sandbank.  This glided monotonously by until I grew tired of looking at it and got up.

After breakfast, however, I found that the sandbank had various attractions all of its own.  Three camels laden with stone and in convoy of white-clad figures shuffled down the slope at a picturesque angle.  Two cowled women in black, veiled to the eyes in gauze heavily sewn with sequins, barefooted, with massive silver anklets, watched us pass.  Hindu workmen in turban and loin-cloth furnished a picturesque note, but did not seem to be injuring themselves by over-exertion.  Naked small boys raced us for a short distance.  The banks glided by very slowly and very evenly, the wash sucked after us like water in a slough after a duck boat, and the sky above the yellow sand looked extremely blue.

At short and regular intervals, half-way up the miniature sandhills, heavy piles or snubbing-posts had been planted.  For these we at first could guess no reason.  Soon, however, we had to pass another ship; and then we saw that one of us must tie up to avoid being drawn irresistibly by suction into collision with the other.  The craft sidled by, separated by only a few feet, so that we could look across to each other’s decks and exchange greetings.  As the day grew this interest grew likewise.  Dredgers in the canal; rusty tramps flying unfamiliar flags of strange tiny countries; big freighters, often with Greek or Turkish characters on their sterns; small dirty steamers of suspicious business; passenger ships like our own, returning from the tropics, with white-clad, languid figures reclining in canvas chairs; gunboats of this or that nation bound on mysterious affairs; once a P. & O. converted into a troopship, from whose every available porthole, hatch, deck, and shroud laughing, brown, English faces shouted chaff at our German decks—­all these either tied

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African Camp Fires from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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