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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about African Camp Fires.

N’gombe Brown thus worked hard through varied and long hours in strict intimacy with stupid and exasperating beasts.  After working hours he liked to wander out to watch those same beasts grazing!  His mind was as full of cattle as that!  Although we offered him reading matter, he never seemed to care for it, nor for long-continued conversation with white people not of his trade.  In fact the only gleam of interest I could get out of him was by commenting on the qualities or peculiarities of the oxen.  He had a small mouth-organ on which he occasionally performed, and would hold forth for hours with his childlike Kikuyus.  In the intelligence to follow ordinary directions he was an infant.  We had to iterate and reiterate in words of one syllable our directions as to routes and meeting-points, and then he was quite as apt to go wrong as right.  Yet, I must repeat, he knew thoroughly all the ins and outs of a very difficult trade, and understood, as well, how to keep his cattle always fit and in good condition.  In fact he was a little hipped on what the “dear n’gombes” should or should not be called upon to do.

One incident will illustrate all this better than I could explain it.  When we reached the Narossara River we left the wagon and pushed on afoot.  We were to be gone an indefinite time, and we left N’gombe Brown and his outfit very well fixed.  Along the Narossara ran a pleasant shady strip of high jungle; the country about was clear and open; but most important of all, a white man of education and personal charm occupied a trading boma, or enclosure, near at hand.  An accident changed our plans and brought us back unexpectedly at the end of a few weeks.  We found that N’gombe Brown had trekked back a long day’s journey, and was encamped alone at the end of a spur of mountains.  We sent native runners after him.  He explained his change of base by saying that the cattle feed was a little better at his new camp!  Mind you this:  at the Narossara the feed was quite good enough, the oxen were doing no work, there was companionship, books, papers, and even a phonograph to while away the long weeks until our return.  N’gombe Brown quite cheerfully deserted all this to live in solitude where he imagined the feed to be microscopically better!

FOOTNOTES: 

[21] N’gombe = oxen.

XXXVI.

ACROSS THE THIRST.

We were off, a bright, clear day after the rains.  Suswa hung grayish pink against the bluest of skies.  Our way slanted across the Rift Valley to her base, turned the corner, and continued on the other side of the great peak until we had reached the rainwater “pan” on her farther side.  It was a long march.

The plains were very wide and roomy.  Here and there on them rose many small cones and craters, lava flows and other varied evidences of recent volcanic activity.  Geologically recent, I mean.  The grasses of the flowing plains were very brown, and the molehill craters very dark; the larger craters blasted and austere; the higher escarpment in the background blue with a solemn distance.  The sizes of things were not originally fitted out for little tiny people like human beings.  We walked hours to reach landmarks apparently only a few miles away.

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