Our task in this part of the country was now finished. We set out on the return journey. The weather changed. A beautiful, bright-copper sunset was followed by a drizzle. By morning this had turned into a heavy rain. We left the topi camp, to which we had by now returned, cold and miserable. C. and I had contributed our waterproofs to protect the precious trophies, and we were speedily wet through. The grass was long. This was no warm and grateful tropical rain, but a driving, chilling storm straight out from the high mountains.
We marched up the long plain, we turned to the left around the base of the ranges, we mounted the narrow grass valley, we entered the forest—the dark, dripping, and unfriendly forest. Over the edge we dropped and clambered down through the hanging vines and the sombre trees. By-and-by, we emerged on the open plains below, the plains on the hither side of the Narossara, the Africa we had known so long. The rain ceased. It was almost as though a magic portal had clicked after us. Behind it lay the wonderful secret upper country of the unknown.
THE LAST TREK.
Some weeks later we camped high on the slopes of Suswa, the great mountain of the Rift Valley, only one day’s march from the railroad. After the capture of the kudu Africa still held for us various adventures—a buffalo, a go of fever, and the like—but the culmination had been reached. We had lingered until the latest moment, reluctant to go. Now in the gray dawn we were filing down the slopes of the mountains for the last trek. A low, flowing mist marked the distant Kedong; the flames of an African sunrise were revelling in the eastern skies. All our old friends seemed to be bidding us good-bye. Around the shoulder of the mountains a lion roared, rumble upon rumble. Two hyenas leapt from the grass, ran fifty yards, and turned to look at us.
“Good-bye, simba! good-bye, fice!” we cried to them sadly.
A little farther we saw zebra, and the hartebeeste, and the gazelles. One by one appeared and disappeared again the beasts with which we had grown so familiar during our long months in the jungle. So remarkable was the number of species that we both began to comment upon the fact, to greet the animals, to bid them farewell, as though they were reporting in order from the jungle to bid us God-speed. Half in earnest we waved our hands to them and shouted our greetings to them in the native—punda milia, kongoni, pa-a, fice, m’pofu, twiga, simba, n’grooui, and the rest. Before our eyes the misty ranges hardened and stiffened under the fierce sun. Our men marched steadily, cheerfully, beating their loads in rhythm with their safari sticks, crooning under their breaths, and occasionally breaking into full-voiced chant. They were glad to be back from the long safari, back from across the Thirst, from the high, cold country, from the dangers and discomforts of the unknown. We rode a little wistfully, for these great plains and mysterious jungles, these populous, dangerous, many-voiced nights, these flaming, splendid dawnings and day-falls, these fierce, shimmering noons we were to know no more.