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

FOOTNOTES: 

[2] 82-88 deg. degrees in daytime, and 75-83 deg. degrees at night.

VIII.

Mombasa.

A single light shone at the end of the stone quay, and another inside a big indeterminate building at some distance.  We stumbled towards this, and found it to be the biggest shed ever constructed out of corrugated iron.  A bearded Sikh stood on guard at its open entrance.  He let any one and every one enter, with never a flicker of his expressionless black eyes; but allowed no one to go out again without the closest scrutiny for dutiable articles that lacked the blue customs plaster.  We entered.  The place was vast and barnlike and dim, and very, very hot.  A half-dozen East Indians stood behind the counters; another, a babu, sat at a little desk ready to give his clerical attention to what might be required.  We saw no European; but next morning found that one passed his daylight hours in this inferno of heat.  For the moment we let our main baggage go, and occupied ourselves only with getting through our smaller effects.  This accomplished, we stepped out past the Sikh into the grateful night.

We had as guide a slender and wiry individual clad in tarboush and long white robe.  In a vague, general way we knew that the town of Mombasa was across the island and about four miles distant.  In what direction or how we got there we had not the remotest idea.

The guide set off at a brisk pace with which we tried in vain to keep step.  He knew the ground, and we did not; and the night was black dark.  Commands to stop were of no avail whatever; nor could we get hold of him to restrain him by force.  When we put on speed he put on speed too.  His white robe glimmered ahead of us just in sight; and in the darkness other white robes, passing and crossing, glimmered also.  At first the ground was rough, so that we stumbled outrageously.  Billy and B. soon fell behind, and I heard their voices calling plaintively for us to slow down a bit.

“If I ever lose this nigger, I’ll never find him again,” I shouted back, “but I can find you.  Do the best you can!”

We struck a smoother road that led up a hill on a long slant.  Apparently for miles we followed thus, the white-robed individual ahead still deaf to all commands and the blood-curdling threats I had now come to uttering.  All our personal baggage had long since mysteriously disappeared, ravished away from us at the customs house by a ragged horde of blacks.  It began to look as though we were stranded in Africa without baggage or effects.  Billy and B. were all the time growing fainter in the distance, though evidently they too had struck the long, slanting road.

Then we came to a dim, solitary lantern glowing feebly beside a bench at what appeared to be the top of the hill.  Here our guide at last came to a halt and turned to me a grinning face.

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