I had hardly crawled ten yards, however, before the gentle snapping of F.’s fingers recalled me to his side.
“He’s behind that bush,” he whispered in my ear.
I looked. The bush was hardly large enough to conceal a setter dog, and the sable is somewhat larger than our elk. Nevertheless F. insisted that the animal was standing behind it, and that he had caught the toss of its head. We lay still for some time, while the soft, warm rain drizzled down on us, our eyes riveted on the bush. And then we caught the momentary flash of curved horns as the sable tossed his head. It seemed incredible even then that the tiny bush should conceal so large a beast. As a matter of fact we later found that the bush grew on a slight elevation, behind which was a depression. In this the sable stood, patiently enduring the drizzle.
We waited some time in hopes he would move forward a foot or so; but apparently he had selected his loafing place with care, and liked it. The danger of a shift of wind was always present. Finally I slipped back over the brink of the ravine, moved three yards to the left, and crawled up through the tall dripping grass to a new position behind a little bush. Cautiously raising my head, I found I could see plainly the sable’s head and part of his shoulders. My position was cramped and out of balance for offhand shooting; but I did my best, and heard the loud plunk of the hit. The sable made off at a fast though rather awkward gallop, wheeled for an instant a hundred yards farther on, received another bullet in the shoulder, and disappeared over the brow of the hill. We raced over the top to get in another shot, and found him stone dead.
He was a fine beast, jet-black in coat, with white markings on the face, red-brown ears, and horns sweeping up and back scimitar fashion. He stood four feet and six inches at the shoulder, and his horns were the second best ever shot in British East Africa. This beast has been described by Heller as a new subspecies, and named Rooseveltii. His description was based upon an immature buck and a doe shot by Kermit Roosevelt. The determination of subspecies on so slight evidence seems to me unscientific in the extreme. While the immature males do exhibit the general brown tone relied on by Mr. Heller, the mature buck differs in no essential from the tropical sable. I find the alledged subspecies is not accepted by European scientists.
A march along the coast.
With a most comfortable feeling that my task was done, that suddenly the threatening clouds of killing work had been cleared up, I was now privileged to loaf and invite my soul on this tropical green hilltop while poor F. put in the days trying to find another sable. Every morning he started out before daylight. I could see the light of his lantern outside the tent; and I stretched myself in the luxurious consciousness that I should hear no deprecating but insistent “hodie” from my boy until I pleased to invite it. In the afternoon or evening F. would return, quite exhausted and dripping, with only the report of new country traversed. No sable; no tracks of sable; no old signs, even, of sable. Gradually it was borne in on me how lucky I was to have come upon my magnificent specimen so promptly and in such favourable circumstances.