We left the boys to take the whole skin and skull of this beast, and strolled forward slowly. The brush ended abruptly in a wide valley. It had been burnt over, and the new grass was coming up green. We gave one look, and sank back into cover.
The sparse game of the immediate vicinity had gathered to this fresh feed. A herd of hartebeeste and gazelle were grazing, and five giraffe adorned the sky-line. But what interested us especially was a group of about fifty cob-built animals with the unmistakable rapier horns of the oryx. We recognized them as the rarity we desired.
The conditions were most unfavourable. The cover nearest them gave a range of three hundred yards, and even this would bring them directly between us and the rising sun. There was no help for it, however. We made our way to the bushes nearest the herd, and I tried to align the blurs that represented my sights. At the shot, ineffective, they raced to the right across our front. We lay low. As they had seen nothing they wheeled and stopped after two hundred yards of flight. This shift had brought the light into better position. Once more I could define my sights. From the sitting position I took careful aim at the largest buck. He staggered twenty feet and fell dead. The distance was just 381 paces. This shot was indeed fortunate, for we saw no more fringe-eared oryx.
ACROSS THE SERENGETTI.
We arrived in camp about noon, almost exhausted with the fierce heat and a six hours’ tramp, to find our German friend awaiting us. By an irony of fate the drums of water he had brought back with him were now unnecessary; we had our oryx. However, we wearily gave him lunch and listened to his prattle, and finally sped him on his way, hoping never to see him again.
About three o’clock our men came in. We doled out water rations, and told them to rest in preparation for the morrow.
Late that night we were awakened by a creaking and snorting and the flash of torches passing. We looked out, to see a donkey transport toiling slowly along, travelling thus at night to avoid the terrific day heats. The two-wheeled carts with their wild and savage drivers looked very picturesque in the flickering lights. We envied them vaguely their defined route that permitted night travel, and sank to sleep.
In the morning, however, we found they had left with us new responsibilities in the shape of an elderly Somali, very sick, and down with the fever. This was indeed a responsibility. It was manifestly impossible for us to remain there with him; we should all die of thirst. It was equally impossible to take him with us, for he was quite unfit to travel under the sun. Finally, as the best solution of a bad business, we left him five gallons of water, some food, and some quinine, together with the advice to rest until night, and then to follow his companions along the beaten track. What between illness and wild beasts his chances did not look very good, but it was the best we could do for him. This incident exemplifies well the cruelty of this singular people. They probably abandoned the old man because his groans annoyed them, or because one of them wanted to ride in his place on the donkey cart.