We encountered quite a number of dog-faced baboons. These big apes always retreated very slowly and noisily. Scouts in the rearguard were continually ascending small trees or bushes for a better look at us, then leaping down to make disparaging remarks. One lot seemed to show such variation in colour from the usual that we shot one. The distance was about two hundred and fifty yards. Immediately the whole band—a hundred or so strong—dropped on all fours and started in our direction. This was rather terrifying. However, as we stood firm, they slowly came to a halt at about seventy yards, barked and chattered for a moment, then hopped away to right and left.
THE LESSER KUDU.
About eight o’clock, the evening of our first day on the Swanee, the heat broke in a tropical downpour. We heard it coming from a long distance, like the roar of a great wind. The velvet blackness, star hung, was troubled by an invisible blurring mist, evidenced only through a subtle effect on the subconsciousness. Every leaf above us, in the circle of our firelight, depended absolutely motionless from its stem. The insects had ceased their shrilling; the night birds their chirping; the animals, great and small, their callings or their stealthy rustling to and fro. Of the world of sound there remained only the crackling of our fires, the tiny singing of the blood in our ears, and that far-off portentous roar. Our simple dispositions were made. Trenches had been dug around the tents; the pegs had been driven well home; our stores had been put in shelter. We waited silently, puffing away our pipes.
The roaring increased in volume. Beneath it we began to hear the long, rolling crash of thunder. Overhead the stars, already dimmed, were suddenly blotted from existence. Then came the rain, in a literal deluge, as though the god of floods had turned over an entire reservoir with one twist of his mighty hand. Our fire went out instantly; the whole world went out with it. We lay on our canvas cots unable to see a foot beyond our tent opening; unable to hear anything but the insistent, terrible drumming over our heads; unable to think of anything through the tumult of waters. As a man’s body might struggle from behind a waterfall through the torrents, so our imaginations, half drowned, managed dimly to picture forth little bits—the men huddled close in their tiny tents, their cowled blankets over their heads. All the rest of the universe had gone.
After a time the insistent beat and rush of waters began to wear through our patience. We willed that this wracking tumult should cease; we willed it with all the force that was in us. Then, as this proved vain, we too humped our spiritual backs, cowled our souls with patience, and waited dumbly for the force of the storm to spend itself. Our faculties were quite as effectually drowned out by the unceasing roar and crash of the waters as our bodily comfort would have been had we lacked the protection of our tent.