African Camp Fires eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about African Camp Fires.

We had just about dried off and had reassumed our thin and scanty garments, when the babu emerged.  We stared in drop-jawed astonishment.  He had muffled his head and mouth in a most brilliant scarf, as if for zero weather; although dressed otherwise in the usual pongee.  Under one arm he carried a folded clumsy cotton umbrella; around his waist he had belted a huge knife; in his other hand he carried his battle-axe.  I mean just that—­his battle-axe.  We had seen such things on tapestries or in museums, but did not dream that they still existed out of captivity.  This was an Oriental looking battle-axe with a handle three feet long, a spike on top, a spike out behind, and a half-moon blade in front.  The babu had with a little of his signal paint done the whole thing, blade and all, to a brilliant window-shutter green.

As soon as we had recovered our breath, we asked him very politely the reason for these stupendous preparations.  It seemed that it was his habit to take a daily stroll just before sunset, “for the sake of the health,” as he told us in his accurate English.

“The bush is full of bad men,” he explained, “who would like to kill me; but when they see this axe and this knife they say to each other, ’There walks a very bad man.  We dare not kill him.’”

He marched very solemnly a quarter-mile up the track and back, always in plain view.  Promptly on his return he dived into his little back room where the periodic tinkling of his praying bell for some time marked his gratitude for having escaped the “bad men.”

The bell ceased.  Several times he came to the door, eyed us timidly, and bolted back into the darkness.  Finally he approached to within ten feet, twisted his hands and giggled in a most deprecating fashion.

“What is the use of this killing game?” he gabbled as rapidly as he could.  “Man should not destroy what man cannot first create.”  After which he giggled again and fled.

His conscience, evidently, had driven him to this defiance of our high mightinesses against his sense of politeness and his fears.

About this time my boy Mohammed and the cook drifted in.  They reported that they had left the safari not far back.  Our hopes of supper and blankets rose.  They declined, however, with the gathering darkness, and were replaced by wrath against the faithless ones.  Memba Sasa, in spite of his long day, took a gun and disappeared in the darkness.  He did not get back until nine o’clock, when he suddenly appeared in the doorway to lean the gun in the corner, and to announce, “Hapana safari.”

We stretched ourselves on a bench and a table—­the floor was impossible—­and took what sleep we could.  In the small hours the train thundered through, the train we had hoped to catch!


[15] This is the point at which construction was stopped by man-eating lions.  See Patterson’s “The Man-eaters of Tsavo.”

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African Camp Fires from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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