After that day no one spoke of "The Rat" or "The Odd Puppy," or used any of the numberless nicknames that they had given him, such as "The Specimen," "The Object," "No. 6," "Bully Beef" (because he got his head stuck in a half-pound tin one day), " The Scrap"; and even "The Duke of Wellington" ceased to be a gibe. They still laughed at his ridiculous dignity; and they loved to tease him to see him stiffen with rage and hear his choky little growls; but they liked his independence and admired his tremendous pluck. So they respected his name when he got one.
And his name was "Jock."
No one bothered about the other puppies' names: they were known as "Billy's pup," "Jimmy's pup," "Old Joe's Darling," "Yellow Jack," and "Bandy-¬Legged Sue"; but they seemed to think that this little chap had earned his name, fighting his way without any¬body's help and with everything against him; so they gave up all the nicknames and spoke of him as "Jock."
Jock got such a good advertisement by his fight with the table-leg that every one took notice of him now and remarked about what he did; and as he was only a very young puppy, they teased him, fed him, petted him, and did their best to spoil him. He was so young that it did not seem to matter, but I think if he had not been a really good dog at heart he would have been quite spoilt.
He soon began to grow and fill out; and it was then that he taught the other puppies to leave him alone. If they had not interfered with him he might perhaps have left them alone, as it was not his nature to interfere with others; but the trouble was they had bullied him so much while he was weak and helpless that he got used to the idea of fighting for every¬thing. It is probably the best thing that could have happened to Jock that as a puppy he was small and weak, but full of pluck; it compelled him to learn how to fight; it made him clever, cool, and careful, for he could not afford to make mistakes. When he fought he meant business; he went for a good spot, bit hard, and hung on for all he was worth; then, as the enemy began to slacken, he would start vigorously worrying and shaking. I often saw him shake himself off his feet, because the thing he was fighting was too heavy for him.
The day Jock fought the two big puppies one after the other for his bone, and beat them off, was the day of his independence; we all saw the tussle, and cheered the little chap. And then for one whole day he had peace; but it was like the pause at low water before the tide begins to flow the other way. He was so used to being interfered with that I suppose he did not immediately understand they would never tackle him again.
It took a whole day for him to realise this; but as soon as he did understand it he seemed to make up his mind that now his turn had come, and he went for the first puppy he saw with a bone. He walked up slowly and carefully, and began to make a circle round him. When he got about half-way round the puppy took up the bone and trotted off; but Jock headed him off at once, and again began to walk towards him very slowly and stiffly. The other puppy stood quite still for a moment, and then Jock's fierce determined look was too much for him: he dropped the bone and bolted.
There was mighty little but smell on those bones, for we gave the puppies very little meat, so when Jock had taken what he could off this one, he started on another hunt. A few yards away Billy's pup was having a glorious time, struggling with a big bone and growling all the while as if he wanted to let the world know that it was as much as any one's life was worth to come near him. None of us thought Jock would tackle him, as Billy's pup was still a long way the biggest and strongest of the puppies, and always ready to bully the others.
Jock was about three or four yards away when he caught sight of Billy's pup, and for about a minute he stood still and quietly watched. At first he seemed surprised, and then interested, and then gradually he stiffened up all over in that funny way of his; and when the hair on his shoulders was all on end and his ears and tail were properly up, he moved forward very deliberately. In this fashion he made a circle round Billy's pup, keeping about two feet away from him, walking infinitely slowly and glaring steadily at the enemy out of the corners of his eyes; and while he was doing this, the other fellow was tearing away at his bone, growling furiously and glaring side¬ways at Jock. When the circle was finished they stood once more face to face; and then after a short pause Jock began to move in closer, but more slowly even than before.
Billy's pup did not like this: it was beginning to look serious. He could not keep on eating and at the same time watch Jock; moreover, there was such a very unpleasant wicked look about Jock, and he moved so steadily and silently forward, that any one would feel a bit creepy and nervous; so he put his paw on the bone and let out a string of snarly barks, with his ears flat on his neck and his tail rather low down. But Jock still came on a little more carefully and slowly perhaps, but just as steadily as ever. When about a foot off the enemy's nose he changed his direction slightly, as if to walk past, and Billy's pup turned his head to watch him, keeping his nose pointed towards Jock's, but when they got side by side he again looked straight in front of him.
Perhaps he did this to make sure the bone was still there, or perhaps to show his contempt when he thought Jock was going off. Whatever the reason was, it was a mistake; for, as he turned his head away, Jock flew at him, got a good mouthful of ear, and in no time they were rolling and struggling in the dust Jock's little grunts barely audible in the noise made by the other one. Billy's pup was big and strong, and he was not a coward; but Jock was worrying his ear vigorously, and he could not find anything to bite in return. In less than a minute he began to howl, and was making frantic efforts to get away. Then Jock let go the ear and tackled the bone.
After that he had no more puppy fights. As soon as any one of the others saw Jock begin to walk slowly and carefully towards him he seemed to suddenly get tired of his bone, and moved off.
Most dogs like most people when their hearts fail them will try to hide the truth from one another and make some sort of effort or pretence to keep their dignity or self-respect or the good opinion of others. You may see it all any day in the street, when dogs meet and stop to 'size' each other up. As a rule the perfectly shameless cowards are found in the two extreme classes the outcasts, whose spirits are broken by all the world being against them; and the pam¬pered darlings, who have never had to do anything for themselves. Many dogs who are clearly anxious to get out of fighting will make a pretence of bravery at the time, or at least cover up their cowardice, with a 'wait-till-I-catch-you-next-time' air, as soon as they are at a safe distance. Day after day at the outspans the puppies went through every stage of the business, to our constant amusement and to my unconcealed pride; for Jock was thenceforth cock of the walk. If they saw him some distance off moving towards them or even staring hard and with his ears and tail up, the retreat would be made with a gloomy and dignified air, sometimes even with growls just loud enough to please themselves without provok¬ing him; if he was fairly close up when spotted they wasted no time in putting on airs, but trotted off promptly; but sometimes they would be too busy to notice anything until a growl or a rustle in the grass close behind gave warning; and it was always followed by a jump and a shameless scuttle, very often accompanied by a strangled sort of yowling yelp, just as if he had already got them by the ear or throat.
Some of them became so nervous that we could not resist playing practical jokes on them making sudden strange noises, imitating Jock's growls, tossing bits of bark at them or touching them from behind with a stick while they were completely occupied with their bones for the fun of seeing the stampede and hearing the sudden howls of surprise and fright.
One by one the other puppies were taken away by their new masters, and before Jock was three months old he and Jess were the only dogs with the waggons. Then he went to school, and like all schoolboys learnt some things very quickly the things that he liked; and some things he learnt very slowly, and hated them just as a boy hates extra work in play-time. When I poked about with a stick in the banks of dongas to turn out mice and field-rats for him, or when I hid a partridge or a hare and made him find it, he was as happy as could be; but when I made him lie down and watch my gun or coat while I pretended to go off and leave him, he did not like it; and as for his lessons in manners! well, he simply hated them.
There are some things which a dog in that sort of life simply must learn or you cannot keep him; and the first of these is, not to steal. Every puppy will help himself until he is taught not to; and your dog lives with you and can get at everything. At the out¬spans the grub-box is put on the ground, open for each man to help himself; if you make a stew, or roast the leg of a buck, the big three-legged pot is put down handy and left there; if you are lucky enough to have some tinned butter or condensed milk, the tins are opened and stood on the ground; and if you have a dog thief in the camp, nothing is safe.
There was a dog with us once a year or two later who was the worst thief I ever knew. He was a one¬-eyed pointer with feet like a duck's, and his name was Snarleyow. He looked the most foolish and most innocent dog in the world, and was so timid that if you stumbled as you passed him he would instantly start howling and run for the horizon. The first bad experience I had of Snarley was on one of the little hunting trips which we sometimes made in those days, away from the waggons. We travelled light on those occasions, and, except for some tea and a very little flour and salt, took no food; we lived on what we shot and of course kept 'hunter's pot.'
'Hunter's pot' is a perpetual stew; you make one stew, and keep it going as long as necessary, main¬taining a full pot by adding to it as fast as you take any out; scraps of everything go in; any kind of meat buck, bird, pig, hare and if you have such luxuries as onions or potatoes, so much the better; then, to make the soup strong, the big bones are added¬the old ones being fished out every day and replaced by a fresh lot. When allowed to cool it sets like brawn, and a hungry hunter wants nothing better.
We had had a good feed the first night of this trip and had then filled the pot up leaving it to simmer as long as the fire lasted, expecting to have cold pie set in jelly but without the pie-crust for early breakfast next morning before going off for the day; but, to our amazement, in the morning the pot was empty. There were some strange kaffirs camp followers hanging on to our trail for what they could pick up, and we suspected them. There was a great row, but the boys denied having touched the pot, and we could prove nothing.
That night we made the fire close to our sleeping-¬place and moved the kaffirs further away, but next morning the pot was again empty cleaned and polished as if it had been washed out. While we, speechless with astonishment and anger, were wondering who the thief was and what we should do with him, one of the hunting boys came up and pointed to the prints of a dog's feet in the soft white ashes of the dead fire. There was only one word: "Snarleyow." The thief was lying fast asleep comfortably curled up on his master's clothes. There could be no mistake about those big splayed footprints, and in about two minutes Snar¬leyow was getting a first-class hammering, with his head tied inside the three-legged pot for a lesson.
After that he was kept tied up at night; but Snarleyow was past curing. We had practically nothing to eat but what we shot, and nothing to drink but bush tea that is, tea made from a certain wild shrub with a very strong scent; it is not nice, but you drink it when you cannot get anything else. We could not afford luxuries then, but two days before Ted's birthday he sent a runner off to Komati Drift and bought a small tin of ground coffee and a tin of condensed milk for his birthday treat. It was to be a real feast that day, so he cut the top off the tin instead of punching two holes and blowing the milk out, as we usually did in order to economise and keep out the dust and insects. What we could not use in the coffee that day we were going to spread on our 'doughboys' instead of butter and jam. It was to be a real feast!
The five of us sat down in a circle and began on our hunter's pot, saving the good things for the last. While we were still busy on the stew, there came a pathetic heartbreaking yowl from SnarIeyow, and we looked round just in time to see him, his tail tucked between his legs and his head high in the air, bolting off into the bush as hard as he could lay legs to the ground, with the milk tin stuck firmly on to his nose. The greedy thief in trying to get the last scrap out had dug his nose and top jaw too far in, and the jagged edges of the tin had gripped him; and the last we saw of our birthday treat was the tin flashing in the sunlight on Snarley's nose as he tore away howling into the bush.
Snarleyow came to a bad end: his master shot him as he was running off with a ham. He was a full-grown dog when he came to our camp, and too old to learn principles and good manners.
Dogs are like people: what they learn when they are young, whether of good or of evil, is not readily forgotten. I began early with Jock, and remember¬ing what Rocky had said tried to help him. It is little use punishing a dog for stealing if you take no trouble about feeding him. That is very rough on the dog; he has to find out slowly and by himself what he may take, and what he may not. Sometimes he leaves what he was meant to take, and goes hungry; and sometimes takes what was not intended for him, and gets a thrashing. That is not fair. You cannot expect to have a good dog, and one that will understand you, if you treat him in that way. Some men teach their dogs not to take food from any one but themselves. One day when we were talking about training dogs, Ted told one of the others to open Jess's mouth and put a piece of meat in it, he undertaking not to say a word and not even to look at her. The meat was put in her mouth and her jaws were shut tight on it; but the instant she was free she dropped it, walked round to the other side of Ted and sat close up to him. He waited for a minute or so and, without so much as a glance at her, said quietly "All right." She was back again in a second and with one hungry bite bolted the lump of meat.
I taught Jock not to touch food in camp until he was told to 'take it.' The lesson began when he got his saucer of porridge in the morning; and he must have thought it cruel to have that put in front of him, and then to be held back or tapped with a finger on the nose each time he tried to dive into it. At first he struggled and fought to get at it; then he tried to back away and dodge round the other side; then he became dazed, and, thinking it was not for him at all, wanted to walk off and have nothing more to do with it. In a few days, however, I got him to lie still and take it only when I patted him and pushed him towards it; and in a very little time he got on so well that I could put his food down without saying any¬thing and let him wait for permission. He would lie down with his head on his paws and his nose right up against the saucer, so as to lose no time when the order came; but he would not touch it until he heard 'Take it.' He never moved his head, but his little browny dark eyes, full of childlike eagerness, used to be turned up sideways and fixed on mine. I believe he watched my lips; he was so quick to obey the order when it came.
When he grew up and had learned his lessons there was no need for these exercises. He got to understand me so well that if I nodded or moved my hand in a way that meant 'all right,' he would go ahead: by that time too he was dignified and patient; and it was only in his puppyhood that he used to crouch up close to his food and tremble with impatience and excitement.
There was one lesson that he hated most of all. I used to balance a piece of meat on his nose and make him keep it there until the word to take it came. Time after time he would close his eves as if the sight of the meat was more than he could bear, and his mouth would water so from the savoury smell that long streels of dribble would hang down on either side.
It seems unnecessary and even cruel to tantalise a dog in that way; but it was not: it was education; and it was true kindness. It taught him to under¬stand his master, and to be obedient, patient, and observant; it taught him not to steal; it saved him from much sickness, and perhaps death, by teaching him not to feed on anything he could find; it taught him manners and made it possible for him to live with his master and be treated like a friend.
Good feeding, good care, and plenty of exercise soon began to make a great change in Jock. He ceased to look like a beetle grew bigger everywhere, not only in one part as he had done at first; his neck grew thick and strong, and his legs straightened up and filled out with muscle. The others, seeing him every day, were slow to notice these things, but my sand had been changed into gold long ago, and they always said I could not see anything wrong in Jock.
There was one other change which came more slowly and seemed to me much more wonderful. After his morning feed, if there was nothing to do, he used to go to sleep in some shady place, and I remember well one day watching him as he lay. His bit of shade had moved away and left him in the bright sunshine; and as he breathed and his ribs rose and fell, the tips of the hairs on his side and back caught the sunlight and shone like polished gold, and the wavy dark lines seemed more distinct and darker, but still very soft. In fact, I was astonished to see that in a certain light Jock looked quite handsome. That was the first time I noticed the change in colour; and it made me remember two things. The first was what the other fellows had said the day Billy gave up his pup, "You can't tell how a puppy will turn out: even his colour changes"; and the second was a remark made by an old hunter who had offered to buy Jock the real meaning of which I did not understand at the time.
"The best dog I ever owned was a golden brindle," said the old man thoughtfully, after I had laughed at the idea of selling my dog. I had got so used to thinking that he was only a faded wishy-washy edition of Jess that the idea of his colour changing did not occur to me then, and I never suspected that the old man could see how he would turn out; but the touch of sunlight opened my eyes that day, and after that whenever I looked at Jock the words "golden brindle" came back to my mind, and I pictured him as he was going to be and as he really did grow up having a coat like burnished gold with soft, dark, wavy brindles in it and that snow-white V on his chest.
Jock had many things to learn besides the lessons he got from me the lessons of experience which nobody could teach him. When he was six months old just old enough, if he had lived in a town, to chase a cat and make a noise he knew many things that respectable puppies of twice his age who stay at home never get a chance of learning.
On trek there were always new places to see, new roads to travel, and new things to examine, tackle or avoid. He learnt something fresh almost every day: he learnt, for instance, that, although it was shady and cool under the waggon, it was not good enough to lie in the wheel track, not even for the pleasure of feeling the cool iron tyre against your back or head as you slept; and he knew that, because one day he had done it and the wheel had gone over his foot; and it might just as easily have been his back or head. Fortunately the sand was soft and his foot was not crushed; but he was very lame for some days, and had to travel on the waggon.
He learned a good deal from Jess: among other things, that it was not necessary to poke his nose up against a snake in order to find out what it was. He knew that Jess would fight anything; and when one day he saw her back hair go up and watched her sheer off the footpath wide into the grass, he did the same; and then when we had shot the snake, both he and Jess came up very very cautiously and sniffed at it, with every hair on their bodies standing up.
He found out for himself that it was not a good idea to turn a scorpion over with his paw. The vicious little tail with a thorn in it whipped over the scorpion's back, and Jock had such a foot that he must have thought a scorpion worse than two waggons. He was a very sick dog for some days; but after that, whenever he saw a thing that he did not understand, he would watch it very carefully from a little way off and notice what it did and what it looked like, before trying experiments.
So, little by little, Jock got to understand plenty of things that no town dog would ever know, and he got to know just as some people do by what we call instinct, whether a thing was dangerous or safe, even though he had never seen anything like it before. That is how he knew that wolves or lions were about¬ andthat they were dangerous when he heard or scented them; although he had never seen, scented or heard one before to know what sort of animal it might be. You may well wonder how he could tell whether the scent or the cry belonged to a wolf which he must avoid, or to a buck which he might hunt, when he had never seen either a wolf or a buck at the time; but he did know; and he also knew that no dog could safely go outside the ring of the camp fires when wolf or lion was about. I have known many town-bred dogs that could scent them just as well as Jess or Jock could, but having no instinct of danger they went out to see what it was, and of course they never came back.
I used to take Jock with me everywhere so that he could learn everything that a hunting dog ought to know, and above all things to learn that he was my dog, and to understand all that I wanted to tell him. So while he was still a puppy, whenever he stopped to sniff at something new or to look at something strange, I would show him what it was; but if he stayed behind to explore while I moved on, or if he fell asleep and did not hear me get up from where I had sat down to rest, or went off the track on his own account, I used to hide away from him on top of a rock or up a tree and let him hunt about until he found me.
At first he used to be quite excited when he missed me, but after a little time he got to know what to do and would sniff along the ground and canter away after me always finding me quite easily. Even if I climbed a tree to hide from him he would follow my track to the foot of the tree, sniff up the trunk as far as he could reach standing up against it, and then peer up into the branches. If he could not see me from one place, he would try another always with his head tilted a bit on one side. He never barked at these times; but as soon as he saw me, his ears would drop, his mouth open wide with the red tongue lolling out, and the stump of a tail would twiggle away to show how pleased he was. Sometimes he would give a few little whimpery grunts: he hardly ever barked; when he did I knew there was something worth looking at.
Jock was not a quarrelsome dog, and he was quick to learn and very obedient, but in one connection I had great difficulty with him for quite a little time. He had a sort of private war with the fowls; and it was due to the same cause as his war with the other puppies: they interfered with him. Now, every one knows what a fowl is like: it is impudent, inquisitive, selfish, always looking for something to eat, and has no principles.
A friend of mine once told me a story about a dog of his and the trouble he had with fowls. Several of us had been discussing the characters of dogs, and the different emotions they feel and manage to express, and the kind of things they seem to think about. Every one knows that a dog can feel angry, frightened, pleased, and disappointed. Any one who knows dogs will tell you that they can also feel anxious, hopeful, nervous, inquisitive, surprised, ashamed, interested, sad, loving, jealous, and contented just like human beings.
We had told many stories illustrating this, when my friend asked the question: "Have dogs a sense of humour?" Now I know that Jock looked very foolish the day he fought the table-leg and a silly old hen made him look just as foolish another day but that is not quite what my friend meant. On both occasions Jock clearly felt that he had made himself look ridiculous; but he was very far from looking amused. The question was: Is a dog capable of sufficient thinking to appreciate a simple joke, and is it possible for a dog to feel amused. If Jess had seen Jock bursting to fight the table-leg would she have seen the joke? Well, I certainly did not think so; but he said he was quite certain some dogs have a sense of humour; and he had had proof of it.
He told the story very gravely, but I really do not even now know whether he Well, here it is: He had once owned a savage old watch-dog, whose box stood in the back-yard where he was kept chained up all day; he used to be fed once a day in the mornings and the great plague of his life was the fowls. They ran loose in the yard and picked up food all day, besides getting a really good feed of grain morning and evening; possibly the knowledge of this made the old dog particularly angry when they would come round by ones or twos or dozens trying to steal part of his one meal. Anyhow, he hated them, and whenever he got a chance killed them. The old fowls learned to keep out of his way and never ventured within his reach unless they were quite sure that he was asleep or lying in his kennel where he could not see them; but there were always new fowls coming, or young ones growing up; and so the war went on.
One Sunday morning my friend was enjoying a smoke on his back stoep when feeding time came round. The cook took the old dog's food to him in a high three-legged pot, and my friend, seeing the fowls begin to gather round and wishing to let the old dog have his meal in peace, told the cook to give the fowls a good feed in another part of the yard to draw them off. So the old fellow polished off his food and licked the pot clean, leaving not a drop or a speck behind.
But fowls are very greedy; they were soon back again wandering about, with their active-looking eyes searching everything. The old dog, feeling pretty satisfied with life, picked out a sandy spot in the sunshine, threw himself down full stretch on his side, and promptly went to sleep at peace with all the world. Immediately he did this, out stepped a long-legged athletic-looking young cockerel and began to advance against the enemy. As he got nearer he slowed down, and looked first with one eye and then with the other so as to make sure that all was safe, and several times he paused with one foot poised high before deciding to take the next step. My friend was greatly amused to see all the trouble that the fowl was taking to get up to the empty pot, and, for the fun of giving the conceited young cockerel a fright, threw a pebble at him. He was so nervous that when the pebble dropped near him, he gave one great bound and tore off flapping and screaming down the yard as if he thought the old dog was after him. The old fellow himself was startled out of his sleep, and raised his head to see what the row was about; but, as nothing more happened, he lay down again, and the cockerel, finding also that it was a false alarm, turned back not a bit ashamed for another try.
The cockerel had not seen the old dog lift his head; my friend had, and when he looked again he saw that, although the underneath eye half buried in the sand was shut, the top eye was open and was steadily watch¬ing the cockerel as he came nearer and nearer to the pot. My friend sat dead still, expecting a rush and another fluttering scramble. At last the cockerel took the final step, craned his neck to its utmost and peered down into the empty pot. The old dog gave two gentle pats with his tail in the sand, and closing his eye went to sleep again.
Jock had the same sort of trouble. The fowls tried to steal his food; and he would not stand it. His way of dealing with them was not good for their health: before I could teach him not to kill, and before the fowls would learn not to steal, he had finished half a dozen of them one after another with just one bite and a shake. He would growl very low as they came up and, without lifting his head from the plate, watch them with his little eyes turning from soft brown to shiny black; and when they came too near and tried to snatch just one mouthful well, one jump, one shake, and it was all over.
In the end he learned to tumble them over and scare their wits out without hurting them; and they learned to give him a very wide berth.
I used always to keep some fowls with the waggons, partly to have fresh meat if we ran out of game, but mainly to have fresh eggs, which were a very great treat; and as a rule it was only when a hen turned obstinate and would not lay that we ate her. I used to have one old rooster, whose name was Pezulu, and six or eight hens. The hens changed from time to time as we ate them but Pezulu remained.
The fowl-coop was carried on top of everything else, and it was always left open so that the fowls could go in and out as they liked. In the very begin¬ning of all, of course, the fowls were shut in and fed in the coop for a day or two to teach them where their home was; but it is surprising how quickly a fowl will learn and how it observes things. For instance, the moving of the coop from one waggon to another is not a thing one would expect the fowls to notice, all the waggons being so much alike and having no regular order at the outspans; but they did notice it, and at once. They would first get on to the waggon on which the coop had been, and look about in a puzzled lost kind of way; then walk all over the load apparently searching for it, with heads cocked this way and that, as if a great big coop was a thing that might have been mislaid somewhere; then one after another would jerk out short cackles of protest, indignation and astonishment, and generally make no end of a fuss. It was only when old Pezulu led the way and perched on the coop itself and crowed and called to them that they would get up on to the other waggon.
Pezulu got his name by accident in fact, by a misunderstanding. It is a Zulu word meaning 'up' or 'on top,' and when the fowls first joined the waggons and were allowed to wander about at the outspan places, the boys would drive them up when it was time to trek again by cracking their big whips and shouting "Pezulu." In a few days no driving or whip-cracking was necessary; one of the boys would shout "Pezulu" three or four times, and they would all come in and one by one fly and scramble up to the coop. One day, after we had got a new lot of hens, a stranger happened to witness the performance. Old Pezulu was the only one who knew what was meant, and being a terribly fussy nervous old gentle¬man, came tearing out of the bush making a lot of noise, and scrambled hastily on to the waggon. The stranger, hearing the boys call "Pezulu" and seeing him hurry up so promptly, remarked: "How well he knows his name!" So we called him Pezulu after that.
Whenever we got new fowls Pezulu became as dis¬tracted as a nervous man with a large family trying to find seats in an excursion train. As soon as he saw the oxen being brought up, and before any one had called for the fowls, he would begin fussing and fuming trying all sorts of dodges to get the hens up to the waggons. He would crow and cluck-cluck or kip-kip; he would go a few yards towards the waggons and scratch in the ground, pretending to have found something good, and invite them to come and share it; he would get on the disselboom and crow and flap his wings loudly; and finally he would mount on top of the coop and make all sorts of signals to the hens, who took not the least notice of him. As the inspanning went on he would get more and more excited; down he would come again not flying off, but hopping from ledge to ledge to show them the easy way; and once more on the ground he would scrape and pick and cluck to attract them, and the whole game would be played over again and again. So even with new fowls we had very little trouble, as old Pezulu did most of the teaching.
But sometimes Pezulu himself was caught napping ¬to the high delight of the boys. He was so nervous and so fussy that they thought it great fun to play tricks on him and pretend to go off and leave him behind. It was not easy to do this because, as I say, he did not wait to be called, but got ready the minute he saw the oxen coming up. He was like those fussy people who drive every one else crazy and waste a lot of time by always being half an hour early, and then annoy you by boasting that they have never missed a train in their lives.
But there was one way in which Pezulu used to get caught. Just as he knew that inspanning meant starting, so, too, he knew that outspanning meant stopping; and whenever the waggons stopped¬ even for a few minutes out would pop his head, just like the fussy red-faced father of the big family looking out to see if it was their station or an accident on the line. Right and left he would look, giving excited inquisitive clucks from time to time, and if they did not start in another minute or two, he would get right out and walk anxiously to the edge of the load and have another good look around as the nervous old gentleman gets half out, and then right out, to look for the guard, but will not let go the handle of the door for fear of being left. Unless he saw the boys outspanning he would not get off, and if one of the hens ventured out he would rush back at her in a great state and try to bustle her back into the coop. But often it happens while trekking that something goes wrong with the gear a yokeskey or a nekstrop breaks, or an ox will not pull kindly or pulls too hard where he is, and you want to change his place; and in that way it comes about that sometimes you have to outspan one or two or even more oxen in the middle of a trek.
That is how Pezulu used to get caught: the minute he saw outspanning begin, he would nip off with all the hens following him and wander about looking for food, chasing locusts or grasshoppers, and making darts at beetles and all sorts of dainties very much interested in his job and wandering further from the waggons at every step. The boys would watch him, and as soon as they were fixed up again, would start off without a word of warning to Pezulu. Then there was a scene. At the first sound of the waggon-wheels moving he would look up from where he was or walk briskly into the open or get on to an ant-heap to see what was up, and when to his horror he saw the waggon actually going without him, he simply screamed open-mouthed and tore along with wings outstretched the old gentleman shouting "Stop the train, stop the train," with his family straggling along behind him. It never took him long to catch up and scramble on, but even then he was not a bit less excited: he was perfectly hysterical, and his big red comb seemed to get quite purple as if he might be going to have apoplexy, and he twitched and jerked about so that it flapped first over one eye and then over the other. This was the boys' practical joke which they played on him whenever they could.
That was old Pezulu Pezulu the First. He was thick in the body, all chest and tail, short in the legs, and had enormous spurs; and his big comb made him look so red in the face that one could not help think¬ing he was too fond of his dinner. In some old Christmas number we came across a coloured carica¬ture of a militia colonel in full uniform, and for quite a long time it remained tacked on to the coop with "Pezulu" written on it.
Pezulu the Great who was Pezulu the Second was not like that: he was a game cock, all muscle and no frills, with a very resolute manner and a real love of his profession; he was a bit like Jock in some things; and that is why I fancy perhaps Jock and he were friends in a kind of way. But Jock could not get on with the others: they were constantly changing; new ones who had to be taught manners were always coming; so he just lumped them together, and hated fowls. He taught them manners, but they taught him something too at any rate, one of them did; and one of the biggest surprises and best lessons Jock ever had was given him by a hen while he was still a growing-up puppy.
He was beginning to fancy that he knew a good deal, and like most young dogs was very inquisitive and wanted to know everything and at once. At that time he was very keen on hunting mice, rats and bush squirrels, and had even fought and killed a meerkat after the pluck little rikkitikki had bitten him rather badly through the lip; and he was still much inclined to poke his nose in or rush on to things instead of sniffing round about first.
However, he learned to be careful, and an old hen helped to teach him. The hens usually laid their eggs in the coop because it was their home, but some¬times they would make nests in the bush at the outspan places. One of the hens had done this, and the bush she had chosen was very low and dense. No one saw the hen make the nest and no one saw her sitting on it, for the sunshine was so bright everywhere else, and the shade of the bush so dark that it was impossible to see anything there; but while we were at breakfast Jock, who was bustling about everywhere as a puppy will, must have scented the hen or have seen this brown thing in the dark shady hole.
The hen was sitting with her head sunk right down into her chest, so that he could not see any head eyes or beak just a sort of brown lump. Suddenly we saw Jock stand stock-still, cock up one ear, put his head down and his nose out, hump up his shoulders a bit and begin to walk very slowly forward in a crouch¬ing attitude. He lifted his feet so slowly and so softly that you could count five between each step. We were all greatly amused and thought he was pointing a mouse or a locust, and we watched him.
He crept up like a boy 'showing off' until he was only six inches from the object, giving occasional cautious glances back at us to attract attention. Just as he got to the hole the hen let out a vicious peck on the top of his nose and at the same time flapped over his head, screaming and cackling for dear life. It was all so sudden and so surprising that she was gone before he could think of making a grab at her; and when he heard our shouts of laughter he looked as foolish as if he understood all about it.
THE FIRST HUNT
Jock's first experience in hunting was on the Crocodile River not far from the spot where long afterwards we had the great fight with The Old Crocodile. In the summer when the heavy rains flood the country the river runs 'bank high,' hiding everything reeds, rocks, islands, and stunted trees in some places silent and oily like a huge gorged snake, in others foaming and turbulent as an angry monster. In the rainless winter when the water is low and clear the scene is not so grand, but is quiet, peaceful, and much more beautiful. There is an infinite variety in it then the river sometimes winding along in one deep channel, but more often forking out into two or three streams in the broad bed. The loops and lacings of the divided water carve out islands and spaces of all shapes and sizes, banks of clean white sand or of firm damp mud swirled up by the floods, on which tall green reeds with yellow tasselled tops shoot up like crops of Kaffir corn. Looked down upon from the flood banks the silver streaks of water gleam brightly in the sun, and the graceful reeds, bowing and swaying slowly with the gentlest breeze and alternately showing their leaf-sheathed stems and crested tops, give the appearance of an ever-changing sea of green and gold. Here and there a big rock, black and polished, stands boldly out, and the sea of reeds laps round it like the waters of a lake on a bright still day. When there is no breeze the rustle of the reeds is hushed, and the only constant sound is the ever-varying voice of the water, lapping, gurgling, chattering, murmur¬ing, as it works its way along the rocky channels; sometimes near and loud, sometimes faint and distant; and sometimes, over long sandy reaches, there is no sound at all.
Get up on some vantage point upon the high bank and look down there one day in the winter of the tropics as the heat and hush of noon approach, and it will seem indeed a scene of peace and beauty¬ a place to rest and dream, where there is neither stir nor sound. Then, as you sit silently watching and thinking, where all the world is so infinitely still, you will notice that one reed down among all those countless thousands is moving. It bows slowly and gracefully a certain distance, and then with a quivering shuddering motion straightens itself still more slowly and with evident difficulty, until at last it stands up right again like the rest but still all a-quiver while they do not move a leaf. Just as you are beginning to wonder what the reason is, the reed bows slowly again, and again struggles back; and so it goes on as regularly as the swing of a pendulum. Then you know that, down at the roots where you cannot see it, the water is flowing silently, and that something attached to this reed is dragging in the stream and pulling it over, and swinging back to do it again each time the reed lifts it free a perpetual seesaw.
You are glad to find the reason, because it looked a little uncanny; but the behaviour of that one reed has stopped your dreaming and made you look about more carefully. Then you find that, although the reeds appear as still as the rocks, there is hardly a spot where, if you watch for a few minutes, you will not see something moving. A tiny field-mouse climbing one reed will sway it over; a river rat gnawing at the roots will make it shiver and rustle; little birds hopping from one to another will puzzle you; and a lagavaan turning in his sunbath will make half a dozen sway outwards.
All feeling that it is a home of peace, a place to rest and dream, leaves you; you are wondering what goes on down below the green and gold where you can see nothing; and when your eye catches a bigger, slower, continuous movement in another place, and for twenty yards from the bank to the stream you see the tops of the reeds silently and gently parting and closing again as something down below works its way along without the faintest sound, the place seems too quiet, too uncanny and mysterious, too silent, stealthy and treacherous for you to sit still in comfort: you must get up and do something. There is always good shooting along the rivers in a country where water is scarce. Partridges, bush-¬pheasants and stembuck were plentiful along the banks and among the thorns, but the reeds themselves were the home of thousands of guinea-fowl, and you could also count on duiker and rietbuck as almost a certainty there. If this were all, it would be like shooting in a well-stocked cover, but it is not only man that is on the watch for game at the drinking-places. The beasts of prey lions, tigers, hyenas, wild dogs and jackals, and lastly pythons and crocodiles know that the game must come to water, and they lie in wait near the tracks or the drinking-places. That is what makes the mystery and charm of the reeds; you never know what you will put up. The lions and tigers had deserted the country near the main drifts and followed the big game into more peaceful parts; but the reeds were still the favourite shelter and resting-place of the crocodiles; and there were any number of them left.
There is nothing that one comes across in hunting more horrible and loathsome than the crocodile: nothing that rouses the feeling of horror and hatred as it does: nothing that so surely and quickly gives the sensation of 'creeps in the back' as the noiseless apparition of one in the water where you least expected anything, or the discovery of one silently and intently watching you with its head resting flat on a sand-spit the thing you had seen half a dozen times before and mistaken for a small rock. Many things are hunted in the Bushveld; but only the crocodile is hated. There is always the feeling of horror that this hideous, cowardly, cruel thing the enemy of man and beast alike with its look of a cunning smile in the greeny glassy eyes and great wide mouth, will mercilessly drag you down down down to the bottom of some deep still pool, and hold you there till you drown. Utterly helpless yourself to escape or fight, you cannot even call, and if you could, no one could help you there. It is all done in silence: a few bubbles come up where a man went down; and that is the end of it.
We all knew about the crocodiles and were prepared for them, but the sport was good, and when you are fresh at the game and get interested in a hunt it is not very easy to remember all the things you have been warned about and the precautions you were told to take. It was on the first day at the river that one of our party, who was not a very old hand at hunting, came in wet and muddy and told us how a crocodile had scared the wits out of him. He had gone out after guinea-fowl, he said, but as he had no dog to send in and flush them, the birds simply played with him: they would not rise but kept running in the reeds a little way in front of him, just out of sight. He could hear them quite distinctly and thinking to steal a march on them took off his boots and got on to the rocks. Stepping bare-footed from rock to rock where the reeds were thin, he made no noise at all and got so close up that he could hear the little whispered chink-chink-chink that they give when near danger. The only chance of getting a shot at them was to mount one of the big rocks from which he could see down into the reeds; and he worked his way along a mud-bank towards one. A couple more steps from the mud-bank on to a low black rock would take him to the big one. Without taking his eyes off the reeds where the guinea-fowl were he stepped cautiously on to the low black rock, and in an instant was swept off his feet, tossed and tumbled over and over, into the mud and reeds, and there was a noise of furious rushing and crashing as if a troop of elephants were stampeding through the reeds. He had stepped on the back of a sleeping crocodile; no doubt it was every bit as frightened as he was. There was much laughter over this and the breathless earnestness with which he told the story; but there was also a good deal of chaff, for it seems to be generally accepted that you are not bound to believe all hunting stories; and Jim and his circus crocodile became the joke of the camp.
We were spending a couple of days on the river bank to make the most of the good water and grazing, and all through the day some one or other would be out pottering about among the reeds, gun in hand, to keep the pot full and have some fun, and although we laughed and chaffed about Jim's experience, I fancy we were all very much on the look-out for rocks that looked like crocs and crocs that looked like rocks.
One of the most difficult lessons that a beginner has to learn is to keep cool. The keener you are the more likely you are to get excited and the more bitterly you feel the disappointments; and once you lose your head, there is no mistake too stupid for you to make, and the result is another good chance spoilt. The great silent bush is so lonely; the strain of being on the look-out all the time is so great; the uncertainty as to what may start up anything from a partridge to a lion is so trying that the beginner is wound up like an alarum clock and goes off at the first touch. He is not fit to hit a haystack at twenty yards; will fire without looking or aiming at all; jerk the rifle as he fires; forget to change the sight after the last shot; forget to cock his gun or move the safety catch; forget to load; forget to fire at all: nothing is impossible nothing too silly.
On a later trip we had with us a man who was out for the first time, and when we came upon a troop of koodoo he started yelling war-whooping and swear¬ing at them, chasing them on foot and waving his rifle over his head. When we asked him why he, who was nearest to them, had not fired a shot, all he could say was that he never remembered his rifle or anything else until they were gone.
These experiences had been mine, some of them many times, in spite of Rocky's example and advice; and they were always followed by a fresh stock of good resolutions.
I had started out this day with the same old deter¬mination to keep cool, but, once into the reeds, Jim's account of how he had stepped on the crocodile put all other thoughts out of my mind, and most of my attention was given to examining suspicious-looking rocks as we stole silently and quietly along.
Jock was with me, as usual; I always took him out even then not for hunting, because he was too young, but in order to train him. He was still only a puppy, about six months old, as well as I remember, and had never tackled or even followed a wounded buck, so that it was impossible to say what he would do; he had seen me shoot a couple and had wanted to worry them as they fell; but that was all. He was quite obedient and kept his place behind me; and, although he trembled with excitement when he saw or heard anything, he never rushed in or moved ahead of me without permission. The guinea-fowl tormented him that day; he could scent and hear them, and was constantly making little runs forward, half crouching and with his nose back and tail dead level and his one ear full-cocked and the other half-up.
For about half an hour we went on in this way. There was plenty of fresh duiker spoor to show us that we were in a likely place, one spoor in particular being so fresh in the mud that it seemed only a few minutes old. We were following this one very eagerly but very cautiously, and evidently Jock agreed with me that the duiker must be near, for he took no more notice of the guinea-fowl; and I for my part forgot all about crocodiles and suspicious-looking rocks; there was at that moment only one thing in the world for me, and that was the duiker. We crept along noiselessly in and out of the reeds, round rocks and mudholes, across small stretches of firm mud or soft sand, so silently that nothing could have heard us, and finally we came to a very big rock, with the duiker spoor fresher than ever going close round it down stream. The rock was a long sloping one, polished smooth by the floods and very slippery to walk on. I climbed it in dead silence, peering down into the reeds and expecting every moment to see the duiker.
The slope up which we crept was long and easy, but that on the down-stream side was much steeper. I crawled up to the top on hands and knees, and raising myself slowly, looked carefully about, but no duiker could be seen; yet Jock was sniffing and trembling more than ever, and it was quite clear that he thought we were very close up. Seeing nothing in front or on either side, I stood right up and turned to look back the way we had come and examine the reeds on that side. In doing so a few grains of grit crunched under my foot, and instantly there was a rush in the reeds behind me; I jumped round to face it, believing that the crocodile was grabbing at me from behind, and on the polished surface of the rock my feet slipped and shot from under me, both bare elbows bumped hard on the rock, jerking the rifle out of my hands; and I was launched like a torpedo right into the mass of swaying reeds.
When you think you are tumbling on to a crocodile there is only one thing you want to do get out as soon as possible. How long it took to reach the top of the rock again, goodness only knows! It seemed like a life-time; but the fact is I was out of those reeds and up that rock in time to see the duiker as it broke out of the reeds, raced up the bank, and disappeared into the bush with Jock tearing after it as hard as ever he could go.
One call stopped him, and he came back to me looking very crestfallen and guilty, no doubt thinking that he had behaved badly and disgraced himself. But he was not to blame at all; he had known all along that the duiker was therehaving had no distracting fancies about crocodiles¬and when he saw it dash off and his master instantly jump in after it, he must have thought that the hunt had at last begun and that he was expected to help.
After all that row and excitement there was not much use in trying for anything more in the reeds and indeed I had had quite enough of them for one afternoon; so we wandered along the upper banks in the hope of finding something where there were no crocodiles, and it was not long before we were interested in something else and able to forget all about the duiker.
Before we had been walking many minutes, Jock raised his head and ears and then lowered himself into a half-crouching attitude and made a little run forward. I looked promptly in the direction he was pointing and about two hundred yards away saw a stembuck standing in the shade of a mimosa bush feeding on the buffalo grass. It was so small and in such bad light that the shot was too difficult for me at that distance, and I crawled along behind bushes, ant-heaps and trees until we were close enough for anything. The ground was soft and sandy, and we could get along easily enough without making any noise; but all the time, whilst thinking how lucky it was to be on ground so soft for the hands and knees, and so easy to move on without being heard, something else was happening. With eyes fixed on the buck I did not notice that, in crawling along on all-fours, the muzzle of the rifle dipped regularly into the sand, picking up a little in the barrel each time. There was not enough to burst the rifle, but the effect was surpris¬ing. Following on a painfully careful aim, there was a deafening report that made my head reel and buzz; the kick of the rifle on the shoulder and cheek left me blue for days; and when my eyes were clear enough to see anything the stembuck had disappeared.
I was too disgusted to move, and sat in the sand rubbing my shoulder and thanking my stars that the rifle had not burst. There was plenty to think about, to be sure, and no hurry to do anything else, for the noise of the shot must have startled every living thing for a mile round.
It is not always easy to tell the direction from which a report comes when you are near a river or in broken country or patchy bush; and it is not an uncommon thing to find that a shot which has frightened one animal away from you has startled another and driven it towards you; and that is what happened in this case. As I sat in the shade of the thorns with the loaded rifle across my knees there was the faint sound of a buck cantering along in the sand; I looked up; and only about twenty yards from me a duiker came to a stop, half fronting me. There it stood looking back over its shoulder and listening intently, evidently thinking that the danger lay behind it. It was hardly possible to miss that; and as the duiker rolled over, I dropped my rifle and ran to make sure of it.
Of course, it was dead against the rules to leave the rifle behind; but it was simply a case of excitement again: when the buck rolled over everything else was forgotten! I knew the rule perfectly well Reload at once and never part with your gun. It was one of Rocky's lessons, and only a few weeks before this, when out for an afternoon's shooting with an old hunter, the lesson had been repeated. The old man shot a rietbuck ram, and as it had been facing us and dropped without a kick we both thought that it was shot through the brain. There was no mark on the head, however, and although we examined it carefully, we failed to find the bullet-mark or a trace of blood; so we put our rifles down to settle the question by skinning the buck. After sawing at the neck for half a minute, however, the old man found his knife too blunt to make an opening, and we both hunted about for a stone to sharpen it on, and while we were fossicking about in the grass there was a noise behind, and looking sharply round we saw the buck scramble to its feet and scamper off before we had time to move. The bullet must have touched one of its horns and stunned it. My companion was too old a hunter to get excited, and while I ran for the rifles and wanted to chase the buck on foot he stood quite still, gently rubbing the knife on the stone he had picked up. Looking at me under bushy eye¬brows and smiling philosophically, he said:
"That's something for you to remember, Boy. It's my belief if you lived for ever there'd always be something to learn at this game."
Unfortunately I did not remember when it would have been useful. As I ran forward the duiker tumbled, struggled and rolled over and over, then got up and made a dash, only to dive head fore¬most into the sand and somersault over; but in a second it was up again and racing off, again to trip and plunge forward on to its chest with its nose out¬stretched sliding along the soft ground. The bullet had struck it in the shoulder, and the broken leg was tripping it and bringing it down; but, in far less time than it takes to tell it, the little fellow found out what was wrong, and scrambling once more to its feet was off on three legs at a pace that left me far behind. Jock, remembering the mistake in the reeds, kept his place behind, and I in the excitement of the moment neither saw nor thought of him until the duiker, gaining at every jump, looked like vanishing for ever. Then I remembered and, with a frantic wave of my hand, shouted, "After him, Jock."
He was gone before my hand was down, and faster than I had ever seen him move, leaving me ploughing through the heavy sand far behind. Past the big bush I saw them again, and there the duiker did as wounded game so often do: taking advantage of cover it changed direction and turned away for some dense thorns. But that suited Jock exactly; he took the short cut across to head it off and was close up in a few more strides. He caught up to it, raced up beside it, and made a jump at its throat; but the duiker darted away in a fresh direction, leaving him yards behind. Again he was after it and tried the other side; but the buck was too quick, and again he missed and overshot the mark in his jump. He was in such deadly earnest he seemed to turn in the air to get back again and once more was close up so close that the flying heels of the buck seemed to pass each side of his ears; then he made his spring from behind, catching the duiker high up on one hind leg, and the two rolled over together, kicking and struggling in a cloud of dust. Time after time the duiker got on its feet, trying to get at him with its horns or to break away again; but Jock, although swung off his feet and rolled on, did not let go his grip. In grim silence he hung on while the duiker plunged, and, when it fell, tugged and worried as if to shake the life out of it.
What with the hot sun, the heavy sand, and the pace at which we had gone, I was so pumped that I finished the last hundred yards at a walk, and had plenty of time to see what was going on; but even when I got up to them the struggle was so fierce and the movements so quick that for some time it was not possible to get hold of the duiker to finish it off. At last came one particularly bad fall, when the buck rolled over on its back, and then Jock let go his grip and made a dash for its throat; but again the duiker was too quick for him; with one twist it was up and round facing him on its one knee, and dug, thrust, and swept with its black spiky horns so vigorously that it was impossible to get at its neck. As Jock rushed in the head ducked and the horns flashed round so swiftly that it seemed as if nothing could save him from being stabbed through and through, but his quickness and cleverness were a revelation to me. If he could not catch the duiker, it could not catch him: they were in a way too quick for each other, and they were a long way too quick for me.
Time after time I tried to get in close enough to grab one of the buck's hind legs, but it was not to be caught. While Jock was at it fast and furious in front, I tried to creep up quietly behind but it was no use: the duiker kept facing Jock with horns down, and when¬ever I moved it swung round and kept me in front also. Finally I tried a run straight in; and then it made another dash for liberty. On three legs, how¬ever, it had no chance, and in another minute Jock had it again, and down they came together, rolling over and over once more. The duiker struggled hard, but he hung on, and each time it got its feet to the ground to rise he would tug sideways and roll it over again, until I got up to them, and catching the buck by the head, held it down with my knee on its neck and my Bushman's Friend in hand to finish it.
There was, however, still another lesson for us both to learn that day; neither of us knew what a buck can do with its hind feet when it is down. The duiker was flat on its side; Jock, thinking the fight was over, had let go; and, before I could move, the supple, body doubled up, and the feet whizzed viciously at me right over its ¬head. The little pointed cloven feet are as hard and sharp as horns and will tear the flesh like claws. By good luck the kick only grazed my arm, but although the touch was the lightest it cut the skin and little beads of blood shot up marking the line like the scratch of a thorn. Missing my arm the hoof struck full on the handle of the Bushman's Friend and sent it flying yards out of reach. And it was not merely one kick: faster than the eye could follow them the little feet whizzed and the legs seemed to buzz round like the spokes of a wheel. Holding the horns at arm's length in order to dodge the kicks, I tried to pull the duiker towards the knife; but it was too much for me, and with a sudden twist and a wrench freed itself and was off again.
All the time Jock was moving round and round panting and licking his chops, stepping in and stepping back, giving anxious little whimpers, and longing to be at it again, but not daring to join in without permission. When the duiker broke away, however, he waited for nothing, and was on to it in one spring again from behind; and this time he let go as it fell, and jumping free of it, had it by the throat before it could rise. I ran to them again, but the picking up of the knife had delayed me and I was not in time to save Jock the same lesson that the duiker had just taught me.
Down on its side, with Jock's jaws locked in its throat, once more the duiker doubled up and used its feet. The first kick went over his head and scraped harm¬lessly along his back; but the second caught him at the point of the shoulder, and the razor-like toe ripped his side right to the hip. Then the dog showed his pluck and cleverness. His side was cut open as if it had been slashed by a knife, but he never flinched or loosened his grip for a second; he seemed to go at it more furiously than ever, but more cleverly and warily. He swung his body round clear of the whizzing feet, watching them with his little beady eyes fixed sideways and the gleaming whites showing in the corners; he tugged away incessantly and vigorously, keeping the buck's neck stretched out and pulling it round in a circle backwards so that it could not possibly double its body up enough to kick him again; and before I could catch the feet to help him, the kicks grew weaker; the buck slackened out, and Jock had won.
The sun was hot, the sand was deep, and the rifle was hard to find; it was a long way back to the wagons, and the duiker made a heavy load; but the end of that first chase seemed so good that nothing else mattered. The only thing I did mind was the open cut on Jock's side; but he minded nothing: his tail was going like a telegraph needle; he was panting with his mouth open from ear to ear, and his fed tongue hanging out and making great slapping licks at his chops from time to time; he was not still for a second, but kept walking in and stepping back in a circle round the duiker, and looking up at me and then down at it, as if he was not at all sure that there might not be some fresh game on, and was consulting me as to whether it would not be a good thing to have another go in and make it all safe.
He was just as happy as a dog could be, and perhaps he was proud of the wound that left a straight line from his shoulder to his hip and showed up like a cord under the golden brindle as long as he lived a memento of his first real hunt.
IN THE HEART OF THE BUSH
When the hen pecked Jock on the nose, she gave him a useful lesson in the art of finding out what you want to know without getting into trouble. As he got older, he also learned that there are only certain things which concerned him and which it was necessary for him to know. A young dog begins by thinking that he can do everything, go everywhere, and know everything; and a hunting dog has to learn to mind his own business, as well as to understand it. Some dogs turn sulky or timid or stupid when they are checked, but an intelligent dog with a stout heart will learn little by little to leave other things alone, and grow steadily keener on his own work. There was no mistake about Jock's keenness. When I took down the rifle from the waggon he did not go off into ecstasies of barking, as most sporting dogs will do, but would give a quick look up and with an eager little run towards me give a whimper of joy, make two or three bounds as if wanting to stretch his muscles and loosen his joints, then shake himself vigorously as though he had just come out of the water, and with a soft suppressed "Woo-woo-woo" full of content¬ment, drop silently into his place at my heels and give his whole attention to his work.
He was the best of companions, and through the years that we hunted together I never tired of watch¬ing him. There was always something to learn, something to admire, something to be grateful for, and very often something to laugh at in the way in which we laugh only at those whom we are fond of. It was the struggle between Jock's intense keenness and his sense of duty that most often raised the laugh. He knew that his place was behind me; but probably he also knew that nine times out of ten he scented or saw the game long before I knew there was anything near, and naturally wanted to be in front or at least abreast of me to show me whatever there was to be seen.
He noticed, just as surely and as quickly as any human being could, any change in my manner: nothing escaped him, for his eyes and ears were on the move the whole time. It was impossible for me to look for more than a few seconds in any one direction, or to stop or even to turn my head to listen, without being caught by him. His bright brown eyes were everlastingly on the watch and on the move: from me to the bush, from the bush back to me. When we were after game, and he could scent or see it, he would keep a foot or two to the side of me so as to have a clear view; and when he knew by my manner that I thought there was game near, he kept so close up that he would often bump against my heels as I walked, or run right into my legs if I stopped suddenly. Often when stalking buck very quietly and cautiously, thinking only of what was in front, I would get quite a start by feeling something bump up against me behind. At these times it was impossible to say anything without risk of scaring the game, and I got into the habit of making signs with my hand which he under¬stood quite as well.
Sometimes after having crawled up I would be in the act of aiming when he would press up against me. Nothing puts one off so much as a touch or the expectation of being jogged when in the act of firing, and I used to get angry with him then, but dared not breathe a word; I would lower my head slowly, turn round, and give him a look. He knew quite well what it meant. Down would go his ears instantly, and he would back away from me a couple of steps, drop his stump of a tail and wag it in a feeble deprecating way, and open his mouth into a sort of foolish laugh. That was his apology! "I beg your pardon: it was an accident! I won't do it again."
It was quite impossible to be angry with him, he was so keen and he meant so well; and when he saw me laughing softly at him, he would come up again close to me, cock his tail a few inches higher and wag it a bit faster.
There is a deal of expression in a dog's tail: it will generally tell you what his feelings are. My friend maintained that that was how he knew his old dog was enjoying the joke against the cockerel; and that is certainly how I knew what Jock was thinking about once when lost in the veld; and it showed me the way back.
It is easy enough to lose oneself in the Bushveld. The Berg stands up some thousands of feet inland on the west, looking as if it had been put there to hold up the Highveld; and between the foothills and the sea lies the Bushveld, stretching for hundreds of miles north and south. From the height and distance of the Berg it looks as flat as the floor, but in many parts it is very much cut up by deep rough dongas, sharp rises and depressions, and numbers of small kopjes. Still, it has a way of looking flat, because the hills are small, and very much alike; and because hill and hollow are covered and hidden mile after mile by small trees of a wonderful sameness, just near enough together to prevent you from seeing more than a few hundred yards at a time. Most people see no differences in sheep; many believe that all Chinamen are exactly alike; and so it is with the Bushveld: you have to know it first.
So far I had never lost my way out hunting. The experiences of other men and the warnings from the old hands had made me very careful. We were always hearing of men being lost through leaving the road and following up the game while they were excited, without noticing which way they went and how long they had been going. There were no beaten tracks and very few landmarks, so that even experienced hunters went astray sometimes for a few hours or a day or two when the mists or heavy rains came on and nothing could be seen beyond fifty or a hundred yards.
Nearly every one who goes hunting in the Bushveld gets lost some time or other generally in the beginning before he has learned to notice things. Some have been lost for many days until they blundered on to a track by accident or were found by a search¬party; others have been lost and, finding no water or food, have died; others have been killed by lions, and only a boot or a coat or, as it happened in one case that I know of, a ring found inside a lion told what had occurred; others have been lost and nothing more ever heard of them. There is no feeling quite like that of being lost helplessness, terror, and despair! The horror of it is so great that every beginner has it before him; every one has heard of it, thought of it, and dreamed of it, and every one feels it holding him to the beaten track, as the fear of drowning keeps those who cannot swim to shallow water. That is just in the beginning. Presently, when little excursions, each bolder than the previous, have ended without accident, the fear grows less and confidence develops. Then it is, as a rule, that the accident comes and the lesson is learned, if you are lucky enough to pull through.
When the camp is away in the trackless bush, it needs a good man always to find the way home after a couple of hours chase with all its twists and turns and doublings; but when camp is made on a known road a long main road that strikes a fair line between two points of the compass it seems impossible for any one to be hopelessly lost. If the road runs east and west you, knowing on which side you left it, have only to walk north or south steadily and you must strike it again. The old hands told the beginners this, and we were glad to know that it was only a matter of walking for a few hours, more or less, and that in the end we were bound to find the road and strike some camp. "Yes," said the old hands, "it is simple enough here where you have a road running east and west; there is only one rule to remember: When you have lost your way, don't lose your head." But indeed that is just the one rule that you are quite unable to observe.
Many stories have been told of men being lost: many volumes could be filled with them for the trouble of writing down what any hunter will tell you. But no one who has not seen it can realise how the thing may happen; no one would believe the effect that the terror of being lost, and the demoralisation which it causes, can have on a sane man's senses. If you want to know what a man can persuade himself to believe against the evidence of his senses even when his very life depends upon his holding to the absolute truth then you should see a man who is lost in the bush. He knows that he left the road on the north side; he loses his bearings; he does not know how long, how fast, or how far he has walked; yet if he keep his head he will make due south and must inevitably strike the road. After going for half an hour and seeing nothing familiar, he begins to feel that he is going in the wrong direction; something pulls at him to face right about. Only a few minutes more of this, and he feels sure that he must have crossed the road without noticing it, and therefore that he ought to be going north instead of south, if he hopes ever to strike it again. How, you will ask, can a man imagine it possible to cross a big dusty road twenty or thirty feet wide without seeing it? The idea seems absurd; yet they do really believe it. One of the first illusions that occurs to men when they lose their heads is that they have done this, and it is the cause of scores of cases of 'lost in the bush.' The idea that they may have done it is absurd enough; but stranger still is the fact that they actually do it.
If you cannot understand a man thinking he had done such a thing, what can you say of a man actually doing it? Impossible, quite impossible, you think. Ah! but it is a fact: many know it for a fact and I have witnessed it twice myself, once in Mashonaland and once on the Delagoa road. I saw men, tired haggard and wild-eyed, staring far in front of them, never looking at the ground, pressing on, on, on, and actually cross well-worn waggon roads, coming from hard veld into a sandy wheel-worn track and kicking up a cloud of dust as they passed, and utterly blind to the fact that they were walking across the roads they had been searching for in one case for ten hours and in the other for three days. When we called to them they had already crossed and were disap¬pearing again into the bush. In both cases the sound of the human voice and the relief of being 'found,' made them collapse. The knees seemed to give way: they could not remain standing.
The man who loses his head is really lost. He cannot think, remember, reason, or understand; and the strangest thing of all is that he often cannot even see properly he fails to see the very things that he most wants to see, even when they are as large as life before him. Crossing the road without seeing it is not the only or the most extraordinary example of this sort of thing. We were out hunting once in a mounted party, but to spare a tired horse I went on foot and took up my stand in a game run among some thorn trees on the low spur of a hill, while the others made a big circuit to head off a troop of koodoo. Among our party there was one who was very nervous: he had been lost once for six or eight hours, and being haunted by the dread of being lost again, his nerve was all gone and he would not go fifty yards without a companion. In the excitement of shooting at and galloping after the koodoo probably this dread was forgotten for a moment: he himself could not tell how it happened that he became separated, and no one else had noticed him.
The strip of wood along the hills in which I was waiting was four or five miles long but only from one to three hundred yards wide, a mere fringe enclosing the little range of kopjes; and between the stems of the trees I could see our camp and waggons in the open a quarter of a mile away. Ten or twelve shots faintly heard in the distance told me that the others were on to the koodoo, and knowing the preference of those animals for the bush I took cover behind a big stump and waited. For over half an hour, however, nothing came towards me, and believing then that the game had broken off another way, I was about to return to camp when I heard the tapping of galloping feet a long way off. In a few minutes the hard thud and occasional ring on the ground told that it was not the koodoo; and soon afterwards I saw a man on horseback. He was leaning eagerly forward and thumping the exhausted horse with his rifle and his heels to keep up its staggering gallop. I looked about quickly to see what it was he was chasing that could have slipped past me unnoticed, but there was nothing; then thinking there had been an accident and he was coming for help, I stepped out into the open and waited for him to come up. I stood quite still, and he galloped past within ten yards of me so close that his muttered "Get on, you brute; get on, get on!" as he thumped away at his poor tired horse, were perfectly audible.
"What's up, sportsman?" I asked, no louder than you would say it across a tennis-court; but the words brought him up, white-faced and terrified, and he half slid, half tumbled, off the horse gasping out, "I was lost, I was lost!" How he had managed to keep within that strip of bush, without once getting into the open where he would have seen the line of kopjes to which I had told him to stick or could have seen the waggons and the smoke of the big camp-fire, he could never explain. I turned him round where he stood, and through the trees showed him the white tents of the waggons and the cattle grazing near by, but he was too dazed to understand or explain anything.
There are many kinds of men. That particular kind is not the kind that will ever do for veld life: they are for other things and other work. You will laugh at them at times when the absurdity is greatest and no harm has been done. But see it! See it and realise the suspense, the strain, and the terror; and then even the funniest incident has another side to it. See it once; and recall that the worst of endings have had just such beginnings. See it in the most absurd and farcical circumstances ever known; and laugh laugh your fill; laugh at the victim and laugh with him, when it is over and safe. But in the end will come the little chilling thought that the strongest, the bravest, and the best have known something of it too; and that even to those whose courage holds to the last breath there may come a moment when the pulse beats a little faster and the judgment is at fault.
Buggins who was with us in the first season was no hunter, but he was a good shot and not a bad fellow. In his case there was no tragedy; there was much laughter, and to me a wonderful revelation. He showed us, as in a play, how you can be lost; how you can walk for ever in one little circle, as though drawn to a centre by magnetic force, and how you can miss seeing things in the bush if they do not move.
We had outspanned in a flat covered with close grass about two feet high and shady flat-topped horn trees. The waggons, four in number, were drawn up a few yards off the road, two abreast. The grass was sweet and plentiful; the day was hot and still; and as we had had a very long early morning trek there was not much inclination to move. The cattle soon filled themselves and lay down to sleep; the boys did the same; and we, when breakfast was over, ¬got into the shade of the waggons, some to sleep and others to smoke.
Buggins that was his pet name was a passenger returning to "England, Home, and Beauty" that is to say, literally, to a comfortable home, admiring sisters and a rich indulgent father after having sought his fortune unsuccessfully on the gold fields for fully four months. Buggins was good-natured, unselfish, and credulous; but he had one fault he 'yapped': he talked until our heads buzzed. He used to sleep contentedly in a rumpled tarpaulin all through the night treks and come up fresh as a daisy and full of accumulated chat at the morning outspan, just when we unless work or sport called for us ¬were wanting to get some sleep.
We knew well enough what to expect, so after breakfast Jimmy, who understood Buggins well, told him pleasantly that he could "sleep, shoot, or shut up." To shut up was impossible, and to sleep again without a rest difficult, even for Buggins; so with a good-natured laugh he took the shot gun, saying that he "would potter around a bit and give us a treat." Well, he did!
We had outspanned on the edge of an open space in the thorn bush; there are plenty of them to be found in the Bushveld spaces a few hundred yards in diameter, like open park land, where not a single tree breaks the expanse of wavy yellow grass. The waggons with their greyish tents and buck sails and dusty wood-work stood in the fringe of the trees where this little arena touched the road, and into it sallied Buggins, gently drawn by the benevolent purpose of giving us a treat. What he hoped to find in the open on that sweltering day he only could tell; we knew that no living thing but lizards would be out of the shade just then, but we wanted to find him employment harmless to him and us.
He had been gone for more than half an hour when we heard a shot, and a few minutes later Jimmy's voice roused us.
"What the dickens is Buggins doing?" he asked in a tone so puzzled and interested that we all turned to watch that sportsman. According to Jimmy, he had been walking about in an erratic way for some time on the far side of the open ground going from the one end to the other and then back again; then dis¬appearing for a few minutes in the bush and re-appearing to again manuvre in the open in loops and circles, angles and straight lines. Now he was walking about at a smart pace, looking from side to side apparently searching for something. We could see the whole of the arena as clearly as you can see a cricket-field from the railings for our waggons formed part of the boundary but we could see nothing to explain Buggins's manuvres. Next we saw him face the thorns opposite, raise his gun very deliberately, and fire into the top of the trees.
"Green pigeons," said Jimmy firmly; and we all agreed that Buggins was after specimens for stuffing; but either our guess was wrong or his aim was bad, for after standing dead still for a minute he resumed his vigorous walk. By this time Buggins fairly fascinated us; even the kaffirs had roused each other and were watching him. Away he went at once off to our left, and there he repeated the performance, but, again made no attempt to pick up anything and showed no further interest in whatever it was he had fired at, but turned right about face and walked across the open ground in our direction until he was only a couple of hundred yards away. There he stopped and began to look about him, and making off some few yards in another direction climbed on to a fair-sized ant-heap five or six feet high, and balancing himself cautiously on this he deliberately fired off both barrels in quick succession. Then the same idea struck us all together, and "Buggins is lost" came from several all choking with laughter.
Jimmy got up and, stepping out into the open beside the waggon, called, "Say, Buggins, what in thunder are you doing?"
To see Buggins slide off the ant-heap and shuffle shamefacedly back to the waggon before a gallery of four white men and a lot of kaffirs, all cracking and crying with laughter, was a sight never to be forgotten.
I did not want to get lost and be eaten alive, or even look ridiculous, so I began very carefully: glanced back regularly to see what the track, trees, rocks, or kopjes looked like from the other side; carefully noted which side of the road I had turned off; and always kept my eye on the sun. But day after day and month after month went by without accident or serious difficulty, and then the same old thing happened: familiarity bred contempt, and I got the beginner's complaint, conceit fever, just as others did: thought I was rather a fine fellow, not like other chaps who always have doubts and difficulties in finding their way back, but something exceptional with the real instinct in me which hunters, natives, and many animals are supposed to have; thought, in fact, I could not get lost. So each day I went further and more boldly off the road, and grew more confident and careless.
The very last thing that would have occurred to me on this particular day was that there was any chance of being lost or any need to take note of where we went. For many weeks we had been hunting in exactly the same sort of country, but not of course in the same part; and the truth is I did not give the matter a thought at all, but went ahead as one does with the things that are done every day as matters of habit.
LOST IN THE VELD
We were outspanned near some deep shaded water-holes, and at about three o'clock I took my rifle and wandered off in the hope of dropping across something for the larder and having some sport during the three hours before the evening trek would begin; and as ¬there was plenty of spoor of many kinds the pros¬pects seemed good enough.
We had been going along slowly, it may be for half an hour, without seeing more than a little stembuck scurrying away in the distance, when I noticed that Jock was rather busy with his nose, sniffing about in a way that looked like business. He was not sure of anything; that was clear, because he kept trying in different directions; not as you see a pointer do, but very seriously silently and slowly, moving at a cautious walk for a few yards and then taking a look about.
The day was hot and still, as usual at that time of the year, and any noise would be easily heard, so I had stopped to give Jock a chance of ranging about. At the moment we were in rather open ground, and finding that Jock was still very suspicious I moved on towards where the bush was thicker and we were less likely to be seen from a distance. As we got near the better cover there was a rasping, squawky cry in a cockatoo's voice, "Go 'way; go 'way; go' way!" and one of those ugly big-beaked Go 'way birds came sailing up from behind and flapped on to the trees we were making for. No doubt they have another name, but in the Bushveld they were known as Go 'way birds, because of this cry and because they are supposed to warn the game when an enemy is coming. But they are not like the tick bird or the rhinoceros bird, who stick close to their friends and as soon as they see or hear anything suspicious flutter straight up filling the air with twittering cries of alarm; the Go 'way birds do not feed on ticks and have nothing to do with the game; you find them where there is no game, and it always seemed to me that it is not concern for the game at all, but simply a combination of vulgar curiosity, disagreeableness and bad manners, that makes them interfere as they do.
The reason why I do not believe the Go 'way birds care a rap about the game and only want to worry you is that often one of them will make up its mind to stick to you, and you can turn twist and double as many ways as you like, but as soon as you begin to walk on again the wretched thing will fly over your head and perch twenty yards or so in front of you, screeching out "Go 'way" at the top of its voice. There it will sit ready to fly off again as you come on, its ugly head on one side and big hooked bill like an aggressive nose, watching you mercilessly, as vigilant as a hungry fowl and as cross as a tired nurse in a big family. They seem to know that you cannot shoot them without making more row and doing more harm than they do.
I stood still for a few minutes to give this one a chance to fly away, and when it would not do so, but kept on screeching and craning its neck at me, I threw a stone at it. It ducked violently and gave a choking hysterical squawk of alarm and anger as the stone whizzed close to its head; then flying on to another tree a few yards off, screamed away more noisily than ever. Evidently the best thing to do was to go ahead taking no notice of the creature and trusting that it would tire and leave me alone; so I walked off briskly.
There was a slight rustling in the bush ahead of us as I stepped out, and then the sound of feet. I made a dash for the chance of a running shot, but it was too late, and all we saw was half a dozen beautiful koodoo disappearing among the tree stems.
I turned towards that Go 'way bird. Perhaps he did not like the look on my face or the way I held the rifle; for he gave one more snarling shriek, as if he was emptying himself for ever of his rage and spite, and flapped away.
Jock was standing like a statue, leaning slightly forward but with head very erect, jaws tightly closed, and eyes looking straight in front, as bright as black diamonds.
It was a bad disappointment; for that was the first time we had fairly and squarely come upon koodoo. However, it was still early and the game had not been scared, but had gone off quietly; so hoping for another chance we started off at a trot along the fresh spoor.
A big koodoo bull stands as high as a bullock, and although they have the small shapely feet of an ante¬lope the spoor is heavy enough to follow at a trot except on stony ground. Perhaps they know this, for they certainly prefer the rough hard ground when they can get it. We went along at a good pace, but with many short breaks to make sure of the spoor in the stony parts; and it was pretty hot work, although clothing was light for hunting. A rough flannel shirt, open at the throat, and moleskin trousers dyed with coffee for khaki was unknown to us then was the usual wear; and we carried as little as possible. Gen¬erally a water-bottle filled with unsweetened cold tea and a cartridge belt were all we took besides the rifle. This time I had less than usual. Meaning to be out only for a couple of hours at most and to stick close to the road, I had pocketed half a dozen cartridges and left both bandolier and water-bottle behind.
It was not long before we came upon the koodoo again; but they were on the watch. They were standing in the fringe of some thick bush, broadside on but looking back full at us, and as soon as I stopped to aim the whole lot disappeared with the same easy movement, just melting away in the bush.
If I had only known it, it was a hopeless chase for an inexperienced hunter: they were simply playing with me. The very things that seemed so encouraging to me would have warned an old hand that running on the trail was quite useless. When they moved off quietly, it was not because they were foolhardy or did not realise the danger. When they allowed us to catch up to them time after time, it was not because they did not expect us. When they stood on the edge of thick bush where we could see them, it was not stupidity. When they could disappear with an easy bound, it was not accident. It was all part of the game. They were keeping in touch with us so that we could not surprise them, and whenever they stopped it was always where they could see us coming through the thinner bush for a long way and where they themselves could disappear in the thick bush in a couple of strides. Moreover, with each fresh run they changed their direction with the object of making it difficult for us to follow them up, and with the deliberate purpose of eventually reaching some favourite and safe haunt of theirs.
An old hand might have known this; but a beginner goes blindly along the spoorexactly where they are expecting him. The chase was long and tiring, but there was no feeling of disappointment and no thought of giving it up: each time they came in sight we got keener and more excited, and the end seemed nearer and more certain. I knew what the six animals were¬four cows, one young bull, and a magnificent old fellow with a glorious head and great spiral horns. I carried his picture in my eye and could pick him out instantly wherever he stood and however motionless; for, incredibly difficult as it is to pick out still objects in bush before your eye becomes accustomed to it, it is wonderful what you can do when your eye is in and you are cool and intent and know what you are looking for. I had the old bull marked down as mine, and knew his every detail his splendid bearing, strong shaggy neck with mane to the withers and bearded throat, the soft grey dove-colour of the coat with its white stripes, the easy balancing movement in carrying the massive horns as he cantered away, and the trick of throwing them back to glide them through the bush.
The last run was a long and hard one; and the koodoo seemed to have taken matters seriously and made up their minds to put a safe distance between us and them. The spooring was often difficult and the pace hot. I was wet through from the hard work, and so winded that further effort seemed almost im¬possible; but we plodded away the picture of the koodoo bull luring me on, and Jock content with any chase. Without him the spoor would have been lost long before; it was in many places too faint and scattered for me to follow, but he would sniff about quietly, and, by his contented looks back at me and brisk wagging of that stumpy tail, show that he was on it again, and off we would go on another tired straggling trot. But at last even his help was not enough: we had come to the end of the chase, and not a spoor, scratch, or sign of any sort was to be seen.
Time had passed unnoticed, and it was only when it became clear that further search would be quite useless that I looked at my watch and found it was nearly five o'clock. That was rather a shock, for it seemed reasonable to think that, as we had been out for pretty nearly two hours and going fast for most of the time, it would take almost as long to get back again.
I had not once noticed our direction or looked at the sun, yet when it came to making for camp again the idea of losing the way never occurred to me. I had not the slightest doubt about the way we had come, and it seemed the natural thing to go back the same way.
A short distance from where we finally gave up the chase there was a rise crowned by some good-sized rocks and bare of trees; it was not high enough to be fairly called a kopje but I climbed it on chance of getting a view of the surrounding country to see, if possible, how far we had come. The rise was not sufficient, however, to give a view; there was nothing to be seen, and I sat down on the highest rock to rest for a few minutes and smoke a cigarette.
It is over twenty years since that day, but that cigarette is not forgotten, and the little rise where we rested is still, to me, Cigarette Kopje. I was so thoroughly wet from the heat and hard work that the matches in the breast pocket of my shirt were all damp, and the heads came off most of them before one was gently coaxed into giving a light. Five minutes rest was enough. We both wanted a drink, but there was no time then to hunt for water in such a dry part as that, so off we started for camp and jogged along for a good time, perhaps half an hour. Then little by little I began to feel some uncertainty about the way and to look about from side to side for reminders.
The start back had been easy enough: that part of the ground where we had lost the spoor had been gone over very thoroughly and every object was familiar; but further back, where we had followed the spoor at a trot for long stretches and I had hardly raised my eyes from the ground before me, it was a very different matter. I forgot all about those long stretches in which nothing had been noticed except the koodoo spoor, and was unconsciously looking out for things in regular succession which we had passed at quite long intervals. Of course, they were not to be found, but I kept on looking out for them first feeling annoyed, then puzzled, then worried. Something had gone wrong, and we were not going back on our old tracks. Several times I looked about for the koodoo spoor as a guide; but it might be anywhere over a width of a hundred yards, and it seemed waste of precious time to search the dry grass-grown and leaf-strewn ground for that.
At the first puzzled stop I tried to recall some of the more noticeable things we had passed during the chase. There were two flat-topped mimosas, looking like great rustic tables on a lawn, and we had passed between them; there was a large ant-heap, with a twisty top like a crooked mud chimney, behind which the koodoo bull had calmly stood watching us approach; then a marula tree with a fork like a giant catapult stick; and so on with a score of other things, all coming readily to mind.
That was what put me hopelessly wrong. I began to look for particular objects instead of taking one direction and keeping to it. Whenever a flat-topped thorn, a quaint ant-heap, a patch of tambookie grass, or a forked marula came in sight, I would turn off to see if they were the same we had passed coming out. It was hopeless folly, of course; for in that country there were hundreds and thousands of such things all looking very much alike, and you could walk yourself to death zigzagging about from one to another and never get any nearer home: when it comes to doing that sort of thing your judgment is gone and you have lost your head; and the worst of it is you do not know it and would not believe it if anyone could tell you so. I did not know it; but it was nevertheless the fact.
As the sun sank lower I hurried on faster, but never long in one line always turning this way and that to search for the particular marks I had in mind. At last we came to four trees in a line, and my heart gave a great jump, for these we had certainly passed before. In order to make quite sure I hunted for koodoo spoor; there was none to be seen, but on an old molehill there was the single print of a dog's foot. "Ha, Jock's!" I exclaimed aloud; and Jock himself at the sound of his name stepped up briskly and sniffed at his own spoor. Close beside it there was the clear mark of a heeled boot, and there were others further on. There was no doubt about it, they were Jock's and mine, and I could have given a whoop of delight; but a chilly feeling came over me when I realised that the footprints were leading the same way as we were going, instead of the opposite way. What on earth did it mean?
I laid the rifle down and sat on an old stump to think it out, and after puzzling over it for some minutes came to the conclusion that by some stupid blunder I must have turned round somewhere and followed the line of the koodoo, instead of going back on it. The only thing to be done was to right about face and go faster than ever; but, bad as the disappointment was, it was a certain consolation to know that we were on the track at last. That at any rate was a certainty; for, besides the footprints, the general appearance of the country and many individual features were perfectly familiar, now that I took a good look at them from this point.
At that moment I had not a shadow of doubt about the way no more, indeed, than if we had been on the road itself: no suspicion of the truth occurred to me; yet the simple fact is we were not then on the koodoo trail at all, but, having made a complete circle, had come on to our own trail at the molehill and were now doing the circle the second time but the reverse way now.
The map on the opposite page is an attempt to show what happened; the details are of course only guesswork, but the general idea is correct. The koodoo themselves had moved in a rough circle and in the first attempt to return to the waggons I had started back on their trail but must have turned aside somewhere, and after that, by dodging about looking for special landmarks, have made a complete circle. Thus we eventually came back to the track on which we had started for home, and the things that then looked so convincingly familiar were things seen during the first attempt to return, and not, as I supposed, landmarks on the original koodoo trail. Jock's footprints in the molehill were only a few hundred yards from the Cigarette Kopje and about the same distance from where we had lost the koodoo spoor; and we were, at that moment, actually within a mile of the waggons.
It seems incredible that one could be so near and not see or understand. Why should one walk in circles instead of taking a fairly straight line? How was it possible to pass Cigarette Kopje and not recog¬nise it, for I must have gone within fifty yards or less of it? As for not seeing things, the answer is that the bush does not allow you to see much: the waggons, for instance, might as well have been a hundred miles away. As for Cigarette Kop things do not look the same unless seen from the same point; moreover there are heaps of things easily visible which you will never see at all because you are looking only for something else: you carry a precon¬ceived idea, a sort of picture in your eye, and every¬thing that does not fit in with that is not noticed¬ not even seen. As for walking in circles, it is my belief that most people, just like most horses, have a natural leaning or tendency towards one side or the other, and unless checked unconsciously indulge it.
When riding in the veld, or any open country, you will notice that some horses will want to take any turn off to the right, others always go to the left, and only very few keep straight on. When out walking you will find that some people cannot walk on your right hand without coming across your front or working you into the gutter; others 'mule' you from the left. Get them out in open country, walk briskly, and talk; then give way a little each time they bump you, and in a very little while you will have done the circle. If you have this tendency in the Bushveld, where you cannot see any distant object to make for as a goal, any obstacle straight in front of you throws you off to the side you incline to; any openings in the trees which look like avenues or easy ways draw you; and between any two of them you will always choose the one on your favourite side. Finally, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing in the veld, as elsewhere. When you know enough to recognise marks without being able to identify or locate them that is, when you know you have seen them before but are not sure of the when and the where goodness only knows what conclusion you will come to or what you will do.
I had passed Cigarette Kopje, it's true; but when coming towards it from a new side it must have looked quite different; and besides that, I had not been expect¬ing it, not looking for it, not even thinking of it had indeed said good-bye to it for ever. When we turned back at the molehill, beginning to do the circle for the second time, we must have passed quite close to Cigarette Kopje again, but again it was from a different opening in the bush, and this time I had thought of nothing and seen nothing except the things I picked out and recognised as we hurried along. To my half-opened beginner's eyes these things were familiar: we had passed them before; that seemed to be good enough: it must be right; so on we went, simply doing the same circle a second time, but this time the reverse way. The length of my shadow stretching out before me as we started from the molehill was a reminder of the need for haste, and we set off at a smart double. A glance back every few minutes to make sure that we were returning the way we had come was enough, and on we sped, confident for my part that we were securely on the line of the koodoo and going straight for the waggons.
It is very difficult to say how long this lasted before once more a horrible doubt arose. It was when we had done half the circle that I was pulled up as if struck in the face: the setting sun shining into my eyes as we crossed an open space stopped me; for, as the bright gold-dust light of the sunset met me full, I remembered that it was my long shadow in front of me as we started from the molehill that had urged me to hurry on. We had started due east: we were going dead west! What on earth was wrong? There were the trees and spaces we had passed, a blackened stump, an ant-bear hole; all familiar. What then was the meaning of it? Was it only a temporary swerve? No! I tested that by pushing on further along the track we were following, and it held steadily to the west. Was it then all imagination about having been there before? No, that was absurd! And yet ¬and yet, as I went on, no longer trotting and full of hope but walking heavily and weighted with doubt, the feel¬ing of uncertainty grew until I really did not know whether the familiar-looking objects and scenes were indeed old acquaintances or merely imagination playing tricks in a country where every style and sample was copied a thousand times over.
A few minutes later I again caught sight of the sunset glow it was on my direct right: it meant that the trail had taken another turn, while I could have sworn we were holding a course straight as an arrow. It was all a hopeless tangle. I was lost then and knew it. It was not the dread of a night out in the bush for after many months of roughing it, that had no great terrors for me but the helpless feeling of being lost and the anxiety and uncertainty about finding the road again, that gnawed at me and made me feel tucked-up and drawn. I wondered when they would begin to look for me, if they would light big fires and fire shots, and if it would be possible to see or hear the signals. The light would not last much longer; the dimness, the silence, and the hateful doubts about the trail made it more and more difficult to recognise the line; so I thought it was time to fire a signal shot.
There was no answer. It was silly to hope for one; for even if it had been heard they would only have thought that I was shooting at something. Yet the clinging to hope was so strong that every twenty yards or so I stopped to listen for a reply; and, when, after what seemed an eternity, none came, I fired another. When you shoot in the excitement of the chase the noise of the report does not strike you as anything out of the way; but a signal shot when you are alone and lost seems to fill the world with sound and to shake the earth itself. It has a most chilling effect, and the feeling of loneliness becomes acute as the echoes die away and still no answer comes.
Another short spell of tip-toe walking and intent listening, and then it came to me that one shot as a signal was useless; I should have fired more and at regular intervals, like minute-guns at sea, I felt in my pocket: there were only four cartridges there and one in the rifle; there was night before me, with the wolves and the lions; there was the food for tomorrow, and perhaps more than to-morrow! There could be no minute-guns: two shots were all that could be spared, and I looked about for some high and open ground where the sound would travel far and wide. On ahead of us to the right the trees seemed fewer and the light stronger; and there I came upon some rising ground bare of bush. It was not much for my purpose, but it was higher than the rest and quite open, and there were some rocks scattered about the top. The same old feeling of mixed remembrance and doubt came over me as we climbed it: it looked familiar and yet different. Was it memory or imagination?
But there was no time for wonderings. From the biggest rock, which was only waist high, I fired off two of my precious cartridges, and stood like a statue listening for the reply. The silence seemed worse than before: the birds had gone to roost; even the flies had disappeared; there was no sound at all but the beat of my own heart and Jock's panting breath.
There were three cartridges and a few damp matches left. There was no sun to dry them now, but I laid them out carefully on the smooth warm rock, and hoped that one at least would serve to light our campfire. There was no time to waste: while the light lasted I had to drag up wood for the fire and pick a place for the camp somewhere where the rocks behind and the fire in front would shelter us from the lions and hyenas, and where I could watch and listen for signals in the night.
There was plenty of wood near by, and thinking anxiously of the damp matches I looked about for dry tindery grass so that any spark would give a start for the fire. As I stooped to look for the grass I came on a patch of bare ground between the scattered tufts, and in the middle of it there lay a half-burnt match; and such a flood of relief and hope surged up that my heart beat up in my throat. Where there were matches there had been men! We were not in the wilds, then, where white men seldom went not off the beaten track: perhaps not far from the road itself.
You must experience it to know what it meant at that moment. It drew me on to look for more! A yard away I found the burnt end of a cigarette; and before there was time to realise why that should seem queer, I came on eight or ten matches with their heads knocked off.
For a moment things seemed to go round and round I sat down with my back against the rock and a funny choky feeling in my throat. I knew they were my matches and cigarette, and that we were exactly where we had started from hours before, when we gave up the chase of the koodoo. I began to under¬stand things then: why places and landmarks seemed familiar; why Jock's spoor in the molehill had pointed the wrong way; why my shadow was in front and behind and beside me in turns. We had been going round in a circle. I jumped up and looked about me with a fresh light; and it was all clear as noonday then. Why, this was the fourth time we had been on or close to some part of this same rise that day, each time within fifty yards of the same place; it was the second time I had sat on that very rock. And there was nothing odd or remarkable about that either, for each time I had been looking for the highest point to spy from and had naturally picked the rock-topped rise; and I had not recognised it, only because we came upon it from different sides each time and I was thinking of other things all the while.
All at once it seemed as if my eyes were opened and all was clear at last. I knew what to do: just make the best of it for the night; listen for shots and watch for fires; and if by morning no help came in that way, then strike a line due south for the road and follow it up until we found the waggons. It might take all day or even more, but we were sure of water that way and one could do it. The relief of really understanding was so great that the thought of a night out no longer worried me.
There was enough wood gathered, and I stretched out on the grass to rest as there was nothing else to do. We were both tired out, hot, dusty, and very very thirsty; but it was too late to hunt for water then. I was lying on my side chewing a grass stem, and Jock lay down in front of me a couple of feet away. It was a habit of his: he liked to watch my face: and often when I rolled over to ease one side and lie on the other he would get up when he found my back turned to him and come round deliberately to the other side and sling himself down in front of me again. There he would lie with his hind legs sprawled on one side, his front legs straight out, and his head resting on his paws. He would lie like that without a move, his little dark eyes fixed on mine all the time until the stillness and the rest made him sleepy, and he would blink and blink, like a drowsy child, fighting against sleep until it beat him; and then one long-drawn breath as he rolled gently over on his side, and Jock was away in Snoozeland.
In the loneliness of that evening I looked into his steadfast resolute face with its darker muzzle and bright faithful eyes that looked so soft and brown when there was nothing to do but got so beady black when it came to fighting. I felt very friendly to the comrade who was little more than a puppy still; and he seemed to feel something too; for as I lay there chewing the straw and looking at him, he stirred his stump of a tail in the dust an inch or so from time to time to let me know that he understood all about it and that it was all right as long as we were together.
But an interruption came. Jock suddenly switched up his head, put it a bit sideways as a man would do, listening over his shoulder with his nose rather up in the air. I watched him, and thinking that it was probably only a buck out to feed in the cool of the evening, I tickled his nose with the long straw, saying, "No good, old chap; only three cartridges left. We must keep them."
No dog likes to have his nose tickled: it makes them sneeze; and many dogs get quite offended, because it hurts their dignity. Jock was not offended, but he got up and, as if to show me that I was frivolous and not attending properly to business, turned away from me and with his ears cocked began to listen again.
He was standing slightly in front of me and I happened to notice his tail: it was not moving; it was drooping slightly and perfectly still, and he kept it like that as he stepped quietly forward on to another sloping rock overlooking a side where we had not yet been. Evidently there was something there, but he did not know what and he wanted to find out.
I watched him, much amused by his calm businesslike manner. He walked to the edge of the rock and looked out: for a few minutes he stood stock-still with his ears cocked and his tail motionless; then his ears dropped and his tail wagged gently from side to side.
Something an instinct or sympathy quickened by the day's experience, that I had never quite known before taught me to understand, and I jumped up, thinking, "He sees something that he knows: he is pleased." As I walked over to him, he looked back at me with his mouth open and tongue out, his ears still down and tail wagging he was smiling all over, in his own way. I looked out over his head, and there, about three hundred yards off, were the oxen peacefully grazing and the herd-boy in his red coat lounging along behind them.
Shame at losing myself and dread of the others' chaff kept me very quiet, and all they knew for many months was that we had had a long fruitless chase after koodoo and hard work to get back in time.
I had had my lesson, and did not require to have it rubbed in and be roasted as Buggins had been. Only Jock and I knew all about it; but once or twice there were anxious nervous moments when it looked as if we were not the only ones in the secret. The big Zulu driver, Jim Makokel' always interested in hunting and all that concerned Jock asked me as we were inspanning what I had fired the last two shots at; and as I pretended not to hear or to notice the question, he went on to say how he had told the other boys that it must have been a klipspringer on a high rock or a monkey or a bird because the bullets had whistled over the waggons. I told him to inspan and not talk so much, and moved round to the other side of the waggon.
That night I slept hard, but woke up once dreaming that several lions were looking down at me from the top of a big flat rock and Jock was keeping them off.
Jock was in his usual place beside me, lying against my blankets. I gave him an extra pat for the dream, thinking, "Good old boy; we know all about it, you and I, and we're not going to tell. But we've learned some things that we won't forget." And as I dropped off to sleep again I felt a few feeble sleepy pats against my leg, and knew it was Jock's tail wagging "Good night."
THE IMPALA STAMPEDE
Not all our days were spent in excitement far, far from it. For six or seven months the rains were too heavy, the heat too great, the grass too rank, and the fever too bad in the Bushveld for any one to do any good there; so that for more than half of the year we had no hunting to speak of, as there was not much to be done above the Berg. But even during the hunting season there were many off-days and long spells when we never fired a shot. The work with the waggons was hard when we had full loads, the trekking slow and at night, so that there was always something to do in the daytime repairs to be done, oxen to be doctored, grass and water to be looked for, and so on; and we had to make up sleep when we could. Even when the sport was good and the bag satisfactory there was usually nothing new to tell about it. So Jock and I had many a long spell when there was no hunting, many a bad day when we worked hard but had no sport, and many a good day when we got what we were after and nothing happened that would interest any one else.
Every hunt was exciting and interesting for us, even those in which we got nothing; indeed some of the most interesting were those in which the worst disappointments occurred, when after hard work and long chases the game escaped us. To tell all that happened would be to tell the same old story many times over; but indeed, it would not be possible to tell all, for there were some things the most interesting of all, perhaps which only Jock knew.
After the fight with the duiker there was never any doubt as to what he would do if allowed to follow up a wounded animal. It made a deal of difference in the hunting to know that he could be trusted to find it and hold on or bay it until I could get up. The bush was so thick that it was not possible to see more than a very few hundred yards at best, and the country was so dry and rough that if a wounded animal once got out of sight only an expert tracker had any chance of finding it again. Jock soon showed himself to be better than the best of trackers, for besides never losing the trail he would either pull down the buck or, if too big for that, attack and worry even the biggest of them to such an extent that they would have to keep turning on him to protect themselves and thus give me the chance to catch up.
But the first result of my confidence in him was some perfectly hopeless chases. It is natural enough to give oneself the benefit of any doubt; the enthu¬siastic beginner always does so, and in his case the lack of experience often creates a doubt where none should have existed; and the doubt is often very welcome, helping him out with explanations of the unflattering facts. For the listener it is, at best and worst, only amusing or tiresome; but for the person concerned it is different for, as Rocky said, 'It don't fool any one worth speakin' of 'cept yerself.' And 'there's the rub.' Whenever a bullet struck with a thud, and no dust appeared to show that it had hit the ground, I thought that it must have wounded the buck; and once you get the idea that the buck is hit, all sorts of reasons appear in support of it. There is hardly anything that the buck can do which does not seem to you to prove that it is wounded. It bounds into the air, races off suddenly, or goes away quite slowly; it switches its tail or shakes its head; it stops to look back, or does not stop at all; the spoor looks awkward and scrappy; the rust on the grass looks like dry blood. If you start with a theory instead of weighing the evidence all these things will help to prove that theory: they will, in fact, mean exactly what you want them to mean. You 'put up a job on yerself' to quote Rocky again and with the sweat of your brow and vexation of spirit you have to work that job out.
Poor old Jock had a few hard chases after animals which I thought were wounded but were not hit at all not many, however, for he soon got hold of the right idea and was a better judge than his master. He went off the instant he was sent, but if there was nothing wounded that is, if he could not pick up a 'blood spoor' he would soon show it by casting across the trail, instead of following hard on it; and I knew then there was nothing in it. Often he would come back of his own accord, and there was something quite peculiar in his look when he returned from these wild-goose chases that seemed to say, "No good: you were quite wrong. You missed the whole lot of them." He would come up to me with his mouth wide open and tongue out, a bit blown, and stand still with his front legs wide apart, looking up at me with that nothing¬-in-it sort of look in his eyes and not a movement in his ears or tail and never a turn of his head to show the least interest in anything else. I got to know that look quite well; and to me it meant, "Well, that job was a failure finished and done for. Now is there anything else you can think of ?"
What always seemed to me so curious and full of meaning was that he never once looked back in the direction of the unwounded game, but seemed to put them out of his mind altogether as of no further interest. It was very different when he got on to the trail of a wounded buck and I had to call him off, as was sometimes necessary when the chase looked hope¬less or it was too late to go further. He would obey, of course no amount of excitement made him forget that; but he would follow me in a sort of sideways trot, looking back over his shoulder all the time, and whenever there was a stop, turning right round and staring intently in the direction of the game with his little tail moving steadily from side to side and his hind legs crouched as if ready to spring off the instant he got permission.
Twice I thought he was lost for ever through following wounded game. The first occasion was also the first time that we got among the impala and saw them in numbers. There is no more beautiful and fascinating sight than that of a troop of impala or springbuck really on the move and jumping in earnest. The height and distance that they clear is simply incredible. The impala's greater size and its delicate spiral horns give it a special distinction; the springbuck's brilliant white and red, and the divided crest which fans out along the spine when it is excited, are unique. But who can say which of the many beautiful antelopes is the most beautiful? The oldest hunter will tell you of first one, then another, and then another, as they come to mind, just as he saw them in some supreme unforgettable moment; and each at that moment has seemed quite the most beautiful animal in the world.
It is when they are jumping that the impala are seen at their best. No one knows what they really can do, for there are no fences in their country by which to judge or guess, and as they run in herds it is practically impossible ever to find the take-off or landing-place of any single animal. Once when hunting along the Wenhla Mohali River we managed to turn seven of them into an old run ending in a rocky gorge; but suspecting danger they would not face the natural outlet, and turning up the slope cleared a barrier of thick thorn scrub and escaped. When we looked at the place afterwards we found that the bushes were nine feet high. We were not near enough to see whether they touched the tops or cleared them; all we were sure of was that they did not hesitate for a second to face a jump nine feet high at the top of a sharp rise, and that all seven did it in follow-my¬leader order with the most perfect ease and grace.
Every hunter has seen a whole troop, old and young, following the example of the leader, clear a road or donga twenty feet wide, apparently in an effortless stride. It is a fine sight, and the steady stream of buck makes an arch of red and white bodies over the road looking like the curve of a great wave. You stand and watch in speechless admiration; and the first gasp at a glorious leap is followed by steady silent wonder at the regularity of the numbers. Then suddenly you see one animal for no apparent reason: it may be fright or it may be frolic take off away back behind the others, shoot up, and sail high above the arch of all the rest, and with head erect and feet comfortably gathered, land far beyond them the difference between ease and effort, and oh! the perfect grace of both! Something is wrung from you a word, a gasp and you stand breathless with wonder and admiration until the last one is gone. You have forgotten to shoot; but they have left you something better than a trophy, something which time will only glorify a picture that in daylight or in dark will fill your mind whenever you hear the name Impala.
Something of this I carried away from my first experience among them. There were a few minutes of complete bewilderment, a scene of the wildest confusion, and flashes of incident that go to make a great picture which it is impossible to forget. But then there followed many hours of keen anxiety when I believed that Jock was gone for ever; and it was long before that day found its place in the gallery of happy memories.
We had gone out after breakfast, striking well away from the main road until we got among the thicker thorns where there was any amount of fresh spoor and we were quite certain to find a troop sooner or later. The day was so still, the ground so dry and the bush so thick that the chances were the game would hear us before we could get near enough to see them. Several times I heard sounds of rustling bush or feet cantering away: something had ¬heard us and made off unseen; so I dropped down into the sandy bed of a dry donga and used it as a stalking trench. From this it was easy enough to have a good look around every hundred yards or so without risk of being heard or seen. We had been going along cautiously in this way for some time when, peering over the bank, I spied a single impala half hidden by a scraggy bush. It seemed queer that there should be only one, as their habit is to move in troops; but there was nothing else to be seen; indeed it was only the flicker of an ear on this one that had caught my eye. Nothing else in the land moved.
Jock climbed the bank also, following so closely that he bumped against my heels, and when I lay flat actually crawled over my legs to get up beside me and see what was on. Little by little he got into the way ¬of imitating all I did, so that after a while it was hardly necessary to say a word or make a sign to him. He lay down beside me and raised his head to look just as he saw me do. He was all excitement, trembling like a wet spaniel on a cold day, and instead of looking steadily at the impala as I was doing and as he usually did, he was looking here there and everywhere; it seemed almost as if he was looking at things not for them. It was my comfortable belief at the moment that he had not yet spotted the buck, but was looking about anxiously to find out what was interesting me. It turned out, as usual, that he had seen a great deal more than his master had.
The stalking looked very easy, as a few yards further up the donga there was excellent cover in some dense thorns, behind which we could walk boldly across open ground to within easy range of the buck and get a clear shot. We reached the cover all right, but I had not taken three steps into the open space beyond before there was a rushing and scrambling on every side of me. The place was a whirlpool of racing and plunging impala; they came from every side and went in every direction as though caught suddenly in an enclosure and, mad with fear and bewilderment, were trying to find a way out. How many there were it was quite impossible to say: the bush was alive with them; and the dust they kicked up, the noise of their feet, their curious sneezy snorts, and their wild con¬fusion completely bewildered me. Not one stood still. Never for a moment could I see any single animal clearly enough or long enough to fire at it; another would cross it; a bush would cover it as I aimed; or it would leap into the air, clearing bushes, bucks and everything in its way, and disappear again in the moving mass. They seemed to me to whirl like leaves in a wind eddy: my eyes could not follow them and my brain swam as I looked.
It was a hot day; there was no breeze at all; and probably the herd had been resting after their morning feed and drink when we came upon them. By creep¬ing up along the donga we had managed to get un¬observed right into the middle of the dozing herd, so they were literally on every side of us. At times it looked as if they were bound to stampede over us and simply trample us down in their numbers; for in their panic they saw nothing, and not one appeared to know what or where the danger was. Time and again, as for part of a second I singled one out and tried to aim, others would come racing straight for us, compelling me to switch round to face them, only to find them swerve with a dart or a mighty bound when within a few paces of me.
What Jock was doing during that time I do not know. It was all such a whirl of excitement and confusion that there are only a few clear impressions left on my mind. One is of a buck coming through the air right at me, jumping over the backs of two others racing across my front. I can see now the sudden wriggle of its body and the look of terror in its eyes when it saw me and realised that it was going to land almost at my feet. I tried to jump aside, but it was not necessary: with one touch on the ground it shot slantingly past me like a ricochet bullet. Another picture that always comes back is that of a splendid ram clearing the first of the dense thorn bushes that were to have been my cover in stalking. He flew over it outlined against the sky in the easiest most graceful and most perfect curve imaginable. It came back to me afterwards that he was eight or ten yards from me, and yet I had to look up into the sky to see his white chest and gracefully gathered feet as he cleared the thorn bush like a soaring bird.
One shot, out of three or four fired in desperation as they were melting away, hit something; the un¬mistakable thud of the bullet told me so. That time it was the real thing, and when you hear the real thing you cannot mistake it. The wounded animal went off with the rest and I followed, with Jock ahead of me hot on the trail. A hundred yards further on where Jock with his nose to the ground had raced along between some low stones and a marula tree I came to a stop bush all round me, not a living thing in sight, and all as silent as the grave. On one of the smooth hot stones there was a big drop of blood, and a few yards on I found a couple more. Here and there along the spoor there were smears on the long yellow grass, and it was clear enough, judging by the height of the blood-marks from the ground, that the impala was wounded in the body probably far back, as there were no frothy bubbles to show a lung shot. I knew that it would be a long chase unless Jock could head the buck off and bay it; but unless he could do this at once, he was so silent in his work that there was little chance of finding him. The trail became more and more difficult to follow; the blood was less frequent, and the hot sun dried it so quickly that it was more than I could do to pick it out from the red streaks on the grass and many coloured leaves. So I gave it up and sat down to smoke and wait.
Half an hour passed, and still no Jock. Then I wandered about whistling and calling for him ¬calling until the sound of my own voice became quite uncanny, the only sound in an immense silence. Two hours passed in useless calling and listening, searching and waiting, and then I gave it up altogether and made back for the waggons, trying to hope against my real conviction that Jock had struck the road somewhere and had followed it to the outspan, instead of coming back on his own trail through the bush to me.
But there was no Jock at the waggons; and my heart sank, although I was not surprised. It was nearly four hours since he had disappeared, and it was as sure as anything could be that something extraordinary must have happened or he would have come back to me long before this. No one at the waggons had seen him since we started out together; and there was nothing to be done but to wait and see what would happen. It was perfectly useless to look for him: if alive and well, he was better able to find his way than the best tracker that ever lived; if dead or injured and unable to move, there was not one chance in a million of finding him.
There was only one kaffir whom Jock would take any notice of or would allow to touch him a great big Zulu named Jim Makokel'. Jim was one of the real fighting Zulu breed; and the pride he took in Jock, and the sort of partnership that he claimed in tastes disposition and exploits, began the day Jock fought the table-leg and grew stronger and stronger to the end. Jim became Jock's devoted champion, and more than once, as will be seen, showed that he would face man or beast to stand by him when he needed help.
This day when I returned to the waggons Jim was sitting with the other drivers in the group round the big pot of porridge. I saw him give one quick look my way and heard him say sharply to the others, "Where is the dog? Where is Jock?" He stood there looking at me with a big wooden spoon full of porridge stopped on the way to his mouth. In a few minutes they all knew what had happened; the other boys took it calmly, saying composedly that the dog would find his way back. But Jim was not calm: it was not his nature. At one moment he would agree with them, swamping them with a flood of reasons why Jock, the best dog in the world, would be sure to come back; and the nexthot with restless excitement would picture all that the dog might have been doing and all that he might still have to face, and then break off to proclaim loudly that every one ought to go out and hunt for him. Jim was not practical or reasonable he was too excitable for that; but he was very loyal, and it was his way to show his feelings by doing something-generally and preferably by fighting some one. Knowing only too well how useless it would be to search for Jock, I lay down under the waggon to rest and wait.
After half an hour of this Jim could restrain himself no longer. He came over to where I lay and with a look of severe disapproval and barely controlled indignation, asked me for a gun, saying that he himself meant to go out and look for Jock. It would be nearer the mark to say that he demanded a gun. He was so genuinely anxious and so indignant at what he con¬sidered my indifference that it was impossible to be angry; and I let him talk away to me and at me in his exciting bullying way. He would take no answer and listen to no reason; so finally to keep him quiet I gave him the shot-gun, and off he went, muttering his opinions of every one else a great springy striding picture of fierce resolution.
He came back nearly three hours later, silent, morose, hot and dusty. He put the gun down beside me without a word just a click of disgust; and as he strode across to his waggon, called roughly to one of the drivers for the drinking water. Lifting the bucket to his mouth he drank like an ox and slammed it down again without a word of thanks; then sat down in the shade of the waggon, filled his pipe, and smoked in silence.
The trekking hour came and passed; but we did not move. The sun went down, and in the quiet of the evening we heard the first jackal's yapping the first warning of the night. There were still lions and tigers in those parts, and any number of hyenas and wild dogs, and the darker it grew and the more I thought of it, the more hopeless seemed Jock's chance of getting through a night in the bush trying to work his way back to the waggons.
It was almost dark when I was startled by a yell from Jim Makokel', and looking round, saw him bound out into the road shouting, "He has come, he has come! What did I tell you?" He ran out to Jock, stooping to pat and talk to him, and then in a lower voice and with growing excitement went on rapidly, "See the blood! See it! He has fought: he has killed! Dog of all dogs! Jock, Jock!" and his savage song of triumph broke off in a burst of rough tenderness, and he called the dog's name five or six times with every note of affection and welcome in his deep voice. Jock took no notice of Jim's dancing out to meet him, nor of his shouts endearments and antics; slowing his tired trot down to a walk, he came straight on to me, flickered his ears a bit, wagged his tail cordially, and gave my hand a splashy lick as I patted him. Then he turned round in the direction he had just come from, looked steadily out, cocked his ears well up, and moved his tail slowly from side to side. For the next half-hour or so he kept repeating this action every few minutes; but even without that I knew that it had been no wild-goose chase, and that miles away in the bush there was something lying dead which he could show me if I would but follow him back again to see.
What had happened in the eight hours since he had dashed off in pursuit can only be guessed. That he had pulled down the impala and killed it seemed certain and what a chase and what a fight it must have been to take all that time! The buck could not have been so badly wounded in the body as to be disabled or it would have died in far less time than that: then, what a fight it must have been to kill an animal six or eight times his own weight and armed with such horns and hoofs! But was it only the impala? or had the hyenas and wild dogs followed up the trail, as they so often do, and did Jock have to fight his way through them too?
He was hollow-flanked and empty, parched with thirst, and so blown that his breath still caught in suffocating chokes. He was covered with blood and sand; his beautiful golden coat was dark and stained; his white front had disappeared; and there on his chest and throat, on his jaws and ears, down his front legs even to the toes, the blood was caked on him¬ mostly black and dried but some still red and sticky. He was a little lame in one fore-leg, but there was no cut or swelling to show the cause. There was only one mark to be seen: over his right eye there was a bluish line where the hair had been shaved off clean, leaving the skin smooth and unbroken. What did it? Was it horn, hoof, tooth, or what? Only Jock knew.
Hovering round and over me, pacing backwards and forwards between the waggons like a caged animal, Jim, growing more and more excited, filled the air with his talk his shouts and savage song. Want¬ing to help, but always in the way, ordering and thrusting the other boys here and there, he worked himself up into a wild frenzy: it was the Zulu fighting blood on fire and he 'saw red' everywhere.
I called for water. "Water!" roared Jim, "bring water"; and glaring round he made a spring stick in hand at the nearest kaffir. The boy fled in terror, with Jim after him for a few paces, and brought a bucket of water. Jim snatched it from him and with a resounding thump on the ribs sent the unlucky kaffir sprawling on the ground. Jock took the water in great gulpy bites broken by pauses to get his breath again; and Jim paced up and down talking, talking, talking! Talking to me, to the others, to the kaffirs, to Jock, to the world at large, to the heavens, and to the dead. His eyes glared like a wild beast's and gradually little seams of froth gathered in the corners of his mouth as he poured out his cataract of words, telling of all Jock had done and might have done and would yet do; comparing him with the fighting heroes of his own race, and wandering off into vivid recitals of single episodes and great battles; seizing his sticks, shouting his war cries, and going through all the mimicry of fight with the wild frenzy of one possessed. Time after time I called him and tried to quiet him; but he was beyond control.
Once before he had broken out like this. I had asked him something about the Zulu war; and that had started a flood of memories and excitement. In the midst of some description I asked why they killed the children; and he turned his glaring eyes on me and said, "Inkos, you are my Inkos; but you are white: If we fight tomorrow, I will kill you. You are good to me, you have saved me; but if our own king says, 'Kill!' we kill! We see red; we kill all that lives. I must kill you, your wife, your mother, your children, your horses, your oxen, your dog, the fowls that run with the waggons all that lives I kill. The blood must run." And I believed him; for that was the Zulu fighting spirit. So this time I knew it was useless to order or to talk: he was beyond control, and the fit must run its course.
The night closed in and there was quiet once more. The flames of the camp fires had died down; the big thorn logs had burnt into glowing coals like the pink crisp hearts of giant water-melons; Jock lay sleeping, tired out, but even in his sleep came little spells of panting now and then, like the after-sobs of a child that has cried itself to sleep; we lay rolled in our blankets, and no sound came from where the kaffirs slept. But Jim only Jim sat on his rough threelegged stool, elbows on knees and hands clasped together, staring intently into the coals. The fit worked slowly off, and his excitement died gradually away; now and then there was a fresh burst, but always milder and at longer intervals, as you may see it in a dying fire or at the end of a great storm; slowly but surely he subsided until at last there were only occasional mutterings of "Ow, Jock!" followed by the Zulu click, the expressive shake of the head, and that appreciative half grunt, half chuckle, by which they pay tribute to what seems truly wonderful. He wanted no sleep that night: he sat on, waiting for the morning trek, staring into the red coals, and thinking of the bygone glories of his race in the days of the mighty Chaka.
That was Jim, when the fit was on him transported by some trifling and unforeseen incident from the hum-drum of the road to the life he once had lived with splendid recklessness.
Jock was lost twice: that is to say, he was lost to me, and, as I thought, for ever. It came about both times through his following up wounded animals and leaving me behind, and happened in the days when our hunting was all done on foot; when I could afford a horse and could keep pace with him that difficulty did not trouble us. The experience with the impala had made me very careful not to let him go unless I felt sure that the game was hard hit and that he would be able to pull it down or bay it. But it is not always easy to judge that. A broken leg shows at once; but a body shot is very difficult to place, and animals shot through the lungs, and even through the lower part of the heart, often go away at a cracking pace and are out of sight in no time, perhaps to keep it up for miles, perhaps to drop dead within a few minutes.
After that day with the impala we had many good days together and many hard ones: we had our disappointments, but we had our triumphs; and we were both getting to know our way about by degrees. Buck of many kinds had fallen to us; but so far as I was concerned there was one disappointment that was not to be forgotten. The picture of that koodoo bull as he appeared for the last time looking over the ant-heap the day we were lost was always before me. I could not hear the name or see the spoor of koodoo with¬out a pang of regret and the thought that never again would such a chance occur. Koodoo, like other kinds of game, were not to be found every¬where; they favoured some localities more than others, and when we passed through their known haunts chances of smaller game were often neglected in the hope of coming across the koodoo.
I could not give up whole days to hunting for we had to keep moving along with the waggons all the time or it would have been easy enough in many parts to locate the koodoo and make sure of getting a good bag. As it was, on three or four occasions we did come across them, and once I got a running shot, but missed. This was not needed to keep my interest in them alive, but it made me keener than ever. Day by day I went out always hoping to get my chance, and when at last the chance did come it was quite in accordance with the experience of many others that it was not in the least expected.
The great charm of Bushveld hunting is its variety: you never know what will turn up next the only certainty being that it will not be what you are expecting.
The herd-boy came in one afternoon to say that there was a stembuck feeding among the oxen only a couple of hundred yards away. He had been quite close to it, he said, and it was very tame. Game, so readily alarmed by the sight of white men, will often take no notice of natives, allowing them to approach to very close quarters. They are also easily stalked under cover of cattle or horses, and much more readily approached on horseback than on foot. The presence of other animals seems to give them con¬fidence or to excite mild curiosity without alarm, and thus distract attention from the man. In this case the bonny little red-brown fellow was not a bit scared; he maintained his presence of mind admirably; from time to time he turned his head our way and, with his large but shapely and most sensitive ears thrown forward examined us frankly while he moved slightly one way or another so as to keep under cover of the oxen and busily continue his browsing.
In and out among some seventy head of cattle we played hide-and-seek for quite a while I not daring to fire for fear of hitting one of the bullocks until at last he found himself manuvred out of the troop; and then without giving me a chance he was off into the bush in a few frisky skips. I followed quietly, knowing that as he was on the feed and not scared he would not go far.
Moving along silently under good cover I reached a thick scrubby bush and peered over the top of it to search the grass under the surrounding thorn trees for the little red-brown form. I was looking about low down in the russety grass for he was only about twice the size of Jock, and not easy to spot when a movement on a higher level caught my eye. It was just the flip of a fly-tickled ear; but it was a movement where all else was still, and instantly the form of a koodoo cow appeared before me as a picture is thrown on a screen by a magic-lantern. There it stood within fifty yards, the soft grey-and-white looking still softer in the shadow of the thorns, but as clear to me and as still as a figure carved in stone. The stem of a mimosa hid the shoulders, but all the rest was plainly visible as it stood there utterly un¬conscious of danger. The tree made a dead shot almost impossible, but the risk of trying for another position was too great, and I fired. The thud of the bullet and the tremendous bound of the koodoo straight up in the air told that the shot had gone home; but these things were for a time forgotten in the surprise that followed. At the sound of the shot twenty other koodoo jumped into life and sight before me. The one I had seen and shot was but one of a herd all dozing peacefully in the shade, and strangest of all, it was the one that was farthest from me. To the right and left of this one, at distances from fifteen to thirty yards from me, the magnificent creatures had been standing, and I had not seen them; it was the flicker of this one's ear alone that had caught my eye. My bewilderment was complete when I saw the big bull of the herd start off twenty yards on my right front and pass away like a streak in a few sweeping strides. It was a matter of seconds only and they were all out of sightall except the wounded one, which had turned off from the others. For all the flurry and confusion I had not lost sight of her, and noting her tucked-up appearance and shortened strides set Jock on her trail, believing that she would be down in a few minutes.
It is not necessary to go over it all again: it was much the same as the impala chase. I came back tired disappointed and beaten, and without Jock. It was only after darkness set in that things began to look serious. When it came to midnight, with the camp wrapped in silence and in sleep, and there was still no sign of Jock, things looked very black indeed.
I heard his panting breath before it was possible to see anything. It was past one o'clock when he returned.
* * * * *
As we had missed the night trek to wait for Jock I decided to stay on where we were until the next evening and to have another try for the wounded koo¬doo, with the chance of coming across the troop again.
By daybreak Jock did not seem much the worse for his night's adventures whatever they were. There were no marks of blood on him this time; there were some scratches which might have been caused by thorns during the chase, and odd-looking grazes on both hind-quarters near the hip-bones, as though he had been roughly gravelled there. He seemed a little stiff, and flinched when I pressed his sides and muscles, but he was as game as ever when he saw the rifle taken down.
The koodoo had been shot through the body, and even without being run to death by Jock must have died in the night, or have lain down and become too cold and stiff to move. If not discovered by wild animals there was a good chance of finding it un¬touched in the early morning; but after sunrise every minute's delay meant fresh risk from the aasvogels. There is very little which, if left uncovered, will escape their eyes. You may leave your buck for help to bring the meat in, certain from the most careful scrutiny that there is not one of these creatures in sight, and return in half an hour to find nothing but a few bones, the horns and hoofs, a rag of skin, and a group of disgusting gorged vultures squatting on a patch of ground all smeared, torn and feather¬-strewn from their voracious struggles.
In the winter sky unrelieved by the least fleck of cloud a dome of spotless polished steel nothing, you would think, can move unseen. Yet they are there. In the early morning, from their white-¬splashed eeries on some distant mountain they slide off like a launching ship into their sea of blue, and, striking the currents of the upper air, sweep round and upwards in immense circles, their huge motionless wings carrying them higher and higher until they are lost to human sight. Lie on your back in some dense shade where no side-lights strike in, but where an opening above forms a sort of natural telescope to the sky, and you may see tiny specks where nothing could be seen before. Take your field-glasses: the specks are vultures circling up on high! Look again, and far, far above you will see still other specks; and for aught you know, there may be others still beyond. How high are they? And what can they see from there? Who knows? But this is sure, that within a few minutes scores will come swooping down in great spiral rushes where not one was visible before. My own belief is that they watch each other, tier above tier away into the limitless heavens watching jealously, as hungry dogs do, for the least suspicious sign to swoop down and share the spoil.
In the dewy cool of the morning we soon reached the place where Jock had left me behind the evening before; and from that on he led the way. It was much slower work then; as far as I was concerned, there was nothing to guide me, and it was impossible to know what he was after. Did he understand that it was not fresh game but the wounded koodoo that I wanted? And, if so, was he following the scent of the old chase or merely what he might remember of the way he had gone? It seemed impossible that scent could lie in that dry country for twelve hours; yet it was clearly nose more than eyes that guided him. He went ahead soberly and steadily, and once when he stopped completely, to sniff at a particular tuft of grass, I found out what was helping him. The grass was well streaked with blood: quite dry, it is true; still it was blood.
A mile or so on we checked again where the grass was trampled and the ground scored with spoor. The heavy spoor was all in a ring four or five yards in diameter; outside this the grass was also flattened, and there I found a dog's footprints. But it had no further interest for Jock; while I was examining it he picked up the trail and trotted on. We came upon four or five other rings where they had fought. The last of these was curiously divided by a fallen tree, and it puzzled me to guess how they could have made a circle with a good-sized trunk some two feet high intersecting it. I examined the dead tree and found a big smear of blood and a lot of coarse greyish hair on it. Evidently the koodoo had backed against it whilst facing Jock and had fallen over it, renewing the fight on the other side. There were also some golden hairs sticking on the stumpy end of a broken branch, which may have had something to do with Jock's scraped sides.
Then for a matter of a hundred yards or more it looked as if they had fought and tumbled all the way¬. Jock was some distance ahead of me, trotting along quietly, when I saw him look up, give that rare growl¬ing bark of his one of suppressed but real fury lower his head, and charge. Then came heavy flapping and scrambling and the wind of huge wings, as twenty or thirty great lumbering aasvogels flopped along the ground with Jock dashing furiously about among them taking flying leaps at them as they rose, and his jaws snapping like rat-traps as he missed them.
On a little open flat of hard-baked sand lay the stripped frame of the koodoo: the head and leg-bones were missing; meat-stripped fragments were scattered all about; fifty yards away among some bushes Jock found the head; and still further afield were remains of skin and thigh-bones crushed almost beyond recognition.
No aasvogel had done this: it was hyenas' work. The high-shouldered slinking brute, with jaws like a stone-crusher, alone cracks bones like those and bigger ones which even the lion cannot tackle. I walked back a little way and found the scene of the last stand, all harrowed bare; but there was no spoor of koodoo or of Jock to be seen there only prints innumerable of wild dogs, hyenas and jackals, and some traces of where the carcase, no doubt already half eaten, had been dragged by them in the effort to tear it asunder.
Jock had several times shown that he strongly objected to any interference with his quarry; other dogs, kaffirs, and even white men, had suffered or been badly scared for rashly laying hands on what he had pulled down. Without any doubt he had expected ¬to find the koodoo there and had dealt with the aasvogels as trespassers; otherwise he would not have tackled them without word from me. It was also sure that until past midnight he had been there with the koodoo, watching or fighting. Then when had the hyenas and wild-dogs come? That was the ques¬tion I would have given much to have had answered. But only Jock knew that!
I looked at him. The mane on his neck and shoulders which had risen at the sight of the vultures was not flat yet; he was sniffing about slowly and care¬fully on the spoor of the hyenas and wild dogs; and he looked 'fight' all over. But what it all meant was beyond me; I could only guess just as you will what had happened out in the silent ghostly bush that night.
THE KOODOO BULL
Jock had learned one very clever trick in pulling down wounded animals. It often happens when you come unexpectedly upon game that they are off before you see them, and the only chance you have of getting anything is with a running shot. If they go straight from you the shot is not a very difficult one, although you see nothing but the lifting and falling hind-quarters as they canter away; and a common result of such a shot is the breaking of one of the hind-legs between the hip and the hock. Jock made his discovery while following a rietbuck which I had wounded in this way. He had made several tries at its nose and throat, but the buck was going too strongly and was out of reach; moreover it would not stop or turn when he headed it, but charged straight on, bounding over him. In trying once more for the throat he cannoned against the buck's shoulder and was sent rolling yards away. This seemed to madden him: racing up behind he flew at the dangling leg, caught it at the shin, and thrusting his feet well out, simply dragged until the buck slowed down, and then began furiously tugging sideways. The crossing of the legs brought the wounded animal down immediately and Jock had it by the throat before it could rise again.
Every one who is good at anything has some favourite method or device of his own: that was Jock's. It may have come to him, as it comes to many, by acci¬dent; but having once got it, he perfected it and used it whenever it was possible. Only once he made a mistake; and he paid for it very nearly with his life.
He had already used this device successfully several times, but so far only with the smaller buck. This day he did what I should have thought to be impossible for a dog of three or four times his size. I left the scene of torn carcase and crunched bones, consumed by regrets and disappointment; each fresh detail only added to my feeling of disgust, but Jock did not seem to mind; he jumped out briskly as soon as I started walking in earnest, as though he recognised that we were making a fresh start, and he began to look forward immediately.
The little bare flat where the koodoo had fallen for the last time was at the head of one of those depressions which collect the waters of the summer floods and, changing gradually into shallow valleys, are eventually scoured out and become the dongas dry in winter but full charged with muddy flood in summer which drain the Bushveld to its rivers. Here and there where an impermeable rock formation crosses these channels there are deep pools which, except in years of drought, last all through the winter; and these are the drinking-places of the game. I followed this one down for a couple of miles without any definite purpose until the sight of some greener and denser wild figs suggested that there might be water, and perhaps a rietbuck or a duiker near by. As we reached the trees Jock showed unmistakable signs of interest in something, and with the utmost caution I moved from tree to tree in the shady grove towards where it seemed the water-hole might be.
There were bushy wild plums flanking the grove, and beyond them the ordinary scattered thorns. As I reached this point, and stopped to look out between the bushes on to the more open ground, a koodoo cow walked quietly up the slope from the water, but before there was time to raise the rifle her easy stride had carried her behind a small mimosa tree. I took one quick step out to follow her up and found myself face to face at less than a dozen yards with a grand koodoo bull. It is impossible to convey in words any real idea of the scene and how things happened. Of course, it was only for a fraction of a second that we looked straight into each other's eyes; then, as if by magic, he was round and going from me with the overwhelm¬ing rush of speed and strength and weight combined. Yet it is the first sight that remains with me: the proud head, the huge spiral horns, and the wide soft staring eyes before the wildness of panic had stricken them. The picture seems photographed on eye and brain, never to be forgotten. A whirlwind of dust and leaves marked his course, and through it I fired, unsteadied by excitement and hardly able to see. Then the right hind-leg swung out and the great creature sank for a moment, almost to the ground; and the sense of triumph, the longed for and unexpected success, 'went to my head' like a rush of blood.
There had been no time to aim, and the shot a real snap shot was not at all a bad one. It was after that that the natural effect of such a meeting and such a chance began to tell. Thinking it all out beforehand does not help much, for things never happen as they are expected to; and even months of practice among the smaller kinds will not ensure a steady nerve when you just come face to face with big game there seems to be too much at stake.
I fired again as the koodoo recovered himself, but he was then seventy or eighty yards away and partly hidden at times by trees and scrub. He struck up the slope, following the line of the troop through the scattered thorns, and there, running hard and dropping quickly to my knee for steadier aim, I fired again and again but each time a longer shot and more obscured by the intervening bush; and no telltale thud came back to cheer me on.
Forgetting the last night's experience, forgetting everything except how we had twice chased and twice lost them, seeing only another and the grandest prize slipping away, I sent Jock on and followed as fast as I could. Once more the koodoo came in sight just a chance at four hundred yards as he reached an open space on rising ground. Jock was already closing up, but still unseen, and the noble old fellow turned full broadside to me as he stopped to look back. Once more I knelt, gripping hard and holding my breath to snatch a moment's steadiness, and fired; but I missed again, and as the bullet struck under him he plunged forward and disappeared over the rise at the moment that Jock, dashing out from the scrub, reached his heels.
The old Martini carbine had one bad fault; even I could not deny that; years of rough and careless treatment in all sorts of weather for it was only a discarded old Mounted Police weapon had told on it, and both in barrel and breach it was well pitted with rust scars. One result of this was that it was always jamming, and unless the cartridges were kept well greased the empty shells would stick and the ejector fail to work; and this was almost sure to happen when the carbine became hot from quick firing. It jammed now, and fearing to lose sight of the chase I dared not stop a second, but ran on, struggling from time to time to wrench the breach open.
Reaching the place where they had disap¬peared, I saw with intense relief and excitement Jock and the koodoo having it out less than a hundred yards away. The koodoo's leg was broken right up in the ham, and it was a terrible handicap for an animal so big and heavy, but his nimbleness and quick¬ness were astonishing. Using the sound hind-leg as a pivot he swung round, always facing his enemy; Jock was in and out, here, there and everywhere, as a buzzing fly torments one on a hot day; and indeed, to the koodoo just then he was the fly and nothing more; he could only annoy his big enemy, and was playing with his life to do it. Sometimes he tried to get round; sometimes pretended to charge straight in, stopping himself with all four feet spread just out of reach; then like a red streak he would fly through the air with a snap for the koodoo's nose. It was a fight for life and a grand sight; for the koodoo, in spite of his wound, easily held his own. No doubt he had fought out many a life and death struggle to win and hold his place as lord of the herd and knew every trick of attack and defence. Maybe too he was blazing with anger and contempt for this persistent little gad-fly that worried him so and kept out of reach. Sometimes he snorted and feinted to charge; at other times backed slowly, giving way to draw the enemy on; then with a sudden lunge the great horns swished like a scythe with a tremendous reach out, easily covering the spot where Jock had been a fraction of a second before. There were pauses too in which he watched his tormentor steadily, with occasional impatient shakes of the head, or, raising it to full height, towered up a monument of splendid and contemptuous indifference, looking about with big angry but unfrightened eyes for the herd his herd that had deserted him; or with a slight toss of his head he would walk limpingly forward, forcing the ignored Jock before him; then, inter¬rupted and annoyed by a flying snap at his nose, he would spring forward and strike with the sharp cloven fore-foot zip-zip-zip at Jock as he landed. Any one of the vicious flashing stabs would have pinned him to the earth and finished him; but Jock was never there.
Keeping what cover there was I came up slowly behind them, struggling and using all the force I dared, short of smashing the lever, to get the empty cartridge out. At last one of the turns in the fight brought me in view, and the koodoo dashed off again. For a little way the pace seemed as great as ever, but it soon died away; the driving power was gone; the strain and weight on the one sound leg and the tripping of the broken one were telling; and from that on I was close enough to see it all. In the first rush the koodoo seemed to dash right over Jock the swirl of dust and leaves and the bulk of the koodoo hiding him; then I saw him close abreast, looking up at it and making furious jumps for its nose, alter¬nately from one side and the other, as they raced along together. The koodoo holding its nose high and well forward, as they do when on the move, with the horns thrown back almost horizontally, was out of his reach and galloped heavily on completely ignoring his attacks.
There is a suggestion of grace and poise in the movement of the koodoo bull's head as he gallops through the bush which is one of his distinctions above the other antelopes. The same supple balancing movement that one notes in the native girls bearing their calabashes of water upon their heads is seen in the neck of the koodoo, and for the same reason: the movements of the body are softened into mere undulations, and the head with its immense spiral horns seems to sail along in voluntary company¬ indeed almost as though it were bearing the body below.
At the fourth or fifth attempt by Jock a spurt from the koodoo brought him cannoning against its shoulder, and he was sent rolling unnoticed yards away. He scrambled instantly to his feet, but found himself again behind: it may have been this fact that inspired the next attempt, or perhaps he realised that attack in front was useless; for this time he went determinedly for the broken leg. It swung about in wild eccentric curves, but at the third or fourth attempt he got it and hung on; and with all fours spread he dragged along the ground. The first startled spring of the koodoo jerked him into the air; but there was no let go now, and although dragged along the rough ground and dashed about among the scrub, sometimes swinging in the air, and sometimes sliding on his back, he pulled from side to side in futile attempts to throw the big animal. Ineffectual and even hopeless as it looked at first, Jock's attacks soon began to tell; the koodoo made wild efforts to get at him, but with every turn he turned too, and did it so vigorously that the staggering animal swayed over and had to plunge violently to recover its balance. So they turned, this way and that, until a wilder plunge swung Jock off his feet, throwing the broken leg across the other one; then, with feet firmly planted, Jock tugged again, and the koodoo trying to regain its footing was tripped by the crossed legs and came down with a crash.
As it fell Jock was round and fastened on the nose; but it was no duiker, impala or rietbuck that he had to deal with this time. The koodoo gave a snort of indignation and shook its head: as a terrier shakes a rat, so it shook Jock, whipping the ground with his swinging body, and with another indignant snort and toss of the head flung him off, sending him skidding along the ground on his back. The koodoo had fallen on the wounded leg and failed to rise with the first effort; Jock while still slithering along the ground on his back was tearing at the air with his feet in his mad haste to get back to the attack, and as he scrambled up, he raced in again with head down and the little eyes black with fury. He was too mad to be wary, and my heart stood still as the long horns went round with a swish; one black point seemed to pierce him through and through, showing a foot out the other side, and a jerky twist of the great head sent him twirling like a tip-cat eight or ten feet up in the air. It had just missed him, passing under his stomach next to the hind-legs; but, until he dropped with a thud and, tearing and scrambling to his feet, he raced in again, I felt certain he had been gored through.
The koodoo was up again then. I had rushed in with rifle clubbed, with the wild idea of stunning it before it could rise, but was met by the lowered horns and unmistakable signs of charging, and beat a retreat quite as speedy as my charge.
It was a running fight from that on: the instant the koodoo turned to go Jock was on to the leg again, and nothing could shake his hold. I had to keep at a respectful distance, for the bull was still good for a furious charge, even with Jock hanging on, and eyed me in the most unpromising fashion whenever I attempted to head it off or even to come close up.
The big eyes were blood-shot then, but there was no look of fear in them they blazed with baffled rage. Impossible as it seemed to shake Jock off or to get away from us, and in spite of the broken leg and loss of blood, the furious attempts to beat us off did not slacken. It was a desperate running fight, and right bravely he fought it to the end.
Partly barring the way in front were the whitened trunks and branches of several trees struck down by some storm of the year before, and running ahead of the koodoo I made for these, hoping to find a stick straight enough for a ramrod to force the empty cartridge out. As I reached them the koodoo made for me with half a dozen plunges that sent me flying off for other cover; but the broken leg swayed over one of the branches, and Jock with feet planted against the tree hung on; and the koodoo, turning furiously on him, stumbled, floundered, tripped, and came down with a crash amongst the crackling wood. Once more like a flash Jock was over the fallen body and had fastened on the nose but only to be shaken worse than before. The koodoo literally flogged the ground with him, and for an instant I shut my eyes; it seemed as if the plucky dog would be beaten into pulp. The bull tried to chop him with its fore-feet, but could not raise itself enough, and at each pause Jock, with his watchful little eyes ever on the alert, dodged his body round to avoid the chopping feet without letting go his hold. Then with a snort of fury the koodoo, half rising, gave its head a wild upward sweep, and shook. As a springing rod flings a fish the koodoo flung Jock over its head and on to a low flat-topped thorn-tree behind. The dog somersaulted slowly as he circled in the air, dropped on his back in the thorns some twelve feet from the ground, and came tumbling down through the branches. Surely the tree saved him, for it seemed as if such a throw must break his back. As it was he dropped with a sickening thump; yet even as he fell I saw again the scrambling tearing movement, as if he was trying to race back to the fight even before he reached ground. Without a pause to breathe or even to look, he was in again and trying once more for the nose.
The koodoo lying partly on its side, with both hind-legs hampered by the mass of dead wood, could not rise, but it swept the clear space in front with the terrible horns, and for some time kept Jock at bay. I tried stick after stick for a ram-rod, but without success; at last, in desperation at seeing Jock once more hanging to the koodoo's nose, I hooked the lever on to a branch and setting my foot against the tree wrenched until the empty cartridge flew out and I went staggering backwards.
In the last struggle, while I was busy with the rifle, the koodoo had moved, and it was then lying against one of the fallen trunks. The first swing to get rid of Jock had literally slogged him against the tree; the second swing swept him under it where a bend in the trunk raised it about a foot from the ground, and gaining his foothold there Jock stood fast there, there, with his feet planted firmly and his shoulder humped against the dead tree, he stood this tug-of-¬war. The koodoo with its head twisted back, as caught at the end of the swing, could put no weight to the pull; yet the wrenches it gave to free itself drew the nose and upper lip out like tough rubber and seemed to stretch Jock's neck visibly. I had to come round within a few feet of them to avoid risk of hitting Jock, and it seemed impossible for bone and muscle to stand the two or three terrible wrenches that I saw. The shot was the end; and as the splendid head dropped slowly over, Jock let go his hold
He had not uttered a sound except the grunts that were knocked out of him.
Jim Makokel' was Jock's ally and champion. There was a great deal to like and something to admire in Jim; but, taking him all round, I am very much afraid that most people would consider him rather a bad lot. The fact of the matter is he belonged to another period and other conditions. He was simply a great passionate fighting savage, and, instead of wearing the cast-off clothing of the white man and peacefully driving bullock waggons along a transport road, should have been decked in his savage finery of leopard skin and black ostrich feathers, showing off the powerful bronzed limbs and body all alive with muscle, and sharing in some wild war-dance; or, equipped with shield and assegais, leading in some murderous fight. Yes, Jim was out of date: he should have been one of the great Chaka's fighting guard to rise as a leader of men, or be killed on the way. He had but one argument and one answer to everything: Fight! It was his nature, bred and born in him; it ran in his blood and grew in his bones. He was a survival of a great fighting race there are still thousands of them in the kraals of Zululand and Swaziland but it was his fate to belong to one of the expelled families, and to have to live and work among the white men under the Boer Government of the Transvaal.
In a fighting nation Jim's kraal was known as a fighting one, and the turbulent blood that ran in their veins could not settle down into a placid stream merely because the Great White Queen has laid her hand upon his people and said, "There shall be peace!" Chaka, the 'black Napoleon' whose wars had cost South Africa over a million lives, had died murdered by his brother Dingaan full of glory, lord and master wherever his impis could reach. "Dogs whom I had fed at my kraal!" he gasped, as they stabbed him. Dingaan his successor, as cruel as treacherous, had been crushed by the gallant little band of Boers under Potgieter for his fiendish massacre of Piet Retief and his little band. Panda the third of the three famous brothers Panda the peaceful had come and gone! Ketshwayo, after years of arrogant and unquestioned rule, had loosed his straining impis at the people of the Great White Queen. The awful day of 'Sandhlwana where the 24th Regiment died almost to a manand the fight on H'lobani Mountain had blooded the impis to madness; but Rorke's Drift and Kambula had followed those bloody victories each within a few hours to tell another tale; and at Ulundi the tides met the black and the white. And the kingdom and might of the house of Chaka were no more.
Jim had fought at 'Sandhlwana, and could tell of an umfaan sent out to herd some cattle within sight of the British camp to draw the troops out raiding while the impis crept round by hill and bush and donga behind them; of the fight made by the red-coats as, taken in detail, they were attacked hand to hand with stabbing assegais, ten and twenty to one; of one man in blue a sailor who was the last to die, fighting with his back to a waggon wheel against scores before him, and how he fell at last, stabbed in the back through the spokes of the wheel by one who had crept up behind.
Jim had fought at Rorke's Drift! Wild with lust of blood, he had gone on with the maddest of the victory-maddened lot to invade Natal and eat up the little garrison on the way. He could tell how seventy or eighty white men behind a little rampart of biscuit-tins and flour-bags had fought through the long and terrible hours, beating off five thousand of the Zulu best, fresh from a victory without parallel or precedent; how, from the burning hospital, Sergeant Hook, V.C., and others carried sick and wounded through the flames into the laager; how a man in black with a long beard, Father Walsh, moved about with calm face, speaking to some, helping others, carrying wounded back and cartridges forward Father Walsh who said "Don't swear, boys: fire low;" how Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead V.C.s too for that day's work led and fought, and guided and heartened their heroic little band until the flour-bags and biscuit-tins stood lower than the pile of dead outside, and the Zulu host was beaten and Natal saved that day.
Jim had seen all that and Ulundi, the Day of Despair! And he knew the power of the Great White Queen and the way that her people fight. But peace was not for him or his kraal: better any fight than no fight. He rallied to Usibepu in the fight for leadership when his King, Ketshwayo, was gone, and Jim's kraal had moved and moved too soon: they were surrounded one night and massacred; and Jim fought his way out, wounded and alone. Without kith or kin, cattle, king, or country, he fled to the Transvaal to work for the first time in his life!
Waggon-boys as the drivers were called often acquired a certain amount of reputation on the road or in the locality where they worked; but it was, as a rule, only a reputation as good or bad drivers. In Jim's case it was different. He was a character and had an individual reputation, which was exceptional in a Kaffir. I had better say at once that not even his best friend would claim that that reputation was a good one. He was known as the best driver, the strongest nigger, the hardest fighter, and the worst drinker on the road.
His real name was Makokela, but in accordance with a common Zulu habit, it was usually abbreviated to Makokel'! Among a certain number of the white men of the sort who never can get any name right he was oddly enough known as McCorkindale. I called him Jim as a rule Makokel', when relations were strained. The waggon-boys found it safer to use his proper name. When anything had upset him it was not con¬sidered wise to take the liberty of shouting "Jim": the answer sometimes came in the shape of a hammering.
Many men had employed Jim before he came to me, and all had 'sacked' him for fighting, drinking, and the unbearable worry he caused. They told me this, and said that he gave more trouble than his work was worth. It may have been true: he certainly was a living test of patience, purpose, and management; but, for something learnt in that way, I am glad now that Jim never 'got the sack' from me. Why he did not, is not easy to say; perhaps the circumstances under which he came to me and the hard knocks of an unkind fate pleaded for him. But it was not that alone: there was something in Jim himself something good and fine, something that shone out from time to time through his black skin and battered face as the soul of a real man.
It was in the first season in the Bushveld that we were outspanned one night on the sand-hills over¬looking Delagoa Bay among scores of other waggons dotted about in little camps all loading or waiting for loads to transport to the Transvaal. Delagoa was not a good place to stay in, in those days: liquor was cheap and bad; there was very little in the way of law and order; and every one took care of himself as well as he could. The Kaffir kraals were close about the town, and the natives of the place were as rascally a lot of thieves and vagabonds as you could find any¬where. The result was everlasting trouble with the waggon-boys and a chronic state of war between them and the natives and the banyans or Arab traders of the place. The boys, with pockets full of wages, haggled and were cheated in the stores, and by the hawkers, and in the canteens; and they often ended up the night with beer-drinking at the kraals or reprisals on their enemies. Every night there were fights and rob¬beries: the natives or Indians would rob and half-kill a waggon-boy; then he in turn would rally his friends, and raid and clear out the kraal or the store. Most of the waggon-boys were Zulus or of Zulu descent, and they were always ready for a fight and would tackle any odds when their blood was up.
It was the third night of our stay, and the usual row was on. Shouts and cries, the beating of tomtoms, and shrill ear-piercing whistles, came from all sides; and through it all the dull hum of hundreds of human voices, all gabbling together. Near to us there was another camp of four waggons drawn up in close order, and as we sat talking and wondering at the strange babel in the beautiful calm moonlight night, one sound was ever recurring, coming away out of all the rest with something in it that fixed our attention. It was the sound of two voices from the next waggons. One voice was a kaffir's a great, deep, bull-throated voice; it was not raised it was monotonously steady and low; but it carried far, with the ring and lingering vibration of a big gong.
"Funa 'nyama, Inkos; funa 'nyama!" (I want meat, Chief; I want meat!") was what the kaffir's voice kept repeating at intervals of a minute or two with deadly monotony and persistency.
The white man's voice grew more impatient, louder, and angrier, with each refusal; but the boy paid no heed. A few minutes later the same request would be made, supplemented now and then with, "I am hungry, Baas, I can't sleep. Meat! Meat! Meat!"; or, "Porridge and bread are for women and picaninnies. I am a man: I want meat, Baas, meat." From the white man it was, "Go to sleep, I tell you!" "Be quiet, will you?" "Shut up that row!" "Be still, you drunken brute, or I'll tie you up!" and "You'll get twenty-five in a minute!"
It may have lasted half an hour when one of our party said, "That's Bob's old driver, the big Zulu. There'll be a row to-night; he's with a foreigner chap from Natal now. New chums are always roughest on the niggers."
In a flash I remembered Bob Saunderson's story of the boy who had caught the lion alive, and Bob's own words, "a real fine nigger, but a terror to drink, and always in trouble. He fairly wore me right out."
A few minutes later there was a short scuffle, and the boy's voice could be heard protesting in the same deep low tone: they were tying him up to the waggon-¬wheel for a flogging. Others were helping the white man, but the boy was not resisting.
At the second thin whistling stroke some one said, "That's a sjambok he's using, not a nek-strop!" Sjambok, that will cut a bullock's hide! At about the eighth there was a wrench that made the waggon rattle, and the deep voice was raised in protest, "Ow, Inkos!"
It made me choke: it was the first I knew of such things, and the horror of it was unbearable; but the man who had spoken before a good man too, straight and strong, and trusted by black and white said, "Sonny, you must not interfere between a man and his boys here; it's hard sometimes, but we'd not live a day if they didn't know who was baas."
I think we counted eighteen; and then everything seemed going to burst.
* * * * *
The white man looked about at the faces close to him and stopped. He began slowly to untie the out-stretched arms, and blustered out some threats. But no one said a word!
* * * * *
The noises died down as the night wore on, until the stillness was broken only by the desultory barking of a kaffir dog or the crowing of some awakened rooster who had mistaken the bright moonlight for the dawn and thought that all the world had overslept itself. But for me there was one other sound for which I listened into the cool of morning with the quivering sensitiveness of a bruised nerve. Some¬times it was a long catchy sigh, and sometimes it broke into a groan just audible, like the faintest rumble of most distant surf. Twice in the long night there came the same request to one of the boys near him, uttered in a deep clear unshaken voice and in a tone that was civil but firm, and strangely moving from its quiet indifference.
"Landela manzi, Umganaam!" ("Bring water, friend!") was all he said; and each time the request was so quickly answered that I had the guilty feeling of being one in a great conspiracy of silence. The hush was unreal; the stillness alive with racing thoughts; the darkness full of watching eyes.
There is, we believe, in the heart of every being a little germ of justice which men call conscience! If that be so, there must have been in the heart of the white man that night some uneasy movement¬ the first life-throb of the thought which one who had not yet written has since set down:
"Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the living God that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!"
* * * * *
The following afternoon I received an ultimatum. We had just returned from the town when from a group of boys squatting round the fire there stood up one big fellow a stranger who raised his hand high above his head in Zulu fashion and gave their salute in the deep bell-like voice that there was no mistaking, "Inkos! Bayete!"
He stepped forward, looking me all over, and announced with calm and settled conviction, "I have come to work for you!" I said nothing. Then he rapped a chest like a big drum, and nodding his head with a sort of defiant confidence added in quaint English, "My naam Makokela! Jim Makokel'! Yes! My catchum lion 'live! Makokela, me!"
He had heard that I wanted a driver, had waited for my return, and annexed me as his future 'baas' without a moment's doubt or hesitation.
I looked him over. Big, broad-shouldered, loose-¬limbed, and as straight as an assegai! A neck and head like a bull's; a face like a weather-beaten rock, storm-scarred and furrowed, rugged and ugly, but steadfast, massive and strong! So it looked then, and so it turned out: for good and for evil Jim was strong.
I nodded and said, "You can come."
Once more he raised his head aloft, and, simply and without a trace of surprise or gratification, said:
"Yes, you are my chief, I will work for you." In his own mind it had been settled already: it had never been in doubt.
Jim when sober was a splendid worker and the most willing of servants, and, drunk or sober, he was always respectful in an independent, upstanding, hearty kind of way. His manner was as rough and rugged as his face and character; in his most peaceful moments it was to one who did not understand him almost fierce and aggressive; but this was only skin deep; for the childlike simplicity of the African native was in him to the full, and rude bursts of Titanic laughter came readily laughter as strong and unrestrained as his bursts of passion.
To the other boys he was what his nature and training had made him not really a bully, but masterful and over-riding. He gave his orders with the curtness of a drill sergeant and the rude assurance of a savage chief. Walking, he walked his course, giving way for none of them. At the outspan or on the road or footpath he shouldered them aside as one walks through standing corn, not aggressively but with the superb indifference of right and habit unquestioned. If one, loitering before him, blocked his way unseeing, there was no pause or step aside just "Suka!" ("Get out") and a push that looked effortless enough but sent the offender staggering; or, if he had his sticks, more likely a smart whack on the stern that was still more surprising; and not even the compliment of a glance back from Jim as he stalked on. He was like the old bull in a herd he walked his course; none molested and none disputed; the way opened before him.
When sober Jim spoke Zulu; when drunk, he broke into the strangest and most laughable med¬ley of kitchen-Kaffir, bad Dutch, and worse English the idea being, in part to consider our meaner intelligences and in part to show what an accomplished linguist he was. The was no difficulty in knowing when Jim would go wrong: he broke out whenever he got a chance, whether at a kraal, where he could always quicken the reluctant hospitality of any native, at a wayside canteen, or in a town. Money was fatal he drank it all out; but want of money was no security, for he was known to every one and seemed to have friends everywhere; and if he had not, he made them on the spot annexed and overwhelmed them.
From time to time you do meet people like that. The world's their oyster, and the gift of a masterful and infinite confidence opens it every time: they walk through life taking of the best as a right, and the world unquestioningly submits.
I had many troubles with Jim, but never on account of white men: drunk or sober, there was never trouble there. It may have been Rorke's Drift and Ulundi that did it; but whatever it was, the question of black and white was settled in his mind for ever. He was respectful, yet stood upright with the rough dignity of an unvanquished spirit; but on the one great issue he never raised his hand or voice again. His troubles all came from drink, and the exasperation was at times almost unbearable so great indeed, that on many occasions I heartily repented ever having taken him on. Warnings were useless, and punish¬ment well, the shiny new skin that made patterns in lines and stars and crosses on his back for the rest of his life made answer for always upon that point.
The trials and worries were often great indeed. The trouble began as soon as we reached a town, and he had a hundred excuses for going in, and a hundred more for not coming out: he had some one to see, boots to be mended, clothes to buy, or medicine to get the only illness I ever knew him have was 'a pain inside,' and the only medicine wanted¬ grog! some one owed him money a stock excuse, and the idea of Jim, always penniless and always in debt, posing as a creditor never failed to raise a laugh, and he would shake his head with a half-fierce half-¬sad disgust at the general scepticism and his failure to convince me. Then he had relations in every town! Jim, the sole survivor of his fighting kraal, produced 'blulus,' 'babas,' 'sisteles,' and even 'mamas,' in profusion, and they died just before we reached the place, as regularly as the office-boy's aunt dies before Derby Day, and with the same consequence he had to go to the funeral.
The first precaution was to keep him at the waggons and put the towns and canteens 'out of bounds'; and the last defence, to banish him entirely until he came back sober, and meanwhile set other boys to do his work, paying them his wages in cash in his presence when he returned fit for duty.
"Is it as I told you? Is it just?" I would ask when this was done.
"It is just, Inkos," he would answer with a calm dispassionate simplicity which appealed for forgiveness and confidence with far greater force than any repent¬ance; and it did so because it was genuine; it was natural and unstudied. There was never a trace of feeling to be detected when these affairs were squared off, but I knew how he hated the treatment, and it helped a little from time to time to keep him right.
The banishing of him from the waggons in order that he might go away and have it over was not a device to save myself trouble, and I did it only when it was clear that he could stand the strain no longer. It was simply a choice of evils, and it seemed to me better to let him go, clearly understanding the conditions, than drive him into breaking away with the bad results to him and the bad effects on the others of disobeying orders. It was, as a rule, far indeed from saving me trouble, for after the first bout of drinking he almost invariably found his way back to the waggons: the drink always produced a ravenous craving for meat, and when his money was gone and he had fought his fill and cleared out all opposition, he would come back to the waggons at any hour of the night, perhaps even two or three times between dark and dawn, to beg for meat. Warnings and orders had no effect whatever; he was unconscious of everything except the overmastering craving for meat. He would come to my waggon and begin that deadly monotonous recitation, "Funa 'nyama, Inkos! Wanta meat, Baas!" There was a kind of hopeless determination in the tone conveying complete indifference to all consequences: meat he must have. He was perfectly respectful; every order to be quiet or go away or go to bed was received with the formal raising of the hand aloft, the most respectful of salutations, and the assenting, "Inkos!" but in the very next breath would come the old monotonous request, "Funa 'nyama, Inkos," just as if he was saying it for the first time. The persistency was awful it was maddening; and there was no remedy, for it was not the result of voluntary or even conscious effort on his part; it was a sort of automatic process, a result of his physical condition. Had he known it would cost him his life, he could no more have resisted it than have resisted breathing.
When the meat was there I gave it, and he would sit by the fire for hours eating incredible quantities cutting it off in slabs and devouring it when not much more than warmed. But it was not always possible to satisfy him in that way; meat was expensive in the towns and often we had none at all at the waggons. Then the night became one long torment: the spells of rest might extend from a quarter of an hour to an hour; then from the dead sleep of downright weariness I would be roused by the deep far-reaching voice; "Funa 'nyama, Inkos," wove itself into my dreams, and waking I would find Jim standing beside me remorselessly urging the same request in Zulu, in broken English, and in Dutch "My wanta meat, Baas," "Wil fleisch krij, Baas," and the old, old, hatefully familiar explanation of the difference between "man's food" and "picanins' food," interspersed with grandiose declarations that he was "Makokela ¬Jim Makokel'," who "catchum lion 'live." Sometimes he would expand this into comparisons between himself and the other boys, much to their disadvantage; and on these occasions he invariably worked round to his private grievances, and expressed his candid opinions of Sam.
Sam was the boy whom I usually set to do Jim's neglected work. He was a 'mission boy,' that is a Christian kaffir very proper in his behaviour, but a weakling and not much good at work. Jim would enumerate all Sam's shortcomings; how he got his oxen mixed up on dark nights and could not pick them out of the herd a quite unpardonable offence; how he stuck in the drifts and had to be 'double-spanned' and pulled out by Jim; how he once lost his way in the bush; and how he upset the waggon coming down the Devil's Shoot.
Jim had once brought down the Berg from Spitzkop a loaded waggon on which there was a cottage piano packed standing upright. The road was an awful one, it is true, and few drivers could have handled so top-heavy a load without capsizing he had received a bansela for his skill but to him the feat was one without parallel in the history of waggon driving; and when drunk he usually coupled it with his other great achieve¬ment of catching a lion alive. His contempt for Sam's misadventure on the Devil's Shoot was therefore great, and to it was added resentment against Sam's respectability and superior education, which the latter was able to rub in in safety by ostentatiously reading his Bible aloud at nights as they sat round the fire. Jim was a heathen, and openly affirmed his conviction that a Christian kaffir was an impostor, a bastard, and a hypocrite a thing not to be trusted under any circumstances whatever. The end of his morose outburst was always the same. When his detailed indictment of Sam was completed he would wind up with, "My catchum lion 'live. My bling panyanna fon Diskop (I bring piano from Spitzkop). My naam Makokela: Jim Makokel'. Sam no good; Sam leada Bible (Sam reads the Bible). Sam no good!" The intensity of conviction and the gloomy disgust put into the last reference to Sam are not to be expressed in words.
Where warning and punishment availed nothing threats would have been worse than foolish. Once, when he had broken bounds and left the waggons, I threatened that if he did it again I would tie him up, since he was like a dog that could not be trusted; and I did it. He had no excuse but the old ones; some one, he said, had brought him liquor to the waggons and he had not known what he was doing. The truth was that the craving grew so with the nearer prospect of drink that by hook or by crook he would find some one, a passer-¬by or a boy from other waggons, to fetch some for him; and after that nothing could hold him.
If Jim ever wavered in his loyalty to me, it must have been the day I tied him up: he must have been very near hating me then. I had caught him as he was leaving the waggons and still sober; brought him back and told him to sit under his own waggon where I would tie him up like a dog. I took a piece of sail twine, tied it to one wrist, and, fastening the other end to the waggon-wheel, left him.
A kaffir's face becomes, when he wishes it, quite inscrutable as expressionless as a blank wall. But there are exceptions to every rule; and Jim's stoicism was not equal to this occasion. The look of unspeak¬able disgust and humiliation on his face was more than I could bear with comfort; and after half an hour or so in the pillory I released him. He did not say a word, but, heedless of the hot sun, rolled himself in his blankets and, sleeping or not, never moved for the rest of the day.
Continued on 1885b
( I | II | III | IV )
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