I then went out into the bush to look for another kudu, but without success ; and on returning to the tent I found Marki had absconded, taking with him a small boy who carried his blanket when marching.
Another thing it is most difficult to make the natives understand is that they must keep skulls and bones seething with bacon beetles away from skins; and I constantly had to find fault with them for mixing them up. When I had taught them to be careful in camp by putting the skulls at one side and the skins at another, one would imagine that they understood, and yet when I started back for home they would place a skin on the ground, when resting, and then quietly deposit a bundle of skulls right on the top of it. This, to say the least, is aggravating, but only what can be expected from human beings who have not been blessed with moderate reasoning powers and the gift of perception. However, with all their faults, they are good, faithful servants, if kindly, but not familiarly treated. Their best points are most prominent when one is travelling in the wilds and shooting, for here they are in their element.
The grass was very sharp and hard near the Palombe stream, as it is round Mausi Hill, and one day I saw a man walking in front of me stop and look at his leg. I thought perhaps that a snake had bitten him, so I said " Chi-ani ? " (What is it ?) ; and he showed me a stem of thick grass sticking clean through the full thickness of his calf. I pulled it out, and he was all right; but I was surprised at a piece of grass being able to penetrate in this way, particularly in a native who has a pretty tough skin.
As I have mentioned, I always walk about and hunt in bare legs; and, although I got many cuts, scratches, and bumps I never ran a stem of grass through my leg. Once I got a long thorn right under my knee-cap, which caused great pain, and prevented me walking well for some time ; and, again, a thorn once penetrated a rope-soled shoe I was wearing and broke off in the instep, but otherwise my legs have not met with any serious accident although I have not been so fortunate with other parts of my body.
When in India long ago, tea planting, I dislocated a shoulder playing polo ; and in the South African war two ribs were smashed by a fall off a " buckjumper," and I have met with a few minor accidents not worth mentioning, although I remember them well; but up to the present no wild beast has managed to get hold of me, although they may have chances yet!
To conclude this chapter, I will give the account of an interesting day's tracking, or the best part of a day.
While marching along a narrow native path I saw a herd of hartebeest grazing near, but the rifle was in its cover, and just as I got it out and had loaded, the game began to move off. I fired a fairly long shot, and hit a large bull in the rump ; but, instead of stopping him, the wound seemed to act as a tonic, and he went away fast. Before going further, I may say that hartebeests (Lichtenstein's) are usually the poorest sporting animals in Central Africa, as they often behave very foolishly, and watch their companions being shot down without making any attempt to run away, at least out of range.
However, when much shot at, a single bull hartebeest can become one of the wariest animals, and it will need careful stalking and much care to get within range of him. This fact I note, as many authors on sport seem to think the hartebeest is always an obliging animal in offering himself for the pot, and the very opposite can be stated at times.
After wounding the hartebeest, I waited until my cook and the carriers came up, and told them to go on to within an easy distance of the water, which was in front. I then took four men and began to spoor the hartebeest. We had gone quite three miles before we saw him, when I gave him two shots, which both hit, and he walked a short way and lay down. I then turned to get the "Kodak," and, as I was doing so, he jumped up quickly and absconded, and was into the thick bush before I could grab my rifle and fire again. Two hours after this I got a sight of him again, but he again bolted. This hartebeest had travelled a long way—a good six miles—from where I had first hit him, but I determined I would get him, not only because I had wounded him severely, but also because I wanted his skin as a specimen.
We then heard voices, and I found my men waiting under some big trees close to the path, and my little camp-tabh- spread for lunch, so, as it was nearly midday and I was thirsty, I decided to have some tea—the best thirst-quencher I know—and some food; and the waste of time, although hard on the hartebeest, would give him time to settle down.
In about an hour the men and I left again, and, to make rather an uninteresting incident short, I may say we found him dead close to where we had left the spoor.
He turned out to be a fine male ; but, as one of my shots had broken the lower jaw and torn the skin badly, he was useless as a specimen, although his meat was much appreciated by my hungry men, who seldom complained of too much nyama.