Mohammed said good-bye, and went, and was sorry; Kongoni departed, after many and sincere protestations; quiet little Mavrouki came back three times to shake hands again, and disappeared reluctantly but disappeared; Leyeye went; Abba Ali followed the service of his master, C.; "Timothy" received his present in which he was disappointed and departed with salaams. Only Memba Sasa remained.
We saw them fairly clear of everything, then turned them over to Kongoni, while we returned to Nairobi to see after our effects. This has to do with a lion hunt on the Kapiti Plains. On the veranda at Nairobi I had some time previous met Clifford Hill, who had invited me to visit him at the ostrich farm he and his cousin were running in the mountains near Machakos.
Sometimes we have kongoni steaks, at other times we have the heart of waterbuck or the liver of bushbuck or impalla. Twice we had rhino tongue and once rhino tail soup. We eat, and at six o'clock the darkness of night suddenly spreads over the land.
They surrounded each tiny fire with switches full of roasting meat; they cut off great hunks for a stew; they made quantities of biltong, or jerky. Next day I left Kongoni and one porter at the old camp, loaded my men with what they could carry, and started out. We marched a little over two hours; then found ourselves beneath a lone mimosa tree about a quarter-mile from the edge of the bench.
These little calves come into the world fully equipped for running, and almost immediately after birth go bounding along after their mothers, so awkward and so funny that I'm not surprised that their own mothers look perpetually amused. The hartebeest, or kongoni, is hard to kill. The Dutch gave him the name for that reason. It often seems as if bullets have no effect on him.
His vision seemed to pierce the darkness of the shadows, so that he made out the details of the lion's mane, and even the muscles stiffening beneath the skin. And then at the last moment a kongoni, panic stricken, running blind, its nose up, broke through the thin bush to the left and dashed across the trail directly between the man and the lion.
"To-morrow we want kongoni for boys' meat, or zebra; and some meat for masters-Tommy, impala, oribi," and Memba Sasa knew as well as I did what we needed to fill out our trophy collection. When he caught sight of one of these animals his whole countenance changed. The lines of his face set, his lips drew back from his teeth, his eyes fairly darted fire in the fixity of their gaze.
The sportsman swears at the kongoni because it so often alarms the quarry he is stalking. How very often it happens! The hunter sees afar some trophy that he is eager to secure and straightway begins a careful stalk of many hundred yards. At last, after much patient work, he reaches a point where he feels that he can chance a shot.
They quirk their heads sidewise or down and stare at an intruder with the most comical air of skeptical wonder. "Well, look who's here!" says the expression. "Pooh!" says the kongoni himself, after a good look, "pooh! pooh!" with the most insulting inflection. He is very numerous and very alert.
In four and a half months I think I must have seen at least a hundred thousand kongoni. The giraffe is also a creature of most amusing actions. You are pretty certain to see a bunch of them as you come up the railway from the coast. They were the first wild animals I saw in British East Africa a group of four or five quietly feeding within only a hundred yards of the thundering railway engine.