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Adventures in Africa

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Adventures in Africa, by W.H.G. Kingston.

  ________________________________________________________________________In this book the hero, fresh from school, arrives from England, andjoins his uncle, who is a trader with the people of central Africa,bringing the goods obtained down to the south. On this occasion theyhave been attacked soon after they set out by natives led by Boers. Inorder to complete their journey to central Africa they decide to returnwith the few animals left to them, horses and an ox, over the KalahariDesert. Unfortunately they encamp one night in a place infested withthe tsetse flies, which kills the horses. Shortage of water and attacksby various wild beasts such as elephants and a hippopotamus, are some ofthe adventures described.

  Adventures they have in plenty, almost too many, for one of their numberis killed. They also kill far too many animals, as was the custom inVictorian times.

  It is a short book, that won't take long to listen to, or to read.

  ________________________________________________________________________ADVENTURES IN AFRICA, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.


  "How many more days, Jan, will it be before we get across thisabominable desert?" I asked of our black guide, as we trudged along, heleading our sole remaining ox, while my uncle, Mr Roger Farley, and Iled our two horses laden with the remnants of our property.

  "May be ten days, may be two ten," answered Jan Jigger, whose knowledgeof numerals was somewhat limited.

  I gave a groan, for I was footsore and weary, and expected to have had amore satisfactory answer. We were making our way over a light-colouredsoft sand, sprinkled in some places with tall grass, rising in tufts,with bare spots between them. In other parts were various creepingplants, and also--though I called the region a desert--there wereextensive patches of bushes, above which here and there rose clumps oftrees of considerable height. This large amount of vegetation, however,managed to exist without streams or pools, and for miles and milestogether we had met with no water to quench our own thirst or that ofour weary beasts. My uncle was engaged in the adventurous and notunprofitable occupation of trading with the natives in the interior ofAfrica. He had come down south some months before to dispose of theproduce of his industry at Graham's Town, where I had joined him, havingbeen sent for from England. After purchasing a fresh supply of goods,arms, powder, and shot, and giving a thorough repair to his waggons, hehad again set off northward for the neighbourhood of lake Ngami, wherehe was to meet his partner, Mr Welbourn, who had with him his sonHarry, with whom I had been at school, and who was about my own age. Wehad, beyond the borders of the colony, been attacked by a party ofsavages, instigated by the Boers, two or three of whom indeed led them.They had deprived us of our cattle and men, we having escaped with asmall portion only of our goods, two of our horses, a single ox and ourone faithful Bechuana. To get away from our enemies we had taken aroute unusually followed across the Kalahari desert. We were aware ofthe dangers and difficulties to be encountered, but the road was muchshorter than round either to the east or west; and though we knew thatwild animals abounded, including elephants, rhinoceroses, lions,leopards, and hyaenas, yet we believed that we should be able to contendwith them, and that we should not be impeded by human savages. Dayafter day we trudged forward. The only water we could obtain was bydigging into certain depressions in the ground which our guide pointedout, when, having scraped out the sand with the single spade wepossessed and our hands, we arrived at a hard stratum, beyond which headvised us not to go. In a short time the water began to flow inslowly, increasing by degrees until we had enough for ourselves and ourcattle.

  We had now, however, been travelling sixty miles or more, withoutfinding one of these water-holes; and though we had still a smallquantity of the precious liquid for ourselves, our poor horses and oxhad begun to suffer greatly. Still Jan urged us to go forward.

  "Water come soon, water come soon!" he continued saying, keeping his eyeranging about in every direction in search of the expected hole.

  Trusting to Jan's assurances, thirst compelled us to consume the lastdrop of our water. Still, hour after hour went by, and we reached noplace at which we could replenish it. Our sufferings became terrible.My throat felt as if seared by a hot iron. Often I had talked of beingthirsty, but I had never before known what thirst really was. My uncle,I had no doubt, was suffering as much as I was, but his endurance waswonderful.

  We had seen numbers of elands sporting round us in every direction, butas soon as we approached them, off they bounded.

  "Surely those deer do not live without water; it cannot be far away," Iobserved.

  "They are able to pass days and weeks without tasting any," said myuncle. "They can besides quickly cover thirty or forty miles of groundif they wish to reach it. We must try to shoot one of them for supper,which may give us both meat and drink. See, in the wood yonder we canleave our horses and the ox under Jan's care, and you and I will try tostalk one of the animals."

  On reaching the wood, my uncle and I, with our guns in our hands, took adirection which would lead us to leeward of the herd, so that we mightnot be scented as we approached.

  By creeping along under the shelter of some low bushes as we nearedthem, the elands did not see us. Hunger and thirst made us unusuallycautious and anxious to kill one. My uncle told me to reserve my fire,in case he should fail to bring the eland down; but as he was a muchbetter shot than I was, I feared that should he miss, I also shouldfail. Presently I saw him rise from among the grass. Lifting his rifleto his shoulder he fired; the eland gave a bound, but alighting on itsfeet was scampering off, when I eagerly raised my rifle and pulled thetrigger. As the smoke cleared off, to my infinite delight I saw theeland struggling on the grass. We both rushed forward, and my uncle'sknife quickly deprived it of life. It was a magnificent animal, as bigas an ox, being the largest of the South African antelopes.

  On opening its stomach we discovered water, which, on being allowed tocool, was sufficiently pure to quench our burning thirst. We secured aportion of it for Jan, and loading ourselves with as much meat as wecould carry, we returned to where we had left him. A fire was soonlighted, and we lost no time in cooking a portion of the flesh. Withour thirst partially relieved we were able to eat. We had made our fireat some distance from the shrubs for fear of igniting them, while wetethered our horses and ox among the longest grass we could find. Inthat dry region no shelter was required at night, so we lay down tosleep among our bales, with our saddles for pillows, and our rifles byour sides. I had been sleeping soundly, dreaming of purling streams andbabbling fountains, when I awoke to find my throat as dry and parched asever. Hoping to find a few drops of water in my bottle, I sat up toreach for it; when, as I looked across the fire, what was my dismay tosee a large tiger-like animal stealthily approaching, and tiger I fullybelieved it to be. On it came, exhibiting a pair of round brightshining eyes. I expected every moment to see it spring upon us. I wasafraid that by crying out I might only hasten its movements, so I feltfor my rifle and, presenting at the creature's head shouted--

  "A tiger, uncle; a tiger, Jan!"

  "A tiger!" exclaimed my uncle, springing up in a moment. "That's not atiger, it's a leopard, but if pressed by hunger may prove as ugly acustomer. Don't fire until I tell you, for if wounded it will becomedangerous."

  All this time the leopard was crawling on, though it must have heard thesound of our voices; perhaps the glare of the fire in its eyes preventedit from seeing us, for it still cautiously approached. I saw my unclelift his rifle; he fired, but though his bullet struck the creature,instead of falling as I expected, it gave a bound and the next instantwould have been upon us. Now was
my time. As it rose, I fired, and mybullet must have gone through its heart, for over it rolled without astruggle, perfectly dead.

  "Bravo! Fred," exclaimed my uncle. "This is the second time within afew hours your rifle has done good service. You'll become a first-ratehunter if you go on as you've begun. How that leopard came here it'sdifficult to say, unless it was driven from the hills, and has beenwandering over the desert in search of prey; those creatures generallyinhabit a high woody country."

  Jan exhibited great delight at our victory, and having made up the fire,we spent some time in skinning the beast. Its fur was of great beauty,and although it would add to the load of our ox, we agreed to carry itwith us, as it would be a welcome present to any chief who might renderus assistance.

  Having flayed the animal and pegged down the skin, we returned to ourbeds, hoping to finish the night without interruption. As soon as therewas light sufficient to enable us to see our way, we pushed forward,earnestly praying that before the sun was high in the heavens, we mightfall in with water. Notwithstanding that Jan repeatedly exclaimed,"Find water soon! Find water soon!" not a sign of it could we see. Aglare from a cloudy sky was shed over the whole scene; clumps of treesand bushes looking so exactly alike, that after travelling severalmiles, we might have fancied that we had made no progress. At lengtheven the trees and bushes became scarcer, and what looked like averitable desert appeared before us.

  I had gone on a short distance ahead, when to my delight I saw in fronta large lake, in the centre of which the waves were dancing andsparkling in the sunlight, the shadows of the trees being vividlyreflected on the mirror-like surface near the shores, while beyond I sawwhat I took to be a herd of elephants flapping their ears andintertwining their trunks.

  "Water, water!" I shouted; "we shall soon quench our thirst. We musttake care to avoid those elephants, however," I added, pointing them outto my uncle. "It would be a fearful thing to be charged by them."

  The horses and ox lifted up their heads and pressed forward. Jan to mysurprise said nothing, though I knew he was suffering as well as myuncle and I were. I was rushing eagerly forward, when suddenly a hazewhich hung over the spot, broke and dispelled the illusion. A vastsalt-pan lay before us. It was covered with an effervescence of lime,which had produced the deceptive appearance. Our spirits sank lowerthan ever. To avoid the salt-pan, we turned to the right, so as toskirt its eastern side. The seeming elephants proved to be zebras,which scampered off out of reach. We now began to fear that our horseswould give in, and that we should have to push forward with our oxalone, abandoning everything it could not carry. Still my uncle cried"Forward!" Jan had evidently mistaken the road, and passed the spotwhere he had expected to find water. Still he observed that we needhave no fear of pursuing our course. Evening was approaching and wemust again camp: without water we could scarcely expect to get throughthe night.

  Presently Jan looking out ahead, darted forward and stopped at where asmall plant grew with linear leaves and a stalk not thicker than acrow's quill. Instantly taking a spade fastened to the back of the ox,he began eagerly digging away; and after he had got down to the depth ofa foot, he displayed to us a tuber, the size of an enormous turnip. Onremoving the rind, he cut it open with his axe, and showed us a mass ofcellular tissue filled up with a juicy substance which he handed to us,and applying a piece to his own mouth ate eagerly away at it. Weimitated his example, and were almost immediately much refreshed. Wefound several other plants of the same sort, and digging up the rootsgave them to the horses and ox, who crunched them up with infinitesatisfaction.

  Our thirst was relieved in a way I could scarcely have supposedpossible. The animals too, trudged forward with far lighter steps thanbefore. Relieved of our thirst and in the hopes of finding either wateror more tubers next morning, we lay down thankful that we had escapedthe fearful danger we had apprehended. As we advanced we looked outanxiously for the tuber-bearing plants, but not one could we see. I hadgone on some little distance ahead, when I caught sight of a roundobject some way off, which, as the rays of sun fell on it, appeared ofscarlet hue. I ran towards it, when I saw what looked like a smalloblong red melon.

  "Here's something worth having!" I exclaimed, cutting into it with myknife. When I applied it to my mouth, to my disappointment I foundthat, although juicy in the extreme, it was perfectly bitter. I threwit down in disgust. Jan soon afterwards, on coming near, said:

  "Dis no good, but find oders presently!"

  Hurrying along, he struck one after another, and quickly handed me oneperfectly sweet; when he collected many more, with which we returned towhere my uncle had halted with the animals.

  The fruit was far more gratifying to the taste than the tubers. Weallowed the animals to eat as many as they wished, and, loading themwith a supply in case we should fail to find others further on, wecontinued our journey.

  Those melons lasted us another whole day and a night, and afforded theonly liquid which passed our mouths. As we were on foot our view overthe level desert was limited.

  I was walking alongside my uncle, discussing our future plans, havingbegun to hope that, in spite of the difficulties we had to contendagainst, we should get through, when I saw some objects moving rapidlyin the distance. They were coming towards us.

  "They are ostriches!" cried my uncle; "we must try and kill a few toobtain their plumes."

  We halted, and remained perfectly still, hoping that the birds mightapproach us. Now they ran as fleet as a race-horse, now they stoppedand went circling round. Two or three odd-looking birds, as theyseemed, were moving at a much slower rate.

  "Those Bosjeemen!" cried Jan.

  We at length saw that the latter were human beings, their legs coveredwith white pigment and carrying the head and feathers of an ostrich ontheir backs, while each had in his hand a bow and a number of arrows.Presently they cautiously approached the ostriches to leeward, stoppingevery now and then and pretending to be feeding. The ostriches wouldlook at the strange birds, but, not suspecting danger, allowed them toapproach. One of the Bosjeemen then shot an arrow, when the woundedbird and his companions ran off; the former, however, quickly dropped,when the other birds stopped to see what was the matter, and thusallowed their enemy to draw near enough to shoot another arrow.

  In this way three little yellow-skinned fellows each shot, in a shorttime, four magnificent ostriches. They had seen us in the distance, butinstead of running away, as we feared they would do, one of them,guessing we were traders, came forward to bargain for the sale of thefeathers, and Jan acting as interpreter, my uncle expressed awillingness to trade. The Bosjeemen then produced a number of reeds,scarcely the thickness of my little finger. Having plucked off thefeathers, they pushed them into the reeds; and, thus preserved, thefeathers were fit to travel any distance without being spoilt.

  It was late by the time the whole operation was performed, and we hadgiven the articles they had agreed to take in exchange. As the reedsweighed but little, the loads were considerably lightened.

  Jan now explained to our new friends that they would be further rewardedif they would conduct us to water. They at once agreed to do so, andone of them, hurrying away to a spot at a distance where they had lefttheir travelling equipage, returned with a dozen ostriches' eggs in anet at his back; he then made a sign to us to follow him, while hiscompanions remained with the ostriches they had shot. Sooner than weexpected he reached a hole, into which he rapidly dug with his hand;then, inserting a long reed, he began to suck away with might and main.In a short time the water flowed, and was led down by another reed intoa hole at the end of an ostrich egg, which was soon filled with water.As we had a leathern bucket we were enabled to give our animals a drink,though we could not allow them as much as they would have liked.

  The Bosjeeman then, refilling the egg-shells, returned with us to wherewe had left his companions. We found that they had built themselves ahut, if so it could be called, in a thick mimosa bush, by bendin
g theboughs so as to form a roof, covered by reeds lightly fastened together.The inside was lined with dried leaves, grass, and the coarser feathersof the ostrich. When they saw that we were encamped, the three hunterslighted a fire and sat themselves down before it to enjoy a sumptuousrepast of ostrich flesh. Though unattractive in appearance, they werehonest little fellows, and we slept in perfect security, knowing thatthey would give us timely notice of the approach of an enemy.

  Jan assured us that we might trust them, as it was a high mark ofconfidence on their part to show us where we could procure water, forthey are always careful to hide such spots from those they thinkunfriendly.

  They accompanied us the following day, and led us to a pool, the onlyone we had met with while crossing the desert. Probably in many seasonsthat also would have been empty. Here our animals got as much water asthey could drink, and we filled our water-bottles. We then parted fromour yellow friends, who said that, as they were ignorant of the countryto the northward, they could not venture farther. Trusting to Jan'ssagacity to find water, we proceeded in good spirits.

  We had hoped to trade largely with the natives, but as we had lost thegreater part of our goods, we should have to depend upon our ownexertions to obtain the ivory and skins which would repay us for thedifficulties and dangers of our journey. We had fortunately saved thegreater part of our ammunition, which would enable us to hunt for somemonths to come.

  Of course we knew Mr Welbourn would be much disappointed at seeing usarrive with so slender an equivalent for the skins and ivory my unclehad taken south, instead of the waggon full of goods which he hadexpected.

  "He is a sensible, good-natured fellow, and will know that it was fromno fault of ours we were plundered," observed my uncle. "We shall stilldo well, and shall probably encounter more adventures than we shouldhave met with had we confined ourselves to simple trading with thenatives. I should, however, have preferred that to undergoing thefatigues of hunting; besides which we might the sooner have returnedwith our cargo of ivory to the coast."

  Several more days passed by during which we came to three spots where wewere able to obtain a sufficient amount of water to satisfy ourselvesand our thirsty animals. Sometimes for miles together not a drop couldbe procured, and had it not been for the tubers, and the little redmelons I have described, the horses and our patient ox must haveperished. At length the sheen of water in the bright sunlight was seenin the distance. This time we were convinced that it was not a mirage.We pushed forward, hoping that our sufferings from thirst were at anend. Trees of greater height than any we had yet met with since leavingthe colony fringed the banks of a fine river. On examining the currentwe found that it was flowing to the north-east, and we therefore hopedthat by following it up we should reach the lake for which we werebound. Our black guide, however, advised that we should cross theriver, which was here fordable, and by steering north, considerablyshorten the journey. On wading through the water we looked out sharplyfor crocodiles and hippopotami, lest one of those fresh-water monstersshould venture to attack us; we got over, however, without accident.Having allowed our animals to drink their full of water, and replenishedour bottles, we encamped for the night under a magnificent _baobab_ treewith a trunk seventy feet in girth as high as we could reach, while ouranimals found an abundance of rich grass on which to satisfy theirhunger.

  What pigmies we felt as we stood beneath that giant tree. An army mighthave found shelter from the sun under its wide-spreading boughs. Wethought the spot a perfect paradise after our long journey across theplain.

  We had not long been seated round our camp-fire, when Jan made a dart athis foot and caught a fly which had settled on it; and, exhibiting it tomy uncle, exclaimed--

  "No good, no good!"

  It was of a brownish colour with three yellow bars across the body, andscarcely larger than a common house-fly. We soon saw others buzzingabout in considerable numbers.

  I asked Jan what he meant.

  "Das de _tsetse_: when bite horse or ox den dey die," he answered.

  As, however, neither my uncle nor I felt any ill effects from the bitesof the flies, we thought that Jan must be mistaken, and at all events itwas now too late to shift our encampment. We therefore, having made upa blazing fire to scare off any wild beasts, lay down to sleep, withoutthinking more of the flies, which did not cause us any annoyance.

  The next morning we saw some of the creatures on the legs of our horsesand the ox; but we soon brushed them away, and, loading up, we continuedour journey. They went on as usual. Jan, however, looked muchdisconcerted, and I saw him continually brushing off the flies.

  "No good, no good!" he said, "hope soon get through, for de horses notgo far."

  I asked my uncle what Jan meant. He replied that he had often heard ofthe tsetse fly, but never having passed through a country infested byit, he was disinclined to believe the stories told of the deadly effectsof its bite on cattle and horses.