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Chapter 20

BONDONI.

We followed many depressions, in which might be lions, until about three o'clock in the afternoon. Then we climbed the gently-rising long slope that culminated, far above the plains, in the peak of a hill called Bondoni. From a distance it was steep and well defined; but, like most of these larger kopjes, its actual ascent, up to the last few hundred feet, was so gradual that we hardly knew we were climbing. At the summit we found our men and the bullock cart. There also stood an oblong blockhouse of stone, the walls two feet thick and ten feet high. It was entered only by a blind angle passage, and was strong enough, apparently, to resist small artillery. This structure was simply an ostrich corral, and bitter experience had shown the massive construction absolutely necessary as adequate protection, in this exposed and solitary spot, against the lions.

We had some tea and bread and butter, and then Clifford Hill and I set out afoot after meat. Only occasionally do these hard-working settlers get a chance for hunting on the plains so near them; and now they had promised their native retainers that they would send back a treat of game. To carry this promised luxury, a number of the villagers had accompanied the bullock wagon. As we were to move on next day, it became very desirable to get the meat promptly while still near home.

We slipped over to the other side, and by good fortune caught sight of a dozen zebras feeding in scrub half-way down the hill. They were out of their proper environment up there, but we were glad of it. Down on our tummies, then, we dropped, and crawled slowly forward through the high, sweet grasses. We were in the late afternoon shadow of the hill, and we enjoyed the mild skill of the stalk. Taking advantage of every cover, slipping over into little ravines, lying very flat when one of the beasts raised his head, we edged nearer and nearer. We were already well within range, but it amused us to play the game. Finally, at one hundred yards, we came to a halt. The zebra showed very handsome at that range, for even their smaller leg stripes were all plainly visible. Of course at that distance there could be small chance of missing, and we owned one each. The Wakamba, who had been watching eagerly, swarmed down, shouting.

We dined just at sunset under a small tree at the very top of the peak. Long bars of light shot through the western clouds; the plain turned from solid earth to a mysterious sea of shifting twilights; the buttes stood up, wrapped in veils of soft desert colours; Kilimanjaro hung suspended like a rose-coloured bubble above the abyss beyond the world.


Stewart Edward White

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