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Chapter 41


Next morning we marched on up the beautiful valley through shoulder-high grasses wet with dew. At the end of two hours we came to the limit of Leyeye's knowledge of the country. It would now be necessary to find savage guides.

Accordingly, while we made camp, C., with Leyeye as interpreter, departed in search of a Masai village. So tall and rank grew the grass, that we had to clear it out as one would clear brushwood in order to make room for our tents.

Several hours later C. returned. He had found a very large village; but unfortunately the savages were engaged in a big n'goma which could not be interrupted by mere business. However, the chief was coming to make a friendly call. When the n'goma should be finished, he would be delighted to furnish us with anything we might desire.

Almost on the heels of this the chief arrived. He was a fine old savage, over six feet tall, of well proportioned figure, and with a shrewd, intelligent face. The n'goma had him to a limited extent, for he stumbled over tent ropes, smiled a bit uncertainly, and slumped down rather suddenly when he had meant to sit. However, he stumbled, smiled, and slumped with unassailable dignity.

From beneath his goatskin robe he produced a long ornamented gourd, from which he offered us a drink of fermented milk. He took our refusal good-naturedly. The gourd must have held a gallon, but he got away with all of its contents in the course of the interview; also several pints of super-sweetened coffee which we doled out to him a little at a time, and which he seemed to appreciate extravagantly.

Through Leyeye we exchanged the compliments of the day, and, after the African custom, told each other how important we were. Our visitor turned out to be none other than the brother of Lenani, the paramount chief of all the Masai. I forget what I was, either the brother of King George or the nephew of Theodore Roosevelt--the only two white men every native has heard of. It may be that both of us were mistaken, but from his evident authority over a very wide district we were inclined to believe our visitor.

We told him we wanted guides through the hills to the southward. He promised them in a most friendly fashion.

"I do not know the white man," said he. "I live always in these mountains. But my brother Lenani told me ten years ago that some day the white man would come into my country. My brother told me that when the white man came travelling in my country I must treat him well, for the white man is a good friend but a bad enemy. I have remembered my brother Lenani's words, though they were spoken a long time ago. The white man has been very long in coming; but now he is here. Therefore I have brought you milk to-day, and to-morrow I will send you sheep; and later I will send young men who know the hills to take you where you wish to go."

We expressed gratification, and I presented him with a Marble fish knife. The very thin blade and the ingenious manner in which the two halves of the handle folded forward over it pleased him immensely.

"No one but myself shall ever use this knife," said he.

He had no pockets, but he tucked it away in his armpit, clamped the muscles down over it, and apparently forgot it. At least he gave it no further attention, used his hands as usual, but retained it as securely as in a pocket.

"To-morrow," he promised at parting, "very early in the morning, I will send my own son and another man to guide you; and I will send a sheep for your meat."

We arose "very early," packed our few affairs, picked out four porters--and sat down to wait. Our plan was to cruise for five days with as light and mobile an outfit as possible, and then to return for fresh supplies. Billy would take charge of the main camp during our absence. As advisers, we left her Abba Ali, Memba Sasa, and Mohammed.

At noon we were still waiting. The possibility of doing a full day's journey was gone, but we thought we might at least make a start. At one o'clock, just as we had about given up hope, the Masai strolled in. They were beautiful, tall, straight youths, finely formed, with proud features and a most graceful carriage. In colour they were as though made of copper bronze, with the same glitter of high lights from their fine-textured skins. Even in this chilly climate they were nearly naked. One carried a spear, the other a bow and arrow.

Joyously we uprose--and sat down again. We had provided an excellent supply of provisions for our guides; but on looking over the lot they discovered nothing--absolutely nothing--that met their ideas.

"What do they want?" we asked Leyeye in despair.

"They say they will eat nothing but sheep," he reported.

We remembered old Naiokotuku's promise of sending us sheep, sneered cynically at the faith of savages, and grimly set forth to see what we could buy in the surrounding country. But we wronged the old man. Less than a mile from camp we met men driving in as presents not one, but two sheep. So we abandoned our shopping tour and returned to camp. By the time one of the sheep had been made into mutton it was too late to start. The Masai showed symptoms of desiring to go back to the village for the night. This did not please us. We called them up, and began extravagantly to admire their weapons, begging to examine them. Once we had them in our hands we craftily discoursed as follows:--

"These are beautiful weapons, the most beautiful we have ever seen. Since you are going so spend the night in our camp, and since we greatly fear that some of our men might steal these beautiful weapons, we will ourselves guard them for you carefully from theft until morning."

So saying, we deposited them inside the tent. Then we knew we had our Masai safe. They would never dream of leaving while the most cherished of their possessions were in hostage.

Stewart Edward White

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