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Chapter 47

THE MAGIC PORTALS CLOSE.

It seemed hopeless to try for a picture. Nevertheless I opened wide my lens, steadied the camera, and gave it a half-second. The result was fairly good. So much for a high grade lens. We sent Kongoni into camp for help, and ourselves proceeded to build up the usual fire for signal and for protection against wild beasts. Then we sat down to enjoy the evening, while Mavrouki skinned the kudu.

We looked abroad over a wide stretch of country. Successive low ridges crossed our front, each of a different shade of slate gray from its neighbours, and a gray half-luminous mist filled the valley between them. The edge of the world was thrown sharp against burnished copper. After a time the moon rose.

Memba Sasa arrived before the lanterns, out of breath, his face streaming with perspiration. Poor Memba Sasa! this was almost the only day he had not followed close at my heels, and on this day we had captured the Great Prize. No thought of that seemed to affect the heartiness of his joy. He rushed up to shake both my hands; he examined the kudu with an attention that was held only by great restraint; he let go that restrain to shake me again enthusiastically by the hands. After him, up the hill, bobbed slowly the lanterns. The smiling bearers shouldered the trophy and the meat, and we stumbled home through the half shadows and the opalescences of the moonlight.

Our task in this part of the country was now finished. We set out on the return journey. The weather changed. A beautiful, bright-copper sunset was followed by a drizzle. By morning this had turned into a heavy rain. We left the topi camp, to which we had by now returned, cold and miserable. C. and I had contributed our waterproofs to protect the precious trophies, and we were speedily wet through. The grass was long. This was no warm and grateful tropical rain, but a driving, chilling storm straight out from the high mountains.

We marched up the long plain, we turned to the left around the base of the ranges, we mounted the narrow grass valley, we entered the forest--the dark, dripping, and unfriendly forest. Over the edge we dropped and clambered down through the hanging vines and the sombre trees. By-and-by, we emerged on the open plains below, the plains on the hither side of the Narossara, the Africa we had known so long. The rain ceased. It was almost as though a magic portal had clicked after us. Behind it lay the wonderful secret upper country of the unknown.


Stewart Edward White

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