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Chapter 48

THE LAST TREK.

Some weeks later we camped high on the slopes of Suswa, the great mountain of the Rift Valley, only one day's march from the railroad. After the capture of the kudu Africa still held for us various adventures--a buffalo, a go of fever, and the like--but the culmination had been reached. We had lingered until the latest moment, reluctant to go. Now in the gray dawn we were filing down the slopes of the mountains for the last trek. A low, flowing mist marked the distant Kedong; the flames of an African sunrise were revelling in the eastern skies. All our old friends seemed to be bidding us good-bye. Around the shoulder of the mountains a lion roared, rumble upon rumble. Two hyenas leapt from the grass, ran fifty yards, and turned to look at us.

"Good-bye, simba! good-bye, fice!" we cried to them sadly.

A little farther we saw zebra, and the hartebeeste, and the gazelles. One by one appeared and disappeared again the beasts with which we had grown so familiar during our long months in the jungle. So remarkable was the number of species that we both began to comment upon the fact, to greet the animals, to bid them farewell, as though they were reporting in order from the jungle to bid us God-speed. Half in earnest we waved our hands to them and shouted our greetings to them in the native--punda milia, kongoni, pa-a, fice, m'pofu, twiga, simba, n'grooui, and the rest. Before our eyes the misty ranges hardened and stiffened under the fierce sun. Our men marched steadily, cheerfully, beating their loads in rhythm with their safari sticks, crooning under their breaths, and occasionally breaking into full-voiced chant. They were glad to be back from the long safari, back from across the Thirst, from the high, cold country, from the dangers and discomforts of the unknown. We rode a little wistfully, for these great plains and mysterious jungles, these populous, dangerous, many-voiced nights, these flaming, splendid dawnings and day-falls, these fierce, shimmering noons we were to know no more.

Two days we had in Nairobi before going to the coast. There we paid off and dismissed our men, giving them presents according to the length and faithfulness of their service. They took them and departed, eagerly, as was natural, to the families and the pleasures from which they had been so long separated. 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. I paid him for his long service, and I gave him many and rich presents, and bade farewell to him with genuine regret and affection.

Memba Sasa had wives and a farm near town, neither of which possessions he had seen for a very long while. Nevertheless he made no move to see them. When our final interview had terminated with the usual "Bags" (It is finished), he shook hands once more and withdrew, but only to take his position across the street. There he squatted on his heels, fixed his eyes upon me, and remained. I went down town on business. Happening to glance through the office window I caught sight of Memba Sasa again across the street, squatted on his heels, his gaze fixed unwaveringly on my face. So it was for two days. When I tried to approach him, he glided away, so that I got no further speech with him; but always, quietly and unobtrusively, he returned to where he could see me plainly. He considered that our interview had terminated our official relations, but he wanted to see the last of the bwana with whom he had journeyed so far.

One makes many acquaintances as one knocks about the world; and once in a great many moons one finds a friend--a man the mere fact of whose existence one is glad to realize, whether one ever sees him again or not. These are not many, and they are of various degree. Among them I am glad to number this fierce savage. He was efficient, self-respecting, brave, staunch, and loyal with a great loyalty. I do not think I can better end this book than by this feeble tribute to a man whose opportunities were not many, but whose soul was great.

THE END.


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Stewart Edward White

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