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Title: A White King in East Africa - The Remarkable Adventures of John Boyes, Trader and Soldier - of Fortune, who became King of the Savage Wa-Kikuyu
Author: Boyes, John
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A White King in East Africa - The Remarkable Adventures of John Boyes, Trader and Soldier - of Fortune, who became King of the Savage Wa-Kikuyu" ***


                          Transcriber’s Note:

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Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
referenced. Photographic illustrations are also moved to fall on
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                              A WHITE KING
                             IN EAST AFRICA

[Illustration: JOHN BOYES]

                              A WHITE KING
                             IN EAST AFRICA


                           WRITTEN BY HIMSELF

                               EDITED BY
                            C. W. L. BULPETT


                                NEW YORK
                        McBRIDE, NAST & COMPANY

                        (_All rights reserved._)


                       WILLIAM NORTHROP McMILLAN

                           IN MEMORY OF MANY
                            TRAMPS TOGETHER

                            EDITOR’S PREFACE

The following pages describe a life of adventure in the more remote
parts of Africa—adventures such as the explorer and sportsmen do not
generally encounter. The man to whom the episodes narrated in this book
refer has been personally known to me for ten years. We have hunted big
game and explored together many a time in the African jungle; and as it
is principally at my instigation that he has put the following account
of his experiences into writing, I think it is due to him and to the
public that I should make known my responsibility in the matter.

It seemed to me that the adventures John Boyes underwent were something
quite out of the common; in these matter-of-fact days they may be said
to be almost unique. In the days of exploration and discovery, when
Captain Cook and such heroes lived and thrived, they were perhaps common
enough; but every year the opportunities of such adventure get more and
more remote, and as the uttermost parts of the earth are brought under
the influence of civilization will become ever more impossible. For this
reason alone a story such as told here seems to be worth recording.

There is no attempt at literary style. The man tells his tale in a
simple, matter-of-fact way, and, as his Editor, I have thought it better
from every point of view to leave his words as he has written them.

The reader will judge for himself as to the interest of the adventures
here related, but I think any one will admit that no ordinary force of
character was necessary to carry them through to a successful issue. The
whole life of the author during the time he was a wanderer in the Kikuyu
country, and later while he was practically supreme ruler of the tribe—a
tribe numbering half a million of people—was one of imminent daily risk.

Each hour he went about with his life in his hands, and if he came out
scatheless from the mêlée, he has only to thank his courage, nerve, and
resource. All these qualities he obviously possessed in a high degree.

He appears to have been harshly treated by the British East Africa
authorities. Doubtless much that he did was grossly misrepresented to
them by more or less interested parties. He certainly did yeoman’s
service to the colony in its early days by opening up an unknown and
hostile country which lay right on the borderland of the Uganda Railway,
at that time in course of construction. His energetic action enabled the
coolies on the line to work safe from many hostile attacks. He supplied
them with the food without which they would have starved—all for a very
small reward, and at great personal risk to himself. But the love of
adventure was in him, and such people do not work for profit alone. The
life itself brings its own reward.

An impartial observer will perhaps be able to understand the point of
view of the British Administration, and will appreciate their
difficulty, indeed their ability, to allow an independent white power to
rule beside their own; but the public will judge for themselves whether
they set about to do what they did with regard to John Boyes in the most
tactful way, or whether they treated a brave fellow-countryman in the
manner he deserved.

                                                         C. W. L. B.

_August, 1911._



 CHAPTER I                                                             1

 Early youth—I run away to sea on a fishing-boat—Hardships of the
 life—Take service on a tugboat—Life on board a tramp—First view
 of tropical African coast—A collision at sea—Land at Durban, 1895

 CHAPTER II                                                           17

 I work my way up-country to Matabeleland—Employed as fireman on
 engine—Reach Johannesburg—Trek the rest of the way to Bulawayo on
 foot—Take service in the Matabeleland Mounted Police—Join the
 Africander Corps engaged in putting down the rebellion—Go into
 trade in Bulawayo—Return to the coast—I take to the stage—Work my
 way on an Arab dhow to Mombasa, February, 1898—Cool official

 CHAPTER III                                                          38

 1898—Determine to organize a transport caravan on the Uganda
 Railway route, to carry provisions for the coolies working on the
 railway—Man-eating lions at railway construction camps—Reach the
 borderland of the Masai and Kikuyu tribes—Desertion of my
 men—Return to Railhead—Start out again with convoys for
 Uganda—Loss of my transport animals—Decide to enter the Kikuyu

 CHAPTER IV                                                           76

 Government official tries to prevent me going into the Kikuyu
 country—Give the official the slip—My first acquaintance with the
 Kikuyu—Meet Karuri, the Kikuyu chief—Hospitable reception—Kikuyu
 village attacked because of my presence in it—I help to beat off
 the attack—Successful trading—Build a house in the Kikuyu
 village—Native theory as to the origin of the Kikuyu race—I help
 defend my Kikuyu friends from hostile raids, and beat off the
 enemy—Benefit of my conciliatory counsels—Pigasangi and

 CHAPTER V                                                           101

 Am established in the country—Native festivities and
 dances—Troubadours—Musical quickness of the natives—Dearth of
 musical instruments—My attempts at military organization—Hostile
 rumours—Preparations for resisting attack—Great battle and defeat
 of the attacking tribes—Victory due to skilful tactics of my
 Kikuyu force—Succeed in taking a large convoy of provisions into
 the starving Government stations—White men attacked and killed—Am
 supreme in the tribe—Native poisons—Although I am supplying the
 Government stations with food, I get no recognition at the hands
 of the officials

 CHAPTER VI                                                          124

 Determine to extend my operations into more remote districts of
 the Kikuyu country—New friends—Native taste for tea—Plague of
 ants—Curious superstition with regard to milking cows—The Kalyera
 reject my friendly overtures—Trouble at headquarters—Tragic
 interview with a recalcitrant chief—Gain further prestige
 thereby—Further plans—Take my Kikuyu followers down to
 Mombasa—Their impressions in contact with civilization

 CHAPTER VII                                                         149

 Back again in the Kikuyu country—Kalyera raid—Effect of a mule on
 the native nerve—Does it eat men?—Prepare for a new
 expedition—Dress my men in khaki and march under the Union Jack—A
 hostile medicine man—Around Mount Kenia—Native drinks—Treacherous
 native attack on my camp—Lucky capture of the hostile chief saves
 the camp—Pursuit after stolen cattle—Another attack on my
 camp—Change of attitude of natives on account of rain—Peace
 again—Bury my ivory—The forest slopes of Mount Kenia—Wagombi’s—A
 powerful chief—Precautions—Establish myself and erect a fort

 CHAPTER VIII                                                        189

 The Wanderobo—Visit from the Wanderobo chief—Native bartering—A
 grand meeting of surrounding tribes for blood-brotherhood under
 my auspices—Dancing frenzy—Native ideas of a future life—Again
 trek for the unknown—Attacked by natives—Chief’s
 admonition—Decide to visit the Wanderobo chief Olomondo—Wanderobo
 gluttony—The honey bird—Wanderobo methods of hunting—Massacre of
 a Goanese safari—My narrow escape—General uprising of hostile
 tribes—Rise of the Chinga tribes against me—My precarious
 position—Successful sally and total defeat of the enemy—My
 blood-brother, the Kikuyu Chieftain, comes to my aid with
 thousands of armed men—Total extinction of the Chinga people

 CHAPTER IX                                                          233

 My control over the whole country now complete—Get back with my
 ivory to Karuri’s—Recover all the property of the murdered
 Goanese—My position recognized by all the chiefs—Violent death of
 my enemy, the Rainmaker—Peaceful rule—Try to improve the
 agriculture of the country—Imitators of my schemes cause trouble
 in the country—Troubles of a ruler—Outbreak of smallpox—Famine—My
 attempts at alleviating the distress misunderstood—Daily routine
 in a native village—"Sin vomiting"—Native customs—Native
 hospitality among themselves—Adventures with lions

 CHAPTER X                                                           279

 Government send an expedition into my country to take over the
 administration—Go with my followers to meet the Government
 officials—Am asked to disarm my followers by the Government
 officials, who are in a state of panic—Consent to this to allay
 their fears, and am then put under arrest—Am charged with
 “dacoity”- -Am sent down to Mombasa to be tried, and placed in
 the gaol—Am released on bail—Tried and acquitted—I am appointed
 intelligence officer and guide to a Government expedition into
 the Kalyera country

 CHAPTER XI                                                          295

 Origin of the Kikuyu—The family—Circumcision—Marriage—Land

 INDEX                                                               317


   JOHN BOYES                                          _Frontispiece_

                                                          FACING PAGE

   MASAI WARRIORS FROM NAIVASHA                                    48

   AN ANT-HILL                                                     58

   KIKUYU WARRIOR                                                  80

   WA-KIKUYU MAIDENS                                               82

   THE RIVER MORANDAT                                             100

   A GROUP OF MASAI WARRIORS                                      112


   A DEAD RHINO                                                   208


   RIVER SCENERY                                                  264

   WAKAMBA WOMEN                                                  300

   MAP OF THE WA-KIKUYU LAND                                      314


                   JOHN BOYES, KING OF THE WA-KIKUYU

                               CHAPTER I

Early youth—I run away to sea on a fishing-boat—Hardships of the
life—Take service on a tugboat—Life on board a tramp—First view of
tropical African coast—A collision at sea—Land at Durban, 1895

This book is simply an attempt to set down, in a plain and
straightforward manner, some account of the various experiences and
adventures of the author during a period of some fifteen years spent in
hunting, trading, and exploring, principally on the eastern side of the
African continent. The title has been suggested by some episodes in the
narrative, the main facts of which are within the recollection of many
of the white men now in British East Africa. These episodes caused
somewhat of a stir at the time, and the author had to stand his trial
before the local courts on a capital charge as a direct consequence of
the facts here narrated.

I was born at Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, on 11 May, 1874, so
that at the time of writing this book I am still a comparatively young
man. I lived there with my parents until I was six years of age, when I
was sent to Germany to be educated at the little town of Engelfingen,
where my parents had some relatives living, and it was here that I
received all the schooling I have ever had. This early education has
left its mark on me, and even at the present day I sometimes find it
difficult to express myself correctly in English—a fact, I hope, an
indulgent public will take into consideration.

At the age of thirteen my schooling in Germany ended, and I returned
home to my parents, who wished me to continue my school-days in Hull, as
I had received no English education whatever; but I strongly objected to
going to school again, and, evading their efforts to control me, spent
most of my time about the docks, watching the vessels in and out.

By this time my mind was bent on a seafaring life, and I lost no
opportunity of scraping acquaintance with sailors from the different
ships, whose tales of the various countries they had visited and the
strange sights they had seen fired my imagination and made me more
determined than ever to follow the sea.

I practically lived on the docks, and one of my greatest delights was to
pilot a boat round them, or to get some of my many friends among the
sailors to allow me to help with odd jobs about a vessel, such as
cleaning up the decks or polishing the brasswork; and I was fully
determined to get away to sea at the first opportunity.

My keenest desire, at this time, was to enter the Navy, but my parents
would not hear of my going to sea, and without their consent I could not
be accepted, so that idea had to be abandoned. I was determined to be a
sailor, however, and kept my eyes open for a chance of getting away on
one of the fishing-vessels sailing out of Hull, among which were still
many of the old sailing-boats, which have now been almost entirely
displaced by the steam-trawlers. When I had been at home about six
months the longed-for chance came. I got to know that one of the
trawlers was to sail at a very early hour one morning, so, stealing out
of the house before any of the other members of the family were about, I
made my way down to the docks. This being before the days of the large
tonnage steam-trawlers, the vessels carried only about five hands, and
finding that the boat on which I had set my mind was in need of a cook
and cabin-boy, I offered my services, and was duly signed on. My
knowledge of the work was nil, but, to my surprise and delight, the
captain asked no awkward questions, and I found myself enrolled as a
member of the crew of my first ship, which was bound for the North Sea
fishing-grounds, and was expected to be away for about three months.

I was very seasick on this first voyage—the only time in my life that I
have ever suffered from that complaint—and the life proved less
attractive than I had expected. In those days the lads on the
fishing-boats were very badly treated, and though I had not so much to
complain of in this respect, I found it a very trying life at the best.
The work itself was very hard, and I was liable to be called up at any
hour of the day or night to prepare hot coffee or do anything that any
member of the crew wanted me to do.

It was on this voyage that I had a very narrow escape of being drowned
in a gale which we encountered. We had taken in the second reef of the
mainsail, which hung over like a huge hammock, and I was ordered aloft
to perform the operation known as reefing the lacing. As I was crawling
along the sail a heavy sea struck the ship, carrying the boom over to
the weather side, which caused the sail to flap over and pitch me head
first into the sea. Fortunately for me, the accident was witnessed by
the crew, one of whom seized a boathook, and, as I came within reach,
managed to catch me by the belt, and so succeeded in hauling me on board
again, feeling very miserable and, of course, drenched to the skin, but
otherwise none the worse for my adventure.

With this exception, there was little out of the ordinary in my life on
the trawler, unless I mention an experience I had when we were lying off
the then British island of Heligoland.

It was the custom for the captains of the various boats to go ashore all
together, in one boat, on Sundays, and the crew also often took
advantage of the opportunity of a run ashore. One Sunday they had all
gone ashore, leaving me in sole charge of the ship, my principal duties
being to prepare the dinner and stoke the boiler of the donkey-engine so
as to keep steam up ready for hauling up the anchor at a moment’s
notice. Soon after they had gone some lads came off in a shore-boat, and
as I could speak German we were soon on the best of terms, and of course
I had to give them biscuits and show them round the ship. So engrossed
was I with my new-found friends that I forgot all about the boiler,
until I noticed a strong smell of burning. We all raced to the
engine-room, to find that the boiler was red hot and had set fire to the
woodwork round it. Not knowing what else to do, we chopped away the
woodwork and threw it overboard, and so prevented the fire spreading.
Scenting trouble ahead, my friends took to their boat and cleared out,
while I decided that it would be wise to disappear for a time also, and
so hid myself in a part of the ship where I thought I was least likely
to be found. The captain made a big fuss when he discovered the damage,
and I heard him calling loudly for me, but I thought it would be wise to
remain out of sight until he had had time to cool down; so I stayed
where I was, turning up again next morning. He did not say much when I
appeared, probably because he thought awkward questions might be asked
if any bother was made as to why a youngster like myself had been left
in sole charge of the vessel.

I returned to Hull after six months with the fishing fleet, fairly sick
of life on a trawler, and with my mind made up to try for something
better in the seafaring line.

My great idea was to get abroad and see something of the world, and I
should, so I thought, stand a better chance of doing this if I went to
Liverpool and tried to get a ship there. Having no money—my entire
worldly possessions consisted, at this time, of a few spare clothes—I
set out to walk the whole distance from Hull.

For a lad of fifteen this was no light undertaking, but, as in other
instances in my career, the very difficulties only seemed to make the
idea more attractive; so I started boldly off. Having no very clear idea
of the route to be followed, I made for York, and then continued my
journey by way of Leeds and Manchester. I had no money, so, to procure
the little food I could allow myself, I pawned my spare clothes at
different places on my way, and helped out my scanty meals with an
occasional raw turnip or carrot; and though I had to go on rather short
commons towards the end of my journey, I managed to get through without
being reduced to begging. Of course I had nothing to spare for lodgings,
and used to sleep out during the day, continuing my journey at night,
and as it was early in the year—about the beginning of May—I found the
cold at times bitter, but this was my greatest hardship.

After a rather weary journey I eventually arrived in Liverpool, very
footsore but in good spirits, and finding a lodging-house in the
sea-men’s quarter of the town, kept by an old sailor who was willing to
take me in on trust until I got a ship, I took up my quarters there,
agreeing to repay him as soon as I got a berth.

I still had a strong inclination for the Navy, so I applied at the
recruiting office, but, as I could not show my parents’ consent, they
refused to accept me, and I had to look elsewhere. At last I got a berth
on a tugboat, called the _Knight of St. John_, which was going out to
Rotterdam to tow a barque, the _Newman Hall_, into Liverpool.

While at Rotterdam I managed to get into another scrape, but,
fortunately, it was not a very serious one, though I suffered some
discomfort. It was known on board that I could speak German well, so I
was sent ashore to buy cigars and tobacco for the officers and crew. I
must have been longer away than they expected, as when I got back to the
quay the boat was gone. Having no money left, I was in a fix for a
night’s lodging, until I noticed a small wooden hut on the beach,
apparently unoccupied, so, taking shelter in this, I made myself as
comfortable as possible and went to sleep. On waking the next morning I
was astonished to find the shanty surrounded by water. It turned out to
be a hut built for the use of bathers, and at high tide was always
surrounded by the sea; consequently I had to stay where I was and wait
more or less patiently until the tide went down far enough to enable me
to wade ashore. While I was wondering what to do next I saw the tug
coming along close inshore, and shouting until I attracted attention, I
was soon aboard again.

Having got our tow-line aboard the barque, we started on our return
journey to Liverpool, but had scarcely got clear of land before it
commenced to blow heavily, and the sea became so rough that we had to
part company with the barque, which, fortunately, drifted back to
Rotterdam, while we found ourselves with only sufficient coal to take us
into Dover.

I did not stop long with the tug, as I came to the conclusion that there
was little chance of getting on in my profession if I was content to
simply knock about from ship to ship. If I was ever to get an officer’s
certificate, I must start by getting a berth as A.B. (able seaman), in
an ocean-going ship, so that I could put in the four years’ regular sea
service which I should have to show before going up for my certificate,
of which at least twelve months had to be on a sailing ship trading to
foreign ports. I therefore looked out for a suitable berth, and at last
shipped on a barque, the _Lake Simcoe_, trading to South America.

I had, as usual, my share of incident during the voyage.

Whilst trading in Brazil, we made a trip up the River Amazon, during
which I got a touch of yellow fever, and on arriving at Laguna, where we
had to take some logwood on board, I was put ashore to go into hospital.
I do not know what alterations have been made since I was there, but at
that time the hospital was a gloomy enough building, with heavily barred
slits in the wall for windows, and used indifferently as hospital,
lunatic asylum, and gaol, while the strong resemblance to a prison was
heightened by the fact that the place was always guarded by a detachment
of soldiers.

The hospital arrangements were disgusting and reckless, no regard being
paid either to sanitation or the prevention of infection. All manner of
diseases were mixed indiscriminately in the same ward, while the duties
of orderlies and attendants on the patients were undertaken by some of
the more harmless among the lunacy cases!

One gruesome discovery which I made soon after my entry was that the
establishment possessed only one coffin, which had to do duty for each
fatal case in turn, being made with a sliding bottom, which reduced the
work of lowering the corpse into the grave to a minimum. When a case
ended fatally, the corpse was placed in this coffin—which was always
kept in the ward—and taken out for burial, the coffin being afterwards
returned to its place in the hospital, in full view of the other
patients! As there were generally three or four funerals every day, it
may be easily imagined that the effect on those left behind was not the
most cheering.

One other custom in the hospital struck me as very peculiar. When a
patient became very bad the attendant generally gave him a spoonful of a
substance which, from the smell, I have since thought must have been
opium. Whether or not this was merely given to relieve pain I cannot
say: I only know that the patient invariably died soon after taking it.

One day the spoon was brought to me, so I asked the attendant, one of
the harmless lunatics, to place it on the table by my bedside. Occupying
the adjoining pallet was a Brazilian soldier, who, waking up in the
night, asked if he might have the stuff in the spoon, as he was in
terrible pain. Thinking it might relieve him, I made no objection, and
he eagerly swallowed the lot. The next morning he was dead!

After this experience, I was anxious to get out of my present quarters
as rapidly as possible, and a chance came a day or two afterwards of
which I at once took advantage. It happened to be Sunday, and my bed
being close to one of the slits which served for windows, I heard the
voices of some of the crew of the _Lake Simcoe_ outside. I at once
shouted to attract their attention, and begged them to get me out of
this awful hole. Recognising my voice, they threw themselves on the
soldiers guarding the place, and, after a struggle, managed to get in,
and carried me off. I was fearfully weak, and scarcely able to stand,
but they managed to get me aboard ship at last, where, with proper
attention, I soon recovered.

On the homeward voyage we had terribly rough weather in the Atlantic,
and the ship became top-heavy, listing to such an extent that the
fore-yard-arms were practically in the water the whole time. For days we
were drenched to the skin with the big seas which broke over the vessel
continually, and the hull being practically under water, I wrapped
myself in a blanket—having no dry clothing left—and kept my watch seated
on the mast, which dipped in and out of the water with every roll of the

To add to our misfortune, scurvy broke out very badly among the crew,
owing to the wretched quality of the food, and, altogether, we were very
thankful when we at last made Falmouth harbour.

Shortly after my return I joined the Royal Naval Reserve, in which I had
to put in a month’s drill every year, as I was still bent on getting
into the Navy, if possible, and I thought that, if I could work my way
up to a Lieutenancy in the Reserve, I might manage it that way.

By this time I had done my twelve months in a sailing ship; so, by
shipping on steamers trading to different parts, I was able to visit
many interesting places. For twelve months I was on a boat trading
between the various ports on the coast of India, and on another voyage
was in a ship taking pilgrims from Port Said to Jedda. Our passengers on
this voyage were chiefly Arabs and Turks on their way to Mecca. For
another trip I shipped in one of the Royal Niger Company’s boats, and we
went up the West Coast of Africa with trading goods, chiefly old
flint-lock rifles and gunpowder. We also had on board two or three white
men, who were going on an exploring trip into the interior.

I was very much impressed with this part of the world, the tropical
scenery was so magnificent on either side of the rivers, while I was
intensely interested in the natives who came down to trade with the
ship. I made up my mind that I would go into the interior myself some
day, and get to know more about the country and its people. As it turned
out, a good many things were to happen before this intention was carried

During this trip I contracted malarial fever, and not being able to
shake it off, had to go into hospital at Rotterdam on our return. On my
recovery I spent some time on coasting vessels trading out to Guernsey,
and one night, when we had put into Dungeness, through stress of
weather, I had another startling experience.

Roused out of my sleep—it was my watch below—by a shout of “All hands on
deck!” I rushed up, just in time to see another ship coming directly
towards us. We shouted, but she kept on her course, and in a few seconds
crashed into us. Apparently everybody lost their heads at once, and a
scene of utter confusion followed, nobody appearing to know what to do.
I saw that the yards of the two vessels had become entangled, and
expected every minute to see them fall, and crush the boat, which was
stowed away on deck; so I made my way to the poop, and shouted to the
crew to get the boat out at once. So great was the confusion that it is
almost impossible to say what really happened. I only know that I
eventually found myself in a boat with only one other man, and as we
pulled off we saw the ship which had done the mischief apparently
drifting away. Pulling to her, we managed to scramble aboard, and, to
our great surprise, found that there was not a single soul on board, and
we then remembered seeing her crew jumping on board our vessel at the
time of the collision. Everything was in apple-pie order, and the lamp
lit, and we could not find anything the matter with the ship, so that
her crew must have been seized with a sudden fit of panic, and abandoned
her in their fright. We were on board just in time to steer her clear of
a steamer, and then we dropped anchor. The following morning her crew
returned on board, looking rather foolish, and we were transferred to
our own vessel, which was then towed to London.

I put in a claim on account of salvage, and after a good deal of delay,
found that the owners had settled for salvage, demurrage, and loss with
the captain of the barque, who was also the owner. I had left the ship
when we reached London, but happened to meet the captain later on in
Hull, when he invited me to accompany him to Guernsey, to see about my
share of the salvage money. At the last minute I found that I could not
go, so he promised to write me on the matter, but on the homeward voyage
his boat was lost, and he went down with it, so the letter never
arrived. Although very disappointed at the loss of my expected windfall,
I was very glad I had not been able to go with the captain, or I should
have lost my life as well.

Since my last voyage I had been working up for my certificate, attending
a Navigation School on Prince’s Dock Side, in Hull: but I was doomed to
disappointment, as, when I came to be medically examined, the doctor
found that my eyesight was affected, and could not pass me. This was the
result of the yellow fever from which I had suffered in Brazil.

After this I had to give up all hopes of the sea as a career, unless I
was willing to remain before the mast all my life, and that was by no
means my idea; so my thoughts turned to Africa, and I remembered the
impression made on my mind by the little I had already seen of it, and
the attraction which the idea of its huge unexplored districts had
always had for me since my school-days, and I decided to see what I
could do out there.

Being again at the end of my money, the only way I could get there was
by working my passage, and as I could not get a berth in any boat going
from Hull, I went to London, and being successful, landed at Durban, in
Natal, just after the Jameson Raid.

                               CHAPTER II

I work my way up-country to Matabeleland—Employed as fireman on an
engine—Reach Johannesburg—Trek the rest of the way to Bulawayo—Take
service in the Matabeleland Mounted Police—Join the Africander Corps
engaged in putting down the rebellion—Go into trade in Bulawayo—Return
to the coast—I take to the stage—Work my way on an Arab dhow to Mombasa,
February, 1898—Cool official reception

Learning that the Matabele War had broken out, I made every effort to
get up to the front; but as I had had no previous experience, the
military authorities would not take me on. However, I was determined to
get to Bulawayo somehow, and with this idea made a start by taking the
train for Pietermaritzburg, having just enough funds left to pay the
fare. On arriving I was lucky enough to get a job to look after the
engine and boiler at a steam bakery, and with the money I thus earned I
was able to move on, a fortnight later, to Charlestown. I had now just
enough money to pay for a night’s lodging, and the next morning I
crossed the boundary between Natal and the Transvaal, and moved on to
Volksrust, getting a glimpse of the famous Majuba Hill on my journey.

Of course, I was open to take any job that offered, and it so happened
that I was lucky enough to get one that very morning, as fireman on the

On applying at the station, I was asked if I was experienced in the
work, and having just left a steam bakery, and remembering my experience
with the trawler’s donkey engine, I modestly said that I was, and was
duly engaged and told to get on the engine of the mail train for
Standerton, which was standing in the station, ready to start, and get
on with the work.

The driver was a Hollander who spoke very little English, which fact I
looked upon as a stroke of luck, as he would be less likely to ask
awkward questions. He did ask me if I had done any firing before, and I
gave him the same answer as I had given to the official on the platform.
He soon put me to a practical test when, looking at the gauge glass, he
told me to turn on the pump to fill the boiler. I had not the slightest
idea where the pump was, but, noticing that, as he gave the order he
looked at a handle which was sticking out, I promptly seized that, and
began working it vigorously up and down. He at once began to shout, and
I found that I had made a mistake, the handle only having to be lifted
to a certain point, and then a tap turned on. Seeing that the driver
seemed to expect some explanation of my mistake, I remarked that the
arrangement was different from those I had been used to, which was
perfectly true, and this seemed to satisfy him, as he merely said that I
should, no doubt, get used to it in time.

But I was fated to exhibit my ignorance still further before we started.

I was looking over the side of the engine, when the driver gave an order
which I failed to understand, being engaged in watching the antics of an
official on the platform, who was waving his arms and gesticulating
wildly. He looked so funny that I burst out laughing, and the more I
laughed the wilder he got. In the meantime the driver was grumbling, and
came across to find out the cause of my laughter, and, seeing the man on
the platform, turned on me, and asked why I had not reported the signal
to start? It then suddenly dawned upon me that the order that had been
given me was to watch for “Right away,” but his English was so funny
that I thought he wanted me to look out for some friend he expected.

As Standerton was two hundred miles on my way to Bulawayo, I had thought
of leaving the train there, but my clothes had got so dirty and greasy
that I thought it best to stay on a little longer, until I had saved
enough money to get some more clothes and help me on my way to

This particular engine proved to be one of the hardest for firing on the
whole line, and I soon found that I had got the job because no one else
would take it, and after a fortnight on it I was so knocked up that I
decided to take a few days off, but on applying for my pay I was told
that I should have to go to Standerton to get it. This suited my book
exactly, and the idea entered my head, “Why not get a free pass to
Johannesburg?” as they had given me one to Standerton, to draw my money.
So when I drew the money the officials at Standerton were somewhat
startled when I demanded a free pass to Johannesburg. They seemed to
think I was crazy, but I quickly assured them that I was perfectly sane
and meant to have the pass before I left the office.

They stormed and threatened, but seeing that I did not mean to budge,
they finally gave me the pass, with the remark that the English were
always so stupid and obstinate.

Getting some fresh clothes, I boarded the train, and at last arrived in
Johannesburg. Here I found that most of the men in the town fire brigade
were sailors, so I soon made friends, and had hopes of getting into the
brigade, but after waiting a day or two, and seeing no prospect of an
opening, I was advised to walk round the mines to see if I could get
anything to do there, but there were plenty of others on the same job,
many of them old hands, and I found that I stood very little chance of

I was still studying how to get up to Bulawayo, which I was told would
cost me about £50 by coach, then the regular means of making the
journey. At one of the mines I was lucky enough to meet a sailor, and
getting a warm invitation to spend a few days with him, I accepted, on
the chance that something might turn up. Visiting the saloon which was
the meeting-place for the miners in the evening, I became acquainted
with a man named Adcock, and as a consequence of an argument on the
strained relations between the Boers and Outlanders, a row arose, in
which I got mixed up, and I was ordered to leave the camp. Outside I
came across Adcock, who told me that he was going up to Bulawayo, and
had his outfit—which consisted of twenty mule wagons and one hundred
horses, which he was taking up for the Government—camped a little
distance away.

This was my chance, but at first he was inclined to refuse my request to
be allowed to go up with him, but on my promising to make myself as
useful as possible on the journey, he finally agreed to take me. There
were six white men in the party, in addition to Adcock and myself, and
about fifty natives, chiefly Cape boys and Hottentots. My duties were to
look after these natives and the stores.

Bulawayo was about six hundred miles up-country from Johannesburg, and
the order of the march was for the white men, who were all mounted, to
drive the horses in front of the caravan, while the wagons, under charge
of the native drivers, followed on behind.

With a crack of his long whip like a pistol shot, each driver set his
team in motion, and we started on our long trek up-country. The natives
are very expert with these whips, being able, from their place at the
front of the wagon, to single out any one of the ten or twelve mules
which form the team before them.

My efforts as a rider were the subject of much sarcastic and
good-humoured comment from my companions, but before the end of our
journey I was as good a rider as any in the outfit.

The country through which we passed was for the most part open veldt,
dotted with thorn-bushes, and the climate being dry and hot, the
scarcity of water is a continual source of anxiety to the traveller in
this part. Our animals suffered most severely, as there was no grass to
be found, and after crossing the Limpopo they began to fall sick, and
our progress became slower and slower with each day’s march.

When we arrived at a place called Maklutsi the mules were all so utterly
done up that they could go no farther, so the horses and some of the
wagons went on to Salisbury, and the natives returned.

I had the choice of going back with the natives or continuing my journey
on foot, and, choosing the latter course, I was provided with a small
quantity of flour and some bully beef, and saying goodbye to my
companions, I started out on my solitary trek.

Food at Maklutsi was very dear in consequence of the transport having
been entirely disorganised by a serious outbreak of rinderpest. The
price of an ordinary tin of corned beef (bully beef) had risen to 5s.,
and bread cost 1s. a loaf. There was no work to be got here, so I left
the settlement at once and started on my 150 miles’ tramp to Bulawayo.

Having no means of carrying my food comfortably, I tied up the legs of a
spare pair of trousers, and putting the flour in one leg and the beef in
the other, I slung these improvised provision-bags over my shoulder,
along with my cooking-pots, and started off.

When I had been two days on the road I was lucky enough to fall in with
a travelling companion, in the person of an old soldier named Grant, who
was also making his way to Bulawayo.

We agreed to travel on together, and Grant, who saw everything in a
humorous light, enlivened the journey with his cheery conversation and
good-natured chaff. He had run out of food and would have been in a
tight fix if I had not come up with him; but he took everything very
philosophically, and I imagine that his lively spirits would have kept
him going to the last gasp.

We shared the provisions as long as they lasted, but as I had only
provided for myself, the supply gradually diminished until, stopping one
day for a rest near a water-hole we had found in the bush, we found that
we had not a scrap of food left.

Grant had thrown himself on the ground utterly exhausted, and I went off
to the pool to have a bathe. Stepping into the water, I felt something
slimy under my foot, and stooping down and groping beneath my foot, I
found that it was a fish of the kind known in Africa as mudfish. They
are good enough eating, and in our present famished condition promised a
very appetising dish, and to my delight, on feeling round, I found that
the pool was simply full of the fish, and we need have no further
anxiety about food for the next few days.

I learned from the experience gained later during my journeyings through
Africa that the smaller rivers all dry up after the rainy season,
leaving only a few pools, such as the one we had struck, and, of course,
all the fish naturally make for the deeper spots as soon as they find
the water going down. This accounted for the large quantity of fish to
be found in the pool, which I proceeded to catch and throw on to the
bank to dry as fast as I could. Having done this, I went back to Grant
to tell him of our good luck. By way of breaking the news gently, I
asked him if he would like a feed of fish, to which he replied with some
comical remark to the effect that he really had no appetite, thinking
that I was only chaffing. However, when he found it was really true, and
saw the fish I brought up to cook for our meal, he was in no way behind
me in getting to work on the best meal we had had for some days.

Not wishing to waste the fish, of which we could not manage to take much
with us, we stayed there for a few days and were much better for the
rest. We managed to dry a little of the fish, which we took with us when
we moved on again.

This proved to be the turning-point of our luck, as a few days later we
were overtaken by a Boer, going up to Bulawayo with a mule-wagon, and
exchanged some of our dried fish with him for a little tea, flour, and a
few other things, which we had now been without for several days. He
seemed a good sort, so we begged him to give us a lift, which he did
willingly enough, so our troubles were over for that journey.

I was so anxious to get into Bulawayo that I left the wagon when we were
still some miles from the end of our journey, and made my way ahead on
foot. This was a stupid thing to do, as we were well aware that the
Matabele were already out in that district. We had found all the forts,
as the police posts were called, under arms on the way up. These posts,
which were placed at intervals along the road, were small positions
protected by earthworks and barbed-wire entanglements, and occupied by
thirty or forty men, with perhaps a Maxim gun. Many of them were the
scenes of desperate fights during the rising, but their very names are
unknown to people in England, who only regarded the Matabele rising as
one of our many little wars, and as it did not affect their everyday
life, took little or no interest in it.

I was lucky enough to get safely into Bulawayo without adventure,
arriving about two o’clock in the afternoon, and was not surprised to
find the town under martial law. Everybody was armed, and a big laager
had been formed in the market-place, where the women and children
gathered when an alarm was raised.

Being directed to the office of the Matabeleland Mounted Police, I lost
no time in presenting myself before the officer in charge. I found that
the conditions of service were good, the pay being at the rate of 10s. a
day and all found, so I was duly enrolled.

After a good bath I discarded my old clothes and reappeared in full
war-paint, feeling the self-respect which accompanies the wearing of a
decent suit of clothes for the first time after some months in rags.

The police had no recognised uniform, but all wore a khaki suit, with a
slouch hat, the different troops being known by the colour of the
pugaree. A troop consisted of from thirty to fifty men.

Having been supplied with a Martini-Henry rifle and fifty rounds of
ammunition, I was now fully equipped, and the next day I went out, in
all the glory of my new uniform, to meet the mule-wagon. My improved
appearance made such an impression on Grant that he lost no time in
enlisting, and was enrolled the same day.

After three months in this troop of police, I joined the Africander
Corps, which was a body of irregulars attached to them under Captain Van
Niekerk. As they were composed of experienced men, well acquainted with
the country and accustomed to savage warfare, I thought there would be a
much better chance of seeing some of the fighting.

We were scouting in the outlying district, where the Matabele had been
seen, but although we got into touch with them here and there, we had no
serious engagement. Later on we were sent out on the Shangani Patrol,
visiting the district where Major Wilson and his party were cut up
during the first Matabele War.

This patrol numbered from two hundred to three hundred police, with the
mounted infantry of the Yorks and Lancs Regiment, a detachment of the
7th Hussars, under Colonel Paget—with whom was Prince Alexander of
Teck—and a battalion of infantry.

The natives were lodged in the hills, and from a position of comparative
safety were able to pour in a galling fire on the troops, while we were
unable to inflict any serious loss on them in return. However, we lost
only a few men killed, but had several deaths from fever.

The man who gave us the greatest trouble was a chief named Umwini, who
was the leader of the rebellion in that district. I was present on
several occasions at _indabas_ (_indaba_ is the native word for a
meeting to discuss any matter), when he would come out of his stronghold
and stand on the rocks in full view of us; but when asked to surrender,
he replied contemptuously that we were a lot of boys and that he would
never be taken by us.

His kraal was high up amongst some almost inaccessible crags on the
mountain side, and all efforts failed to dislodge him, until a few of
the Dutch Corps, of whom I was one, managed to steal upon him unawares.
We reached his cave in the early dawn, and saw him, through the opening,
sitting, with only a few of his followers, round some lighted candles
which he had probably looted from one of the stores. One of our men,
taking careful aim, shot him through the shoulder, and then, rushing the
cave, we took him prisoner. He was tried by a court martial, and
sentenced to be shot, and when the time came for the sentence to be
carried out he showed himself a thoroughly brave man, refusing to be
blindfolded or to stand with his back to the firing party, saying that
he wished to see death coming.

It was about this time that I first met B.-P.—now General Sir R. S. S.
Baden-Powell, but then only Colonel—who had been sent up to take charge
of the operations, and who confirmed the court martial’s sentence on
Umwini. I was on water guard that day, to see that the natives did not
poison the stream, when a man whom I took for a trooper came up and
entered into conversation with me, asking about my past experiences,
&c., and it was only when I got back to camp, after going off duty, that
I found I had been talking to the officer in command of the expedition.

A general plan of attack was now organised, under the direction of
Colonel Baden-Powell, and the natives were finally dislodged from the
hills and the rebellion crushed.

On the successful termination of the patrol a fort was built at Umvunga
Drift, where I remained for some time; but it was a most unhealthy
place, nearly every man going down, sooner or later, with fever and
dysentery. There was absolutely no medicine of any sort in the place,
and we consequently lost several men. I myself had a bad attack of
dysentery, but managed to cure it by making a very thin mixture with my
ration of flour and some water, which I drank daily until the attack was

In the centre of the fort stood a big tree, and after cutting away the
branches at the top we erected a platform on the trunk, which, besides
serving as a look-out, made a splendid platform for a Maxim gun which we
mounted there, and were thus able to command the surrounding country
within range.

During my stay here we had one or two brushes with the natives, but they
gradually settled down; so, on a relief force being sent up, I returned
to Bulawayo, where the corps was disbanded. I then got a post as one of
the guard over a number of murderers lying in Bulawayo gaol awaiting
sentence, all of whom were finally hanged.

In the course of the twelve months that I remained in Bulawayo I made
the acquaintance of a man named Elstop, who is mentioned by Mr. F. C.
Selous in one of his books. This man was one of the oldest hands in the
country, and had been one of the pioneers in Rhodesia, and had also
spent a good deal of time trading and storekeeping among the natives of
the interior.

It was my acquaintance with him that finally decided me on my future
course of action. The tales he told of his experiences in the earlier
days, when elephants and other game were to be met with in plenty, fired
my blood, and I said that I wished I had been in the country at that
time. He said that I should probably find the same state of things still
existing farther north. This was quite enough for me, and I resolved to
find out for myself if he was right.

I was then in partnership with a man named Frielich, carrying on
business as fruit and produce merchants, under the name of the Colonial
Fruit and Produce Stores of Bulawayo. I had put practically all my
savings into the business, but this did not alter my resolution to go
north, and by mutual agreement we dissolved partnership.

I have since learned that Frielich finally made over £100,000 out of the
business. Before the Boer War broke out he had stored an immense amount
of forage, which he was able to sell during the war at his own price,
and so amassed a comfortable fortune, in which, of course, had I stayed
in Bulawayo, I should have shared.

Before starting out on our new venture I thought I would take a short
holiday at the seaside; so going down to East London, in Cape Colony, I
joined some men I had met during the Matabele War, and we stayed there
some time, camping out on the sands.

Finding that the funds were running out, I took to the sea again, and,
getting a ship, worked my way round to Durban. Here I had to look round
again for something to do, and finding that a Shakespearian company was
playing in the town at the time, I presented myself at the stage
manager’s office and applied for an engagement. They happened to have a
vacancy, and I was taken on for small parts. The company was at
rehearsal when I was engaged, and I was told to take my place at once
among the others on the stage. As far as I could judge, I was no worse
than the other members of the company, and for a month I appeared
nightly for the edification of the aristocracy of Durban.

Tiring of the stage, I again took to the sea, and worked my way, from
port to port, round to Zanzibar, where I gathered all the information I
could about the interior, which did not amount to much more than that
the country was very wild indeed.

However, my mind was made up now, and I was not to be scared off my
plan; so, as there were no boats running to Mombasa—which is the gateway
of British East Africa—I bargained with an Arab for a passage on a dhow
which carried native passengers between the various ports along the
coast. The owner of the dhow provided no accommodation for his
passengers, and I suppose one could hardly expect that he would, seeing
that the fare from Zanzibar to Mombasa—a distance of about 250 miles—was
only two rupees, or two shillings and eightpence!

The boat had a single mast, and carried one huge sail. It had no compass
or lights, and was navigated round the coast by keeping as close inshore
as possible all the time. There was no place to make a fire or any
provision for cooking. It had been so, the Arab told me, in the days of
his father, and what was good enough for his father was good enough for
him and those who chose to travel with him. This was said in Arabic, but
was translated to me by a fellow-passenger who could speak a little

With fully fifty people on board the tiny craft we started on our voyage
along the coast, but had not gone very far before we were in trouble.
With the huge sail set to catch the breeze, we were flying merrily
along, when we were suddenly brought up all standing, and found that we
had come across some obstacle in the water. We were very quickly
informed what it was by a shouting crowd of excited native fishermen who
swarmed round our boat, loudly demanding to be compensated for the
damage done to their nets, which, it seemed, formed the obstacle that
had pulled us up and which we had destroyed.

The owner of the dhow did not seem to be at all disposed to give in to
their demands, and they were about to seize the small boat which we were
towing behind us, when I thought it was time to take a hand in the
argument, as, in case of any accident to the dhow, this boat was our
only hope of safety, the waters in that part being said to be infested
with sharks. Picking up an axe, which happened to be lying handy, I
jumped into the boat and threatened to brain the first man who came
within reach. Although they did not understand English, my attitude was
evidently suggestive enough to make it clear that they were safer at a
distance, and, realizing that they were not likely to get any
satisfaction by continuing the argument, they allowed us to proceed on
our way.

After this we made fairly good headway, with a favourable wind, and,
occupied in watching the changing scenery opening out as we made our way
along the coast, I had almost forgotten the incident. I was settling
down to enjoy the trip when, without any warning, we were suddenly
pulled up again with a jerk, and the dhow came to a fullstop again.

Every one immediately got into a wild state of excitement, shouting and
gesticulating, and making a perfect pandemonium of noise. The captain
was shouting as wildly as the rest, and, thinking he was giving orders,
I was surprised to see that nobody attempted to carry them out, but on
asking the passenger who could speak some English what orders he was
giving, and why no one obeyed them, he said, “He is not giving orders,
he is praying. He is calling on Allah to help him.” This was no use to
me, and I thought the best thing I could do was to take charge myself;
so, getting the man to whom I had spoken to act as interpreter, I told
them what to do to put things right. They then calmed down a good deal,
and I went to take soundings. There was no leadline on board, so I had
to make one with some old iron and some pieces of rope that were lying
about. On sounding I found plenty of water on one side of the ship,
while on the other it was very shallow, so that we were evidently stuck
on a reef. As soon as I was certain of this I lashed some rope to the
anchor, and had it taken out about twenty or thirty yards from the ship,
in the small boat, and then dropped overboard. Then I made everybody
lend a hand to pull hard on the rope, and after about six hours’ hard
work we managed to pull her off. In case of trouble I kept the axe
handy, but they were ready enough to obey my orders, so nothing

When we got her off I found that the dhow was leaking pretty badly, so
everybody was kept busy baling out the water, while I took the helm,
and, keeping her close in to the land, steered towards Mombasa.

Noticing a large white building on the shore, I asked what it was, and
my interpreter told me that it was the residence of a white man, and
that the place was called Shimoni; so I took the boat in as close as
possible and dropped anchor. On landing I found that the house was
occupied by a British official, who offered to put me up, so I stayed
the night there. The next morning I found that the dhow had continued
her journey, and, as Mombasa was only thirty miles from Shimoni, I
walked the rest of the way.

Mombasa is the starting-point of the Uganda Railway, of which so much
has already been written. At the time of my arrival the railway was only
in the initial stages of its construction, and just beginning to stretch
its track through the almost unknown interior of British East Africa. So
far it had only advanced a comparatively short distance into the
Protectorate, and from the very start the engineers were faced at every
step with some of the numerous difficulties which lie in the way of
railway building in a new and savage country, from men and animals, as
well as from the climate and tropical vegetation. The loss of life from
wild animals, as well as from the climate, was very heavy.

In those days the European quarter of Mombasa was only a small cluster
of buildings—chiefly Government offices—with one hotel, which was kept
by a Greek. Two or three Europeans trading in the interior had stores
here, and the British Government was represented by a Sub-Commissioner.

Mombasa—meaning Isle of War—is of great interest to the student of
history. It is situated on an island, connected to the mainland by a
bridge. There is a huge native town and an old Portuguese fort, several
hundred years old, built in the days of Henry the Navigator, in whose
reign the Portuguese ships visited all the ports of the known world, and
many others, till then unknown.

Thinking that I should be most likely to get the information I required
from the Government, I called on the Sub-Commissioner, and asked him to
advise me as to the best way of carrying out my plan of visiting the
interior. Very much to my surprise, I was received with the scantest
courtesy, and given very plainly to understand that white men, whether
travellers or hunters, were by no means welcome. They were not wanted,
he told me, under any circumstances, and he advised me to leave the
country at once.

                              CHAPTER III

1898: Determine to organize a transport caravan on the Uganda Railway
route, to convey provisions for the coolies working on the
railway—Man-eating lions at railway construction camps—Reach the
borderland of the Masai and Kikuyu tribes—Desertion of my men—Return to
railhead—Start out again with convoys for Uganda—Loss of my transport
animals—Decide to enter the Kikuyu country

I own I was a little discouraged by this reception, but it did not alter
my determination to remain—in spite of the veiled threat of the official
to prevent my going up-country; so I set out to make a few inquiries for

I found that there were a number of caravans going up to Uganda, the
main road to which place was protected by a line of forts, placed about
a hundred miles apart. North and south of this caravan road the country
was practically unknown, being under no administration, and chiefly
inhabited by hostile tribes.

A mutiny had recently broken out among the troops in Uganda, on account
of which the whole country was in disorder, and a lot of transport was
required in the disaffected district. Here, again, I thought I saw my

At that time everything had to be carried upon the heads of native
porters, so that each load, averaging about sixty pounds in weight, was
costing from sixty to one hundred rupees—very often a lot more than the
value of the goods carried—before it reached its destination.

I was convinced that this state of things could be improved on; and
chancing to meet a man named Gibbons—a white trader—as I left the
Commissioner, I talked over the question of cheapening the cost of
transport with him, and we finally decided that it could be done by
using donkeys and wagons in the place of porters; so we decided to try
the scheme in partnership.

Having settled the bargain, we set to work to prepare the expedition.
Altogether we purchased about thirty donkeys, which cost us about a
hundred rupees each, and got as many wagons as we thought sufficient. In
the meantime I set to work to make the harness, as we could not get any
in Mombasa, and by using rope and sacking I managed to turn out a
sufficient number of very creditable sets.

We also decided to take a hundred porters with us in case of accident,
as our contract provided for a heavy fine if we did not deliver the
goods on time. These porters were chiefly Swahili, a name meaning “coast
dwellers.” .bn 058.png These Swahili consider themselves more civilized
than the people of the interior. They practise the Mohammedan religion
and copy the Arabs in their dress. Swahili porters march under a headman
of their own race, who receives his orders and repeats them to his
followers. If, as sometimes happens, there are porters from other native
tribes in the caravan, each tribe has its representative headman. For
each ten carriers there is an _askari_, or soldier, who is armed with a
rifle, and whose duty it is to keep guard at night and protect the
caravan on the road. These askaris also act as police and keep order
generally, and bring in any deserters. As may be easily imagined, it
would hardly do to trust merely to the askaris’ sense of duty for the
prevention of desertion, but a clearly understood condition of their
engagement in that capacity ensures their using their best endeavours to
prevent anything of the sort. It is the recognized rule on all _safaris_
that, if any man of the ten in an askari’s section deserts, and the
askari cannot bring him back, he will himself have to carry the
deserter’s load for the rest of the journey. Apart from the
unpleasantness of having to carry a sixty-pound load in the ranks of the
porters instead of swaggering along with no other burden than his rifle,
ammunition, and blanket, the blow to his self-importance involved in the
degradation from askari to porter is one that would be severely felt by
any nigger, who is probably blessed with more self-esteem than even a
circus-ring master or a newly appointed Sub-Commissioner, and the fear
of such degradation is a wonderful spur on the askaris’ watchfulness. A
cook and a private servant completed the outfit.

On this occasion we had two hundred loads of Government goods to take up
to Uganda, and one hundred loads of trade goods which we were taking up
on our own account, our intention being to deliver the Government goods
at their destination and then start on a private trading and hunting
expedition away up north, in the direction of Lake Rudolph, where we
hoped to buy more donkeys, as we had heard that they were very cheap in
that district.

Having completed all our arrangements, we put the whole caravan—men,
donkeys, wagons, and loads—on the train, and started for rail-head,
which was then about 150 miles from Mombasa. This was in the year 1898.
On arriving safely at the terminus of the line we left the train and
went into camp.

We found that the district around us was infested with lions, whose
ferocity had created such a state of panic among the Indian coolies
working on the construction of the line that the work had practically
stopped. No less than thirty of the coolies had been carried off by
them, and I found the remainder sleeping in the trees and afraid to go
to work.

Many stories were told of the audacity of the lions, who prowled round
the camp nightly, and rarely left without one or more victims. In one
case an Irishman, named O’Hara, who had charge of the coolies engaged in
the construction of the line, set himself to watch for the man-eater, in
the hope of getting a shot at him, and took his post with his rifle by
the door of his tent, in which his wife was sleeping. The night passed
without incident, and towards morning he must have dozed off, for his
wife awakened to see him being dragged off into the bush by a lion. His
mutilated body was eventually found by the search party within a short
distance of the camp.

On another occasion three men with whom I was personally well acquainted
had a remarkable experience. They were watching for lions from a railway
carriage—a construction wagon on the line—the door of which they left
open. Two of them, Perenti and Hubner, made themselves as comfortable as
they could on rugs laid on the floor of the carriage to rest till their
turn for watching came, while the third, a man named Rial, took up a
position near the door, where he evidently fell asleep. A prowling lion
scented the party, and took a flying leap into the carriage. The impact
of his landing made the carriage oscillate, and swung the door to,
caging the whole party and their unwelcome guest. Perenti told me that
he was wakened by the curious smell of the lion, and, putting out his
hand, felt the animal standing over him. Directly he was touched the
beast let out a terrific roar, and, seizing Rial by the throat, sprang
clean through the window with him and made off. The body, partly eaten,
was found in the bush next morning.

Some of the dodges to kill the lions had distinctly humorous results,
and I remember being much amused with the story of one man’s experience.
I must explain that to provide the labourers with water, tanks were
placed beside the line, which were refilled at intervals. One genius had
the idea of lying in wait for lions in one of these tanks, in one side
of which he made a hole in which to insert the barrel of his rifle—quite
overlooking the fact that the lion might prefer to approach from the
opposite side, which was what actually happened. The animal, scenting
him, immediately knocked the lid off the tank and tried to fish him out
with his paw. He was unable to get his rifle round, and could only
shrink into the smallest possible space in the corner of the
tank—fortunately beyond the reach of the lion—and remain quiet until the
beast was driven off. He was lucky enough to escape with a torn blanket
and a few deep scratches where the lion had just managed to reach him
with his claws. Of course, he had to endure a considerable amount of
chaff on the result of his original attempt at lion-hunting.

I myself had a narrow escape before leaving railhead, for which the
lions were indirectly responsible. I had been dining with one of the
railway officials, and had stayed rather late, it being after ten
o’clock when I set out to return to my own camp. Not expecting to be out
so late, I had not brought my rifle, so, as it was of course pitch dark,
I took a blazing brand from the camp fire, and started to walk the two
miles to my own place. After going for some time I saw some fires in the
distance, and, thinking they were those of my own people, I made towards
them. All at once I heard a terrific din of shouting and beating of
empty paraffin-cans. While wondering what on earth all the row was about
I heard firing, and some shots whizzed past, unpleasantly close to my
head. Dropping flat, I began shouting, and the firing presently ceased.
I was then able to make my way into camp, which I found was one made for
some of the Indian coolies, who had mistaken the light of my firebrand
for the eye of a lion. I was persuaded to stay the remainder of the
night in their _boma_ and return to my own camp in the morning. A
_boma_, or _zareba_ as it is called in the Soudan, is a rough fence of
thorn-bushes or brushwood built round a camp to keep prowlers, whether
two or four footed, at a distance.

We were all very busy now, getting the wagons and harness ready and
fixing up the loads for our journey to Uganda.

We found that if we were to get the loads through by the time agreed
upon we should want at least five hundred porters, so we tried to engage
some natives from the Wakamba[1] to go with us. With the native
disinclination to move except just as they felt inclined, they
absolutely refused to go; so it was arranged that I should go on ahead
with the wagons, while Gibbons should come on later with the porters.


Footnote 1:

  Wakamba, _i.e._, natives of the Kamba tribe who inhabit that region.


I started with one hundred loads of Government stuff on five wagons,
while my camp outfit, food, &c., was carried on another, and took about
twenty of the men with me. Being unable to get the necessary porters, we
had to leave some of the loads behind in charge of two of the men,
intending to return for them later, but, as it happened, we never saw
them again.

I soon found that the donkey outfit did not work by any means as
smoothly as we had hoped, the donkeys never having been in harness
before and the men being new to the work. The drivers could not keep on
the road, wagons capsized, and things went wrong generally. None of the
rivers we had to cross were bridged, and when we had got the wagons down
into the hollow of the river bed it was a terrible job to get them up on
the other side; the only way being to get all the boys to push at the
back, so that it took several hours’ hard work at each of the rivers
before we managed to get donkeys, wagons, and loads from one side to the

The country generally was dry and bushy, being covered with thick scrub,
which made our progress so slow that, after two or three days’
travelling, we were overtaken by Gibbons with the remainder of the men.

While we were sitting by the camp fire that night, waiting for a meal, I
was very nearly shot by Gibbons, who was anxious to explain the working
of the Snider rifle to me. Taking a rifle from an askari, he put in a
cartridge, wishing to show me that it was absolutely impossible for it
to go off at half-cock, and, pointing the rifle towards me, he said,
“You see, it won’t go off now.” I objected, and was pushing the rifle to
one side, when it actually did go off, the bullet whizzing close by my

The free, gipsy-like life in the open just suited my inclination. The
absolute freedom to go where one liked, and do as one liked, without any
of the restrictions which meet one on every side in civilized countries,
and the feeling that you are literally “monarch of all you survey,”
appealed very strongly to me, and I felt that I had at last found the
life suited thoroughly to my disposition.

We started off again and made very good progress, as, by the aid of the
moon, we were able to travel at night. We were now crossing the Athi
Plain, which extends for about one hundred miles and teems with almost
every kind of game except elephants, so we were able to keep the caravan
well supplied with meat. Almost every night my boys used to rouse me up
with a scare of lions, but, although I always turned out, I never saw
any cause for the excitement.

After travelling for some days, we finally arrived at Nairobi, since
become the capital of British East Africa, and here the character of the
country completely changed. From the dry scrub-covered plain we now
entered a splendid grazing country, with magnificent forests and
beautiful woodland scenery, making a very pleasant change from the bare
landscape of the last few marches. What is now known as Nairobi was then
practically a swamp, and from the nature of the surrounding country I
should never have imagined that it would be chosen as the site for the
future capital of British East Africa. Indeed, I still think that by
going a little farther westward a situation far more suitable in every
way would have been found. The town of Nairobi takes its name from a
river of the same name which rises in the neighbouring hills, the river
forming the boundary-line between the Masai and Kikuyu countries, and
the plain where the town now stands was at this time an absolutely
uninhabited district, without a village of any kind. We outspanned for
the night on the edge of the swamp which borders the present town. Being
thoroughly tired out with the day’s work, I was resting in my tent, when
about six o’clock in the afternoon I heard my boys calling me with one
of the usual stories about lions being about. Finding that they seemed
more excited than usual, I turned out to see if there really was any
cause for alarm, and saw two lions stalking the donkeys in the gathering
dusk. They came quite close up to the camp, and I then saw that one was
a lioness, so, having heard that if the female were shot the male would
clear off, while if the male were shot the female became savage, and
would probably attack, I fired at the female and thought I hit her,
though, owing to the bad light and the fact that my gun—a
Martini-Metford—was a very poor one, and could not be relied on to shoot
straight, I could not be certain. The animals turned and plunged into
the swamp, but though we saw signs of blood and tracked them for some
distance, we had to give up on account of the gathering darkness, and
the next morning we could find no signs of them.


Some of the Masai tribe were in the neighbourhood, and visited our camp.
This was the first time I had come across any of this race, of whom so
much has been written, and I was naturally very much interested. They
seemed very friendly, and, in spite of their warlike reputation, we had
no trouble with them at all. Physically, they were very fine specimens
of the African native, and certainly make very good fighting-men.

We were about to enter the practically unknown country of the Kikuyu
tribe, a people whose reputation was such that only the most daring of
the white traders would even venture to set foot over the boundary, and
then only at the greatest risk of their lives and goods.

Those who only know the Kikuyu people as they are to-day may find some
difficulty in crediting many of the statements I shall make as to their
character and reputation at the time when I spent some three or four
very lively years among them, but a short quotation from the late Sir
Gerald Portal’s book on the “British Mission to Uganda in 1893,” dealing
with the race as they were then—which accurately describes them as I
found them five years later—may help the doubting ones to a clearer
realization of the facts.

Describing the British East Africa Company’s station, Fort Smith,[2] in
the Kikuyu country, Sir Gerald says:—

“The Kikuyu tribes were practically holding the Company’s station in a
state of siege.” Later on he says: “We left the open plain and plunged
into the darkness of a dense belt of forest, which forms the natural
boundary of the regions inhabited by the treacherous, cunning, and
usually hostile people of Kikuyu. Warned by the state of affairs which
we had heard was prevailing at the Company’s fort in this district, we
were careful to keep all our people close together, every man within a
couple of paces of his neighbour. One European marched in front, one in
the rear, and one in the middle of the long line. The Wa-Kikuyu, as we
knew, seldom or never show themselves, or run the risk of a fight in the
open, but lie like snakes in the long grass, or in some dense bush
within a few yards of the line of march, watching for a gap in the
ranks, or for some incautious porter to stray away, or loiter a few
yards behind; even then not a sound is heard; a scarcely perceptible
‘twang’ of a small bow, the almost inaudible ‘whizz’ of a little
poisoned arrow for a dozen yards through the air, a slight puncture in
the arm, throat, or chest, followed, almost inevitably, by the death of
a man. Another favourite trick of the Wa-Kikuyu is to plant poisoned
skewers in the path, set at an angle of about forty-five degrees,
pointing towards the direction from which the stranger is expected. If
the path is much overgrown or hidden by the luxuriant growth of long
grass, these stakes are of much greater length and so pointed that they
would pierce the stomach of any one advancing towards them.[3] Keeping a
sharp look-out for these delicate attentions, our progress was
inevitably slow, but at length we arrived without further adventure at
the strong stockade, ditch, brick houses, and well-guarded stores known
as Fort Smith in Kikuyu, above which was floating the Company’s flag.


Footnote 2:

  Fort Smith was situated close to where the present town of Nairobi now

Footnote 3:

  Sir Gerald was evidently misinformed on this point, as I ascertained
  during my stay in the country that it had never been the custom to use
  long stakes such as he describes.


“Outside the Fort itself the state of affairs was not so pleasant to
contemplate. We were surrounded day and night by a complete ring of
hostile Wa-Kikuyu, hidden in the long grass and bushes, and for any one
to wander alone for more than two hundred yards from the stockade was
almost certain death. On the morning of our arrival, a porter of
Martin’s caravan, who had strayed down to the long grass at the foot of
the little hill on which the station is built, was speared through the
back and killed within 250 paces of our tents. A short time before eight
soldiers in the Company’s service who were foraging for food—probably in
an illicit manner—were all massacred in a neighbouring village; and a
day or two before our arrival the natives had even had the temerity to
try and set fire to the fort itself at night.

“It will, however, be a matter of time and difficulty, requiring great
tact, patience, and firmness, to induce these Wa-Kikuyu to have
confidence in Europeans, and to discontinue their practice of spearing
or otherwise murdering any defenceless Swahili porter whom they may find
straying away by himself.

“Long before I went to their country myself I remember being told by an
African traveller of great renown that the only way in which to deal
with the Kikuyu people, whether singly or in masses, was to ‘shoot at

The Martin mentioned by Sir Gerald Portal above was one of the pioneers
of British East Africa. He was a Maltese sailor, who came to this
country with Joseph Thompson, and was the first white man to venture
among the Masai. He now manages the Mabira forest rubber estate.

Another traveller, Mr. G. F. Scott Elliott, speaking of the Kikuyu in
his book, “A Naturalist in Mid Africa,” says: “They are only too anxious
to spear a lagging porter.”[4] He also describes the murder by these
people of forty-nine out of fifty men composing an Arab or Swahili
trading caravan.


Footnote 4:

  For further reference to the Kikuyu tribe see Professor Gregory’s
  excellent book “The Great Rift Valley,” 1896.


Later on I was destined to be the first white man to live amongst this
pleasant people, enter into their daily life, and bring them into
something like close touch with European civilization.

We were warned to be very careful when we reached the Kikuyu country,
and to keep a good guard, as they had a very bad name, being very
treacherous and not to be trusted in any way; but, keeping a sharp
look-out, we passed the boundary without any interference from them. We
kept to the caravan road, which passed along the outskirts of the
country, as we were told that every caravan going through the country
had had trouble with the natives, having had porters killed and goods

About this time Gibbons left me and pushed on ahead, as we were anxious
to get the loads through, while, the surrounding country being splendid
grazing ground, I remained about a week to give the animals a rest
before crossing the practically uninhabited district which lay between
my present camp and the ravine—the station on the road to Uganda for
which I was bound.

Being short of donkeys, some having died on the road, I decided to
redistribute the loads, and make the total weight somewhat less by
leaving some of my personal belongings behind. Among the things I left
was my tent. This I had good cause to regret later on. We had been
gradually rising nearly all the way as we approached the high escarpment
of the Kedong Valley, which is about five thousand feet above sea-level,
and therefore very cold, and the absence of my tent caused me
considerable discomfort.

Arriving at the top of the escarpment and looking down the precipitous
slope on the farther side, the first question was how we were to get the
wagons down into the valley, where we could see a number of Masai
villages, the road being very narrow and full of holes, besides being
plentifully strewn with boulders.

I decided to camp at the top for the night and make a start early the
next morning. That night on the top of the mountain taught me a
lesson—never again to travel without my tent. Besides the discomfort of
the cold, there is always the danger of getting a dose of fever, and
this was what I did on the present occasion.

Rousing the camp at a very early hour, we set to work to devise some
means of getting the caravan down the side of the escarpment. There were
no brakes on the wagons, and the donkeys would not go down even without
the wagons unless they were absolutely driven. So, to get the wagons
down, I tried a plan of my own, which, at the first attempt, came very
near to killing me.

Taking the donkeys out of the wagon, I placed a boy on each side with a
rope to ease it down, while I took hold of the shaft. When it went too
fast, I told the boys to put stones under the wheels to check the pace,
and so let it down gradually. As I had already shown them how to place
stones at the back of the wheels in coming up the hill to prevent the
wagon running back, I thought that they would have the sense to see that
the stones must be put in front when going down hill. The result
impressed upon me the fact that the nigger cannot argue from analogy,
but that everything you wish him to do must be carefully explained in
the fullest detail.

We got along all right until the hill-side began to get very steep, and
I found the boys could not hold the wagon. They started to let go, and I
shouted to them to get the stones in place. Their stupidity would have
been laughable if my position had not been so serious. Instead of
putting the stones in front of the wheels, they put them at the back, as
they had been taught to do when we were getting the wagons up the hill,
and seemed surprised when the wagon ran away from the stones, and before
I could make them understand what I wanted, the boys at the ropes had
let go. Being unable to let go myself, I had to hang on like grim death,
while the wagon went tearing down the slope. One minute I was bumping on
the road and the next I was in the air, with trees and other things
whizzing past. By making the best use of my chances when my feet touched
the ground, I managed to keep the wagon on the road until very near the
bottom of the hill, when it ran over a hole and capsized. Luckily very
little damage was done, but it took us the whole day to get all the
wagons and animals down, and when we camped at night every one was
thoroughly tired out with the hard day’s work.

The valley was very fertile, and made a splendid grazing ground for
cattle, the Masai regularly bringing their stock there to graze at
certain seasons of the year, and at the time of our arrival a large
number of them were camping on the spot with their herds of stock.

While out shooting one day in the valley, one of my porters showed me
the spot where he said a trader named Dick, with five or six hundred of
his men, had been murdered by the Masai. Dick himself had shot seventeen
of his assailants before he was killed. I went to examine the ground,
and found it covered with so large a number of skulls and bones that I
was inclined to think that the boy had used less than the usual native
amount of exaggeration in telling the story. So far as I know, no
attempt has ever been made to punish the Masai for this massacre.
Another of the porters, on my asking him how he had lost an eye, told me
that it had been torn out by the Masai—formerly a common practice of
theirs when they caught any Arab or Swahili traders passing through
their country. They were habitually very offensive to strangers,
generally forcing them to camp a considerable distance from water, which
they then proceeded to make them buy, their practice being to stick a
spear into the ground, and make the trader pay in goods, brass and iron
wire, and beads, as the case might be, to the height of the spear,
before they would let him pass.

As I have said, there were a number of Masai in the valley, but I had no
trouble with them; many of them came into camp with milk, which I bought
from them. I found that it had a distinctly smoky taste, due to the
gourds in which it is carried being hung over the fire to clean them.

The Masai always seemed well disposed towards me, and, as is their
custom when they wish to be polite, paid me the compliment of spitting
on their hands before shaking hands with me. The bearing of the
_elmoran_, or warriors, was certainly truculent and insulting, but I
managed not to give offence, and even succeeded in trading with them for
a few donkeys to replace those of mine which had died on the road, and
one which had been killed by a hyena; and when the animals were
sufficiently rested, we were able to resume our journey to Lake
Naivasha, where there is a Government station, without further incident
of note.

The natives along the Uganda Road were now beginning to get accustomed
to the altered state of things. Caravans were going through the country
regularly, and they had sense enough to understand that the white man
had come to stay, and any attempt to oppose his coming would probably
have serious consequences for themselves, resulting in the loss of their
herds and their best grazing-grounds. Of course they did not realize all
this at once. The old fighting spirit of the warriors could not be
entirely checked in a moment, but it was only in isolated instances that
they dared to attack the white intruders; they had always been
accustomed to make war on the neighbouring tribes as they pleased, and
up to recent years would raid portions of British East African
territory, and make organized descents into German East Africa. To the
present day they will carry off cattle whenever the opportunity offers,
arguing that, as the original owners of all the cattle in the country,
they are perfectly within their rights in helping themselves.

[Illustration: AN ANT HILL]

Two or three days later we camped by the side of Lake Elmenteita, where
I had a curious experience with a lion. It had been my custom to give
out rations about once a week, but my men had exchanged their flour with
the Masai for milk, and we had run short of food, so I said I would go
and shoot them some meat. As I had practically run out of ammunition
also, I took only two or three rounds out with me, and these I had fired
off without result, with the exception of the one round which it is
usual to keep in case of emergency. On the way back to camp I saw a
zebra, which I thought would be just the thing for the men, so I started
to crawl on hands and knees towards an ant-hill which was about fifty
yards from the zebra, thinking that from there I could get him with one
shot. With my rifle in one hand and the cartridge in the other, I had
reached the ant-hill, and was just looking round the corner to get a
shot at the zebra, when I saw a lion about two yards off looking
straight at me. He was evidently after the zebra too, and the meeting
was a pretty big surprise for both of us. It is one thing to go out
hunting a lion, but quite another to meet one unexpectedly round a
corner in this way, and I was so taken aback that I could not find the
cartridge. I was far too surprised to be scared, and started fumbling in
my pockets and about my clothes to find the cartridge which I held in my
hand; the lion also seemed to think there was something curious about
the affair, as, after looking at me for a few seconds, he walked quietly
away, before I discovered the cartridge in my hand. By this time the
zebra had also gone, and with it the last chance of any meat that night.

The next day I got plenty of meat for the boys, and continuing to follow
the caravan road, we moved on as far as Lake Nakuru, and from there to
Equator Camp—so called from its being situated exactly on the
Equator—where we halted. Two days later we reached the Ravine, where I
handed over my loads at the Government Fort. There had been a mutiny of
native troops and the Ravine was the only station which had not been
taken over by the mutineers. I ought really to have gone on up to
Uganda, but the rains were on, and it was very difficult to get through
with the wagons, and as I was feeling very ill, I was relieved from
going through to my proper destination.

At Ravine Fort I met Major Smith, after whom Fort Smith was named, and
found him a very interesting man. He was an ex-Life Guardsman, and had
had a very interesting career in the early days of British East Africa,
and had lost one hand in the course of his adventures. I also met
Martin, whom I have already mentioned in the extract from Sir Gerald
Portal’s book with reference to the Kikuyu.

My partner, Gibbons, had gone on to Uganda, where he would deliver the
other loads, being able to get through more easily with porters than I
with wagons, so I thought that my best plan would be to return to
railhead—which would be about three hundred miles back from the
Ravine—and make arrangements about the loads we had left behind, and
also secure more transport.

I had very little food for my men on the return journey, and was unable
to buy any at the Ravine, as their supply had run short through trouble
with the Nandi natives. So we started out with a very poor prospect in
front of us, and I myself was really not well enough to do anything. The
men, too, not having been accustomed to the donkey wagons, were
dissatisfied with the class of work they had been doing for me, and all
the flour having given out, they were evidently anxious to get away. I
was not much surprised, therefore, when, having turned in early one
night, feeling far from well, I woke the next morning to find that every
one of my men had deserted. This was at Equator Camp.

No one who has not experienced it can realize the feeling of being left
absolutely alone in the wilds, with everything on your hands. Certainly
I did not find it a pleasant one, and the fact that I was ill did not
lighten my troubles. I made up my mind not to be beaten, however, and
set myself to make the best of a bad job. Thinking that if I could
overtake the men I might induce some of them to return, I went out for
some distance, but not seeing anything of them, returned to the lonely
camp. Before setting out after the men I had untied all the donkeys, and
at night I had no difficulty in finding them again, and having tied them
up as usual, I made a big fire round them and settled down to rest as
well as I could. I slept through the night without being disturbed, and
turned out early in the morning, having thought out the previous night
what I should do. Not wishing to abandon the wagons, I tied them
together, one behind the other, and put all the donkeys in front,
inspanned on the leading wagon. Having fixed the caravan up like this I
started off, and an awful time I had of it. Sometimes the road would
turn, and then the job was to get the wagons round the bend without
capsizing—which I could not always do, and by the time I had righted the
wagons the donkeys would be all mixed up. I started off at six in the
morning, and travelled until three o’clock in the afternoon, by which
time I had reached the Njora River, where I halted, and managed to shoot
a buck and had a good meal, which I thoroughly enjoyed, having been all
day without food. Tying up the donkeys, I turned in and had a
well-earned rest.

Feeling better for this, I started off early the next morning, and soon
came across a solitary nigger, whom I commandeered. He was a stray
porter, who had evidently deserted from some caravan, and was nearly
starving. I gave him some meat, which he seemed uncommonly glad to get,
and we went on together. We had a pretty long trek that day, and the
next morning we started off again as soon as it was light for another
long march, as it was thirty miles to the next camp where we could get
water, and what with the delay caused by wagons capsizing, and trouble
with the donkeys, it was ten o’clock at night before I got in. I arrived
at my halting-place alone, my native follower having slipped quietly
away into the darkness, and I never saw him again. I had brought some
water with me in a bucket, but the jolting of the wagon had upset it,
and having had no food all day, and suffering from the want of water, I
was absolutely dead beat. The first thing I did was to outspan the
donkeys and let them have a feed; then I took a bucket and went to look
for water. The water-hole was about a mile away, and as it was pitch
dark I had no easy job to find it. However, I succeeded at last, and
just as I got there I was startled by something jumping up and brushing
right past me. I knew from the sharp growl that it must have been a lion
which I had disturbed when drinking. I was too done up to pay much
attention to it, and having satisfied my thirst, I half-filled my bucket
with water and made my way back to camp, where I had some trouble to
find enough wood to make a fire. Eventually I managed to get one going
and turned in. Before turning in I had noticed a fire at some little
distance, which I put down to natives, and when I turned out in the
morning, after having satisfied myself that the donkeys had not been
interfered with by lions, I started off in the direction in which I had
seen the fire in the hope of being able to get some help. The camp
proved to be that of some East Indians, who were taking food to a party
of railway surveyors who were out ahead, and they supplied me with some
rice and let me have a couple of boys, and with this assistance I got
started again, and managing to pick up a few boys here and there, I
finally reached railhead, after a tiresome and worrying journey.

My stay here was short, and I was soon on the road again, this time
taking up food for the troops engaged in quelling the mutiny up in
Uganda. Owing to the religious prejudices of the sepoys, all this food
had to be brought from India, and transported from the coast by
carriers, at a cost of two rupees per pound weight, so that it must have
cost the Government at least 10s. per day to keep a private soldier in
food alone, while, by comparison, the white officers were costing
practically nothing, as they were able to live almost entirely on the
country itself. My own experience convinces me that Indian troops are
practically useless in Africa, owing to their not being able to live on
the country, and I hold the same opinion with regard to the coolies
working on the Uganda Railway, which I consider could have been built
much more cheaply with white labour.

With the experience obtained on the previous trip, I had organized my
safari for the second trip on different lines, being, among other
things, careful to select my men from different tribes. When travelling
in Africa, I have found it advisable never to get all the men from one
tribe, as when the tribes are mixed they are less likely to mutiny or
desert, or cause trouble in other ways. I also took care to have my tent
with me on this trip, and when the caravan was ready to start I had, in
addition to the donkey-wagons, about 120 native porters.

I might say here that the porters of East Africa, taking them all round,
are a happy, careless lot. They will go through the greatest hardships
on a journey, and on their return at once forget all their troubles in
the pleasure of spending their wages as quickly as possible. They are
chiefly Swahili, with a mixture of a few other tribes, such as the
Wakamba. The Masai, however, even to this day, will not lower themselves
to carry loads.

I had by this time learned a little of the language, and had hopes that
by the time I returned Gibbons would have got back, and we should be
able to start on the journey we had originally planned. News travels
quickly in Africa—indeed, with such remarkable speed as to be mysterious
to the European mind—and I had heard that Gibbons was still up in
Uganda, and later I received a letter to say that he was ill.

This question of the rapid transmission of news among the native races,
both in Africa and India, has for a long time been a favourite subject
for discussion and argument among white men who have had much to do with
the native races. The well-known instances of the disaster to Hicks
Pasha’s force and the fall of Khartoum being known in the bazaars of
Cairo long before any official intimation was received by the Government
are cases in point. Personally, after fifteen years spent in close
association with natives in Africa, I have absolutely no belief in the
theory of any superhuman agency being employed. In the first place,
there is always the fact that much of this wonderfully transmitted news
is false, which discounts the value of such news generally and
discredits its value though it turns out afterwards to be true. The
white man who has sufficient experience of the nigger and his ways can
generally winnow the grain of truth from the bushel of fiction with
which it is wrapped about; while in the next place it must be borne in
mind that the natives nearly all have recognized methods of passing news
quickly from one point to another, of which I may mention a few.

The Kikuyu shouts his news from hill to hill, while the Masai runner
thinks no more of carrying a message sixty miles in a day than we should
of a three-mile stroll: the Congolese have a system of whistle signals,
by which they can convey messages from one end of a district to the
other in a very short time; while the West African native tells his news
from village to village by means of a sort of Morse code, tapped out on
drums. The Matabele uses a system of signalling by long and short
obscurations of a fire, by means of a skin, or in daytime by long or
short puffs of smoke regulated by the same means; while the Red Indian
of North America was in the habit of using a similar method of
communication. By these various methods it is quite possible to convey
news enormous distances in a remarkably short space of time, and I think
that they are quite sufficient to account for the many remarkable
stories told of this sort of thing, without calling in the theory of any
unknown agency at all.

I accomplished the trip with the food for the soldiers without any
mishap, and began the return journey to railhead, travelling light, with
nothing on the wagons; and having by this time become thoroughly used to
the work, and knowing better how to handle the men, things went much
more smoothly than on the previous trip.

The nights being cooler, and much more pleasant for travelling, we took
advantage of the moonlight for our treks, resting during the daytime so
that the donkeys could graze. There was something very fascinating about
this moonlight travelling in the clear night air, with the stillness
only broken by the sound of the wagon wheels and the patter of the
donkeys’ hoofs, whilst the long procession of black porters looked
ghostly in the semi-darkness. Occasionally the surrounding silence would
be broken by the sound of some wild animal disturbed by our approach,
then all was quiet again.

As we were travelling light, it was not necessary to have all the
donkeys inspanned in the wagons, and the spare animals were allowed to
run loose alongside, stopping occasionally as they went along to crop a
few mouthfuls of grass, then trotting on again to join the caravan. I
was lying down on one of the wagons, half dozing, one night, when I was
roused by the donkeys suddenly increasing their pace, and looking up, I
saw a lion stealthily approaching one of the donkeys running loose by
the roadside. I immediately jumped off the wagon and called to the men,
but by this time the donkeys were all bolting with fright, and it was
only with a good deal of difficulty that the wagons were stopped. By now
the lion I had first seen was nowhere in sight, but another, probably
his mate, was approaching the donkeys from another direction. I could
see him coming leisurely along, evidently intent on a feed, and I
prepared to receive him. I had still the same old gun, and having only a
few cartridges, I waited for the animal to approach near, so as to
become as good a target as possible. The brute had, so far, been facing
me, and as moonlight is deceptive, to get a good shot I allowed him to
come as close as I thought advisable. Just as I was going to fire he
stopped, apparently uncertain what to make of the situation, and as I
hesitated for a moment he turned slightly, and I fired immediately, and
hit him in the shoulder. With a savage growl, he gave a jump into the
air, and then began to tear up the ground in a great rage. The sound of
the report and the growls of the lion again caused the donkeys to bolt,
which spoiled my aim for the second shot. I could tell that I had
wounded him severely, and thought that I would go into camp, as I had
intended, a little farther on, and then return when daylight came and
find out whether I had really killed him. It was about three o’clock
when we camped, and we remained quiet for about two and a half hours
waiting until it was sufficiently light to go out again to look for him.
Going back to the spot where the encounter had taken place, we found a
large quantity of blood, which showed that I had wounded him severely,
but the lion was not to be seen. After following the blood spoor for
about a mile I saw the animal crouching in the scrub. We had been going
very cautiously, and had got within about twenty yards of him, before we
were made aware of his presence by a deep growl. Kneeling down and
taking careful aim, I fired two or three shots, which I knew must have
hit him by the thud of the bullet. Past experience had taught me not to
approach too closely until certain that the brute was dead, as they are
often most dangerous when you least expect it, so we waited some time
before approaching the body, when we found that the last shots had
really settled him. The boys skinned the carcass, and a great scramble
ensued for the fat, which is greatly valued for certain healing
properties it is supposed to possess. I know myself that it is a grand
thing for rheumatism. The skin was brought back to the camp, at Lake
Elmenteita, in triumph. This camp was known to the natives by the name
of Camp Mabrook, from the fact that a big Arab trader named Mabrook,
with all his safari, was murdered there while on his way up to Uganda.

My present safari I had equipped with the proceeds of my first trip to
the Ravine, and as both trips had been successful, I was doing well. I
had also heard from Gibbons that he was not coming back, and so the
donkeys and wagons fell to me, as my share of the partnership.

My next contract was to carry rice for the porters accompanying the
railway surveyors going from railhead up the Molo River, the distance
being about the same as to the Ravine, but the road in this case
branched off at Nakuru, going up more directly towards the Lake Victoria

As I was getting 30 rupees a load for this transport, and carrying 100
loads, I stood to make £200 on the journey, my expenses not being more
than £50 for the trip. But it so happened that I was rather unlucky.
Everything went well until I branched off at Nakuru, where I had to
leave the caravan road and strike off across country. Here the road was
so difficult for the wagons that I could only make a few miles each day.
To add to our troubles, water was very scarce, and when we had travelled
two days without finding any, both donkeys and men were exhausted, and I
began to feel doubtful of getting through.

I had with me a couple of Masai who knew the country, and they assured
me that we should find water not far away, but as we did not come to it
as soon as they had led me to expect, I outspanned, and taking my rifle
and one of the boys, I set off to find it.

In Africa one learns to judge from the formation of the country and the
nature and state of the vegetation where one might expect to find water,
and I was very successful in locating it, my judgment often proving
right when the guides assured me that there was no water near. On this
occasion it was nearly dark when we came to a swamp, and being terribly
thirsty, we at once started drinking the dirty water, without stopping
to look any farther, and, to our great disgust, afterwards found that
there was a beautiful stream of running water only a few yards from
where we had been drinking, which made us repent of our haste to quench
our thirst. People who live in the civilized parts of the world can
never really appreciate the true value of water. To the traveller in
Africa it is the one thing he learns to prize above all others, and it
is not surprising, therefore, to find the natives in some parts
worshipping it as their god, since they know of no higher blessing.

Taking some of the water from the stream with us, we returned to camp
and gave all the men a good drink, and early next morning I left the
wagons, and took all the donkeys to have a good drink and a good feed as
well, as there was plenty of good grazing in the neighbourhood of the
stream. The animals appeared to be thoroughly knocked up, and far from
well, which I put down to their having been so long without water,
though I was by no means sure that they had not been tampered with by
the Masai drivers. The Masai are blood drinkers, and when they have a
chance will make an incision in the jugular vein of an animal and thus
drink its blood, and I had little doubt that this was what they had been
doing to my donkeys while I was away looking for the water.

I brought up the wagons, and camped by the stream throughout the next
day, as I saw that there was a good crossing over the stream, and the
country was simply full of game. What struck me as most remarkable here
was the tameness of the zebra, who were mixed up among my donkeys, all
quietly grazing together near the wagons.

The condition of the donkeys began to get worse, and one by one they
began to fall sick and die. Then the boys began to desert, as is the
habit of the nigger when things begin to go wrong, and each day saw me
with one donkey and one boy less.

It was part of my contract that the loads should be delivered by a
certain time, otherwise I had to pay a heavy penalty—about two rupees a
load for every twenty-four hours after the time fixed—so, as I had only
some twenty-five miles farther to go, I set to work to collect the
loads, intending to complete the rest of the journey without the wagons,
by taking the rice on the donkeys’ backs. By doing this I managed to get
the journey completed and the loads delivered only a day or so after the
proper time, but when I had finished the journey I found myself with
just one donkey and three boys left!

It was impossible to take the wagons back without donkeys, so, taking
the lid off one of the food boxes, I painted on it with wagon grease
“Dead Donkey Camp,” and having stuck this up I left the wagons, and
never saw them again, while with my three boys and my sole remaining
donkey I started to trek back to Naivasha.

On the way back I met one or two parties surveying, who all complained
of the difficulty of getting food, and said that their people were more
or less starving. Rice was very difficult to get, as it had to be
shipped to Mombasa and then brought up-country, while the cost of
transport, as I have pointed out, was very heavy, and no food was to be
got from the Nandi country, which lay between us and the Lake Victoria

Everybody knew that the Kikuyu country was full of food, but any parties
which had gone out to buy supplies there had always been killed by the
natives: in one instance a party had been attacked within about thirty
miles of the Government station at Fort Smith, and nearly every man

Food was wanted, I found, for the Government stations on the caravan
road, as well as for the surveying parties on the line of the Uganda
Railway, and as it was worth a rupee a pound, I thought I saw a good
chance of making some money by trying my luck in the Kikuyu country.

Although I had lost all my wagons, I had not lost my desire for further
adventure, and the opportunity of getting away into some hitherto
unexplored part of the country, where there was a prospect of getting
the adventures I wanted, together with a chance of making enough money
to repair my misfortunes, seemed too good to be lost.

Arriving at Naivasha, I made a few inquiries, and found that I could get
into the Kikuyu country by going north, crossing the Kinangop Plain,
through the Masai country, and over the Aberdare Range—the highest peak
of which is about 12,000 feet.

I thought that this would be the best point at which to enter the
country, as, for one thing, it was the nearest to Naivasha, and if I was
lucky enough to get the food, it would be easier to get it to the place
where it was most needed.

                               CHAPTER IV

Government official tries to prevent me going into the Kikuyu
country—Give the official the slip—My first acquaintance with the
Kikuyu—Meet Karuri, the Kikuyu chief—Hospitable reception—Kikuyu village
attacked because of my presence in it—I help to beat off the
attack—Successful trading—Build a house in the Kikuyu village—Native
theory as to the origin of the Kikuyu race—I help defend my Kikuyu
friends from hostile raids, and beat off the enemy—Benefit of my
conciliatory counsels—Pigasani and blood brotherhood

Having made up my mind to go into the Kikuyu country, I set about
preparing my safari, for which I decided to take with me only seven
boys, natives who knew the language, to act as porters and carry the
goods I was taking with me for trading with the Kikuyu. Having persuaded
them that it would be all right, I armed myself with a rifle and fifty
rounds of ammunition, and set out to explore the unknown.

When the official in charge of the station found that I had really
started, he sent out an escort, under Sergeant Miles, to bring me back,
and, of course, I had to go. When I got back to Naivasha, he asked me if
I was trying to commit suicide. He said he dare not let me go, as I was
certain to get killed, and he would then be held responsible for
allowing me to leave his district. I told him that I would give him a
written statement that I was going entirely on my own responsibility,
and if I got killed it would not matter to him. His reply was that it
was incumbent upon him not to allow me to leave his district. When I
asked how far his district extended, he said to the Kedong Valley, about
twenty miles from Naivasha.

I have before stated that the Government officials were strongly opposed
to white men coming into the country, and Captain Gorges, who was in
command at Naivasha, was only carrying out the orders of his superiors
in trying to stop me. At this time there were only about ten white men
who were independent traders and hunters in the whole of what are now
the East African and Uganda Protectorates, besides the Government
officials and missionaries—practically the whole of the latter class
being up in Uganda. We were told plainly that we were not wanted, and
were not even allowed to have guns and ammunition with which to protect
ourselves; while the Arab and Swahili traders were allowed to overrun
the country as they pleased, carrying and purchasing arms and ammunition
as freely as they liked. This state of affairs _may_ have been due to
there being no organized administration in the country, off the caravan
road; but it is peculiarly consistent with the Downing Street policy
which prevails pretty well throughout our African dependencies, and
which seems to be based on the principle that, in the eyes of Colonial
Office officials, a native is more to be considered than any three white

To get beyond the jurisdiction of the official at Naivasha I went off to
the Kedong Valley, which forms a portion of the great “rift” or
depression which seems to divide the continent of Africa east from west
into two portions, and which in those days was the boundary between
British East Africa and Uganda. Naturally, I did not advertise my
intention, but my determination was, as soon as I got out of his
district, to start for the Kikuyu country, and by taking this step I
avoided all further opposition and duly set out for my Land of Promise.

It was before the end of the year 1898 that, striking camp one morning,
I entered the Kinangop Plain, a favourite grazing-ground of the Masai.
The plain is a fine stretch of open country, rising in a gradual slope
from the caravan road for about one thousand feet or more to the
commencement of the bamboo forest,[5] which is known to the natives by
the name of Menzini, “the place of bamboos.” Owing to the elevation of
this plain, rains are more frequent here, and when the lower lands are
dry and parched, rich pasturage is to be found on the plain, while the
ground is generally moist, and, on account of the lower temperature, its
surface is often covered with a white rime in the mornings, and the air
is cool and refreshing. The herds of sheep and cattle browsing suggest a
country scene, such as is common in the Old Country.


Footnote 5:

  The bamboo forests fringe the higher slopes of most of the mountains
  of East Africa, between the grass line and the windswept heights.


As I was accompanied by two Masai boys, I met with no opposition from
the warriors of that tribe camped on the plain to look after the safety
of the herds; and during the first day’s march we travelled about thirty
miles, camping that night about eight thousand feet up the mountainside,
where we found the air very cold. Game was everywhere in abundance, and
I also noticed a few elephant tracks; so the next morning we had a look
round, and followed the elephant tracks, which we found went through the
forest and over the mountain. We had great difficulty in forcing our way
through the trackless bamboo forest. The bamboos grow as thick as wheat
in a wheatfield, and even where the elephants had forced a way the trees
they had broken were lying across their path. Bordering on the forest
were steep precipices, the depth of which was so great that objects in
the valley below could only be very indistinctly seen. That night we
ascended to a height of between eleven thousand and twelve thousand
feet, and passing over the crest of the mountain, began the descent of
the other side. Making a long day’s trek, it was almost dark when we
again camped for the night, still in the bamboo forest which covers the

So far we had met none of the Kikuyu people, and, continuing our march,
we arrived, on the third day, in sight of the first native village. I
had heard some one cutting wood in the forest off our road, and the news
of our coming had spread. At the first sight of us the natives had
started running away, but we soon heard the native war-cry being taken
up from hill to hill round about, and could catch occasional glimpses of
the natives themselves as they gathered in force towards the village.
They were certainly a wild-looking lot, with their bodies smeared all
over with grease and red clay, or, in some cases, a kind of whitewash,
in which patterns were drawn according to the fancy of each individual,
while fastened to the leg was a rattle, with an iron ball inside, which,
as they moved about, made a noise very much like a railway train. Many
of them wore wonderful head-dresses, made of the skin of the colobus
monkey, and all were armed with spears and shields. These details I
managed to notice as we were moving towards them.

[Illustration: KIKUYU WARRIOR]

In a short time quite five hundred warriors, fully armed, were drawn up
outside the village, and, getting within speaking distance, I told my
Masai interpreter to tell them that I had come to see the chief of the

Never having seen a white man before, they regarded me with something
like awe, being evidently puzzled at my appearance, and were at a loss
how to act. The fact that I had ventured to come there alone was, in
itself, quite enough to surprise and astonish them, and, noting the
impression I had made, I knew that if I was to succeed with them I must
keep up an attitude of fearlessness.

After my interpreter had spoken, a guide came forward to conduct me to
the chief, whose name was Karuri. Accompanying the guide to the chief’s
kraal, I was met by Karuri, who demanded to know what I wanted.

This important personage, who to-day collects the hut tax for the
British Administration, would hardly be recognized as the savage warrior
chief who now stepped forward to meet the first white man he had ever
seen in his own country (as before explained, others had thought it more
prudent to go round the outskirts). It was a strange meeting, and one
which was to have great consequences for both of us. As time went on
Karuri was to become my friend and right-hand supporter, while I, in
turn, was to have an influence over him and his people which was to
raise him to the position of a great chief and myself to supreme power
in the country—a virtual King of the Kikuyu.

Through my interpreter, I explained as fully as possible my mission to
his country, in answer to his inquiry. I said that I had come to see his
country and was anxious to trade with him and to buy food. He then
questioned me as to the force I had brought with me; to which I replied
that, as my mission was a peaceable one, I had left most of my guns in
the forest to avoid trouble, but that if he harmed me, my people would
come and make war on him. This pardonable untruth seemed to make the
desired impression on him, and he allowed me to give him a present of
cloth, which he accepted with every appearance of pleasure. After this
his manner became more friendly, and when I signified my intention of
making a long stay in his country he readily agreed that his men should
build a hut for me.

His people still regarded me suspiciously, but obeyed my orders when I
told them to fetch wood, and set about the building of the hut, under my
instructions. They also brought me a sheep and some flour and sweet
potatoes, and, as I had by this time got a fire going, I had a good meal
cooked for myself and my men, the Kikuyu all the time looking on with
much interest.

[Illustration: WA-KIKUYU MAIDENS]

In the meanwhile I had been looking round and taking stock of the
neighbourhood, and a wilder scene it would be hard to imagine. The
Kikuyu country is a succession of small hills, separated by deep
valleys, lined with water-courses fed from the higher country, while the
hills are beautifully wooded, except where the trees have been cleared
away to get patches of ground for the cultivation of crops.

The village, which was situated on the high ground in a large clearing
in the forest, consisted of a cluster of round huts, surrounded by a
high thorn fence, or boma, high enough and thick enough to make any
attempt at forcing an entrance by a force unprovided with good axes a
matter of great difficulty. The entrance through the boma was by means
of a narrow tunnel, made of large slabs of wood, sunk deeply in the
ground, with the tops interlocking at such an angle that any one wishing
to enter had to crawl through it on hands and knees. The walls of the
huts were made of huge slabs of wood, fashioned out of large trees by
the simple process of cutting portions off the trunk until it was
reduced to the required thickness. These slabs were placed upright in
the ground, close together, in the form of a circle, and a thatched roof
built up over them. By the side of the huts, which were built without
any attempt at regularity, were smaller structures, with basket floors
and grass roofs, which I found were used as granaries, or larders, in
which to store the food.

The people who gathered round us while the meal was being got ready were
a fierce-looking crowd, their bodies being disfigured with paint and
hung about with rough ornaments. Every one seemed to be discussing me,
and, by the looks cast in my direction, debating whether, after all,
they should not kill me. Not knowing what might happen, I kept my rifle
near me and my bandolier in readiness in case of a sudden attack. After
a time they became more inquisitive, and began to examine my clothes,
which were something quite new to them, as they had never seen anything
of the sort before. The boots puzzled them the most, as they appeared to
think they were actually part of my feet, which they seemed to think
very curiously constructed. Some of them pushed their curiosity to the
extent of wanting to examine my rifle, but this I refused to let go out
of my hand.

My interpreter said that they thought I was very foolish to come among
them with only one rifle, so I told him to tell them that this gun was
different from any that they had ever seen before and far more effective
than those carried by Arab and Swahili traders. This gun, I explained,
could kill six men with one shot, and I told them that I would show them
what it would do by firing at a tree. It happened to be the old
Martini-Metford, so, putting in a solid cartridge, I chose a tree that I
knew the bullet would go through and fired. They immediately rushed in a
body to see what damage had been done, and when they found the hole
where the bullet had gone in and come out the other side they were both
considerably surprised and impressed. I assured them that that was
nothing; if they would examine the side of the mountain beyond they
would find that the bullet had gone right through that as well! I knew
that only sheer bluff could bring me safely out of the position in which
I had voluntarily placed myself, and so made the best use of every
opportunity that arose of impressing them.

Turning into my hut, I kept awake practically all night, fearing that
some treachery might be attempted, but fell asleep at last, to be
awakened early in the morning by an awful row of war-horns and men
shouting and running about in every direction. By the time I had rubbed
the sleep out of my eyes I saw a crowd of very excited natives rushing
in a body towards my hut, and fully expected that I was in for a tough
fight. However, far from intending to attack me, they had come to
implore my help for themselves. It seemed that though Karuri, in his
younger days, had been a powerful chief, his influence had waned as he
grew older, and the tribe being split up into clans, something like the
Highlanders in the old days, in the absence of a chief sufficiently
strong to keep the various sections in order, they were continually
indulging in petty wars among themselves. One of the neighbouring clans
had heard of my arrival, and, objecting to the presence of any white man
in the country, had promptly attacked Karuri’s village, with the object
of disposing of me once for all, and a big fight, in which a number of
people had already been killed, was then in progress, while, on looking
out of my hut, I saw that a portion of the village was in flames.

My duty was clear. These people had brought the trouble on themselves by
befriending me, and the least I could do was to give them such help as I
could. Besides, I wished to remain in the country, and if these people
were worsted—even if I escaped with my life, which was very unlikely—I
should have to get out and stay out, for some considerable time, at any
rate. It did not take me long to make up my mind, and, seizing my rifle,
I made for the scene of the fight, accompanied by a crowd of yelling
savages, delighted at my decision. When I arrived the row was at its
height and the sight of the hand-to-hand conflict among the warriors,
surrounded by the burning huts, was a stirring one. Seeing the
reinforcements, headed by myself, coming up, the attackers began to
waver, and when I had fired a few shots with effect, finally turned tail
and bolted. After pursuing them for some distance, to make sure that
they were completely scattered, the triumphant warriors returned to the
village, and made quite a hero of me, being convinced that their victory
was entirely due to my help. This incident was of the greatest value to
me, as it fully established my reputation as a useful member of the
community, and they became very friendly. I learned that they had had a
lot of trouble with this particular clan, who had frequently raided
them, killing many of their men, and carrying off their cattle, and
sometimes their women.

After this Karuri came to ask me if I would stop in his country, and I
told him I would think about it. I said that I had other work to do, but
that if he would sell me flour and other foodstuffs I would come back to
him. I told him that the flour was for friends of mine, who were coming
along the caravan road. He said that he did not want any more white
people in the country. I could stop as long as I liked myself, and his
people would be my friends, but they did not mean to have any strangers.
I explained that though my friends were coming along the caravan road
they had no intention or desire to enter the country. This explanation
seemed to satisfy them, and I told them that I would not decide at once
about staying in the country, but that when I had taken the flour to my
friends I would come back and talk matters over with them. They then
asked what I had to give in exchange for the flour, and I produced a
bottle of iodoform, some of which I had used on their wounds after the
fight with good effect. They thought it was a great medicine, and all
wanted some, and in exchange for a small quantity, wrapped in paper,
would give from ten to twenty pounds of flour.

They looked upon me as a great medicine man, and members of the tribe
came to me daily to be cured of various complaints during the fortnight
I stayed with them while the food I wanted was being collected and
brought in. When it was all in I found that I had about two hundred
loads, and the trouble then was to find porters to carry it out of the
country; but by dint of persuasion I finally succeeded in impressing a
number of the people into my service, and started off with my loads.

On account of my little difference with Captain Gorges I decided not to
go to Naivasha, but to carry my loads down towards the Kedong. As the
route to the Kedong Valley led through the Masai country, my men would
not go right through with it, so I set them to build a hut on the
caravan road, where I established a store for the flour, and within a
few days I sold the lot to the railway surveyors and caravans for about
thirty rupees a load, which made me highly satisfied with the result of
my first venture among the Kikuyu. It was on this journey that I first
saw the native method of starting a fire by means of the “fire-stick,”
though subsequently I found it very useful on many occasions when, owing
to the dampness during the rainy season, my matches would not light
satisfactorily. The fire-stick itself is a piece of hard wood, about
eighteen inches in length, of the thickness of a lead pencil and
pointed, and is carried in the quiver with the arrows. The method of
using it differs somewhat from that practised by certain tribes who are
accustomed to use a sort of mandril in connexion with it. The Kikuyu
always carry, as well as the fire-stick, a piece of wood of a softer
kind, about a foot long and two or three inches wide, which, when they
wish to make a fire, they place between their feet, holding it in
position with their toes. The pointed fire-stick is inserted into a hole
in the soft wood and rapidly revolved between the flat of their two
hands until the dust worn off the softer wood by the friction begins to
glow. This burning dust is then quickly tossed into the middle of a
little bundle of dry bark fibre, always carried by the owner of the
drill. The little bundle is then taken between the hands and gently
blown up until it shows signs of blazing, when it is placed in the
middle of a little heap of dried twigs and leaves which has been
prepared in readiness. A little careful manipulation soon produces a

I was also able to purchase a large quantity of trade goods, beads,
cloth, &c., from Arab traders going up to Uganda, and sent to Karuri for
more natives to carry my purchases back to Kikuyu, where, on my return,
I paid them for their services in cloth, which seemed to make them still
more anxious for me to remain among them.

Having finally announced my decision to stay in the Kikuyu country, at
any rate for a time, I selected a site for a house, and got them to help
me with the building. I found that they had a sort of native axe,
somewhat similar to those in use in the South Sea Islands, made with a
very small head, which is fixed to the club which forms the haft by a
spike projecting from the back, which is driven through the haft and
projects for two or three inches at the back—and with these and the
swords, with which every man is armed, they cut down trees from the
forest, and a house in the European style was built for me.

In connexion with these swords I may mention a peculiar custom which
illustrates the treacherous nature of these people. They invariably wear
the sword on the _right_ side, as when worn in that position it is much
easier to make a treacherous attack on an opponent while approaching
apparently with the friendly intention of shaking hands!

Their method of tree-cutting was a somewhat dangerous one, as they
simply cut into the tree near the ground, without any regard to the
direction in which it was likely to fall, so that serious injuries
during tree-felling operations were by no means uncommon. The Kikuyu
never use nails, but by dint of careful explanation, I was able to get
the native blacksmiths to make me a very efficient substitute.[6] The
natives were very much interested in the building operations, and when
the house was finished I used to invite the chief and his headmen to
visit me there. The house, which was built in the bungalow style, common
to European houses in the tropics, looked very well, and though the
windows were, of course, unglazed, I had shutters made, with which I
could close them at night.


Footnote 6:

  I have read that the use of nails was practically unknown in England
  until the latter half of the eighteenth century.


In the meanwhile I had been getting better acquainted with the country,
and found that the people lived in a constant state of civil war. Every
day men came to me to have their wounds dressed, and I heard of many
being killed. As I have already said, the country was very mountainous,
and each hill had its own chief, who lived in a state of continual
warfare with his neighbours. No man was safe in travelling about the
country, except on certain days when a sort of general market was held,
during the continuance of which a truce seemed to exist, hostilities
being resumed again as soon as it was over. Karuri used to visit me
nearly every day, and from him I learned all about the country. Even he
seemed afraid to go far from his own village, and, as this state of
affairs was very bad for my plans of trading, I determined to do what I
could towards reducing the country to something like order.

I gathered, from conversations with Karuri and the older men of the
village, that at one time the country was believed to have been covered
with a vast forest, inhabited by a race of pigmies, whom they called
Maswatch-wanya. These people did not cultivate the land, but lived by
hunting, and the legend said that the wife of a Masai, who was very
badly treated by her husband, was in the habit of taking refuge in the
forest, with her little boy, from his cruelty. At first she used merely
to stay in the forest for a time, and then return to her husband again;
but at last his treatment of her became so bad that she left him
altogether, and took refuge with the pigmies, and it was believed that
the Kikuyu race were the descendants of the offspring of this woman.
There is certainly a good deal of evidence to support the tradition, as
they undoubtedly have Masai blood, use the same kind of weapons and
shield, and in each case worship a god they call Ngai. I have also heard
them singing Masai war-songs when going out to fight, and in a very
large number of instances the physical resemblance between the two races
is very strong.

I stayed some weeks with them this time, and found that there was a good
deal of fighting going on, and that many of the friendly natives were
being killed through the hostility to me of the neighbouring chiefs and
their people. They strongly resented my intrusion into the country, and
any of the natives known to be friendly towards me, or wearing any of
the cloth I had given them, were immediately marked down for attack.

This sort of thing went on for some time, and they began to think that,
because I took no action against their enemies, I was afraid of them.
There were threats to kill me every day, and one night, after some of
their villages had been burned, and a lot of the people killed, they
came to me and asked me to take their part, saying that they had always
been friendly towards me, and that was why these people were making war
on them and robbing them.

I therefore sent a messenger to the offending chief, to say that if he
did not return the stolen property, and pay compensation for the murders
he had committed, I should have to go and compel him to do so. (The law
of the country is that for every man killed a payment of one hundred
sheep shall be made, and for every woman thirty sheep.) The chief simply
returned an insulting message to the effect that we were afraid of him,
and the next time he came he would kill me too.

A few days later I had a consultation with Karuri, and we came to the
conclusion that the only thing to be done was to go out and fight the
matter out with them, though I was strongly averse to getting mixed up
in any of their quarrels. However, the matter was settled for us, for
while we were still negotiating for a peaceful settlement of the
difficulty, our enemies came down in force one day and attacked the
village. They numbered altogether about five hundred warriors, while we
could only muster about three hundred. They had been successful in
previous raids because the people were scattered about in a number of
small villages, and could not muster in sufficient force to beat them
off, as they could always overwhelm a village and get away before any
help could be brought to the spot. On this particular occasion, however,
matters were a little different, as we had been expecting trouble, and
had made arrangements to give them a warm reception if they should
venture to come.

Our spies had been out for some time, and kept us well informed as to
what was going on, and gave us good warning as to when we might expect
to be attacked. As soon as the news of the approaching raid reached us,
I mustered the fighting men and got ready to receive them. We were soon
made aware of their approach by the sound of wild war-cries and savage
yells, as well as by the flames of the burning villages, to which they
set fire as they came along, and, meeting with no opposition, no doubt
they anticipated an easy victory.

By this time I had taught my people to hold themselves in check, and act
together, instead of each man fighting for his own hand. Waiting till
they had got within easy striking distance, we poured in a volley of
spears and arrows and I did service with my rifle. Following up the
surprise caused by this unexpected reception, we were soon among them
and engaged in a warm hand-to-hand fight, which lasted until we had
beaten off the invaders and followed them right back into their own
country. The battle, which had started in the early morning, lasted
until midday, and, having administered severe punishment, we camped for
the night in the enemy’s district.

We had had the good fortune to capture the enemy’s chief, who was
brought a prisoner into our camp, and the next morning I consulted with
Karuri as to what was to be done with him, and it was at last decided to
hold a _shauri_ (pronounced _showari_), or council, on the matter. I
asked them what they would have done in a case like this if I had not
been with them, and they replied that they would either have killed him
or made him pay a heavy fine. I pointed out that killing him or making
his people pay a heavy fine would only aggravate the enmity of these
people, and so cause more trouble later on. I told them that it would be
better to make the chief restore everything that had been stolen by
him—not in previous years, but in the raids which had taken place during
my stay among them, and to this course they finally agreed.

Within a few days all the stolen property was restored to its original
owners, causing much rejoicing among them, as they had, of course, never
expected to see any of it again. Of course, I took precautions to see
that no friction occurred during the process of retransferring the
recovered property, and having invited some of the chief men of both
districts to my camp, we got on quite friendly terms. Seeing them
sitting, eating and drinking together amicably, it was difficult to
imagine that they had been cutting one another’s throats only a few days
previously, but the Kikuyu, like many other African races, are
remarkably changeable, and their temper can never be relied upon. As I
learnt during my stay among them, they are both fickle and treacherous,
and had it not been for my own people, I should have run great risk of
being killed on several occasions, through trusting them too much.

I was very anxious to strengthen and maintain my friendship with these
people and the surrounding clans, and, after some discussion on the
matter, found that they had a ceremony, known as Pigasangi, which was
supposed to be mutually binding. If it could be arranged for me to
undergo this ceremony, there was every prospect of a lasting friendship
being formed. This ceremony differs from that of blood brotherhood
chiefly in that, while blood brotherhood establishes a friendly
relationship with the individual, Pigasangi establishes it with the
whole of the tribe or communities represented at the ceremony.

After some days the assembled chiefs consented to take part in the
ceremony, and, accompanied by the natives who had always been friendly
to me, and about fifteen of the old men of the district, I went to the
chief’s village to make the necessary arrangements.

When we arrived at the village the people were already waiting to
receive us, and there were signs of great festivity. Word had been sent
round to all the villages that the ceremony was to take place, and, as
it was looked upon as a great occasion for rejoicing, much dancing and
beer-drinking were going on, and we were received with shouts of welcome
and every sign of friendship. A large clearing had been selected for the
occasion—the Kikuyu, like many other savage tribes, always choosing an
open space for their ceremonies, or discussions of importance, as they
were thus enabled to detect any would-be eavesdroppers before they could
get near enough to overhear anything or to attempt any treachery. Nearly
all native villages, I found, have a large space set apart in the
neighbourhood for the holding of their shauris, dances, &c.

After a lot of superfluous oratory, the proceedings began with a black
goat being brought in, with its feet tied up, and laid in the centre of
the space. The natives then grouped themselves in a circle, with the
chiefs and orators in the centre. Everybody taking part in the ceremony
had previously disarmed, and, considering that there were over two
thousand people present, it was remarkable how orderly and quiet the
assembly was, everything being carried out without any hustling or
disputing for right of place.

The native never speaks at any meeting of the tribe without a stick in
his hand, and on the present occasion each speaker was provided with a
number of sticks, having one for each subject of discussion, the sticks
being thrown on the ground by each alternately as he went through his
speech. First one side and then the other stated the points of the
agreement, which, of course, had been carefully discussed beforehand, so
that there should be no chance of argument during the ceremony. The main
points were that there were to be no hostilities between the two clans
in future, that they were to assist each other, and that neither should
molest any white man coming through its country.

When all the sticks had been thrown down, they were collected, and being
bound up in a bundle, were placed between the legs of the goat. The
chief orator, whose stick was more like a club than the rest, then
repeated the different conditions, at the end of each clause dealing the
goat a heavy blow with his club whilst repeating a formula to the effect
that any one breaking the agreement should die like that goat. By the
time he had reached the last clause the animal was almost dead, and a
particularly heavy blow dispatched it. After that no one dare touch the
goat, which was regarded as sacred, and I learned that this was the
opportunity to obtain any confession from a native, any one suspected of
wrongdoing being asked to swear by the goat, when he would certainly
tell the truth.

The ceremony was followed by more rejoicing and drinking of native beer.

This function considerably enlarged the area of friendly country, which
now extended to the banks of one of the rivers which rises in the
Aberdare Range, and flows in an easterly direction until it empties, as
I afterwards found, into the River Tana.

On the other hand, the fact of these people making friends with me had
the effect of increasing the enmity of the other chiefs, who remained
outside the agreement, and feared that the effect of it would be to lead
more white men to come into the country.

[Illustration: THE RIVER MORANDAT]

                               CHAPTER V

Am established in the country—Native festivities and
dances—Troubadours—Musical quickness of the natives—Dearth of musical
instruments—My attempts at military organization—Hostile
rumours—Preparations for resisting attack—Great battle and defeat of the
attacking tribes—Victory due to skilful tactics of my Kikuyu
force—Succeed in taking a large convoy of provisions into the starving
Government stations—White men attacked and killed—Am supreme in the
tribe—Native poisons—Although I am supplying the Government stations
with food, I get no recognition at the hands of the officials.

The people in the immediate neighbourhood of the district where I was
living now looked upon me as a great man. My advice had been good in
their councils, and I had succeeded in bringing about peace with their
bitterest enemies. They also regarded me as a great medicine man, on the
strength of the iodoform, and of a bottle of Eno’s fruit salts, which
they would come round in crowds to watch me drink, saying that the white
man could drink boiling water; and they believed that I must have a
stomach like iron, and, being utterly ignorant, my friends were firmly
convinced that it was impossible to kill me.

The news of my presence spread all through the country, and many threats
to kill me were uttered—it being reported that some of the hostile
chiefs were banding together for that purpose.

In the meanwhile, I invited some of the principal witch doctors to come
and live near me, and at intervals of about ten days I would get the
natives round about to come up to my house to dance. These dances were
always held during the daytime, and the women took no part in them. The
Kikuyu are a very musical people, singing wherever they go, and the
warriors would come to the dances in a body, singing as they marched
along, and keeping as perfect time and step as a regiment of trained
soldiers. First of all they would have a kind of march past, and then,
falling out, would form a huge circle, with all the women and the old
men on the outside. First one warrior and then another would dart out
from the circle and go through some weird evolutions. Every man was
fully armed as if going on the war-path, and the movements took the form
of a fierce fight with an imaginary enemy, each man, as he jumped out of
the circle, rushing round and spearing his imaginary foe. If the man was
recognized as a great warrior, he was violently applauded by the
onlookers, and, encouraged by the signs of approbation, would work
himself up into a perfect frenzy; but if he was a man who had not
distinguished himself in any way, or who was not popular among the
tribesmen, his performance would be received in absolute silence.

One peculiar point that struck me about these people was the absence of
any kind of musical instrument, even the usual drum. All their songs and
dances were absolutely unaccompanied by any of the usual weird noises
that, with most savage tribes, represent a musical accompaniment, and
the only musical instrument that I ever knew of their making was a kind
of whistle, something after the fashion of those made by boys at home
from elder stems, and, I imagine, merely a toy; certainly I never saw
them used by any but boys, and only on rare occasions by the boys
themselves. I do not include among musical instruments the war-horn, an
instrument usually made from the horn of a bullock or the koodoo, and
which is used simply as an alarm.

One peculiar point about the applause on these occasions was that it was
confined to the women, the men considering it beneath their dignity to
make any demonstration, whether of approval or contempt. Although the
women were not allowed to take any part in these dances themselves, they
always appeared in full force as spectators, rigged out in their best
go-to-meeting suits of skins, with their bodies plentifully smeared with
grease, and wearing all their ornaments. When any favourite warrior had
the floor, they expressed their approval by waving bunches of grass, and
at the same time raising a musical chant of “lu-lu-lu-lu-lu.” This
chant, by the way, was the common form of welcome among them, as, when
my safaris returned from one of my trips to Naivasha with food, the
women would all turn out as we approached a village and greet us with
this cry, which was taken up from hill to hill as we went along.

They had some dances in which the women joined, and these were usually
held at night round a big fire. The Kikuyu seem to have more varieties
of dances than any natives I know, and are, on the whole, a
light-hearted race, singing all day long.

They have a class of strolling minstrels, resembling more than anything
the old troubadours of the Middle Ages. There were only five or six of
these troupes in the country altogether, and, like the troubadours, they
were a privileged class, travelling from place to place and
extemporising songs about local events and people—not always without a
strong tinge of sarcasm, which no one dared to resent.

The Kikuyu were particularly clever in picking up the songs introduced
by these troubadours, and a song that took the popular fancy would be
taken up at its first hearing, and spread through the country with as
much, or even more rapidity than a music-hall ditty among the
errand-boys of London, disappearing as rapidly when a new one came out.

There was a further resemblance to the troubadours in the fact that they
dressed in a fashion of their own, and wore a ring of small bells
strapped round each ankle, and a single large one of iron fastened to
each knee. They seemed to be free to pass where they pleased throughout
the country, and I consequently encouraged them to visit me—which some
of them would do every week—as they were able to keep me informed as to
what was going on all over the country, so that I was able to meet any
emergency that might arise.

The dances I arranged as a means of bringing the people together, so
that I could talk to them afterwards and explain various things to them
which they did not at first understand, such as the coming of the white
men, who, I explained, did not come to raid their villages and make
slaves of them, but wished to be friends in trade with them.

The information I got from some of my visitors with regard to what was
going on in the outlying districts was also very useful at times. For
instance, about this time I found that a tribe whose district lay to the
north of us was preparing to make a big raid through the whole country,
as they did not want any white men there at all; and I also got news
from time to time of Arab and Swahili traders being murdered on their
way down from the north from the Turkana country.[7]


Footnote 7:

  The Turkana country lies to the west of Lake Rudolph.


Of course, these things put me on my guard, and I began to get the men
together and to give them some little military training, so that we
might be ready for any attack that should come. One point in particular
that gave me a lot of trouble was teaching them to keep guard. It is a
peculiarity of the African native that even when surrounded by the enemy
and expecting attack at any minute, he has no idea of keeping on the
alert and watching for his foe. I had a remarkable instance of this in
the case of my own servant, a Swahili, whom I found herding sheep for
the Kikuyu, and took into my service. He had originally come to the
country with a caravan of Swahili traders, who, with the exception of
himself, had all been murdered. I put him among my askaris (soldiers),
and one night when he was on guard, on making my usual round to see that
all was right, I found him lying on the ground fast asleep at his post.
I took his rifle away, and as that did not wake him I poured a bucket of
water over his head. Even that did not disturb him much, the only effect
being to make him shiver and pull his coat over his head—possibly
thinking it was raining—and then go on sleeping as peacefully as ever.
So I called the other men and pointed him out to them, and they slipped
a noose round his legs and pulled him by his feet, while I fired a shot
in the air over his head. I thought that this would give him such a
fright that he would never go to sleep on guard again, but it did not
work and I had to find him another job. It might have been thought that
his experience of having all his companions murdered through not keeping
a proper guard would have been sufficient to make him keep awake, but
this carelessness of such dangers is a native peculiarity which is very
hard to overcome.

As I have said, I found it very necessary to have the natives better
organized, from a military point of view, seeing the danger with which
we were threatened, not only in respect of keeping guard, but also in
their method of fighting. They had never been accustomed to observe any
sort of formation in their attack, but simply made a mad rush at the
enemy, so I taught them to keep together, forming a line with their
shields touching. I had one or two lines in front of men armed with
spears and shields, while the bowmen, with their poisoned arrows, took
their place behind, protected by the shields of those in front. I had
very few rifles, but hearing that there were some in the country—a good
way farther north—which had been taken from some Swahili traders who had
been murdered, I made a night march to secure them, and succeeded in
collecting about one hundred, but only some thirty of them were of any
real use. Having managed to get some ammunition, I selected the best men
out of the tribe and armed them with these rifles, taking great trouble
in teaching them how to use them. After a time I was able to put the
squad through the manual exercises in English, though it always puzzled
me to know how they understood what I wanted them to do, as not one of
them knew a word of English, but I suppose they simply imitated what
they saw me do when showing them the various movements, and associated
certain sounds with those movements.

All this time the country was in a terrible state of unrest. Every night
alarming messages were brought in that the people from the north were
coming down to attack us. One night it would be the followers of
Wagombi—a big chief living near Mount Kenia, who could muster two or
three thousand fighting men—who were on the war-path. This chief had
raided the whole of the country at one time or another, and, though I
had tried to get messengers through to him in the hope of making friends
with him, they were always murdered. Another night it would be the
people of Tato who were coming down on us. All this time food was being
collected and brought in, and I was anxious to explore the country still
further, but was afraid to leave, on account of these rumours of
threatened attacks. If I had gone away I should have had to take the
best of the people with me, and I knew that during my absence the
hostile tribes would have come down on the district, burnt the place
out, and killed every one that was left. Besides, all the people urged
me to stay with them, and not to go away just yet.

I had taken the precaution of placing outposts to give us due warning of
any attack, which I expected would take place, if it did come, early in
the morning, just before daylight, this being the usual time for an
attack, and for this reason the Kikuyu will not keep fowls, lest the
crowing of the cocks towards dawn should betray their villages—which are
always hidden away in the bush—to the enemy. This practice of delivering
their attack just before dawn prevails among savage tribes pretty well
all over the world, and I think that the chief reasons which lead to
this time being chosen are, firstly, that the night offers the best
opportunity of gradually bringing the force up into such a position that
the enemy are surrounded before they can discover the movement which is
in progress, and, secondly, that it is the hour at which vitality is at
the lowest point, and consequently, the desire for rest and sleep has
greater power over the body, and the force attacked is likely to be less
alert and less fitted for strenuous resistance.

One night an attack was actually made on us, though it did not turn out
to be anything very serious, and was possibly simply a piece of bravado
on the part of some of the young warriors who were anxious for war. They
had not time to do much damage before we arrived on the scene and
repulsed them, with the loss of a few killed.

Up to this time I had not really attached much importance to the rumours
that an attack was to be made on us from that quarter, though I had
taken all precautions against being caught napping; but this put me more
on the alert than ever, while my people were absolutely
terrified—especially as the latest rumour said that the people of Tato,
who were coming down on us, had got the Masai to join them, as well as
many of the Kikuyu who lived on the other side of the river which, as I
explained before, was the boundary of the friendly district. This river
was nearly two days’ march from the farther boundary of the Kikuyu
country, and the inhabitants of the intervening district had made
friends with the Masai to save themselves from being raided—indeed,
those on the boundary were half Masai themselves, having largely
intermarried with that tribe. They would probably be able to muster a
force of about two thousand fighting men; so having come to the
conclusion that there was something in the rumour—after having made
inquiries and carefully thought the matter out—I saw that it was
necessary that we should be thoroughly prepared, and set to work to make
my plans accordingly. Crossing the country through which the enemy would
have to come was a deep ravine, with a river running through it. This
river was crossed by a few bridges consisting simply of felled trees,
which had been cut down so as to fall across the stream. I gave orders
to destroy or remove these bridges at once, with the exception of one,
against which I kept a guard night and day, to give us full warning of
the enemy’s coming; my intention was to destroy the bridge as soon as
the opposing force had crossed it, in the hope that I might be able to
teach them such a lesson that they would leave us alone for the future.

At the top of the mountain overlooking the ravine I had built another
house for myself, with a food station and trading store attached—as I
made use of every opportunity of trading—and it was here that I decided
to wait for the invaders. I had put a good guard there, which I visited
every day myself, to see that things were all in order. The only path up
the hill from the bridge over the river zig-zagged up the mountain-side,
and was very rough and steep, so that it was difficult for an enemy to
approach in a body.

The people living near this station were in continual fear of an attack,
as they had news from their spies that a considerable number of Masai
were on the Kikuyu boundary, near Tato, and it had been the custom of
this tribe to raid the country at least once a year, when the young
braves would come out on the war-path after the circumcision ceremony to
prove their fighting qualities. Their main object was loot, but they did
not hesitate to kill all who opposed them, besides burning the villages
and carrying off the cattle—and very often the women as well. I
determined if possible to put an end to this raiding and wanton


The men guarding the bridge had been instructed to send two of their
number to bring me word as soon as they saw the enemy approaching, while
the remainder were to stay behind in hiding, and destroy the bridge as
soon as the invaders had crossed, so as to cut off their retreat. The
long expected attack came early one morning, and, following out their
instructions, the watchers at the bridge gave me early warning that a
large body of warriors had crossed the river, and we were quite ready to
give them a warm reception. They came boldly on, never thinking that we
were waiting for them, and no doubt expecting the same easy victory that
they had had on previous raids. But a big surprise was in store for
them. Owing to the narrowness of the path, they could only approach in
single file, and we waited until they had almost reached the top before
letting them know we were there. I had given strict orders that no man
was to make a move, or utter a sound, until I gave the signal by firing
my rifle. Coming steadily on, they had got close upon us when I fired,
and my rifle-men opened on them at once, while the bowmen followed the
volley up with a flight of poisoned arrows. The invaders were taken
completely by surprise, and before they could recover themselves the
Kikuyu warriors swept down on them with swords and spears. Bolting in a
mad panic, they were hotly pursued down the mountain-side, suffering
severely in their flight. Arriving at the river, they found that the
bridge was gone, and many of them jumped into the stream, of whom some
got safely across, but a good many were drowned on the way. At least
fifty had been killed, and many wounded, and these I gave orders were
not to be killed, but brought in as prisoners, of whom, when all were
collected, we had a very large number, so that the victory was
altogether complete, while my force had suffered only very slight loss.
The punishment we had administered was so severe that the country was
never again raided by these people during the time I was with the

This victory having ensured the people security from any further
raids—for a time, at any rate—I had now the opportunity for which I had
been looking, of taking the food I had collected into the British
settlement. I had bought a lot of flour, which I took into the
Government station at Naivasha, and very pleased they were to get it, as
I found that they were practically starving for want of food. Not only
was this the case at Naivasha, but they were no better off at the
Ravine; and so thankful were the Government to get these supplies that
they made a contract with me to keep them provisioned, and I heard no
more about my going into the Kikuyu country without permission!

It was on this visit to Naivasha that I was able to renew my
acquaintance with two most interesting people, whom I had met on some of
my journeys with food for the troops in Uganda. They were Mr. and Mrs.
Walsh, who, at the time I first met them, were engaged, like myself, in
taking up food in donkey-wagons for the troops. They had, I found,
established the first store in Naivasha. This was what I had wished to
do some time previously, but had been forbidden by the official in
charge—who, as I now have reason to believe, far exceeded his legal
powers in doing so; but I was only a settler, and he was one of the
officials who had his knife into me.

This couple had come to East Africa from Mashonaland, where Mrs. Walsh
had been the first white woman to enter the country, and had started by
taking up the transport business, in which they had both had
considerable experience, and in which Mrs. Walsh took a man’s share of
the work, being the only white woman who ever ran transport in British
East Africa. In spite of their many successful ventures, they are not
numbered among the wealthy, their open-handed hospitality and careless,
happy-go-lucky Irish temperament being against them in the race to
accumulate riches; but there is hardly any one who has been in British
East Africa who does not know them, and few who have not, at one time or
another, shared their generous hospitality, which was as freely extended
to the trader or settler temporarily down on his luck as to the
Government official or missionary travelling in luxury.

I gave the authorities a full report on the country, telling them of the
continual fighting and the trouble I had had right through. They said
that they were quite aware of it, and that I could expect nothing else,
but that they could give me no assistance, as they had quite enough
troubles of their own, with the natives near at hand.

It appeared that during my absence from the Kikuyu country my old
partner Gibbons had returned from Uganda and gone into partnership with
a man named Findlay to make a trading expedition to the Kikuyu country;
but I had somehow missed him while transacting my business in Naivasha,
as his route had lain farther to the east. I found that as soon as the
two had entered the country they had had trouble with the natives, and
some of their men had been killed. They had taken with them forty or
fifty men, armed with rifles, and about one hundred porters, intending
to trade for ivory. So far as I could gather, a chief had come to them
and told them that he had a tusk to sell. When the Kikuyu come to sell
ivory they do not show you the tusk but give you the measurement, from
which you have to guess the weight; then, after the bargain is struck,
you pay for the ivory, and the seller is supposed to bring it in.
Gibbons bought a tusk, and sent ten armed men back with the chief to
bring it in. These men were Swahili, who were terribly afraid of the
Kikuyu. They had received the ivory, and were bringing it back to camp,
when they were all ambushed and murdered. The rest of the safari lost
heart at the murder of their companions and had scarcely courage to
defend themselves, and Gibbons saw that his only chance was to build a
boma, as the natives were coming in force to attack him. They had barely
completed the boma when they were attacked, and throughout the night the
improvised fort was surrounded by a yelling horde of savages, bombarding
them with spears and arrows and trying by every means to get through the
defences. Gibbons and Findlay kept up a plucky defence, and by spurring
on their men managed to beat off the attack. Things, however, looked
even worse in the morning, when the natives were reinforced, and hemmed
them in on every side. It was impossible to remain in the boma, as they
could not hope to hold it for long against the hundreds of black fiends
who surrounded them, and it was decided to make a sortie and, if
possible, cut their way through and get out of the country. The attempt
was made, and a fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued, in which Findlay
received two bad spear thrusts, and would have been killed outright had
not one of his boys come to the rescue, firing his rifle so close to
Findlay’s assailant that he blew his arm clean off. Findlay was carried
back into the boma, to which Gibbons and the few survivors also
returned, and managed to strengthen their defences sufficiently to
enable them to hold the savages at bay until a messenger could get
through to the nearest Government station, from which a relief force of
the King’s African Rifles was sent out, and after a week of terrible
hardship Gibbons and his few remaining followers were rescued. Findlay,
however, died later of his wounds.

This incident gives a good idea of the treacherous and bloodthirsty
nature of the people among whom I was now spending my life.

On returning to Karuri’s I found myself on better terms than ever with
the natives, and many other chiefs came in to profess their friendship.
By this time I could speak Swahili well, and had mastered the Kikuyu
language sufficiently to understand what they were saying, although I
still spoke to them through an interpreter, as I thus had time to
consider my replies. My thorough defeat of their sworn enemies, the
Masai, had given me a great reputation among them, which was increased
by their belief that it was impossible to kill me, a belief which had
been strengthened by my defying the witch doctors to poison me and
swallowing, in their presence, samples of what they considered their
most deadly poisons without any ill effects. In consequence of the
reputation I had thus gained my word was law, and I advised them that it
would be greatly to their advantage to stop quarrelling and fighting
among themselves, which advice I backed by severely punishing any one I
caught quarrelling. With regard to my singular immunity from the effects
of the poisons of the native witch doctors, it is, perhaps, difficult to
find a satisfactory explanation. Whenever I met a witch doctor I always
insisted on sampling any poisons he might have with him, which were
always prepared with honey, and appeared to me to be a mixture of honey
and the ashes of burnt herbs—a black, sticky mess—and though not,
perhaps, the most appetising morsel one could choose, yet not so
unpleasant to the taste as to be objectionable. But, in spite of the
opportunities thus offered them to get rid of the one man in the country
whom they both hated and feared, I never felt the slightest ill-effects
from these experiments. On the other hand, it must not be supposed that
I ordinarily took any undue risks of death by poison. I never accepted
any drink offered by my savage acquaintances or hosts without first
seeing that the person who brought it carried out the usual custom of
sampling it himself before I touched it, while I took all necessary
precautions to ensure that my food was not interfered with.

Several theories occur to my mind to account for my immunity. One is
that the concoctions which I took, in spite of the witch doctors’
assurances that they were deadly, were not poisons at all. I think it
quite likely that they never carried their real poisons on them, but
specially prepared them, in the secrecy of their own huts, for each
individual, and that they were merely trying to frighten me.[8]


Footnote 8:

  It is the Wakamba who deal in poisons and sell them to the
  neighbouring tribes. They pretend to have a monopoly of them in East


Another is that the Kikuyu had no poisons at all.[9] It must be
remembered that the African native is one of the most superstitious
beings in the world, and there is no doubt that many of the deaths
attributed to the action of the witch doctors were really due to pure
funk. The natives are so oppressed with a belief in the occult powers of
the medicine man that it is well known that it is generally quite
sufficient for him to curse an individual and assure him that his death
will take place on or before a certain time to ensure that the man will
simply give up the ghost according to the prophecy. Instances of this
sort of thing can be quoted in connexion with most primitive races,
either in Africa or India. I know very well that some of the native
races of British East Africa have deadly poisons, and do not hesitate to
use them, as two white men of my acquaintance met with horrible deaths
from poison administered by some Wakamba, while I know of more than one
similar instance occurring among white men on the West Coast. But with
the native the ingrained superstitious fear of the medicine man is
generally quite sufficient to cause death under the influence of his
curse. So deeply rooted in the native mind is this belief in the power
of these quacks that I know of a native doctor, holding the post of
Assistant Colonial Medical Officer in one of our West Coast colonies,
who definitely stated that he could do nothing for a certain man who was
ill, and of whom it was rumoured among the natives that he had trodden
on poison which had been scattered on the floor of his house by a native
medicine man for the purpose of poisoning him. This official was a
prominent member of the Church of England in the colony and the
possessor of several first-class European qualifications, yet he frankly
said that he could do nothing against the arts of his heathen rival!


Footnote 9:

  The poison put on their arrows is, I believe, innocuous if merely
  swallowed; it needs to be inoculated in the blood to be effective.


It is quite possible that a reason for my escape may be found in the
superstitious fears of the witch doctors themselves. One of the greatest
assets of these men was the belief, which they carefully fostered among
the natives, that any one attempting to injure them would bring some
terrible disaster upon himself. If they actually believed this
themselves—and by constant reiteration of the fraud they may at last
have brought themselves to believe it to be a truth—it is quite likely
that they feared that any attempt to injure me, whom they reluctantly
admitted to be more powerful than themselves, would, in the same way,
recoil on their own heads.

I may mention that the medicine men of the Fantee and Ju-Ju systems, on
the West Coast, frankly admit that their arts are of no use against the
white man, who absolutely disbelieves in them, so that possibly my want
of faith in their mummery served to protect me from their kindly
attentions and from any serious attempts at poisoning.

It should be remembered also that by “medicine” is meant
incantation—that the drug is supposed to act rather through the medium
of the incantation than through any potency of its own. Hence the powers
of a poison to do harm would depend more on the magic possessed by the
medicine man than on the power of the drug. So that a poison would have
no power to injure a medicine man possessed of more magic than the man
administering the drug.

After collecting more food, I went down with it again to the Government
station at Naivasha, the road to which, through the bamboo forest, was
extremely difficult; but when I wanted to improve the track the Kikuyu
strongly objected, saying that if a road were made it would make it much
easier for the Masai to raid them. As it was, in case of a raid, they
could get away with their cattle through the bamboo forest. But if roads
were made through the forest they would be at the mercy of the raiders.
They also feared a descent by the Kalyera, another branch of the Kikuyu
tribe, along the fringe of whose country I had to pass when taking
supplies down to Naivasha. Where their path joined the main road into
the Masai country my caravans were frequently waylaid. To put a stop to
this I built a camp at the junction of the two paths, and left some
armed men in charge, but they were continually being attacked, and
several of them were killed.

On getting the food into Naivasha I was told that there was no limit to
the quantity they would take if I could only provide it. I again made a
report to the Government as to the difficulty I had in obtaining the
supplies; but, as usual, no notice was taken.

                               CHAPTER VI

I determine to extend my operations into more remote districts of the
Kikuyu country—New friends—Native taste for tea—Plague of ants—Curious
superstition with regard to milking cows—The Kalyera reject my friendly
overtures—Trouble at headquarters—Tragic interview with a recalcitrant
chief—Gain further prestige thereby—Further plans—Take my Kikuyu
followers down to Mombasa—Their impressions in contact with civilization

On returning to my home among the Kikuyu I found that the country was
fairly quiet, so I thought I would take the opportunity to explore a
little farther into the interior, and, if possible, make friends among
some of the other chiefs, thus enlarging the area from which I could
draw supplies of food. My idea was to build trading stations at various
points in the country, and, leaving a few men in charge at headquarters,
to organize a fairly large expedition to explore other parts of the
country and induce the natives to make friends and trade with me.

The first people I wished to come to terms with were the Kalyera, who
had given me so much trouble on the road to Naivasha. I wished to
prevent my people being killed when taking the food down, and as these
murders had been on the increase, I was afraid that they would
eventually block the road. I determined to keep the route open at all
costs, it being the only way into Naivasha. As I have already said, the
Kikuyu country is very hilly and difficult for travelling, and to reach
Kalyera we should have to cross several mountains and rivers.

Having prepared my expedition, we set off. All the country through which
we passed was under cultivation, by which I mean that wherever a
clearing had been made in the forest the land was either growing food or
had been abandoned in fallow after being under cultivation for some
time; the custom of the Kikuyu being to cultivate the land until it
showed signs of becoming exhausted and then make a fresh clearing and
repeat the process.

The first day passed without any trouble at all from the natives, who
were all more or less friendly towards me in this part, and our first
camp was pitched in the territory of a typical native chief, a rather
stout and quite jolly sort of fellow, who owned a large number of
cattle, sheep, and goats, and who seemed a good deal more like a Masai
than a Kikuyu. I had not seen him before, but he had sent some of his
people to help me against the hostile tribes who had come down to attack
us. He wanted me to stay there altogether, but I told him that my
headquarters were at Karuri’s, and then delighted his heart with a
present of a blanket and fez, which pleased him immensely. His people
called me Karanjai, meaning literally “Who eats beans,” because I
preferred that vegetable to their sweet potatoes. In connection with
this nickname of Karanjai several amusing incidents occurred before I
found out what was actually meant by it. Names of this sort, which the
natives are very clever in bestowing, once given, rapidly become known
throughout the country, so that it was nothing unusual for me to be
greeted as Karanjai on my first visit to some village in a part of the
country quite new to me, and it was, therefore, not unnatural that I
should think it was some form of greeting, and for a long time, when any
native addressed me as Karanjai, I replied by repeating the word,
thinking that I was thus complying with native etiquette. It was the
more difficult for me to get at the real meaning as my own people would
give me no satisfactory explanation, fearing that I should be annoyed if
I found that they had given me a nickname. When I did finally discover
what it meant, it was impossible to be annoyed, as there was nothing
objectionable in the name itself, and I could not help admitting that it
was peculiarly appropriate.

As time went on, and my power and influence in the country extended, it
was quite usual, when I visited a village, for several proud fathers to
bring small sons to be introduced to me, explaining that they also had
been named Karanjai in my honour.

They had never seen a white man before, and likened me to their god
Ngai, as I was a great medicine man, and they believed that I could make
rain. They also thought that I was unkillable, but, knowing their
treacherous nature, I never allowed myself to be caught off my guard.
The Kikuyu will come up to you smiling and kill you the next moment if
he gets the chance. This happened in the case of a man who went out to
buy food only about twenty miles from Fort Smith. The chief came up to
him smiling, and while he shook hands with one hand drew his sword with
the other, and the man barely escaped with his life, while all the men
with him were killed. As before stated, they wear their swords on the
right side, as the action of drawing the sword is less noticeable from
that side, and their opponent has less warning of their intention.

This chief, Wunjaggi, had been notified of my coming by a messenger sent
on ahead of the party, and sent out some of his warriors to welcome me,
who plucked handfuls of grass and waved them as a sign of peace. The
chief met me with a huge spear in his hand, which, as soon as he saw me,
he stuck in the ground, and we then shook hands in the native fashion,
first spitting in our palms. I had discouraged this practice of
hand-shaking among my own people, and taught them to make a military
salute instead, as a precaution against treachery. He seemed very
pleased to see me, and told me that he had heard a lot about the white
man. As we entered the village his people began singing, and my
followers joined in, and there was general jubilation.

The chief gave me a present of sheep for myself and my men, and when we
had selected a site and pitched our tent some njohi[10] was sent in,
which I gave orders to be taken to my own tent and gave out to the men
myself, as I knew that when they got too much they were not responsible
for their actions, and would be sure to cause trouble. During the day
quite a lot of people came to see me, as they had never seen a white man
before, so I had a strong guard posted round the camp, only allowing a
few natives to come in at a time, and all had to disarm before entering
the camp. Of course, everything I had of European make was quite new to
them, even to the tent; but they seemed most particularly interested in
the knives and forks, while the enamelled cups and saucers and plates
also excited their curiosity. Everything I did seemed to them making
magic. If I happened to be reading a paper, they thought I was doing so
for some occult purpose, and when I smiled at a funny paragraph they
watched me curiously, and all began to laugh too, although they had not
the faintest idea what I was amused at.


Footnote 10:

  A native drink.


I invited the chief to drink tea with me, out of a cup and saucer, and
at first he took a lot of persuading, but after tasting the tea he liked
it so much that I had reason to regret having introduced the practice,
as both he and the various other chiefs I met got so fond of it that
they would demand it whenever they saw me. They were also very fond of
salt, which they would eat by the handful. This fondness for salt may
seem to those who are accustomed to use it without stint, and even waste
large quantities carelessly, rather peculiar; but it must be borne in
mind that in many parts of the world besides the Kikuyu country salt is
a very rare article and a heavily-taxed luxury, every grain of which
must be carefully economised. The Kikuyu obtained the requisite salt for
their animals from certain salt-pans, or, as they are called in some
parts of the world, salt-licks, which were places where the earth was
sufficiently mixed with saline particles to give it a fairly strong,
brackish taste. This earth is dug up by the natives and mixed with water
till it is of the consistency of liquid mud; it is then placed in the
cattle-troughs, and it is a strange sight to see the animals devouring
this muddy mess with every appearance of enjoyment. For their own use
they used to burn large quantities of green papyrus reed, mixing the
ashes with their food instead of salt. This plant, although it grows in
the fresh-water lakes and streams, contains a fair proportion of saline
matter, so that the ashes form a substitute—though, to my taste, a very
inefficient one—for salt.

As the country here was about seven thousand feet above sea-level it
became very cold at night, and I had always a big fire lighted at
sundown, and before turning in saw that a good guard was set.

During our first night among my new friends we had a most unpleasant
experience, in the shape of a visitation from an army of brown ants,
which came right through the camp. These brutes—they are about half an
inch long, and so may be rightly called brutes—have very powerful jaws,
like the claws of a lobster, and bite most fearfully. They covered
everything in their path, and, getting into the blankets, drove me out
of my tent, and caused every one to dance about in the most comical
fashion in their efforts to get rid of the pests. So tenacious were they
that one could hardly pull them off, and the whole camp was in an uproar
during the hours that the army took to pass, and there was little more
sleep that night for any one. I do not know to what particular variety
of the ant tribe these brutes belonged, but I should think that they
must bear a strong resemblance to the kind known as “the bull-dog ant,”
which is, among certain African tribes, looked upon as a valuable
assistant to the native surgeon, who uses it instead of the silk thread
and surgical needle of civilization for sewing up wounds. The manner in
which they are used for this purpose is as follows: The edges of the
wound are drawn together, and held in that position with the fingers of
the left hand, while with the right a bull-dog ant is picked up and held
so that the jaws grip one on each side of the wound; the body of the ant
is then twisted off, while the head still remains, tenaciously holding
on to the flesh. From this habit of holding on they have acquired the
name of bull-dog. The Kikuyu did not make any such use of these ants,
though their method of sewing up wounds was scarcely less primitive. In
their case the edges of the wound were drawn together and a long thorn
run through both. A fine thread, made of fibre from the bark of certain
trees, is then wound over both ends of the thorn, in the same way that
sailors wind the spare ends of ropes round the cleats. The thorn is left
in place till the wound heals, and then drawn out in the same way that a
surgeon removes the stitches after more civilized operations.

Next morning we struck camp and resumed our journey, the chief
accompanying me to the boundary of his territory. On the way he told me
that he had had a lot of trouble with the neighbouring tribes,
particularly the people I was going to visit, the Kalyera, with whom he
was in a state of continual warfare. He parted from me with a serious
warning to be very careful, as the people I should next meet were very

We had started about 6 p.m., and about five hours’ march brought us to
the village of the next chief, named Caranja, whose looks I did not like
from the first, as he had a most truculent and treacherous appearance,
so that, although he shook hands with me readily when we met, I did not
trust him, and ordered my men to keep a particularly strict guard, and
forbade them to go into any of the villages. We camped outside, and
nothing of note happened, except that the chief was most interested in
my gun, and asked me to fire a few shots at a tree to show him how it
worked—a request with which I complied.

Starting at daybreak the next morning, the chief himself accompanied me
as guide for some distance, and when beyond his jurisdiction I was
surprised to find that the people had all deserted the villages along
our road. I imagine that what had happened was that the chief had sent
messengers on ahead to say that I was coming to fight them and raid
their country; or, possibly, the reason was that I had now got to the
edge of the Kalyera country, and they thought that I had come to inquire
into their behaviour in killing my people and to demand compensation.
Although we shouted to them as we went along that we had not come to
fight them and waved bundles of grass to show that our intentions were
peaceful, none of them would come near us, and we did not interfere with

All the country round was thickly populated and under cultivation, like
the districts we had already passed through. The chief who had been
guiding us had returned to his own village, and we were making very slow
progress through an unknown country when two natives came in sight, whom
we found had been sent by another chief to guide us to his place. They
said it was not very far away, but the native has very little idea of
distance, and I thought we were never going to arrive at his village. I
knew from experience that a native will lead you on for two or three
days with the assurance that you are close to your destination. Our
guides kept telling us that it was just over the next hill, and when we
had got over that it was always just over the next. I was beginning to
get tired, and thought about camping for the night, when the guides
pointed out a village in the distance, which I could just make out with
my glasses, so we continued our journey, and arrived close to the
village about dusk. There was a lot of shouting and hallooing, but we
did not go in and camped close together outside. Practically every man
was on guard that night, as we knew nothing about the people, and could
not be sure that they would be friendly, but though we heard a lot of
shouting during the night nothing happened, and in the morning the chief
came to see me. As soon as I saw him I liked the look of him. He seemed
a young man, though it is very difficult to tell the age of natives—they
never know it themselves—but I took him to be about thirty. He seemed to
be quite different from any Kikuyu I had ever seen, his features being
more of a European type, and he had not the thick lips of the ordinary
native, whilst his skin was more of a copper colour than black. He also
seemed a good deal more intelligent than the others I had met, and his
people were not in the least afraid, as most of the others had been.

The chief’s name was Jugana-wa-Makura, and he had with him a friend, a
neighbouring chief, named Bartier, and we were soon very friendly
together. Makura brought his old mother to see me—a Masai woman, who
wore a dress of skins, plentifully hung with iron-wire ornaments. The
old lady was very friendly, shaking hands with me, and telling me that
she had heard a lot about the white man, and that it had been her
greatest wish to see one before she died. They gave me a lot of presents
of sheep, and also food for my men, and though I did not allow myself to
be taken off my guard by these professions, I found that they were
absolutely genuine.

Both of these loyal chiefs, unfortunately, paid for their friendship to
the white man with their lives. Some two years after this I came into
the country with an expedition sent by the Government to punish the
Kalyera for some outrages, and called on Jugana-wa-Makura and Bartier
for the assistance of some of their warriors, which was readily given.
After our expedition left the country the Kalyera ambushed both these
chiefs and murdered them for having assisted the Government expedition.
As is usually the custom in such cases, the criminals escaped scot-free,
no steps ever being taken by the Government to find out and punish the

I had had great difficulty in obtaining milk from the previous Kikuyu we
had met, as, being very superstitious, they thought that if I drank the
milk the cow from which it came would die. I found that this
superstitious objection to giving away the milk of their cows prevailed
throughout the Kikuyu country. The people themselves use very little, if
any, milk for food purposes, preferring to allow the calves to have it,
and seldom or never milking the cows themselves, so that butter was
unknown in my time among them, though they may now have been taught to
go in for dairy-farming to some extent. They were at that time, however,
perfectly convinced that to allow a stranger to drink any of their milk
was a sure way of bringing disaster on the cow.

Owing to milking not being a general practice, the cows would never give
their milk unless the calf was near by, so that if the calf died it was
their practice to stuff the skin and place it by the cow when they went
to get any milk.

This chief, however, brought me plenty of milk, and was altogether most
friendly disposed, so we camped there for several days, the natives
coming in every day to see me, and organizing a big dance for my special
benefit. They had heard of my people being killed while going into
Naivasha, and told me that the Kalyera were a bad lot and not long
before had murdered some Government soldiers who had been sent out to
buy food for the people constructing the Uganda Railway.

Being now close to the Kalyera country, I tried to get into touch with
some of the chiefs, but they would not come to see me, only sending a
lot of insulting messages in reply to my requests for interviews, and
saying that if they saw any of my people straying about they would kill
them. They did not attack me, however, but I had to abandon my mission
to them for the present.

The two friendly chiefs brought me in a lot of food, for which I traded
with them, and also several tusks of ivory, which I also acquired.
Unfortunately, my own people could not carry all that I had bought down
to headquarters, and the chief’s people refused to go down with me,
saying that they would be killed on the way back, the other tribes being
hostile to them; so that the food had to be stored until such time as I
could arrange to have it transferred to Karuri’s.

My followers having made friends with the people with whom we had been
staying, we were all very sorry to leave; but it was imperative that we
should return at once, as a rumour had reached me that my people at
headquarters were in trouble, and they had sent a message for me to come
back as quickly as possible. We had hardly got started on the return
journey when it was rumoured among the natives that I had gone on this
expedition especially to see the Kalyera people, and that I was
returning because I was afraid to meet them. Emboldened by this, the
tribe living to the north had attacked my headquarters, killed a lot of
the people, and raided the country, burning the villages, and carrying
off a lot of cattle, sheep, and goats, as well as some of the women. On
hearing this news I hurried back as fast as possible, as I thought it
quite likely that they would burn my place. I got back in time to
prevent any further fighting, and set myself to calm the fears of my
people, who were lamenting the loss of their cattle, and praying me to
get back their women. I found that the whole country was up in arms, and
set to work to find out what was the cause of all the trouble.

It seemed that my own people had been partly the aggressors, and the old
quarrelling had been started again; so I sent out messengers to ask the
other chiefs in the neighbourhood to come in to see me. It is the custom
always to send two messengers together, as no native will travel alone,
and I waited some time, but as neither of the men returned, I supposed
that they had both been murdered. So I moved out and pitched my camp at
one of my trading stations on the boundary of the country, where I had
built a house, which I found had not been interfered with. I hoped, by
staying there a few days, to get into communication with the natives,
with the object of getting the old men of the district to come in for a
shauri. In this I was successful, and we talked over the whole matter of
the raid. They said that they had no wish to fight, but the young
warriors had got out of hand, carrying things their own way. The result
of the palaver was that the women and all the stolen cattle were
returned, with the exception of a few sheep and oxen that had been
eaten, and knowing that my own people had been the aggressors in the
first instance, I did not see that I could take any stronger action in
the matter.

However, this peaceful settlement did not please them, and, coupled with
my failure with the Kalyera, caused a change of feeling towards me; the
people became insolent, and I had to be more than ever on my guard.
Things were getting pretty bad, and it so happened that, just at this
time, I had to call in a rather powerful headman, who had been causing a
good deal of disturbance in the country, to see me; so I sent a
messenger to his village to summon him to my camp. He refused to come,
and sent back an insolent message, which was heard by all the people
round about, and caused a jeering laugh at my expense. This headman was
known as a great warrior, who was said to have slept out in the bush at
night to kill lions with a spear, and was supposed to have killed
several in that way.

I sent further messages to him, but he absolutely refused to come, and
began to send threatening replies. He had a following of about one
hundred fighting men, and it became a standing joke in the country that
he had defied the white man, so that I felt that unless I did something
I should lose my influence in the country; I was also getting ashamed to
face my own people, who were continually asking if I was not going to
bring him in by force. A few days later the matter was brought to a head
by a body of about five hundred fighting men turning up at my camp to
ask me what I proposed to do in the matter. Seeing that they were
thoroughly roused, I said that I would go and bring him in myself. They
all wanted to go with me, but I said that I would go alone, and to show
that I was not afraid of him, I would not even take a gun, but only a
stick or knobkerrie: I took the precaution, however, to have my revolver
in my belt out of sight.

I started off with only about ten men, and when we got within a few
hundred yards of the mutineer’s village, I told the men to stay behind,
while I went on to talk to the headman. They had evidently got news of
my coming, and were waiting for me, as I could see about fifty men, all
fully armed, with the chief in front, drawn up to receive me, and I had
no doubt that others were in ambush near by. The man was a fine big
fellow, every inch a chief, and I knew that I could only hope to succeed
by showing a bold front, bravery being about the only virtue a savage
recognizes. As I advanced alone they appeared to be impressed, and a
grunt of approbation passed round. The crisis had arrived, and I knew
that only sheer bluff could carry me through; so, before the chief could
guess my intention, I sprang on him like a flash, and dealt him a blow
with the knobkerrie which laid him senseless on the ground, at the same
time shouting to his followers to throw down their weapons, as my men
had them covered with their guns, and they would all be shot if they
attempted to resist. Standing over the chief, with my hand on my
revolver, I was ready to face the crowd, but, to my great surprise, they
all threw down their weapons. It must be remembered that I was believed
to possess mysterious powers, which probably accounts in some measure
for their ready submission.

Having made the warriors put all their weapons in a heap, I ordered them
to bring in some sheep and goats which they had stolen, and had the
chief carried to my camp, while the sheep and goats were driven into my
village, the whole of the warriors marching ahead of me till I reached
my own people. After giving them a good feed, I gave them a good talking
to, and dressed the wound on the chief’s head, binding it up with some
sticking-plaster; while, to show that there was no ill-feeling, I
invited his followers to spend the night in my camp, and return to their
own village in the morning.

During the night I heard an awful row, and, rushing out to see what had
happened, I found that the two parties of natives had been sitting round
the fire, drinking njoi, and having imbibed too freely, had started
their quarrels all over again. The old men of the village were fighting
with the chief I had brought in, who was defending himself with the flat
of his sword. My appearance speedily put an end to the disturbance, and,
taking the chief into my own quarters, I ordered my men not to allow any
one to go near him. No further trouble occurred during the night, and
the following morning the chief returned with his own people to their
village. We parted the best of friends, and for the remainder of my stay
in the country he was one of my best men.

Having re-established my influence, I was able to continue my trading,
and collected large quantities of food, which I took down from time to
time to Naivasha. The possession of cloth and other trade goods seemed
gradually to have a civilizing effect on the natives, and they would
listen attentively while I told them of our Queen and Government, the
big cities of the white people, and the ships which crossed the seas.
They were more ready to trade than formerly, and I found no difficulty
in obtaining food, which they were only too ready to bring in, in order
to procure the cloth and other trade goods with which I purchased it
from them.

My chief enemies were the rain-makers and witch doctors, who were
jealous of my power, and disliked me because I did not show them proper
respect. For anything that went wrong they blamed the white man. When
the natives wanted rain, and grumbled because it did not come, these
witch doctors said that I was the cause of the drought, and I found that
they were gradually stirring up trouble all round me, and trying by
every means in their power to get me killed. They knew that they were
losing their influence and were not looked up to as they used to be
owing to my presence, and they would have done anything to get me out of
the country. Of course, they lived by trading on the superstitions of
the natives. One of them in particular was believed to have great
supernatural powers, and had a reputation for being able to disappear at
night, when he was supposed to go to see their god, Ngai. Some support
was given to this belief by an incident which was said to have happened
one night. A number of the old men were drinking njoi in a hut, when a
terrible storm came on. The witch doctor was one of the party. They were
all sitting in a circle round the fire, when suddenly there was a
tremendous flash of lightning, and the witch doctor, who was supposed to
be still sitting among them, dropped through the roof into the middle of
the circle. The cunning rascal had evidently crept out of the hut
unnoticed by the others, and choosing the moment of the lightning flash,
had dropped through into the midst of them; while they, not having seen
him leave the circle, were, of course, amazed to see him appear in this
fashion through the roof, and quite believed his explanation that he had
just come down from their god on the streak of lightning! In spite of
the witch doctors, however, the natives were, on the whole, very
friendly to me, wishing me to stay in the country.

Things being once more in a fairly settled state, I thought I should
like to make a trip north, towards Mount Kenia, to try to make friends
with some of the chiefs living in those parts. Wagombi, the powerful
chief who lived at the foot of Mount Kenia, had a most murderous
reputation, and was reported to be very treacherous. Several Arab and
Swahili expeditions were reported to have been completely wiped out by
him, while the King of Tato, another neighbouring chieftain, a man named
Karkerrie, had rendered his name redoubtable by similar murders. I
gathered, however, that there was a lot of ivory in that part of the
country, and being also anxious to open more food stations, I was not to
be scared by the ugly rumours I had heard. Another reason why I wished
to make this journey was that I was anxious to see the place where
Gibbons’s safari had been cut up. So I gathered all the information I
could about the district, and talked the matter over with Karuri and his
people. They were, without exception, altogether opposed to the
undertaking, even the old men seeming to be afraid, and saying that we
were bound to be all killed, whilst one of the witch doctors prophesied
that I should be killed and never return, and even went through an
elaborate ceremony to prove that it would happen. At his request I went
into the bush and got three sticks, which I gave to him. Having first
waved them round his head, chanting “Lu-lu-lu” all the time, he threw
them on the ground, and then, picking up each stick separately, he shook
it, first taking hold of one end then of the other. When he had finished
this performance he said he could tell me what was going to happen,
which, according to him, was that I should have a lot of trouble with
the people of the district to which I was going, and therefore had
better not go. If I did he assured me that I should certainly be killed
and never return.

Of course my people heard what the witch doctor had to say, and in the
face of his predictions did not want to go with me. I pointed out that
so far nothing had happened to me during the time I had been in the
country, nor had any harm befallen any of my personal servants; but my
arguments were of no use, they declined to be persuaded, and begged me
to give up the idea, saying that they would bring me all the food I
could want and that I need not search anywhere else for it. I told them
that I wanted ivory, and they hunted up a few tusks which I did not know
they had, and these I bought; but I was still resolved to go, so after
much persuasion they said that they would go if I would get more rifles,
as the people living round Mount Kenia were supposed to have a lot of
rifles. They also told me that the trade goods I had were not suitable
for that part, where they would prefer brass and iron wire to cloth and
beads. I thought, therefore, that my best plan would be to take down my
ivory and the food I had collected, and when I had disposed of them, to
make a trip down to the coast myself for more trade goods. I also wished
to ask the Government authorities to let me have some rifles, so I went
down to Naivasha and delivered the food and ivory; then, finding that
the railway was approaching nearly as far up-country as Nairobi, which
would enable me to take my men down to the coast without much trouble,
after transacting my business I entrained with my savage followers for
Mombasa. They were much impressed with the evidences of civilization,
particularly with the railway engine, which they thought was alive,
remarking that it seemed in a fever and wanted a drink. Arriving at
Mombasa, they were equally astonished at the sea and the ships, never
having seen either before.

I was able to buy all the trade goods I required, and having finished
that part of my business, I paid a visit to the Sub-Commissioner to ask
him to allow me to have some rifles for self-protection. He absolutely
refused, repeating what he had said when I first came to East Africa,
that white men were not wanted in the country. I pointed out to him that
the Arab and Swahili traders possessed rifles, to which he replied that
they had not obtained them with official sanction! Such was the class of
administrator approved by Downing Street for the opening up of a new

Before leaving Mombasa, where I stayed only a short time, I took the
Kikuyu on board a ship, which was a remarkable experience for these
people, who had spent all their lives in the mountains and had never
even seen the sea, let alone a ship, before. If there was one thing that
puzzled my Kikuyu followers more than another in Mombasa, it was,
perhaps, the fact that everything had to be paid for. In their own
country, when any Swahili traders came to a village they were accustomed
to give them a sheep for food, and never thought of asking payment, but
here, among the Swahili themselves, they found that they could get
nothing unless they were prepared to pay for it; above all, they were
astonished that any one should have to pay for lodgings, as it was the
invariable custom among them to set apart, or more often build, a hut
for the use of any stranger whom they welcomed to their villages. They
were very soon tired of Mombasa, appearing to be homesick, so we
returned to Nairobi, where we camped for a few days, and during my stay
bought some cattle, which my people told me would be useful for trading
with the natives near Mount Kenia.

                              CHAPTER VII

Back again in the Kikuyu country—Kalyera raid—Effect of a mule on the
native nerve—Does it eat men?—Prepare for a new expedition—Dress my men
in khaki, and march under the Union Jack—A hostile medicine man—Around
Mount Kenia—Native drinks—Treacherous native attack on my camp—Lucky
capture of the hostile chief saves the camp—Pursuit after stolen
cattle—Another attack on my camp—Change of attitude of natives on
account of rain—Peace again—Bury my ivory—The forest slopes of Mount
Kenia—Wagombi’s—A powerful chief—Precautions—Establish myself and erect
a fort

The return journey was accomplished with considerable difficulty. On
arriving at my old camp at Menzini, where the path branched off to the
Kalyera country, an attack was made on the men herding the cattle, with
the result that several were killed and some of the cattle driven off. I
was lying down in my tent when the news was brought to me, so turning
out at once, I gave orders for a mule—which I had bought at Nairobi and
given into the charge of one of my men, with orders to be always ready
to saddle up at a moment’s notice—to be brought, and mounting quickly, I
set off in pursuit of the cattle. The attack had been made while they
were being taken down to drink at the river, and their tracks were
plainly visible, though the cattle were nowhere in sight. Galloping
forward, I caught sight of them just as they were about to enter the
bamboo forest, with about a hundred Kalyera driving them on. As I fired
my revolver, and came galloping towards them on the mule—which was a
kind of animal that they had never seen before—they bolted in a fright.
My men had been following me up in the rear, and we drove the cattle
back to the camp, deeming it unwise to attempt to follow the Kalyera up
through the bamboo forest. After this we reached headquarters at
Karuri’s without further incident.

When Karuri heard that we were coming he sent men out to meet us, and
our return was the signal for great rejoicings. My mule came in for a
special share of attention, and all sorts of funny questions were asked
about it, such as whether it ate people—the general impression being
that it was some sort of a lion—indeed, all the natives came in to see
it, and a report was spread about the country that I went riding about
on a big lion. I had brought Karuri a kettle, and a cup and saucer for
making tea, of which he was very fond, and he was delighted with them,
and, of course, I had also brought presents for the other chiefs.

During the next week or so I spent the time preparing for my trip north.
All the natives were now anxious to go with me, but I decided to pick
only about one hundred of the best men, and as I had by this time about
thirty rifles, I dressed the men to whom they were entrusted in khaki
suits, which I had bought on my last visit to Nairobi, and of which the
wearers were very proud. I had also brought a Union Jack back with me,
which I took at the head of my caravan on all my later expeditions. The
Kikuyu warriors carried their usual weapons, and the trade goods were
divided among one hundred porters, whom I loaded lightly so that we
could move quickly if the occasion required.

The men looked very smart in their new khaki uniforms, and with the
fifty or so Kikuyu warriors, armed with swords, spears, and shields, and
the long line of porters and camp-followers, it was quite an imposing
expedition which set out from Karuri’s village one morning. The
warriors, armed with native weapons, acted as an advance guard, with
myself next, riding the mule; immediately behind were ten soldiers, as
my special bodyguard, and following these were the porters, with more
soldiers distributed among them. A little farther to the rear were the
camp-followers, followed by the cattle, then ten more soldiers, and
behind all, a rearguard of fifty Kikuyu warriors.

With orders to keep close together the safari marched out in single
file, the Union Jack flying at the head, while Karuri, with the rest of
the natives who remained behind, gave us a great send off, though the
old witch doctor shook his head as if he still had misgivings as to the
success of the enterprise.

The first day we camped at my old food station, where we had defeated
the Masai raiders, at the top of the mountain, and resuming the march
the next morning, we went through the Chinga country. The natives kept
out of the way, though we could see groups of them standing on the hills
watching us, and though we shouted to them that we were friends, they
only replied with threats, saying that they did not want the white man
in their country. All the villages were deserted, and we quite failed to
get into touch with the people at all, until we saw some of the old men
sitting on a hill-side, to whom I sent one of my men with a present of
cloth. He went unarmed and waving a bunch of grass as a sign of peace,
and they allowed him to approach them. After he had given each of them a
present of cloth, two of the old men accompanied him back to my camp,
and when the others saw that they were treated as friends they also came
in. I amused them by showing them a looking-glass and several other
things that they had never seen before, and explained to them that my
object in coming into the country was to buy food. I told them that my
idea was to make peace among all the natives, as complaints were coming
in to me every day of raids and murders. It was very difficult to
understand from their stories whether the things complained of had
happened fifty years before or only the previous day, so I advised them
to let all those matters drop and start again with a clean slate from
now, and I told them that I would do my best to settle any differences
that arose in the future. At the same time, I impressed upon them that
they must also help me towards this end, and not go raiding and killing
each other, telling them that it was only savages that settle their
quarrels in that way. To speak of them as not being savages flattered
their vanity, and a remarkable thing I frequently noticed was that as
soon as a native became friends with me, or with my followers, he
immediately called all the rest of the natives savages. It was very
laughable in some instances. I have had one of my own men come to tell
me that some _washenzi_ (savages) wanted to see me, and on going out to
see who they were I would perhaps find that the so-called savages were
the man’s own father and other relatives.

I saw that what I had said about being friendly had impressed them, and
in the meantime my followers had got hold of them and were explaining
what my policy had done in their own country, so that they could see
that I was to be trusted, and consequently made friends with me. After
dusk they went home, and it was evident that they had given a good
report of me, as the next day the two principal chiefs of the district,
Bartier and Henga, came to see me, with about fifty followers. They were
both young men and very intelligent for savages, dressed in skins, but
wearing no special finery. I gave them a red blanket and a fez
each—which was my usual present to chiefs—and they immediately put them
on, wearing the blanket over one shoulder like a cloak, the ends being
tied on the other shoulder, so that only one side of the body was
covered. The effect, however, was rather picturesque, something like the
old Roman toga. They were very pleased with their new garb, but it had
the result of getting them into trouble at times with the other natives,
who looked upon it as a badge of their friendship with the white man.

They stayed in the camp nearly all day, and were very friendly,
explaining the features of the country we were going through, and
warning me against the people of the district of Tato, and their chief
Karkerrie, of whom they gave a very bad account. I asked them if any
white men had been there before, and they said no, though they had heard
of white men going through the country a very long time ago, but not
that part of it.

They brought me some food and told me that they had some ivory, and they
brought me the measurements of several tusks, which they promised to
bring in the next day; but although we waited, expecting the ivory, it
did not come. They were all still very friendly, however, and so I
suggested holding a Pigasangi, but as this was more of a national than a
local affair, they said that it could not be done unless they first
talked it over with their other people, so I told them that we might be
able to arrange for the ceremony on my homeward journey, and also asked
them to have the ivory ready so that I could buy it then.

That day we had a visit from the chief rainmaker of the Kikuyu country,
a tall, fine-looking man, who lived some distance from there, but seemed
to have a roving commission and to be able to travel through any part of
the country without being molested, all the natives being afraid of him,
as they believed that he could bring the rain or stop its coming at
will. I very well remember his stalking in, because he was wearing a red
blanket and fez which I had given him. On this occasion he arrived, like
the villain of the play, just as things were going well, and at one
swoop destroyed all my castles in the air by telling the people that it
would do them no good to make friends with the white man, as it would
stop the rain and bring various other misfortunes upon them. I took no
notice, but the natives evidently took him seriously and I had a lot of
trouble with him later on.

Striking camp early the next morning, we trekked farther north towards
Mount Kenia, where the big chief Wagombi lived. The country continued
practically the same, thickly populated and well cultivated, while here
and there we could see the sheep and cattle grazing quietly and the
people working in their _shambas_ (gardens). It was hard to believe that
I was in the midst of savages, and that any minute they might be up and
cutting one another’s throats and my own too; the scene was so peaceful
that you could have almost imagined yourself amidst the quiet
surroundings of an English landscape.

We had halted to give the men a rest, and I was having some lunch under
the shade of a tree—my practice being to start the day with only a cup
of coffee in the early morning, making my lunch about midday my first
meal—when two or three natives were brought in, who told me that they
had been sent by a big chief, who was also a very powerful witch doctor,
named Muga-wa-diga,[11] who begged me to come and camp in his village.
Of course I was only too glad to meet another friendly chief, and asked
them to take me to his village, where we arrived quite early in the


Footnote 11:

  The name Muga-wa-diga means Muga, the son of Diga, the syllable _wa_
  being the equivalent of the Russian _vitch_ or the Scandinavian _sen_,
  as shown in Peter Petrovitch or Peter Petersen. In the same way, this
  syllable is prefixed to the names of tribes, as in Wa-Kikuyu (the sons
  of the Kikuyu), Wakamba, though in the latter case it has now become
  an integral part of the name.


The chief was an old man, very active for his years, and far more
intelligent than the majority of the natives I had met so far. His
appearance marked him out as a typical witch doctor, and I had never
before seen any chief dressed as he was. His costume was composed
chiefly of the skins of wild cats, and he wore a hat made of the skin of
the colobus monkey; round his ankles were the usual iron rattles, while
two small boys who were with him carried calabashes containing various
medicines. He had evidently started off in something of a hurry to meet
me on the road, and came up to me without any hesitation, shaking hands
in a dignified sort of way, as if the meeting with a white man was an
everyday occurrence. After we had exchanged greetings, he conducted me
to a suitable place to camp near the village, and also introduced me to
his wives and children, which I thought rather extraordinary for a
native meeting a white man for the first time. I could see that he was
very anxious to make friends with me, and he got his people to assist
mine in building the camp, at the same time telling us to be very
careful when leaving the village to collect wood or bring in water, as
some of the natives were not to be trusted, and he felt himself
responsible that no one should get killed while staying at his place.

Of course I was always on my guard, and ordered my men never to go far
from the camp without taking some rifles with them, especially as I
found that my friend the chief rain-maker had been there before me,
spreading rumours of what would happen if they had any dealings with me.
But Muga-wa-diga was evidently not on good terms with the rain-maker,
being jealous of his power, and this accounted for his being so willing
to be friendly towards me.

Finding it a good camp, and being able to obtain plenty of food, I
decided to stay there for some days, and in the meantime to try to
gather more information about the country and people farther on, while
at the same time getting to know more of the people among whom we were

The chief came to my camp nearly every day, and I got a lot of useful
information from him. One day he brought his medicines with him, and
explained all about them, which gave me a good insight into the art of
working magic. Medicine, as we understand it, is not the kind of
medicine used by the witch doctor of East Africa, who relies more upon
incantations than upon the potency of any drugs to doctor the complaints
of those who seek his aid, the ailments he is expected to cure being
more of a mental than a physical nature, as, when a native complains
that some one has given him poisoned medicine, he really means that some
one has put some spell on him to cause something to happen to him. Such
is the superstitious nature of the savage that, if one has been told
that he is to die at the end of three days, he will actually accept the
statement as literally true, and it would have such an effect upon him
that, unless the witch doctor could convince him that he had made some
medicine powerful enough to counteract the influence of the spell cast
over him, he would certainly die at the time stated.

The witch doctor also professed to be able to say what was going to
happen to any one who sought the information from him, the mode of
procedure in this case being to spread a leopard skin on the ground, and
turn out upon it the contents of a calabash containing a lot of stones,
lion-claws, arrow-heads, &c. These were counted out in sections—somewhat
after the style of the game children play with plum-stones in
England—and from the balance remaining after the full number of even
sections had been completed he read the signs. An arrow-head perhaps
foretold that the inquirer would be killed with an arrow, a lion’s claw
that he would be killed by a lion, and so on. They had also medicines
for the treatment of physical ailments, and antidotes for poisons.

During my visit to Mombasa I had bought a medicine-chest, which I always
carried with me, so I gave the chief a taste of the different tabloids,
&c. I found that he was very fond of pepper and salt, and it was
surprising to see him take a handful of pepper and eat it up without

The natives were intensely interested in everything I possessed, and
were greatly mystified by the trick of drawing the heat from the sun, by
means of a lens from my field-glasses focused on their hands, and it was
remarkable how some of the warriors would stand the pain without making
a sign, letting the flesh burn without appearing to notice it.

When I approached the chief on the question of a Pigasangi, he promised
to talk the matter over with his people, and suggested that we might
also arrange for the ceremony of blood brotherhood.

Whilst staying here I sent a present to Karkerrie, the chief of Tato,
and also one to Wagombi. We were a good day’s march, in different
directions, from each of these chiefs, and I told my messengers to say
that I was coming into their country on a peaceful mission. Muga-wa-diga
said that he would accompany me to Tato, where, he told me, there was a
lot of ivory; so I decided to go to Tato first, and then go round to
Wagombi’s country.

While at Muga-wa-diga’s I made the acquaintance of a young chief named
Katuni, or the Lion, who was by far the tallest Kikuyu I had ever
seen—being considerably over six feet in height—and got quite friendly
with him, and he brought me, among other things, a lot of honey. All the
Kikuyu keep bees, and you can see the hives hanging on the trees,
sometimes five or six on a tree, all over the country. The hive is made
out of a log of wood, hollowed out and shaped like a barrel, and the
ends are headed up just as a barrel would be. They are about five feet
long by eighteen inches in diameter. The natives ferment the honey to
make a drink tasting very much like sharp cider, which they call njohi,
and on which they manage to get very drunk, as it is highly
intoxicating. It is generally made in very large quantities when the
honey is gathered, and the headman of the village sends out an
invitation to all the old men of the district to come in and have a big
drinking bout, which generally ends in a drunken orgie, when they all
start quarrelling and fighting with each other. The drink is kept in big
calabashes, and the headman first pours out a hornful, which he spills
on the ground, at the same time saying “Ngai,” meaning “To God”- -a
ceremony reminding one of the ancient libations to the gods. This
function over, the headman first drinks himself, to prove to his guests
that there is no poison in the brew, and then the general drinking
starts. A peculiar and somewhat unpleasant habit of theirs is to spit on
their chests after drinking, but the reason for the practice no one
could tell me.

I found a similar kind of drink to njohi among the Abyssinians, who call
it _tej_, and the Kikuyu also have another drink, not quite so
intoxicating as the njohi, and made from sugar-cane instead of honey.

By this time the messengers whom I had sent to Karkerrie with presents
had returned, so we packed up and moved on towards Tato, Katuni deciding
to accompany me, as well as Muga-wa-diga. The country continued thickly
inhabited, and I noticed that the people seemed to own more stock than
elsewhere. They did not take much notice of us, except on one occasion,
when about half a dozen old men, who had been drinking njohi, greeted
us, as we came round the shoulder of a hill, with a shower of arrows.

Arriving at last at Karkerrie’s village, we were met there by the chief
himself and some of the elders of the tribe. The country had changed
somewhat as we neared Tato, being less mountainous, and not so thickly
cultivated, but the people owned enormous herds of cattle, sheep, and
goats. They seemed more like the Masai than the Kikuyu, and undoubtedly
have a good deal of Masai blood in their veins. From the reports I had
heard as to their being such a bad lot, I was quite prepared for them to
try to prevent my entering their country, but, possibly because they had
heard a lot about me, and also on account of my having the medicine man
Muga-wa-diga and the chief Katuni with me, they received me in a
friendly way; so, finding a good place near the chief’s village, I
pitched my camp.

I had brought about fifteen head of cattle with me, and, of course, had
a lot of trade goods, so I opened up negotiations with the chief for
some ivory. The value of cattle varies right through Africa, depending
on the number of sheep in the country. Among the Kikuyu a cow is
reckoned to be worth twenty sheep, whilst among the Caramoja and Sambura
tribes—whom I visited later—it goes up as high as sixty sheep. I
exchanged the cattle at the rate of twenty sheep for each, and when the
natives came in with the ivory, I would give, say, the value of twenty
sheep for a tusk measuring two hands. Ten rings of iron wire, or so many
hands of cloth, equalled a sheep; so that if I bought ivory to the value
of twenty sheep, I would give perhaps five sheep only and the rest in
trade goods.

The iron wire used in these transactions was about the thickness of an
ordinary telegraph wire, while the rings, ten of which were the value of
a sheep, would be about nine inches in diameter, ten of them equivalent
in value to about a shilling of our money. The standard value of a hand
of ivory, in Karkerrie’s country, was thus ten sheep, or a hundred rings
of iron wire, or sixty hands of cloth. In Wagombi’s country the prices
were about half these, so that there a tusk weighing from twenty-five to
thirty pounds could be bought for about a sovereign and, even allowing
for the cost of transport, &c., at an average price of about nine
shillings per pound there was a fairly good profit to be made on the
deal. In the Wanderobo country, where most of the ivory was in the form
of the heavier tusks of the bull elephant—that at Karkerrie’s and
Wagombi’s being mostly from the females—I usually gave a bullock for a
tusk weighing from eighty to ninety pounds.

A few details of the native system of measurement may be of interest.
The hand, which is their standard of lineal measure, varies with the
commodity to which it is applied, but in no case is it the same as our
hand of four inches. In selling ivory the hand is the length of the
forearm from the elbow, with the fist doubled. In measuring ivory a
liberal allowance is made for the hollow portion at the root of the
tusk,[12] and also for the point, neither of which are reckoned in the
length. In buying or selling cloth the hand is practically the same as
our yard, being measured from the centre of the chin to the tip of the
fingers, with the arm stretched out.


Footnote 12:

  The elephant tusk is more or less hollow for a third of its length at
  the thick end, measured when extracted from the skull.


Things were progressing very favourably, and there was any amount of
ivory to be had, and I was buying it at the rate of two or three tusks a
day, and at eight to ten shillings a pound each tusk would be worth from
£10 to £15. I was at first at a loss to account for so much ivory being
in the country, as the natives there do not hunt the elephant, but I
found that the Wanderobo tribe, who live on the outskirts of the
country, are great hunters; in fact, they live entirely by hunting; and
the elephants wounded by them, and getting away, seek cover in the
forest, where many of them die of their wounds, the wounds being made by
poisoned weapons. The Kikuyu, going into the forest to find wild honey,
find the ivory, and as no trader had been to the country to buy it
before, this accounted for the quantity to be had on my first visit.
These facts may also account for the remarkable stories one comes across
sometimes of “elephant cemeteries.”[13] Certainly, in a long and varied
experience of elephant-hunting in various parts of Africa I have never
come across anything but the slaughter caused by the hand of man which
could account for these so-called cemeteries, nor have any of the
elephant-hunters I have met—and I know all the chief ones—been able to
confirm the “cemetery” yarn.


Footnote 13:

  A traveller some years since, having come across large quantities of
  elephants’ skulls and bones collected together in one place, started
  the theory that elephants came to particular spots to die. The
  probability is that such places are scenes of the destruction of a
  herd by slaughter. (See P. H. G. Powell-Cotton’s “In Unknown Africa,”


One day Karkerrie and his elders came across to see me, being curious to
know all about the white man and his various possessions. Among other
things in my outfit, I had brought with me a musical clock, which,
instead of striking the hour, played a tune, and this I had in my tent.
After I had been talking to the chief for some time, the hour came round
and the clock struck up a lively tune. They could not understand this,
and thought there must be magic about it, so I told them that I could
make it speak whenever I wished, and, unnoticed, moved the lever. When
the hands came round to the hour, I said, “Now I will make it play a
tune.” It so happened that rain had been expected, and as the clock was
playing a few drops came. Looking up into the sky, they saw the rain,
and at once turned to me and asked if the clock could make rain, so I
said, “Certainly, it makes rain all right.” They said that it must be a
great thing if it could make rain, and seeing that these things seemed
to amuse them, I showed them a few sleight-of-hand tricks—never dreaming
that they took what I said seriously.

The next day Karkerrie turned up, and said that rain was absolutely
necessary, and I must make some for them. I said that the best thing
they could do was to bring in plenty of ivory, and go on trading, and
the rain would come of itself, as it was not possible for anybody—white
or black—to make it rain. They kept bothering me every day, however, to
make it rain, and I kept putting them off with the excuse that the rain
was coming all right. But, unfortunately, it did not come, and from
believing that I could make rain they turned to thinking that I was
keeping it away with the clock, and things began to look threatening.
The natives would not bring in any more ivory, and I heard rumours that
the warriors were coming to attack my camp. In the meantime, unknown to
me, there was a plot on foot to murder me, in which, as I found out
afterwards, one of my own men was mixed up. It afterwards appeared that
he was a native of the very district in which we now were, but had been
taken away in some raid to where I had first met with him.

None of the natives came near me, but I knew by the singing, and
shouting, and feasting, that something unusual was in the wind, and took
the precaution of having every man on guard, and slept myself fully
dressed, with my rifle handy, so as to be ready for any emergency. One
pitch-dark night about eight or nine o’clock, a day or two after I had
noticed the change of attitude on the part of the natives, the crisis
came. There had been an ominous stillness around the camp for some time,
when suddenly the air was rent by a wild uproar, and we heard the
war-cry of the tribe spreading from village to village, mingled with the
shrieking of women and children. Over all the din the hideous howl of
the hyenas could be distinguished. These animals seem to realize when
there is a feast of human flesh in store for them, and at the sound of
the native war-cry, which warns them of a fight being at hand, they are
always on the alert. The natives never bury their dead, but leave them
for the hyenas to eat.

All doubts as to the object of this demonstration were removed by the
cries of “Kill the white man!” which could be heard above the other
sounds resounding in the stillness of the night, and it may be imagined
that my feelings were somewhat mixed—planted there out in the wilds as I
was, with a crowd of yelling savages anxious to cut my throat swarming
round my camp. The darkness added a good deal to the natural feeling of
uneasiness, and I certainly did not feel very sanguine as to the outcome
of this hostile demonstration; but all that I could do was to see that a
strict watch was being kept, and make the best preparations I could to
keep the enemy out if they should attack the camp. It was quite useless
to think of packing up and clearing out, as we should have been pretty
certain to have lost our way in the darkness, and have run a greater
risk of being killed in the morning. Further, to have shown the white
feather in this way now would have meant abandoning my project of going
up into the country, and I was by no means disposed to give up my
project. So I set to work as well as I could to build a kind of fort,
using the boxes of trade goods, and anything else I could get, to make
barricades. Having got all my people inside the enclosure, I warned them
not to move out of it on any consideration, telling them not to be
afraid, as we should come out of it all right. All the spare ammunition
was placed ready to hand, and we were prepared for the attack when it
should come.

In the meantime, the uproar among the natives had died down and given
place to an almost oppressive stillness, only broken now and then by a
faint rustling, which told us that the savages were moving about just
outside the fort, and, although we could not see them, we instinctively
felt that we were being surrounded. The sensation of knowing that the
enemy were creeping up all round us was a good deal more trying to the
nerves than all the previous noise and shouting had been, and it was
difficult to remain inactive as the time dragged on and no move was made
against us. I kept the men at work, strengthening the fort, and while
they were thus engaged word was brought to me that the chief, Karkerrie,
had been seen, fully armed, going to join a body of the natives who were
collected some distance away. Acting on the spur of the moment, I called
a couple of men, and made my way quietly out of the fort, with the
object of intercepting him, if possible. I was just in time to waylay
him before he moved off, and jumping on him before he was aware of my
presence, I made him a prisoner, and carried him back to the fort. This
was a piece of rare good-fortune, and my spirits rose in consequence.
Waiting for the attack, however, was weary, monotonous work, so I went
round to each man separately, to give him a word of encouragement, and
especially to pass away the time. It was then that I found that one of
my men was missing from his post, and it was soon evident that he had
deserted. In the morning this man had been on guard over my tent, and I
had then noticed that his bearing was careless, and had taken him to
task for his lax appearance. I had trained all my men to do things in a
soldierly manner, and the leisurely way in which he was moving about had
attracted my attention. On my speaking to him, and telling him to walk
about properly, and not to go slouching along as he was then doing, he
smiled in a way that annoyed me, so I took his rifle away from him,
telling him that he would have to carry a load, as he was not fit for a
soldier. It was the memory of this incident that made me think of the
fellow, and miss him when I was going the round of the sentries, and
though I made inquiries, no one seemed to know where he was. I thought,
at the moment, that he had deserted on account of my taking his rifle
from him, and gave no more thought to the matter.

The night dragged on, without any attack being made, and about four or
five o’clock in the morning we could tell, by the different noises
heard, and the sound of whispering that frequently reached us, that we
were surrounded by Karkerrie’s people, who were only waiting for the
first peep of dawn to blot us all out. It was evident that the critical
moment was at hand, and that it was time for me to act in some way; so I
spoke to Karkerrie, telling him that we were surrounded by his people,
and that immediately they attacked us, or even fired into the camp, he
would be the first man to die. To further convince him that I was
thoroughly in earnest, I placed my revolver to his head, and told him
that at the first sign of an attack I should fire. The chief had a
pretty good regard for his own skin, and, being quite satisfied that I
should carry out my threat, he at once shouted to his followers, and
told them of the position he was in. Fortunately, his words, to all
appearance, had the desired effect, though the Kikuyu were at first
considerably surprised to find that their chief was inside the fort, and
were, no doubt, badly at a loss to account for his presence there. He
had, however, evidently sufficient power over them for his orders to be
respected, and they gradually drew off, and things quieted down once
again. When daylight came, we could tell by the spoor on the ground, and
the way everything had been trodden down, that the fort must have been
surrounded by thousands of natives during the night.

Karkerrie having assured me that no further attack should be made, and
repeated his professions of friendship, I set him at liberty, and things
resumed their normal aspect. To see the natives going about as usual
made it difficult to realize that I and my people had been so nearly
wiped out. Nevertheless, I did not trust the chief, and had spies
secretly watching his movements, and ready to warn me of the slightest
sign of treachery. This same Karkerrie, soon after the country was taken
over by the Government, finding that the new Administration were
apparently unable to cope with the raiding of Wagombi and some of the
other chiefs, took advantage of the apparent slackness of the
Administration to attack a safari belonging to some Indian traders, and
looted their goods. But in this instance he had gone a little too far,
and an expedition was sent up to capture him, and he was deported to
Kismayu, a hot, unhealthy spot on the coast. He did not long survive the
effects of the climate, and the change in position in life from a
powerful autocratic chief to a closely guarded prisoner. There is now a
fort and Government station at his old place at Nyeri, where I had first
come across him.

Although the clock had undoubtedly played a great part in provoking the
natives to attack me, yet it must be remembered, in the first place,
that they were very much averse to any white man coming into their
country; and, further, being boundary natives—that is, natives living on
the boundary of the country—they were naturally much more warlike than
the tribes farther in the interior. They were used to fighting
practically every day of their lives, and accustomed to resent the
coming of any strangers into their country. The manner of my coming
among them, so quietly, with the chief Katuni, and Muga-wa-diga, the
witch doctor, had made them, for the moment, overlook their natural
antipathy to a stranger, and they hardly knew how to attack me. They
probably regretted having allowed me to come into the country so
quietly, and the incident of the clock gave them the excuse for which
they were looking to vent their natural enmity towards the stranger on
me. This uprising had also happened before I had been able to get
thoroughly acquainted with them, and consequently I had acquired no
influence over them. I found that they had actually arranged a plot to
kill me, which was to have been started by the man who had deserted from
my camp. How it was to have been carried out I never learned, but it is
most probable that he was to shoot me, and the fact of my having taken
his rifle away upset all their plans. Certainly they had sufficient
inducement to wish to get me out of the way, as many of them, no doubt,
had cast covetous eyes on the quantity of trade goods and cattle I had
with me. They would not have hesitated to kill me for such a store of
loot, as they were accustomed to kill Arab traders passing through the
country. I had not omitted to show them everything I had for trade, as
an inducement to them to bring in the ivory. They naturally all took a
great fancy to my possessions, but they had not all got ivory to trade
for them, and an attack would have given a splendid excuse to loot the
whole outfit.

I pitched my camp again as usual, and went about as if nothing had
happened, and the natives came to trade, and mixed with my people as
before; but I was never off my guard, and always carried my revolver
with me wherever I went.

Going on with my trading, I sent two or three cows out in different
directions to be exchanged for sheep. It may have been a foolish thing
to do, but I let the cows go out of my camp without sending any of my
own men with them. I had done the same thing before, and the sheep had
always been brought in, and it never occurred to me that it might not be
so again; but on this occasion it happened otherwise: the sheep did not
come in, and the natives refused to return the cattle. I was rather at a
loss how to act, I had such a lot of ivory in the camp. I did not know
whether it would be best to leave the camp and go after the cattle, or
what to do. Whatever I did, however, must be done quickly, so I decided
to leave a few men in camp—about ten askari and fifty Kikuyu—and go
after the cattle. The most remarkable thing about the affair was that
the cattle had been taken to exchange for sheep in charge of Karkerrie’s
own men, and his son, and some of the men who went with him, had come
back wounded, saying that they had lost the cattle. It was therefore now
for me to find out what had really happened, and to recover the cattle.

The wounded men were not fit to go out to show me the place where the
fight had taken place, but another of Karkerrie’s men offered to come
with me and do so, so I saddled up my mule, and started off ahead of the
main body of my men to the scene of the fight. On arriving there I found
the place absolutely deserted, but, standing on a hill some little
distance away, shouting and defying me, was a crowd of natives, who,
however, did not attempt to come any nearer. As my own temper by this
time was pretty well worked up, I pushed on till I got pretty close to
them. They did not shift, so I slackened my pace to allow my own men to
come up, and then advanced together to within about one hundred paces of
them. Seeing, from their attitude and gestures, that they were preparing
for a rush down on us, we fired a volley into them; several were killed,
and a good many others must have been wounded. This apparently satisfied
them, and they did not attempt to put up a fight, but ran away, shouting
for their friends to help them to kill us. Realizing that it was useless
to try to get the cows back from these people, and feeling rather uneasy
about my own camp, I thought it advisable to return and see what was
going on there; so I hurried back, and on nearing the camp I heard a lot
of shouting and row going on. Being on my mule, I was able to push on
quicker, and got ahead of the rest to see what was the matter, my men
following as fast as they could. At the same time, I kept a sharp look
out as I went on either side, in case there might be an ambush, and at
intervals I fired my revolver into the bushes. On getting in sight of
the camp, I found it was besieged by a crowd of howling savages, who, I
soon discovered, were not Karkerrie’s men, but some natives from another
tribe. Seeing me approach, and hearing my shout to encourage my men,
they ceased the attack, and cleared off promptly into the bush. I found
that two or three of my men had been slightly wounded by arrows, but
none had been killed; while the other side had suffered pretty severely,
quite a number of them having been killed. It appeared that these
natives had heard of my absence, and thought it would be a good
opportunity to attack the camp and get some loot. They had come upon it
in a solid mass, and my men had only just managed to keep them at bay
till we came up; in fact, the camp was practically surrounded when I got
there, and it was impossible for the defenders to have held out much
longer. Fortunately, I returned in time to prevent the enemy entering
the camp, or all would have been lost.

The unfriendly natives having made themselves scarce, we settled down
into camp again, and once more things began to go along in the old
routine, as if we had had no unusual happenings.

That day the long-expected rain came, and with it a remarkable change in
the manner of the people towards me. The day after they came in with
lots of ivory and brought me presents of sheep and goats, telling me
that I was a very great man, as I could fight and also make rain. They
firmly believed that I was responsible for the coming of the rain, and
asked me to live there altogether, offering to build a house for me and
do anything I wished if I would only stay among them. Of course, I told
them that I could not stay with them, and soon after brought my visit to
Karkerrie to a close.

Having a lot of ivory, which I did not want to carry about the country
with me, I secretly buried it at the edge of the forest, my intention
being to go on to Wagombi, the big chief living at the foot of Mount
Kenia. Before I left all the natives were on the best of terms with me,
and said that they were willing to Pigasangi, while the chief Karkerrie
expressed his willingness to make blood brotherhood with me. Katuni and
Muga-wa-diga had returned to their villages some time previous to my
departure from Karkerrie’s, and I learned afterwards that news of the
happenings at Tato had reached my headquarters and that we had all been
reported as killed.

I had heard a lot of talk about Wagombi, and was very anxious to visit
him and, if possible, make friends with him, as my aim was to get all
that country under control and put a stop to the fighting and bloodshed,
so that it would be safe for caravans to pass through it and trade. The
natives were beginning to see that I had their interests at heart and
were beginning to like me. All the way along I had made friends, and I
had hopes that, by means of the Pigasangi and blood brotherhood, I might
get all the chiefs friendly and at peace with one another. The three
ruling chiefs at that time were Karuri, Karkerrie, and Wagombi, and I
felt that if I could once get these three to make friends I should soon
be able to make the petty chiefs stop their squabbling. I had already
got a friendly understanding with the two first-named chiefs, but
Wagombi was by far the biggest and most influential of the three, and if
I could get him to come in the matter was settled and the country too.
My success, so far, was undoubtedly due to my having Kikuyu natives with
me as my followers. Without them I should probably never have achieved
anything at all, but the fact of my having what were practically their
own people with me gave the chiefs I met confidence in me.

I parted on the best of terms with Karkerrie, and set out for Wagombi’s
country. The country we were now passing through was much more sparsely
inhabited, and we camped the first night at the headwaters of the Tana
River, where, although no natives came to see me, I took the usual
precautions for guarding the camp. Very shortly afterwards these
precautions were amply justified, and I was made to realize that I was
by no means in an entirely friendly country yet. Some of my men, going
down without a guard to fetch water, were attacked by natives, and three
of them speared to death. They had evidently been ambushed while going
through a shamba by some natives who had immediately cleared off, and,
though I made inquiries and found traces of a good many feet in the
shamba, the murderers themselves were nowhere visible. We buried the
three bodies that afternoon, and had no more disturbance during the
night. The next morning we had struck camp for the final stage of the
march to Wagombi’s when we saw a lot of natives doing a war-dance and
shouting. Going to inquire what it was all about, I found that they had
dug up the bodies of the three men we had buried the previous day, and
were having a war-dance over them; so, turning away from such a gruesome
spectacle, we resumed our march.

I had, of course, already sent messages on to Wagombi, to let him know
that I was coming, and the news had spread among his own people that I
was on the way to pay him a visit. Wagombi himself had come out a
considerable distance to meet me, about ten miles from his own village.
I found him a fine, tall fellow, in his bearing and appearance every
inch a chief, and in his speech a good deal more brisk than any other
Kikuyu I had met. He greeted me very heartily, shaking hands in the
usual Kikuyu fashion—first spitting in the palm—and had quite a lot to
say about himself and the country. He had with him quite a young lad,
about ten years old, whom he introduced as his son and successor, and
who seemed a very bright little fellow, of whom the chief appeared to be
very proud. This lad is at the present time the chief of that district.

Wagombi brought no other followers with him but two or three old men. He
himself wore a robe of monkey-skins, and was without any head-dress,
while he carried a huge spear. As we proceeded towards the village he
told me that he had heard a lot about me, and was very pleased to meet
me. He said that he knew he had a very bad reputation for his treatment
of people passing through his country, but that he was anxious to make
friends with me, and was pleased that I had not brought any Arabs or
Swahili with me, as he did not want any people of that sort in his
country, and would kill the lot of them. Being some distance ahead of my
party, and noticing that we were meeting large numbers of warriors as we
went along the road, I sent word back to my people to keep a sharp look
out, and told the chief about my men having been murdered at the last
camp. He said that it had been done by his people all right, but that
they had been acting absolutely on their own; in fact, he had sent
messengers along our road to tell them not to interfere with us in any
way, so that what had happened had been entirely against his wishes, and
he meant to find out who had done it and punish them.

By the time we had got to his place we had quite a big following, and
one old man who joined us by the way must have been the chief’s medicine
man, as when he first met us he killed a sheep on the road, and at every
stream we crossed he sprinkled a little of the dung taken from the
sheep’s intestines on the river bank and in the stream. (This practice
figures largely in the superstitious rites of the Kikuyu.) He also
sprinkled some on the road as we went along, at the same time shouting a
lot of gibberish. He had previously cut two rings out of the skin of a
sheep, and given them to the chief and myself to wear on our right arms,
a custom which, it seemed, was a sign of friendship.

Wagombi’s kraal was right at the top of a smaller mountain which rises
at the foot of Mount Kenia, and from this vantage-ground a splendid view
could be obtained of the country for many miles around. The morning
after our arrival I had an opportunity of taking in the full beauty of
the scene from our lofty situation. Spread out as far as the eye could
reach was a panoramic view of the Kikuyu country through which I had
travelled, showing the glittering streams threading their way through
deep valleys, the hills on either side being clothed with trees, and
dotted here and there with villages; while, where the country was more
open, cattle and sheep could be seen quietly grazing, and the cultivated
clearings could be seen at intervals. Viewed as a whole, the landscape
presented a rugged appearance, with deep clefts between the mountains,
innumerable streams, and thick forest land; while between the mountains
on the right could be dimly made out the edge of the Laikipia Plain. We
were on the lower slopes of Kenia, and for a considerable distance up
the mountain is clothed with a thick forest, so dense that, except in a
few places, it is quite impenetrable.

The most careless mind must be awed by the majesty of Mount Kenia, as
the eye ranges over its huge bulk, from the wooded slopes near the foot
to its summit, rising many thousands of feet in the air, crowned with a
circle of perpetual snow, glistening in the rays of the sun. Surrounded
by Nature in her grandest form, Wagombi might be pardoned for a
conscious pride in his magnificent heritage, which, owing nothing to the
art of the landscape gardener, yet far surpassed the beauties of any
estate to be found in the civilized countries of the world.

I found that Wagombi had a number of rifles, and ammunition for them as
well, and all the rifles were in good order. He told me he had got them
from the Wakamba, Arabs, Swahili, and that class of people. Describing
the Swahili as a foolish lot of people, who attempted to come through
his country without taking any precautions, he made no scruple of
killing them, and of taking anything they had. One thing I liked about
the chief was his absolute straightforwardness about everything. He made
no attempt to hide anything, but would tell you quite frankly about all
his affairs, contrary to the usual practice of the nigger.

While we were camped there thousands of warriors came to see us, and
they came stalking into the camp in such numbers that it was absolutely
impossible to try to keep them out, as it could not have been done
without using force, and that would have upset everything. Previously in
travelling through the country I had always kept men on guard to prevent
any one coming into the camp unless first disarmed, but here they came
in by hundreds, and I could not keep them out. Knowing Wagombi’s
reputation, I thought he might be trying the confidence trick on me by
appearing so friendly, and took steps accordingly.

I told Wagombi that I should like to build a camp, as it was rather
cold, and asked him to get some of his people to help me. He said he
would be only too pleased, and the next day his men started bringing in
wood and grass; and I then got a lot of them started building a house,
and told the chief that it was the white man’s custom to put a fence
round. As he made no objection, I marked off a big open space round the
house, my real intention being to build a kind of small fort; but it was
more politic to say that I wanted to build a house, as it roused no
suspicion as to my real intention. I had it all planned out in my head,
and first of all had a big circular fence built, just high enough to
stand and shoot over. I then told the chief that I had not built this
fence high enough, and should have to build another inside it, and as he
raised no objection again, I built another, seven or eight feet high
inside the first, so that I now had a double fence all round, the
entrance to the first being at quite a different point to that of the
second. This form of structure would be a great advantage in case of
attack, as it would be necessary, after entering the first fence, to
walk some distance round before coming to the entrance to the second,
and it would give us a chance, in case of a rush, of shooting the
intruders before they had a chance of getting into the inner circle of
the fort. I also built a tower about thirty feet high, which made an
excellent look-out, and had the advantage of enabling the defenders to
cover any portion of the fort with their rifles. The plan aroused no
suspicion, and they probably thought that it was the way white men’s
houses were usually built.

I was rather proud of my tower, and a brief description of it may
interest the reader, so I will give it. It was, of course, constructed
of wood. Taking four strong poles for the corner-posts, I lashed
cross-pieces between them, diagonally, on each side with bark or
fibre-rope, which is very strong and lasts for years, and on the top of
this framework I built a platform, and above the platform I repeated the
process, so that the tower was really a double-storied building, with an
arrangement of ladders to reach the upper portion. Wagombi thought that
the way I had built the house was quite a good idea, and remarked in a
quiet way, “What a good thing it would be to keep a rush of the savages
out!” Curiously enough, by “savages” he meant his own people. I expect
he tumbled to my object, as he was a fellow who had all his wits about
him, but he made no further comment. My rule had always been never to
neglect any precautions, whether the natives were friendly or otherwise;
and so far I had pulled through all right. Experience had taught me that
to do things in a dilatory or careless fashion was to put temptation in
their way, so I never took the risk.

I camped at Wagombi’s for a considerable time, and he told me that they
had some ivory, and on my expressing a wish to trade the ivory came in
plentifully, while the price was quite different to what I had paid at
Tato, being very much cheaper—almost given away, in fact, in comparison.
In the meanwhile I frequently invited Wagombi to my place, and taught
him to drink tea. His headman also came to see me, and we got to be on
very friendly terms. After a time the chief mentioned blood brotherhood,
and asked me if I was agreeable to join him in the ceremony. I said I
thought it would be a very good thing, and then told him about
Muga-wa-diga and Karkerrie, and suggested that it would be a grand thing
if we could all make blood brotherhood together. I particularly wanted
to pull this off, as it would make all the chiefs friendly with one
another, and I should then have them under my control.

Later on I managed to arrange the ceremony of Pigasangi, which, as I
have explained, is much more of a national affair. Of course, I first
suggested this to Wagombi, but did not manage to get his consent without
a lot of trouble, and after going very fully into an explanation as to
why I was so anxious to bring it about. He had a very strong objection
to blood brotherhood with Karkerrie and Muga-wa-diga, and took a lot of
talking round; in fact, I only managed the matter eventually by the aid
of presents.

                              CHAPTER VIII

The Wanderobo—Visit from the Wanderobo chief—Native bartering—A grand
meeting of surrounding tribes for blood brotherhood under my
auspices—Dancing frenzy—Native ideas of a future life—Again trek for the
unknown—Attacked by natives—Chief’s admonition—Decide to visit the
Wanderobo chief Olomondo—Wanderobo gluttony—The honey bird—Wanderobo
methods of hunting—Massacre of a Goanese safari—My narrow escape—General
uprising of hostile tribes—Rise of the Chinga tribe against me—My
precarious position—Successful sally and total defeat of the enemy—My
blood brother, the Kikuyu chieftain, comes to my aid with thousands of
armed men—Total extinction of the Chinga people

During my stay at Wagombi’s another chief turned up, who proved to be a
man named Olomondo, chief of the Wanderobo tribe. The Wanderobo are a
race of hunters, who live entirely by hunting, and inhabit the country
round Mount Kenia and on the great plain adjoining Wagombi’s country,
down towards the Guasa Nyero River. Olomondo came to see me, and,
according to the custom of the country, brought me a present of honey.
It is always customary when making a visit to a stranger to bring a
present, and the recipient is himself expected to return the compliment
by giving a present of at least an equal value to the one he has
received. This man was plainly quite a different type of native to
Wagombi’s people, being rather sharp-featured and practically the same
as the Masai. I found out, in the course of conversation, that his clan
numbered about six hundred men, besides women and children, and that
their kraal was about two days’ march to the north-west of us. He
mentioned the Maswatch-wanya, and told me that in the course of his
hunting he had seen these pigmy people, but had never got into
communication with them. It was Wagombi’s boast that Mount Kenia
belonged to him and the Wanderobo were his people, and joined him if
there was a fight. I afterwards found that they were a very timid
people, but, judging from the quality of their weapons, I should imagine
that they could put up a good fight, Olomondo’s bow and arrows being
much larger and stronger than those of the Kikuyu, which were like toys
in comparison, while as a proof of their ability to use them, I saw
Olomondo put an arrow clean through an antelope as big as a sheep. He
invited me out to his camp, saying that he had some ivory for sale, and
also saying that there was any amount of game out on the plain, and
asking me to go hunting with him. This I promised to do later on.
Incidentally, he complained of the Kikuyu getting his ivory, as many of
the elephants his people wounded strayed away and died in the forest,
and the Kikuyu would find their bodies and take the ivory. I told him
that I was afraid I could not do anything in the matter, as it was quite
impossible to trace the ivory. The Wanderobo knew the commercial value
of ivory, and had sold it to the Arab and Swahili traders.

After some discussion it was arranged that Olomondo should make blood
brotherhood with me at the same time as the other chiefs, and the
difficulty then arose as to where the ceremony should take place.
Wagombi, being the biggest chief, naturally wanted it to take place at
Mount Kenia, but on messages being sent to Karkerrie and Muga-wa-diga,
they refused to come to Wagombi’s, saying that they were enemies of each
other, and that they had no guarantee that they would not be murdered on
the way. I then suggested to Wagombi that he should send them each a
present of a goat or a sheep, but he said that he would sooner eat them
himself. He was a bigger man than either of the other chiefs, and it was
for them to send him a present first. For some time there was a
deadlock, but I finally got out of the difficulty by asking Wagombi if
he would give me the presents. He replied, “Certainly, you can have a
hundred if you like. My place is yours, take anything you want.” I said
that I did not want anything out of the ordinary; if he would give me
one or two sheep, that was all that I wanted; so he had the sheep
brought in. I then said, “All right, you have given me these sheep, I
can do anything I like with them.” He replied, “Yes, they are yours, I
have given them to you.” So I then told him that I intended to send one
sheep to Karkerrie and one to Muga-wa-diga, telling them that they were
presents from him and myself, and I also arranged with them that we
should meet about half-way, and selected a place for the ceremony.
Eventually they all agreed to this and the day was fixed.

The site I had chosen formed a natural amphitheatre, and was a spot I
had noted on my way to Wagombi’s from Tato. It was an open space, which
I was told was used at certain times as a market-place, and I had an
opportunity later on of seeing one of these markets held. On that
occasion hundreds of natives collected there for the purpose of
exchanging their various goods. The noise of haggling and bargaining was
terrific. One thing I noticed was that there was no livestock in the
market, but all other kinds of produce were to be seen, and it was
amusing to watch a couple of old women arguing as to how many sweet
potatoes ought to be exchanged for so many beans. One crowd would have
loads of calabashes, while another would be selling piles of
cooking-pots made of a sort of clay, only to be found in certain parts
of the country, which was especially suitable for that purpose; while in
another part of the market large quantities of the red ochre—or
_siriga_, as it is called—which the natives used for painting their
bodies was to be had. Another peculiar thing I noticed was the selling
of the native drink njohi, in exchange for a hornful of which I saw a
native pay over a hornful of beans. Having no money, everything was
bought and sold by means of a system of barter, which was not
accomplished without much arguing and haggling, everybody gesticulating
and shouting at once.


It was on the site of this market-ground that the ceremony of blood
brotherhood was to take place, and it was looked upon as a great event
in the country, and the occasion for much feasting and rejoicing.
Thousands of the natives attended, each chief bringing a large crowd of
followers, while all the tribes in the neighbourhood were fully
represented, but no women or children were present. Wagombi took quite a
large number of his people, and I took the bulk of mine, leaving only a
few in charge of the camp; while Olomondo, the Wanderobo chief, had
about ten of his men with him. An immense crowd had already gathered
when we arrived, Karkerrie and Muga-wa-diga—each attended by hundreds of
warriors—having got there in advance of us. It was a stirring spectacle
to see these thousands of warriors gathered together in all their savage
glory, their bodies elaborately painted and oiled, and each man armed
with spear and shield, while their dress of skins added to their savage
appearance. The natives were for the most part standing about, but a few
of the older men were sitting down talking matters over, and our arrival
was greeted with shouting and singing. Such an event as this was, of
course, entirely new to them, nothing like it having ever taken place
before in the Kikuyu country, and as it was through my influence that it
had been brought about, I was naturally the centre of interest. I had
the Union Jack with me as usual, and as we advanced there was a lull in
the conversation, and all became quiet and expectant.

Noticing that some had already begun drinking njohi, I advised the
chiefs that it would be much better to leave the drinking until their
return to their homes, because, as all these natives had previously been
hostile to each other, and knowing the native character, I was afraid
that they would be getting drunk and starting to quarrel, which would
spoil everything. The chiefs readily fell in with my suggestion, and at
once put a stop to the drinking. At my suggestion also, all the weapons
were placed on the ground, the warriors depositing their swords and
spears in heaps, which four of my men were told off to guard.

When all the people were grouped round in a circle, with the chief
actors in the middle, I addressed them through an interpreter, and
explained the object of the gathering, telling them that they were met
together on friendly terms to make blood brotherhood with the chiefs of
the country, and that it was for this reason that they had been asked to
lay aside their weapons. While this was going on a fire had been
lighted, and a sheep was brought in and killed. Each chief supplemented
what I had said with some words to the same effect—the old witch doctor,
Muga-wa-diga, being the most loquacious, and taking full advantage of
the opportunity thus afforded him of indulging his vanity—and then the
chief orators of the tribes voiced their opinions in turn. During the
speech-making the chiefs and myself were grouped round the fire talking
together while the process of cooking certain parts of the sheep was
going on. The heart and liver were taken out and cut into little pieces,
which were then roasted separately on a skewer, carefully cut and shaved
clean before the meat was put on, the result being something like the
Oriental mutton kabobs.

When the cooking was finished the orators ceased talking, and all
attention was turned on us. Olomondo, the hunter chief, was the first to
take a prominent part in the ceremony. Taking one of his sharp arrows,
he made an incision in the flesh of each one who was to be joined in
blood brotherhood just above the heart. When this had been done the meat
was passed round, each one receiving a piece, which he first rubbed in
the blood from the wound made by the arrow, and then handed it to his
neighbour, who had already done the same with the meat he had received.
The meat was then eaten, and this went on until each one had eaten the
blood from each and all in turn. This completed the ceremony, and every
one turned to dancing and rejoicing, sheep and goats being killed and
roasted, and a big feast was held. In the excitement some of my men lost
their heads and started firing their rifles in the air, an incident
which nearly precipitated a fight, and threatened to undo all the good
that had been done. As soon as I heard the firing I rushed up, and at
once realized what had happened; but some of the natives thought there
was an intention of foul play and began hunting for their spears, and in
spite of my explanation things looked ugly, and it was some time before
all were reassured and things calmed down.

I advised the chiefs not to delay too long before returning to their
homes, as the temper of the people might change, in which case there
would probably be trouble. The natives get very excited when dancing,
and work themselves into hysterics, when they are not responsible for
what they may do. Among my own people I had put a stop to that sort of
thing by putting any man who showed signs of getting into that state
under restraint at once. Before taking these steps I had seen as many as
twenty men at one time all mad with excitement, first one and then
another going clean off his head. They would gradually work themselves
up into a perfect state of frenzy, until they trembled from head to
foot, and after jumping up and down would draw in their breath in great
gulps and suddenly grip their spears and run amok. The other natives
thought they were possessed of a devil,[14] and their method of treating
a man so affected was to bear him to the ground by sheer force, and then
half a dozen or more would sit on him. I found, however, that a little
salutary punishment very quickly cured them of that sort of thing.


Footnote 14:

  This devil, whom they called Ngoma, appeared to correspond more to the
  Christian idea of the devil than is often the case with the deities of
  savage tribes. The Kikuyu were monotheists, regarding Ngai as a
  benevolent deity, from whom all benefits came, and to whom they
  offered sacrifices and paid homage, with a view to favours to come;
  while Ngoma, on the other hand, was a deity who brought only evil and
  disaster upon them, and to whom they offered no sacrifices and paid no
  homage, wherein they would appear to be a good deal more like
  consistent Christians should be than the majority of the modern
  professors of that faith, including a good many native clergy, who, in
  spite of their orders and profession of Christianity, still practise
  in secret the heathen rites and superstitions of their ancestors.

  The Kikuyu are also firm believers in a future life, though possibly
  from a somewhat materialistic point of view. Their belief is that
  their “heaven” is situated under the earth, while the abode of Ngoma
  is above it, and that when they die their spirit goes to the world
  below, where they will lead a similar life to that which they have
  left on earth, possessing the same herds of sheep, cattle, and goats
  as they then had, and being joined again by their wives as they die.


It was pretty late in the afternoon when we left the camp to return to
Wagombi’s, after seeing that all the others had started for their homes.

I prolonged my stay at Wagombi’s for some time, and continued to trade
in ivory, which, as I have said, I bought at a very cheap rate. I
happened to have the right sort of trade goods, and the natives were
very anxious to deal. I remember that they took a particular liking for
one special fancy cloth that I had, and there was quite a run on it. It
was a very gaudy material, in a variety of colours, and after they had
wrapped a piece loosely round them, they would run about like children,
being delighted to see it fluttering in the wind as it streamed behind
them like a huge blanket.

I was told that some natives living more down towards the coast had
quite a lot of ivory, and that the trade goods which I had still left
with me—chiefly iron and brass wire—would be very suitable for trading
with them. I also gathered that these people were living in the part of
the country where Gibbons’s safari had been cut up, and that if I went
there I would have to take every precaution, as I should probably find
them hostile. Wagombi agreed to provide me with guides and gave me all
the information in his power.

As I was anxious to see the country, and to get into touch with the
people with whom Gibbons fared so badly, I arranged to make the journey,
and proceeded to get my expedition together. Having buried the ivory I
had bought at Wagombi’s, as I had done that at Tato, when all was in
readiness I said goodbye to the friendly chief, and once again trekked
off to parts unknown.

The country was very much the same as that through which I had already
passed, being very hilly and thickly wooded, but the natives had heard
of my coming and had evidently no desire to meet me. They had deserted
all their villages, and I could not get into touch with them at all,
although at different times I got glimpses of some of them on the tops
of the hills, and though we shouted to them that we were friends, they
would not come near us. As their attitude was threatening, I came to the
conclusion that they were enemies of Wagombi, and each night when we
camped I took the precaution of erecting a boma, and would not allow any
man outside the camp unless it was absolutely necessary. The first
trouble came when the men went out to get water. We were camped on some
high ground at a considerable distance from the river, so I sent a good
guard with the party going for water, and as they were returning up the
hill I suddenly heard a lot of shouting. Taking some more of my men, I
rushed down to see what was happening, and found that the party was
being attacked by a big crowd of savages, who were shooting at them with
arrows. In this part of the country they use bows and arrows more than
spears, and I actually saw some women armed with these weapons and using
them as well as the men. Some of the savages had got up in the trees and
were firing on my men as they passed beneath, and before we managed to
clear them out and drive them away, one of my men had been killed and
another wounded by the arrows. Getting back to the camp, we found that
it was surrounded by another howling mob of niggers, and we had great
difficulty in fighting our way through and getting in. Once safely in
the camp, we turned and poured a steady fire into the mass. This
fusillade eventually drove them off, though several very ugly rushes
were made before they finally gave up the attempt to overpower us.

From the height on which the camp was pitched we could see dozens of
villages all round us, and it was very evident that the country was very
thickly populated; but feeling absolutely safe as long as we stuck
together, we were not alarmed at the hostile demonstrations on the part
of the natives, who still threatened us from a safe distance, so we
slept there that night, nothing happening to disturb our rest, but of
course a strict guard was kept.

The next morning the natives again gathered round us; but it was a very
half-hearted attack that they made this time, however, as they chiefly
contented themselves with shouting insulting remarks at us from a
distance, only now and then making a combined rush, which we easily beat
off. Not that my men did very much damage, as the native has no idea of
shooting straight, and it is very difficult to make them understand the
sights of a rifle. My men were all right up to a hundred yards, as I had
taught them always to aim low, whereas the native is apt to fire high;
while the ordinary native who has had no training with a gun is
absolutely useless, generally turning his head the other way when he
pulls the trigger.

The natives kept up their hostile attitude for some days, occasionally
creeping up and dropping arrows into the camp, while we waited,
expecting that they would either make friends or put forth a big effort
to wipe us out altogether. Our great difficulty was that food was
beginning to run short, our supply having been only a small one to start
with; so feeling that it was useless to hope to make friends with these
people, and that therefore nothing was to be gained by staying there, I
decided to trek back to Wagombi’s. Breaking camp, we started back, and
although the natives shouted at us from a safe distance, as usual, they
made no attempt to cut us off, so we got safely back to our old camp.
When Wagombi had heard my account of what had happened, he said that, if
I liked, he would muster his people and, as he expressively put it, “go
and clear up the whole country.” I thanked him, but declined his kind
offer, as I felt that it was taking on too big a job, and I was also
anxious to get back to my old quarters at Karuri’s, from which I had now
been away about six months. During the time I had been away I had heard
no definite news of what was going on there, but it was reported that we
were all killed, and that long ago they had given up all hope of seeing
us again.

When I declined Wagombi’s offer to make war on the tribe that had
attacked us, I told him that my idea was to get on friendly terms with
the natives without any shooting or anything of that sort, and after I
had explained this to him he was rather disappointed with me, and said,
“Why all this humbug? The country is yours. What’s the use of humbugging
about like a woman?” We had a lot of talk about it, and after a time he
gave in and seemed to be convinced, remarking that I was a white man and
must know better than he what was the best thing to do.

Olomondo, the hunter chief of the Wanderobo, was still staying at
Wagombi’s, but he and his people were getting restless, and wanted to
get back to their families. He was anxious that I should accompany him,
promising me plenty of ivory and hunting if I would go with him; so,
thinking the opportunity of making friends with his tribe, and at the
same time securing more ivory, was too good to be lost, I decided to
defer my return to headquarters until after I had paid him my promised
visit. I had left some good men in charge at Karuri’s, who would be
still buying food in my absence, and as I had taken a good supply into
the Government stations before I left, I had no fear that they would be
running short. I also took into consideration the fact that I was making
more money by ivory trading, and this partly influenced me in deciding
to accompany Olomondo. In addition to all these reasons I had a strong
desire to get more into the wilds and out amongst the game. I was not
feeling too well, as the strain of the past few months was beginning to
tell on me, and I felt that the change from the thickly-populated
district to the practically uninhabited country which was the
hunting-ground of the Wanderobo would be very welcome.

We had to take a lot of food with us, and every man had to carry a load,
as no flour was to be bought from the Wanderobo, who live entirely upon
flesh. I also got a few of Wagombi’s people to carry some flour and
other things that we should require, but they were to return home when
we had decided upon the site for our headquarter camp, as we should make
a food station there. Of course, I could have shot plenty of game, but
the Kikuyu would not eat it, being in most cases vegetarians.

Having got everything ready for the expedition and said a lot of
farewells—Wagombi being very sorry that I was leaving his part of the
country—we started off. The first part of our journey led through forest
country, and at the end of the first day’s march all signs of human
habitation had disappeared, and we camped that night at the edge of the
forest, while before us stretched a beautiful park-like country, open
plain with patches of forest here and there, which struck me as an ideal
district for farming. The change from the thickly populated Kikuyu
country and the absence of native villages was most refreshing, and I
slept very comfortably that night, with the thought of the prospect
before us, and awoke to a cool, fresh morning and a beautiful sunrise.
Going out of my tent, I revelled in the beauty of the scene spread out
before me, and once more experienced the exhilarating feeling of
gipsy-like freedom, the liberty to roam where I would at will, hunting
the wild game which could be seen in plenty from the door of my tent.

Watering the rich pasture-lands of the plain were numerous cool streams
coming down from the mountains, and flowing through the valley to form
the Guasa Nyero. All around were the virgin forests, while out on the
open plain were many most inviting spots for camping. The whole country
was free for us to go wherever we wished, without any fear of
interference. One felt that one was in a different world, and wondered
how any one who had experienced this sense of freedom from the trammels
of civilization could ever wish to go back to the crowded cities, or be
cooped up within the four walls of a house. At that moment of
exhilaration I certainly did not envy the civilized citizen at home.

After breakfast we set out again on the march, and continued until the
heat of the sun began to be oppressive, when we rested for lunch,
continuing our journey afterwards through further stretches of most
beautiful scenery. Three days’ march from Wagombi’s we came to the
village of the Wanderobo, who had been warned of our coming by
messengers sent on ahead of the caravan. They gave us a friendly
welcome, but it was evident that they were a very timid people, and I
was convinced that, had Olomondo not been with me, I should never have
come in contact with them, as they would certainly have kept out of my
way entirely. They seemed a bit scared at seeing so many of my
followers, but the chief assured them that there was no cause for alarm.
Their kraal was a very primitive affair, being simply a lean-to shed,
without the slightest attempt at privacy—all the married men and their
wives occupying one portion, and the young men and girls another—while I
found them the laziest and dirtiest people I had ever met. They will not
go out hunting until they are absolutely starving, and when they have
killed some big animal, they simply gorge themselves on it, sitting
round it, and never leave the spot until every scrap of the meat has
been devoured. I was to have an early example of this practice. I had
brought with me ten big bullocks, and, as these people had a fair amount
of ivory, they were able to buy the whole lot. To my surprise, no sooner
had they got the bullocks into their possession than they killed the
whole ten at once, and fires having been lighted, a circle of savages
gathered round each bullock, and, as it cooked, cut off huge strips of
the flesh and ate them, not moving away until each bullock had been
absolutely disposed of. A more disgusting spectacle I never witnessed.
They live entirely on meat, but have a drink which they make from the
wild honey. A remarkable thing in connexion with this honey is that they
are often shown where to find it by following a bird, which they call
the honey bird. One day, when out hunting, I noticed a small bird of a
brownish colour, not much larger than a sparrow, which was twittering on
a bush close at hand. Presently it flew towards me, twittering overhead,
and afterwards alighted on a tree, still twittering, and the Wanderobo
began to talk to it. I had heard of the honey bird before, but this was
the first time that I had seen one, and I was very much interested. The
natives continued to talk to it, and when it began to fly again, they
followed it as it went twittering along, keeping just a little in
advance of us, for perhaps a couple of miles, until we came to a hollow
tree, where it stopped, and the Wanderobo, saying that we should find
some honey there, began chopping the tree away until they found a
considerable store of wild honey. After taking the honey out, they gave
a certain quantity to the bird—or rather, left some in the tree for it,
as they said that if they did not do that, the bird would, on another
occasion, lead them on to a dangerous animal or a big snake. Of course
this was simply a piece of native superstition, which I satisfactorily
proved to have no truth in it, as I took the trouble to test it one day
when I had followed the honey bird, by taking every bit of the honey to
which it led me, without leaving any for the bird. After flying round
two or three times, it went twittering on again for another two or three
miles, and when it finally stopped, fluttering round a tree as before, I
found that it had simply led me to another store of honey; so I disposed
of one native belief.

The Wanderobo women were fairly well dressed—in skins—but the men wore
hardly any clothing at all. When necessity compels them to move they are
fairly good hunters, and will creep up to within ten yards of an
elephant, to spear it. The spear is fashioned something after the manner
of a harpoon, the head being fixed to the shaft in such a way that, on
striking the elephant, it becomes detached, and remains in the wound,
while the shaft falls to the ground. It would not, of course, be
sufficient to kill an elephant but for the fact that it is poisoned; and
even then the elephant will often travel a considerable distance before
succumbing to the poison. Singularly enough, the poison used appears
only to affect the part immediately in the neighbourhood of the wound,
and when this has been cut out, the natives eat the remainder of the
flesh with perfect safety. Of course, as I mentioned before, the
Wanderobo do not get the benefit of all the elephants they wound
fatally, as many of the wounded animals manage to wander too far away
into the forest to be tracked before they die, and any one finding them
gets the benefit of the ivory.

[Illustration: A DEAD RHINO]

The Wanderobo are very skilful with the bow and arrow, and can easily
send an arrow right through a buck at fifty yards’ range, while their
method of hunting these animals is distinctly novel. Taking a donkey,
they fix a pair of horns to its head, and having carefully marked it
with charcoal, to make it look as much like an ordinary buck as
possible, they then crawl up on the lee side of it until they get close
up to the game, which falls to an easy shot. The donkey seems to know
the business, and is a very clever decoy.

I learned during my stay that some of the Wanderobo had once mustered up
courage to attack some Swahili, whom they had murdered, some of the
tribe giving my men the details of their treachery; but, as a rule, they
were much too timid to engage in anything of the sort.

One peculiar point about these people was that they all seemed to have a
cast in the eye, which I was a good deal puzzled to account for. Whether
the meat diet on which they lived so exclusively had anything to do with
it, or whether it was owing to their dirty habits—and they certainly
were most abominably dirty—I cannot say; but the peculiarity seemed
almost universal in the tribe.

I made my camp at a good distance from the village, to escape the
unpleasant odour of the decaying meat which was left about, and to
escape the vermin, as their huts simply swarmed with fleas, and I well
remember the first time that this was brought to my notice. I had been
going through the village, and found my clothes covered with what I at
first took to be grass seeds; but what was my disgust to find, when I
attempted to brush them off with my hand, that I was literally alive
with fleas!

Like all the natives, the Wanderobo are very superstitious, and if, on
one of our hunting trips, we should happen to come across the carcass or
skull of an elephant, every one of them would spit on it, at the same
time plucking a handful of grass, and placing it on the animal’s head,
and saying “Ngai” as they did so. This they believed would bring them
luck in their hunting. They also were firm believers in the power of
human beings to make rain, and in this connexion I had a rather amusing
experience. Going down to the river one day for a bathe, I noticed some
quartz, which I thought was likely to carry gold; so, selecting some
pieces, I was pounding them up and washing them, to see if there really
was any gold in it, when, chancing to look up, I saw quite a number of
the Wanderobo, hidden in the bush, peering at me in a very curious
fashion. I paid little attention to the incident at the time, and after
my bathe went back to the camp, as usual. Some few days afterwards we
had a shower of rain, and Olomondo and some of the other natives came to
thank me for making it rain. I was, naturally, surprised, and said: “You
need not thank me; I know nothing about it”; but they said: “Oh, yes,
you do; you can’t deceive us, as we saw you making the rain the other
day, in the river.” It is just the same if you do anything which appears
to them to be out of the ordinary—they at once think that you are
“making magic.”

I had a splendid time hunting with these people, and nearly every day,
towards evening, I went out to shoot food for them, the country being
like a large zoo, simply full of every kind of African game you can
think of, including huge herds of zebra, giraffes, elephants, lions,
hartebeest, eland, waterbuck, and occasional herds of buffalo—enough, in
fact, to delight the heart of the most enthusiastic hunter. I shot
several elephants, besides innumerable smaller game, and two lions—which
animals the Wanderobo do not kill, since, as they cannot eat the meat,
they do not consider them worth the trouble of killing. During our
hunting together they killed some elephants, and it was agreed that when
an elephant was killed, they should take one tusk and I the other, and I
eventually used to get both by trading.

One of their methods of catching elephants and other animals was by the
use of pits, which were dug wedge-shaped, so that when the animal fell
in, it could not turn round or move, and therefore had no chance of
getting out again; while, in some cases, sharp stakes were placed, point
upward, at the bottom, with the object of impaling any animal that
should fall in. These pits were so cleverly concealed that one had to be
very careful not to fall into them oneself: the mouth being generally
covered with sticks laid crosswise, with dry grass on the top. They had
quite a lot of these pits, and caught a good deal of game by means of

While out hunting one day, I heard shots fired at a distance, and
thinking it might be some white men, I sent some natives to find out,
and gave them a note to carry to the strangers. They came back saying
that they had seen two white men, and given them the note. As there was
no answer, my own idea was that my messengers had got close up to the
strangers, and then become afraid—possibly at the men themselves, but
most likely on account of the note, which they regarded as some kind of
fetish. I found out later that the strangers were two Germans, a Dr.
Kolb and a Lieutenant, who were out hunting. Dr. Kolb was afterwards
killed by a rhinoceros, and his grave, right away on the Guasa Nyero, is
marked by huge heaps of stones. I passed it on my trip to Abyssinia, at
a later period of my travels.

I stayed some months hunting with the Wanderobo, and so fascinating was
the wild, free life, that I could scarcely tear myself away from it;
while my followers, who shared the same feeling, had become so friendly
with the Wanderobo that some of them had fallen into the habit of eating
meat, a thing which they had never done before. This caused a lot of
chaff in the camp, and some of their comrades began to call them
Wanderobo, which is a term of contempt among the Kikuyu, as the word
means a man without anything, a wanderer without any possessions—which
fairly describes the tribe in question.

The incident of the note sent to Dr. Kolb was recalled to me some days
later, when Olomondo presented himself at my tent, and said that if I
would give him some “medicine,” he would give me some ivory; as he
believed that, if he got the medicine, it would enable him to kill more
elephants, while he himself would be safe from being killed. When I
asked him what sort of medicine he wanted, he said “the same as I had
sent to the white men.” I gathered from him that, before I sent the note
to them, they had had bad luck, but that afterwards they had killed a
lot of game: so I gave the chief a piece of paper, but he was not
satisfied until I had written something on it. Not knowing what to
write, I lapsed into rhyme (?), and Olomondo departed the proud
possessor of a poetical effusion, of which the following is a sample:—

                 “I am chief of the Wanderobo hunters.
                   Olomondo is my name,
                 Elephants I kill by the hundreds,
                   And thousands of smaller game.
                 I am up in the morning so early,
                   With my bow and arrows so sharp;
                 Over rivers I glide like a fairy,
                   Over mountains I fly like a lark.”

There were a number of verses in this strain, but this specimen will
suffice. Olomondo took the paper, and after wrapping it up carefully,
put it in a skin pouch, which he tied round his neck. I may say that it
must have been very good medicine, for after that Olomondo had much
better luck with his hunting than before—possibly he had so much faith
in its powers that he went about his hunting with greater confidence.
Later on, it so happened that a Government official got hold of this
production, and it created a lot of amusement. I don’t know how it came
about, but doubtless the chief met the official when out hunting, and
asked him for some medicine, at the same time showing him the paper. As
I had not been heard of for about twelve months at the Government
station, it was reported that I had been killed; but when they saw this
paper, the joke went round that I was not killed, but was living
somewhere around Mount Kenia, writing poetry for the savages.

At last I absolutely had to get away, as I had bought all the ivory the
natives had, and I was getting anxious to see how things were going on
in the Kikuyu country; so, after many goodbyes, and promising to come
back, I left my blood brother and his friends and started for Wagombi’s

Arriving at Wagombi’s village without any special incident on the
journey, I received a very friendly welcome from the chief, and found
that nothing serious had happened in my absence, while the natives all
seemed to be on friendly terms. Having picked up the ivory I had buried,
I was soon on the march again for Tato, and it was quite a pleasure to
see my people and Wagombi’s all shaking hands like brothers instead of
flying at one another’s throats. This friendship was soon to be put to
the test, though we had as yet received no warning of the impending

The same friendly feeling was shown when we arrived at Tato, and it was
difficult to believe that only a few months before one tribe was
fighting against the other and both were the bitter enemies of my
people. I had persuaded Wagombi to send a present of sheep to Karuri,
and got the chief Karkerrie, at Tato, to do the same, knowing that the
exchange of presents was the surest way to maintain a friendly
understanding between the different chiefs. Then, collecting the other
ivory we had buried there, we were soon on the march again.

Just after leaving Tato the rumour reached me that three Goanese had
been murdered and all their safari wiped out. I gathered that it was a
trading safari that had started out from Nairobi, headed by three
Goanese, who had with them about forty Kikuyu natives from among some
living near Nairobi. They had entered the Kikuyu country, and had been
well treated by the natives whom I had got under control, having a
really good time until they had entered the Chinga country. It will be
remembered that these were the only natives I had never really got into
touch with. We had passed through their country just after leaving
Karuri’s, and for the most part they kept out of my way. As I mentioned
previously, some of these people came into my camp, and I had intended
to make blood brotherhood—or rather Pigasangi—with them on my way back.
The Goanese, having had a good time at Karuri’s, had, perhaps, not
reckoned on the other natives being different, and consequently had not
taken proper precautions. They were well armed—about fifteen of the
natives carrying rifles, beside themselves—but in spite of this the
Chinga people had for some reason attacked them and murdered the whole
party. This was the disquieting rumour that reached me soon after
leaving Tato, though I must confess that I did not put much faith in it,
as so many similar rumours had been spread about myself having been
killed, and I had learned not to trust every report that I heard. I
thought, however, that the Goanese might be in some difficulty, and
perhaps had some of their men killed; so I hurried up to see if I could
give them any assistance; but the nearer I got to the scene of the
alleged massacre the more convincing were the statements of the natives
as to the truth of the stories which I had heard.

I did not call at Muga-wa-diga’s, as I had done on my outward journey,
but took a shorter route to Bartier’s, and when nearing his village did
a very foolish thing, which might easily have cost me my life, and,
indeed, probably would have done so, but for the extraordinary instinct
of my mule.

Being anxious to meet Bartier to get confirmation of the statements I
had heard from the natives, and as it was getting late in the afternoon,
I left my men and hurried on ahead. I had never done such a thing
before, but it must be remembered that I was carrying with me an immense
quantity of ivory—practically every man being fully loaded up with
it—and my anxiety about the Goanese had shaken me out of my usual
caution. Taking with me only one askari, my gunbearer, an interpreter,
and the boy who looked after my mule, I went on, telling the rest to
follow me as quickly as possible to Bartier’s. My men knew what had
happened, and I told them to be very careful; but still, being in a
friendly country, I thought that there could be no harm in pushing on
ahead by myself. The path ran between two hedges, which separated it on
either side from the cultivated patches of the natives. Suddenly, as I
galloped forward, all at once my mule showed a disinclination to proceed
along the path, and seemed to want to get off the road into the
cultivated patches. This curious behaviour would at any other time have
roused my suspicions, but though puzzled to account for the mule’s
peculiar conduct I did not attach any special reason to it; and, finding
that it would not go along the path, I let it have its own way, and
turned into the shamba, when it ran along without any further trouble. I
galloped along in the gardens for some distance, near the footpath, and
had not gone more than a mile when the mule, of its own accord, returned
to the road, and I arrived at Bartier’s without further incident about
five o’clock. The whole village was in a state of excitement, and I
quickly received confirmation of the murders, the natives being full of
it and appearing terribly afraid that the Chinga people would attack
them immediately because I was there. The Chinga people were their
neighbours, and the Goanese who had been murdered being, to the native
idea, white men, were said to be my brothers. Hitherto many of the
natives had believed that it was impossible to kill a white man, and
this idea had, to a great extent, kept me free from attack. But now they
said that they had killed my brothers, and were only waiting for an
opportunity to kill me as well.

Bartier and his people assured me that they were absolutely friendly to
me, and that I could rely upon them. It was the Chinga people, with the
natives from a part called Mahigga, together with some from a district
lying more to the east of us, under the control of my old enemy, the
chief rain-maker, who had joined their forces against the Goanese, and I
had no doubt that the rain-maker had had as much, and more, to do with
the matter than any one else. From what I could make out there must have
been some thousands of natives in the business, and they had completely
wiped out the traders’ safari and taken everything they possessed—trade
goods, some cattle they had with them, and everything that was worth

Whilst Bartier was explaining all this to me, two of the four men who
had started out with me ahead of the main body of my followers arrived
in the village. I had outdistanced them on my mule, and had been feeling
some anxiety for their safety. When I saw that there were only two of
them, I immediately inquired what had become of the others. It was
evident from the state of excitement they were in that something had
happened, and they at once told me that their two companions had been
killed. Their story confirmed the suspicion which had been growing in my
mind that an ambush had been set for me at the place where my mule had
refused to keep on the road, and it was no doubt due to the animal’s
instinct that I had not been killed myself, as my men had kept to the
road and so fallen into the ambush. They were going along, they said,
when a number of men rushed out on them, and before they knew what was
really happening two of their number had been killed. The two who had
escaped could only tell me that they had been attacked by a number of
Kikuyu on the war-path, who, rushing out on them, had speared the others
and then cleared off, while they had picked up the rifles of the
murdered men and come on to Bartier’s as fast as they could.

I saw that things were looking pretty bad, and quickly concluded that
the men in ambush were some of the party who had taken part in the
murder of the Goanese; but whether they were merely a scouting party,
spying out my movements, who had got a bit excited and started too
early, or whether they had planned to kill me and throw suspicion on
Bartier, I could only guess. Bartier assured me that it had not been
done by any of his people, and I was quite prepared to believe him,
being fully convinced in my own mind that it was the act of some of the
Chinga people.

As soon as I had gathered all the details from my two followers I asked
Bartier to send out a few of his people to meet my caravan coming along,
to tell them of what had happened, and to warn them to be very careful;
also, if the two men who had been ambushed were not dead, to bring them
in with them, and this he readily agreed to do. My men were not very far
behind, and the caravan shortly afterwards arrived, bringing with them
one of the men still alive. He had had two or three spears thrust right
through his back. He was not yet dead, and I did all I possibly could
for him, but he was past human help, and, after confirming the story
which the others had already told me, he died in an hour or two.

As soon as the caravan arrived we at once set to work to build a boma,
and I realized that I was now in about the tightest corner I had ever
been in. With all these men of the Goanese safari murdered, the country
was in a state of ferment, and thousands of armed men on the war-path
all round us, so that the prospect was not the most cheerful, and I
could see that I was in for a rough time, and how I was going to get out
of it I could not imagine. As I have already said, I had such an immense
amount of ivory that I could only just get along, and it was not likely
that I should be disposed to abandon it, after all the months of trouble
and worry it had cost me to collect—living entirely among savages, and
never seeing a white face for twelve months. At any rate, I meant to
make a good fight for it, and determined, if it were at all possible, to
win my way out, though I knew that these people, who had already dipped
their hands in the blood of my white brothers—as they imagined them to
be—would do their utmost to blot me out, if only for the sake of the
quantity of loot which they would get.

The next step to building the boma was to bury the ivory, and having
made this as secure as possible for the present, I cheered everybody up
by telling them that we should get through all right—that we had not
been travelling in the country for so long to be afraid now.

It was soon evident that information of our arrival had spread through
the hostile tribes, whose war-cries could be heard on every side, while
bands of warriors could be seen gathering all round us, and the whole
country was soon alive with armed natives, yelling their war-cries and
shouting what they would do to me when they got me. They looked upon the
Goanese, who wore European dress, as being the same as myself, and,
having had a comparatively easy victory over them, they confidently
expected to dispose of me without very much trouble, announcing that
they were fully determined to kill me as, they said, they had killed my
brothers. Some of the natives had dressed themselves in the clothes of
the ill-fated Goanese, and proudly paraded themselves in front of my
camp, while others were firing off the guns they had taken in the loot.
For the time being, however, they kept at a respectful distance, and we
went on strengthening our defences; but it made my blood boil when I saw
that they had cut off the heads of the murdered men and stuck them on
poles, which they were carrying about as trophies. I knew what my fate
would be if I were unlucky enough to fall into their clutches, while my
anxiety was increased by the fact that our stock of ammunition was
running very low, as we had been away from headquarters so many months
and hunting so much that we had used it nearly all up.

As far as I could learn, the Chinga people could muster about five
thousand fighting men, reckoning in the other tribes who were standing
in with them, and the only course open to me was to stand on the
defensive. Bartier promised to give me all the help he could, but I
could see that his people were terribly afraid, and I could quite
understand their feeling, as, if they befriended me, and it should so
happen that the Chinga people wiped me out, then they would be in for
it. Bartier did, however, give me all the information he could, and
assisted me as much as I could reasonably expect from him under the
circumstances. At the same time, I could see that he was badly
frightened, which, perhaps, was only natural, seeing that the other side
were so strong, and seemed quite determined to carry things on to the
bitter end. They had already commenced hostilities by murdering my two
men, and, fired by their success in wiping out the other safari, were
burning to get at me. Since the wholesale murder of the Goanese and
their followers they had been rejoicing and feasting and drinking a lot
of njohi, and now they were dancing about in paroxysms of mad fury, all
alike being possessed with the war fever and ready at any moment to
break loose upon us, while we could only wait their first move and take
every precaution we could think of.

We were camping right on the boundary of the two countries, and could
plainly hear them shouting, so I sent out some of Bartier’s men, with
some of my own, to scout, with orders to hang about in the bush and in
the shambas and try to find out what the plans of the enemy were. About
midnight news was brought in that a large force of natives was gathered
in one of the clearings about a mile from camp, where they usually held
their war-dances, and were drinking and feasting and discussing how they
should attack us. This threw all the people about us into a state of
panic, expecting every minute that the crowd assembling in the clearing
would be rushing down on us, though I knew that this would be a most
unusual thing for them to do, as savages very rarely rush a camp at
night, usually reserving their attack till dawn; still, having had such
success before, and having been drinking, I thought that there was a
reasonable possibility that they might depart from their usual rule on
this occasion. Of course, sleep was out of the question, and everybody
had to stand to arms. A large number of Bartier’s people were in my
camp, and every one was in a state of nervous expectancy. Eventually a
dead silence reigned, the effect of which, when surrounded by a host of
armed foes, I have endeavoured to describe before. I had experienced the
same feeling during the night we were surrounded by the natives at Tato.
The feeling of depression was almost unbearable, and was not lessened by
the loneliness of my position, out in the midst of a wild country, far
removed from any white man, waiting in momentary expectation of the rush
of a frenzied horde of yelling savages thirsting for the blood—and
loot—of the white man who had so far defied all attempts to blot him
out, and seemed only to gain fresh power in the country after every
attempt that was made against him. The situation was nerve-trying in the
extreme, and after an hour or so of waiting in this horrible silence I
wanted to shout in sheer desperation or do anything rather than endure
the inactivity any longer. I felt the responsibility for the safety of
the followers I had brought into this position and the risk of losing
the whole fruits of my twelve months’ trying experiences, and could not
sit still, but had to keep moving about. Even the movement did not serve
to relieve the tension, and I felt that if I did not do something
quickly I should be getting hysterical, so I quickly decided to put into
action an idea which had been gradually forming in my brain of giving my
friends the enemy a surprise, instead of waiting for them to try to give
me one.

I at once gave orders for big fires to be made up and for everything to
be done which would give the appearance of the camp being occupied by
the whole of my force, and then, leaving only a few men in charge of the
camp, I mustered the remainder and stole quietly out, my men being fully
armed, to pay a visit to the meeting in the clearing where the enemy
were said to be holding their consultation—my object being to teach them
such a lesson that they would hesitate to make war on me again. The
enemy had evidently never imagined that we should venture to attempt to
turn the tables on them in this manner, and in the darkness we managed
to creep right up to the edge of the clearing without being discovered,
as they had not thought it necessary to put any sentries out. Here we
found the warriors still drinking and feasting, sitting round their
fires so engrossed in their plans for my downfall that they entirely
failed to notice our approach; so, stealthily creeping up till we were
close behind them, we prepared to complete our surprise. The moment had
come to deal them a crushing blow. Not a sound had betrayed our advance,
and they were still quite ignorant of our presence almost in the midst
of them. The echoing crack of my rifle, which was to be the signal for
the general attack, was immediately drowned in the roar of the other
guns as my men poured in a volley which could not fail to be effective
at that short range, while accompanying the leaden missiles was a cloud
of arrows, poured in by that part of my force which was not armed with
rifles. The effect of this unexpected onslaught was electrical, the
savages starting up with yells of terror in a state of utter panic.
Being taken so completely by surprise, they could not at first realize
what had happened, and the place was for a few minutes a pandemonium of
howling niggers, who rushed about in the faint light of the camp fires,
jostling each other and stumbling over the bodies of those who had
fallen at the first volley, but quite unable to see who had attacked
them; while, before they had recovered from the first shock of surprise,
my men had reloaded, and again a shower of bullets and arrows carried
death into the seething, disorganized mass. This volley completed the
rout, and, without waiting a moment longer, the whole crowd rushed
pell-mell into the bush, not a savage remaining in the clearing that
could get away, and the victory was complete. For the time being we were
masters of the situation, only a number of still forms and a few wounded
being left of the thousands who had filled the clearing a little while
before, and we returned jubilant to our camp.

As may be imagined, our success was a great relief to me, and I reckoned
that I had taught them a lesson which would make them hesitate before
interfering with me again: so leaving my buried ivory, I started off the
next morning in an attempt to get through to my headquarters, feeling
sure that Karuri must, by this time, have heard of my position, and
would send out a force to meet me. Our advance was made with the utmost
caution: halting every few minutes to search with our eyes the scrub on
either side of the path for any signs of a lurking foe, and keeping our
guns ready to fire at the sight of an enemy, we went slowly on until we
entered the Chinga country. Skirting the edge of one of the hills, our
way led through a large patch of thick grass, some seven or eight feet
high—an ideal place for an ambush—and I felt that if we got safely
through this there was little else to fear. Step by step we proceeded,
going dead slow, and making scarcely a sound; but we had not gone far
before we instinctively felt that our enemies were hidden in the long
grass around us, and our suspicions were soon confirmed. A black form
was seen for a second, and instantly disappeared. Then shots were fired,
and spears and arrows began to whizz about our heads, and before we had
gone many yards farther, the grass around us became alive with savages.
Whenever one showed himself, we fired, and then suddenly, the grass
became animated on all sides, swayed and parted, and the horde of
yelling black demons was on us. We were fighting at close quarters, and
soon every man had his work cut out to defend himself. I was loading and
firing from the hip, as fast as I could throw out the empty shells and
shove fresh cartridges into the breech. It was a critical moment, and it
looked very much as though it was all up with us. So closely were we
being pressed that one of the savages had his spear poised over my head,
and the muzzle of my rifle was pressed against his body when I fired. My
first shot seemed to paralyse him, for while he had plenty of time to
plunge his spear into my body he failed to do so, and I had plumped two
or three bullets into him before he gave a jump into the air, and
toppled over dead. My followers were all equally hard pressed, and on
all sides was a writhing mass of black forms, all fighting like devils.
We were in a valley, closed in by rugged hills, and chancing to look up,
I saw that the top of the mountain above us was black with niggers, who
were evidently only waiting to see how those below fared before making a
final rush, which must have swamped us; so I immediately shouted to my
men to charge up the hill, thinking that if we waited much longer they
might suddenly decide to sweep down on us, when our last chance of
getting away would be gone. We had by this time stopped the rush of
those in the valley, and now, taking the offensive, we fought our way
through them up the mountain-side; but when the force on the top saw us
coming, they at once turned and bolted, rushing helter-skelter down the
other side of the hill. We had had a marvellous escape, and though we
had had several casualties, we had come out of the affair with much
smaller loss than might have been expected. I saw that it was useless to
try to get through to Karuri’s now, as we should have had to fight every
foot of the way, and had practically no chance of winning through; so we
returned to Bartier’s.

By this time the news had spread through the country, and Wagombi and
Karkerrie had heard of my trouble, and had sent some men to help me,
with a promise of more if I needed them. The whole country was thrown
into a state of excitement: the war fever was at its height: but my
blood brothers had rallied nobly to my help, and big forces of armed
warriors were coming in every hour from the different friendly chiefs to
support me, until I had a force of several thousands of the finest
fighting men in the country camped at Bartier’s.

I was considerably alarmed at the turn events had taken, especially as
the chiefs were determined to have it out, and threatened to clean up
the whole Chinga country: while the hostile natives had, in the
meantime, collected more followers, having received reinforcements from
some of the other tribes living to the east; so that I could see that it
was absolutely useless to try to make peace until they had had a tussle.
The people who had come to help me were also red-hot for war, and scenes
of the wildest enthusiasm prevailed in the camp of my force. Giving way
to their savage nature, they danced themselves into the wildest passion,
numbers of them going into hysterical fits, and jabbing their spears
into the tree-trunks in imitation of killing their enemies, while their
breath sobbed out in great gulps. It was a remarkable outburst of
savage, uncontrolled passion, which I was helpless to check.

When the time for action came, this army of warriors swept through the
Chinga country from one end to the other, destroying the villages, and
wiping out of existence all who opposed them. It was some time before
peace could be restored, and when that time came the Chinga people, as a
force to be reckoned with in the country, had ceased to exist.

                               CHAPTER IX

My control over the whole country now complete—Get back with my ivory to
Karuri’s—Recover all the property of the murdered Goanese—My position
recognized by all the chiefs—Violent death of my enemy, the
rain-maker—Peaceful rule—Try to improve the agriculture of the
country—Imitators of my schemes cause trouble in the country—Troubles of
a ruler—Outbreak of smallpox—Famine—My attempts at alleviating the
distress misunderstood—Daily routine in a native village—"Sin
vomiting"—Native customs—Native hospitality among themselves—Adventures
with lions

The trouble being thus settled, I got my ivory through to headquarters,
being met on the road by Karuri, bringing a force to my assistance, my
messengers having acquainted him with the state of affairs. From this
time on I had complete control of the country; everything that had been
stolen from the Goanese was given up, while their murderers had received
such punishment as they were not likely to forget in a generation.

When matters had quieted down again, and I had time to review the
situation, I took the first opportunity of sending messengers through to
the Government, with a full report of the recent occurrences; while I
also communicated with the relatives of the murdered Goanese, two
brothers who, I heard, were living at Nairobi, sending through to them
the whole of the stolen property which I had recovered. I found out
later that, through some misunderstanding or other, the heads of the
murdered men—which had been found after the fighting was over—had
likewise been sent in to Nairobi; which, while serving as proof to the
officials that the reports I had been sending in from time to time as to
the character of the natives were not without foundation, was a most
regrettable occurrence, and must, I fear, have given much pain to the

The fighting being now over, and the Chinga people—such as remained of
them—having given assurances of their desire and intention to live at
peace with their neighbours, the country now settled down into a
condition of quietness such as had never been known before. My mission
through the country had served to produce a spirit of friendship
between the different clans and tribes which effectually put an end to
the petty quarrelling and constant fighting which had hitherto gone
on; and from this time I was looked upon as practically the king of
the country, all matters in dispute being referred to my judgment, and
I was constantly being called upon to give counsel and advice upon
every conceivable subject which affected the welfare of the people.
The three most powerful chiefs in the country—Karuri, Karkerrie, and
Wagombi—acknowledged me as their leader, and chiefs and people were
now entirely under my control. As proof of the altered condition of
the country, I could now send messengers to any one of the chiefs or
headmen without any fear of their being attacked or molested on the

The reader will remember that I have several times mentioned an
individual who was known as the chief rain-maker, a man who was by no
means well disposed towards me, on account of the fact that my influence
in the country greatly weakened his position. He went out of his way, on
every possible occasion, to cause me as much trouble and annoyance as he
could; while, in connexion with this Chinga trouble, I found that my
suspicions as to his having had a large share in the matter were
perfectly correct. In fact, he had engineered the whole business, both
with regard to the murder of the Goanese traders and the subsequent
attack on my safari, the former being really a sort of preliminary to
the latter, intended to convince the natives that it was quite possible,
as well as profitable, to attack and murder a white man, as he carefully
explained to the people that the Goanese were white men, and of the same
kind as myself. This attempt having failed, like all his other efforts
to remove me, he was not content to accept defeat and let the matter
rest, but continued to scheme for my removal until his persistence was
the ultimate cause of his own death, which occurred in the following

Some time after the Chinga business, reports were brought in to my
headquarters at Karuri’s of serious tribal fighting and raiding in a
district some twenty miles to the east of Karuri’s, and after a council
of the principal men had been held, it was decided that a force should
be sent to reduce the offenders to order. Consequently I set out with
Karuri, and about a thousand warriors, for the scene of the disturbance.
Soon after we had passed the boundary of the disturbed district, which
lay partly in the chief rain-maker’s territory—for he was a tribal
chief, as well as the principal rain-maker—he came out to meet us, with
every sign of friendliness, and said that he had brought some of his
people to help us to put matters right. Being fully occupied with the
matter in hand, and quite ready to welcome any friendly advances from my
old enemy, I met him in the same spirit, and told him to let his
following of some three hundred warriors fall in with the rest of the
expedition, and we continued our march. All went well until we reached
the first of the offending villages, where we met with strong
opposition, and had to advance our force in extended order to attack the
enemy. The order to advance had just been given, and the force were
crossing the brow of the hill which stood between them and the enemy,
Karuri and myself, together with some of the principal headmen,
following them more leisurely up the hill, when I suddenly heard a shot
fired immediately behind me, and, turning round, saw the chief
rain-maker lying on the ground, while one of the four askaris who formed
my personal escort was just reloading his rifle. On my asking what had
happened, I was told by Karuri and the askari that the chief rain-maker
had posted an ambush of men with poisoned arrows in the bush near, and
was just signalling them to shoot me down from behind, when my escort
caught him in the act and fired. Going over to where he lay, I found
that nothing could be done for him, as the heavy Snider bullet had gone
through his sword—which these people wear rather high up on the right
side—and entered his body just above the hip, so that the case was
hopeless from the first, as he himself recognized. When I spoke to him
he made no complaint about his fate, but begged that five blankets which
I had given him at various times might be brought, and that he might be
wrapped up in them and buried, instead of being thrown into the bush for
the hyenas to eat, as was the usual Kikuyu custom. Having received my
assurance that his last wish should be carried out, he died, without
saying anything further. Although the man had undoubtedly brought his
fate on himself by his treachery, I very much regretted his death, as I
thought we were getting on better terms, and he was one of the finest
specimens of the intelligent savage—physically as well as mentally—that
I have known. Had he been content to run straight and work with me for
the good of his people, he would have been able to do a great deal for

But we had little time to spare for regrets, for although his death took
a great deal of the heart out of his people who had been set to ambush
us, they still attempted to carry out his plan to wipe us all out, and
as our followers were by this time well over the brow of the hill, we
had as much as we could do to hold our own. I managed, however, to get a
couple of messengers through the warriors surrounding us, to summon some
of our men back to our help. On the arrival of reinforcements, those of
the rain-maker’s people who were not prepared to give up their weapons
and surrender cleared off as rapidly as possible.

Strangely enough, in the course of the same day’s operations I was able
to do my old friend Karuri a good turn by saving the life of his eldest
son, a boy of about eighteen, named Cachukia, who had only recently
attained to warrior rank, and was out on his first expedition. We were
returning from the reduction of a village where we had met with
considerable resistance, and lost rather heavily, when I noticed that
Cachukia was not with us, and on inquiring what had become of him, I was
told that he had been killed in the final assault on the village. Not
wishing to take any chance of the boy having been simply badly wounded
and left to bleed to death, I took a few men with me and made my way
back to the scene of the fight, where I found the unfortunate youngster
still living, but very seriously hurt, having two bad spear wounds in
the chest, both of which had penetrated the lung. Although the case
seemed pretty hopeless, I could not leave him there to bleed to death,
so getting the men to make a stretcher with a blanket and a couple of
young saplings, I had him carried back to his father’s place, where he
gradually recovered, and to-day he is as strong and healthy a man as any
in the tribe, of which he should be the chief on his father’s death.

It may be worth while mentioning that the man who shot the chief
rain-maker was so overwhelmed with what he had done, and the possible
consequences to himself if he remained anywhere in the neighbourhood of
the late lamented’s district, or even where his people could easily get
at him, that he cleared out of that part of the country altogether, and
no one knew where he had gone. I met him some years afterwards on the
road in the neighbourhood of Naivasha, when he recalled the incident to
my memory, telling me that he had never ventured to go back to his own

Soon after my return to headquarters I organized a big safari to take
the food and ivory I had collected down to Naivasha, and on this journey
I took about a thousand loads of food into the Government station, which
they were very pleased to get. I was told that I could take in as much
food as I could possibly collect, as some of the flour was required for
the other Government stations up-country, where their supply of food had
fallen off locally.

During my absence an Indian store had been opened in Naivasha, and
having sold my food and ivory, I was able to buy everything that I
required for trading at this store, and among the other things I
purchased to take back with me were a lot of seeds, including some of
the black wattle.


Returning to my home in the mountains, I settled down at Karuri’s with a
prospect of calmer days before me than I had experienced during the
previous twelve months, during which I had been getting the country
under control, and now I had time to set about improving the country
itself, and got the natives to work making better roads and building
bridges across the rivers, and generally increasing the facilities for
getting about the country. I also made a very large garden close to my
camp, in which I planted the seeds which I had bought at Naivasha, and
had the satisfaction of finding that almost every English vegetable
would grow well in that climate, while the black wattle I had planted
also flourished splendidly, and has, I believe, at the present day grown
into quite a little forest.

With the opening up of the country by the railway, new difficulties
arose. My own success in the country induced many traders, Somali, Arab,
and Swahili, to try their fortunes with the natives, and so long as they
stuck to legitimate trading, all went well, but they adopted methods
which soon created a strong feeling of discontent throughout the
country. In many cases these traders, who had very little in the way of
trade goods, represented themselves as working for Karanjai—which was
the native name by which I was known—and instead of doing any trading,
billeted themselves on the natives, making them keep them, and would
often even steal the sheep and other belongings of the Kikuyu. The
natives repeatedly complained to me of the misbehaviour of these
so-called traders, and when I told them that they were not my people,
and that I had nothing to do with them, the natives sometimes retaliated
on these men who were thus robbing them. Wandering Swahili, and the
other rascals of their kind, came complaining to me. I told them that if
they could not get on with the natives the best thing for them to do was
to leave the country.

Matters went on in this way for some time, incidents of the kind
becoming more and more frequent, until the whole country was in a state
of unrest, and as I was continually travelling about the country from
one chief to another, I was always hearing of them, and on one of these
journeys, I had personal proof of the imposition and robbery that was
being practised on the natives by these scoundrels. I happened to be in
the neighbourhood of Mount Kenia—where it was still necessary to have a
fair number of rifles to go about in safety—and two or three of these
Somali traders, who had not guns enough to venture alone, had been
following me on the journey, about a day’s march behind. It appeared
that at the last village at which they had stopped they had driven away
about sixty sheep from the native kraal, and had afterwards sat down
quietly to trade these sheep off for ivory in my camp. As soon as the
case was brought to my notice, I at once ordered them to return the
sheep, and told them that the best thing they could do was to get out of
the country at once, as they could not count on my assistance if the
natives attacked them. It came to my knowledge that they had made their
way down to Nairobi and there spread reports about my killing natives
and taking their sheep away from them. The officials were practically
ignorant of what was going on, and I knew that the reports of men being
killed and things of that sort would be believed by them, in all
probability—especially as I was a white man and the reports were brought
by natives. This meant trouble for me both ways, as unless I got rid of
these men they disturbed the peace of the whole country; while if I did
so they carried misleading reports to the Government—always ready to
believe anything to the disadvantage of a white trader—and so, between
the natives, the traders, and the Government, my position was no

It was about this time that the smallpox broke out in the country, and
for the time being all my other troubles were relegated to the
background, in the face of the necessity for adequately dealing with
this awful plague. We were having a shauri, when I noticed in the crowd
an elderly man, a stranger to that part of the country, and a single
glance was sufficient to show me that he was suffering from smallpox. I
explained to the natives the significance of my discovery, and told them
that if he were allowed to mix with them they would certainly get the
smallpox and die. They immediately stood away from him and said that I
ought to shoot him, which to their savage mind was the most natural
precaution to prevent the disease spreading. I explained to them that
such a course was impossible, though in view of the subsequent events,
the forfeiture of this man’s life at that time would have meant the
saving of thousands of lives which were lost in the epidemic of which he
was the cause. I told the natives what they ought to do to avoid the
infection, and arranged for an isolation camp to be built in which the
man was placed, telling some of the people who lived near by to leave
food for him at a respectful distance, so that he could fetch it for
himself until he got better, and also instructed them to see that he did
not, on any account, leave the camp. Some days later I was travelling
through the country when I again saw the man in the crowd, and in great
alarm sent some of my own men back to the isolation camp with him. But
it was too late. The disease had already spread to others, and I saw a
lot of bad cases among the people, and though I tried to get them all
into isolation camps, it was practically no use. When an outbreak
occurred in a family they would not report it, but continued to live and
sleep together in the same hut, with the result that, in most cases, the
whole family took the disease and died. I sent into Naivasha for some
lymph and started vaccinating the people. They took the matter in the
proper light, and raised no objection, so that I was able to vaccinate
thousands of them, which must, undoubtedly, have been the means of
saving many lives; but in spite of all I could do, thousands died, many
whole villages being wiped out.

One rather remarkable thing about this epidemic was that Karuri’s
village escaped entirely, not a single case occurring among the
inhabitants, which Karuri claimed to be due to certain precautions he
took to ward off the evil. He got some sticks and split them down the
middle, and then poured some black powder in the opening, afterwards
pegging the sticks down across all the footpaths leading to the village.
It did not keep people from coming in, and I could not see in what way
the sticks could do any good, but Karuri had great faith in their
virtues, and as no case of smallpox occurred in the village he took the
credit for keeping it away.

Karuri told me that one of the reasons of the respect with which he was
regarded by his people was that he possessed a most wonderful poison. If
any one even looked at this poison it caused certain death. The secret
of this drug, he told me, had been handed down and preserved in his
family for two or three generations. The poison itself was kept buried
in the bush, one of the tribe being specially told off to guard it and
dig up the package when it was required for use; but I could never learn
anything about the way in which it was used, and was very much inclined
to believe that the whole thing was a legend, of which the old man made
use to strengthen his influence among the people. I certainly believe
that there was some box or package buried in the bush and carefully
guarded, but whether it actually contained poison or anything else I
question whether Karuri himself could have told any one. The old man was
always very anxious to possess samples of the poisons contained in my
medicine-chest, but although I gave him many medicines of various kinds,
I always refused to part with any of the poisons, as it is not
improbable that he might have taken an opportunity of testing my
immunity with some of them.

While on this subject, some account of the native practice of protecting
their shambas, or rather the crops growing in them, from thieves may be
of interest. Of course this was done by playing on the superstitious
fears of the savage, the usual method being to hang some article, such
as an old earthenware cooking-pot, an old broken calabash, or best of
all, the cast-off earthenware nozzles of smith’s bellows, on a bush or
tree near the edge of the cultivated patch, and any one pilfering in
face of this warning to trespassers was supposed to fall sick, or even
die, as the result of his temerity. A similar practice prevails on the
West Coast, where a stick with a piece of cloth tied to it, or inserted
in a cleft at the top, may often be seen in the cassava patch; and it is
supposed that any one violating the protection which this ju-ju is
supposed to afford, will, at the least, suffer the loss of some portion
of his body, which will rot away and drop off.

The old saying that “it never rains but it pours” was abundantly
verified in our case, only in a contrary sense to the literal meaning of
the proverb. The failure of the rains in two successive seasons—which
was attributed to the white man having brought the railway into the
country—brought about a famine, which still further depleted the
population. The country around Karuri’s, being mountainous, was not
affected so much as the part to the east of us, on the caravan road, and
more towards the coast. At our high elevation, surrounded by the
watersheds of Mount Kenia and the Aberdare Range, we could always rely
on a fair amount of rain, though we had had much less than usual during
these two seasons. The general famine in the country affected me,
inasmuch as the food which I was there to buy found its way out on the
borders of the country, and consequently my supplies were cut off.
Having occasion to go down to Nairobi about this time, I saw hundreds of
poor wretches dead or dying on the road, while some of my men heard
gruesome tales of men killing and eating each other in their desperation
at the lack of food. No case of this kind came under my personal notice,
but I have seen the natives sitting down and boiling the skins which
they wore as clothing in the effort to soften them sufficiently to
enable them to be eaten.

Numbers of the starving people, when they heard that food was to be got
in the part of the country from which I came, started out to try to get
there, but were robbed and killed on the way by the Kalyera people. It
sounds rather paradoxical speaking of starving people being robbed, but
the statement is, nevertheless, perfectly correct; as, before starting
out, these poor vagrants collected all their household goods and took
them along with them, in the hope of exchanging them for food. A few,
indeed, had sheep and a few head of cattle with them. Thousands of these
people would start off together, and being weak and exhausted with
hunger, they fell an easy prey to the Kalyera.

The natives begged me to take them out to Karuri’s, and pitying their
miserable condition, I agreed to do so, and got together a caravan of
several thousands of the starving wretches, among whom were a number of
natives who possessed a fair quantity of sheep—perhaps one man would
have thirty sheep, and another five or six head of cattle, while, of
course, there were numbers of others who had absolutely nothing. It was
pitiable to see these people staggering along, first one and then
another dropping out to die on the road. Before starting out I made it
perfectly plain to them that I would only lead them to the “land of
promise” on condition that they placed themselves absolutely under my
control and obeyed my orders in everything, and this they promised to
do. When I saw them staggering along, almost too weak to drag one foot
before the other, and dying at the rate of about fifty per day, I
ordered those who had cattle and sheep to deliver them up to me, and
each night when we got into camp, I had as many killed as were required
to give them just enough food to keep them alive. Niggers have
absolutely no feelings of humanity, and the owners of the sheep and
cattle grumbled loudly at my action in feeding the others with their
property, which they charged me with stealing. I felt perfectly
justified, however, in the course I was adopting, although I was pretty
certain at the time that these people would some day do their best to
make trouble for me, by misrepresenting the facts to the Government
officials, who, while always ready to accept any statements against
myself, were much less inclined to take the responsibility for their own
laxity in the performance of their duty. I never ate any of the meat
myself, nor did I allow any of my men to do so, so that it could not be
said that I had any personal benefit from my action.

As I anticipated, when I took the sheep one or two of the natives
deserted from the caravan and went back to the Government station to
report that I had been looting their sheep. After much difficulty I got
the people through to the Kikuyu country, and distributed them to the
different villages, giving them plainly to understand that they must
behave themselves.

Not being able at this time to buy any more food, I went about among the
natives and started improving my own camp, cultivating the land, making
roads, &c. On my visits to different parts of the country I talked with
the chiefs and took general note of what was going on, and at the same
time bought any ivory that I heard of. Eventually it was brought to my
notice that the people I had billeted on the different villages when
they were starving, being now healthy and well fed, were bullying and
domineering over the natives who had helped them in their time of
misfortune. These people I had brought in had previously lived on the
edge of the country, in touch with the white man and his civilization,
consequently they had different notions and ideas from those amongst
whom they had come to live, who had not, as yet, come in contact with
any white man except myself. They declined to acknowledge my authority,
and endeavoured to assert their power over the natives by taking charge
of the villages, and, in some cases, stealing their sheep and
interfering with their womenfolk. This led to all kinds of trouble, and
the people naturally became anxious to get rid of their unwelcome
guests, and they came to me saying that, as I had brought them in, and
they were now all right, they ought to leave the country. I explained
this to the intruders, but they absolutely refused to go. Amongst the
number were some Swahili, who would settle down in a village for a
twelvemonth, simply loafing about and living on the natives; and though
they called themselves traders, they were really deserters from some
caravans. There were also many who were wanted at the coast for
different offences, and had somehow or other managed to get mixed up
with the famine-stricken people. They knew that I was not a Government
official, and as they refused to obey my orders I could not get rid of
them. This gave rise to a lot of quarrelling, and a number of people
were killed on both sides; so that I could see that the only thing for
the peace of the country was to get rid of this bad element at all
costs. I therefore gave them three days’ notice to quit, informing them
that if they were found in the country at the end of that time I would
not be responsible for anything that happened to them. They took no
notice of my warning, and at the end of the three days the people took
matters into their own hands, and drove them out of the country, when,
although there was no really serious fighting, some of them got killed
and several were wounded. The evicted ones, as I expected that they
would, went straight to the officials and complained that I had robbed
them of their sheep and driven them out of the country. I was first
informed of this by a letter from Mr. Gilkinson, the Government official
at Nairobi, and at once sent Karuri and some of the other chiefs into
Nairobi to explain the true facts of the case, thinking that a personal
interview between the official and the natives would be much more
effective than any statement that I, a white man, could make. This idea
was apparently correct, as the explanation which they gave proved quite
satisfactory—at least, this was the impression which was conveyed to me
by the report which they made to me on their return.

The country having been rid of the disturbing element of these alien
rogues, I now settled down once more to a peaceful mode of life, going
from village to village buying food, and sending in supplies at more
regular intervals to Naivasha, where they were very badly needed. There
was no further difficulty in finding porters, and a safari of from five
hundred to one thousand men went down to the Government station
regularly about once every month to take in the food.

Some account of the ordinary routine of my daily life among these people
may prove of interest to the general reader. Everybody turned out, as a
rule, about six a.m., and while I had my morning cup of tea and
biscuits, or possibly a dish of porridge made from mawhali or umkanori
flour, with fresh milk, the men turned out and cleaned up the camp
thoroughly. This over, the men were formed up for a couple of hours’
drill and rifle exercise—a training which every man, whether one of the
askaris or not, had to go through, so that, in the event of my losing a
few askaris, I always had trained men ready to take their places. At
first, of course, I had to undertake this daily drill myself, but after
a time the native sergeant and corporal became proficient enough to
relieve me of everything but superintendence of the parade. Drill was
over about ten o’clock, and then I held a court for the trial of any
serious cases of crime, or met the chiefs and elders in consultation
with regard to measures for the general welfare of the people. By the
time this was over it was time for lunch, which was my first real meal
of the day, and generally consisted of a dish of mutton—and the native
mutton is some of the best in the world. This was sometimes varied by
European tinned provisions, of which I always kept a fairly good stock
at my headquarters. The afternoon was spent in overseeing the work of
the men in my shamba, attending to the repair or rebuilding of any of
the huts that were in need of attention, or carrying out improvements in
the camp—unless any of the chiefs had come in to see me, in which case
the afternoon would be given up to interviewing them. Dinner was served
about seven o’clock, in European style, as I had been fortunate enough
to get a really good Swahili cook, who could turn out a most appetising
meal at very short notice. Of course, I had to dine in solitary state,
being the only white man in the country, and about eight or nine o’clock
I would turn in for the night. This, of course, was the day’s programme
at headquarters, though when out on safari I made a point of following
the same routine, as far as the circumstances allowed. One day in each
week I had a big dance at my place; and this day was practically a
holiday, the dance taking precedence of all ordinary work.

The daily life of a chief in times of peace does not present much
variety, and the following account of a day out of the life of my friend
Karuri is a fair sample. He was not quite such an early riser as myself,
usually putting in an appearance to count his cattle and other stock
when they were let out to graze, which, owing to the fogs and damp
generally prevailing at that elevation in the early morning, was not
generally done until about eight o’clock. There was no regular morning
meal among these people, who were in the habit of indulging in a sweet
potato or a few bananas whenever they felt hungry. Having finished
counting his stock, the greater part of the day would be spent in
settling disputes and hearing minor cases, which, owing to the native
love of argument, were often of interminable length. The old gentleman
took no interest in the working of his shambas, which he left entirely
to his wives, of whom he had some sixty or more. As the hearing of the
cases was accompanied by much drinking of njohi, both judge and
litigants were apt to be in a somewhat foggy condition by the time the
Court adjourned for the day, which did not generally take place until
the time for the evening meal, which, as I have mentioned, is really the
only regular meal of the day for Kikuyu. Sometimes the cases were not
even closed then, but as soon as darkness came on judge and litigants
would adjourn to a hut, and continue the discussion over the sweet
potatoes, until it was time for them to turn in, which they usually did
about nine o’clock.

One not infrequent interruption to the ordinary routine of Karuri’s day
was the sacrificial meal of a sheep, in honour of their god, Ngai, which
took place sometimes as often as twice or thrice a week. Whether the old
chief’s fondness for roast mutton had anything to do with the frequency
of his offerings I cannot say, but he certainly never seemed to neglect
any opportunity which served as an excuse for one of these meals. As I
was present on some of the occasions, it may be worth while to give some
description of the ceremony, for which no extra preparations were made
on my account, as is sometimes the case when white men are to be present
at any of their functions.

At the time appointed, Karuri, accompanied by any others who were to
take part in the ceremony, went out into one of the “sacred groves” in
the bush, taking with them a sheep, which, on arrival at the spot where
the sacrifice was to take place, was killed by strangling, its throat
being cut directly it was dead, and the blood caught in a calabash, and
put on one side. A sort of wooden gridiron was then made, by planting
four upright sticks in the ground and laying others across them, under
which a fire was lighted, and the sheep, having by this time been cut
up, was roasted on this. While the cooking was going on, the blood,
which had been put on one side, was put into the stomach, thus making a
sort of black-pudding, which was then roasted, and eaten after the meat.
The meat was eaten in the Abyssinian fashion, each man taking up the
joint, and biting hold of as much as he could get into his mouth, the
mouthful then being severed from the joint with his sword, and the joint
passed on to his neighbour, who did the same. I managed to introduce one
or two slight modifications into the manufacture of the black-puddings,
by getting them to cut up some of the fat, and mix it with the blood,
and boil the ingredients, instead of baking them. No women or children
were ever allowed to be present on any occasion when the men were eating
meat, as, like the Masai, the Kikuyu do not allow their women to touch
meat, and therefore, to keep them out of temptation, never allow them to
see the men eat it.

How much religious significance this ceremony had I should not like to
say: the fact that it was always held in one of the sacred groves would
seem to imply that it had some connexion with their religion, but, as
there was no further ceremony than I have described, I always had a
lurking suspicion that it was simply an excuse for a good meal of roast
mutton, and that the groves were chosen for the meeting-place as being
more likely to be secure from interruption from the women and children.

While on the subject of sheep-eating, it may be worth while to mention
another of their peculiar superstitious practices, much encouraged by
the medicine men, which was known by the somewhat unpleasant name of
“vomiting sin.” .bn 294.png When a man was sick, and went to the witch
doctor to be cured of his illness, he was very often told that his
illness was due to the anger of God at some sin he had committed, and
that, if he wished to recover, the only thing to do was for him to go
through an extremely unpleasant ceremony, which I will describe. If he
agreed to do so—and I do not think that the man who refused would enjoy
much good health afterwards—he brought a sheep to the witch doctor, who,
having killed it, wound portions of the entrails round the patient’s
neck, wrists, and ankles. Then, taking out the dung, he emptied it into
a calabash, and mixed it with water, until it was quite liquid. Taking
his place opposite the patient, who squatted on the floor with his mouth
open, the witch doctor took a couple of small bundles of twigs with the
leaves on, and commenced beating the mixture in the bowl with them, and
splashing it into the patient’s mouth until he was violently sick, when
the sin was supposed to be got rid of, and the patient would go away
expecting to be quite well in a short time.

On my asking one of these old frauds what became of the sheep, he
explained that he would eat it himself, as if any one else ventured to
touch the meat, he would die at once. When I said that I should have no
objection to eating a leg, and was certain that no ill consequence would
follow, he replied: “Of course you could eat it quite safely. You are a
great witch doctor like myself; but if any of these savages ate it, they
would die at once!”

In the meantime, I made friends, by Pigasangi, with those natives with
whom I had tried, on my first journey through the country, to make
arrangements for that ceremony, and who said at the time, it will be
remembered, they would wait. This enabled me to open up fresh food
stations, and altogether my enterprise in that direction was progressing
very satisfactorily. The only people who now caused me any trouble were
the Kalyera, with whom I had always to be cautious when passing the
borders of their country, as they were continually on the war-path, and
I heard that they had lately extended their operations into close
proximity to the railway, where they had been giving a lot of trouble by
robbing and killing the Indians engaged on its construction.

Living, as I did, in close touch with the everyday life of the natives,
I became well acquainted with their manners and habits of living, and I
also managed to learn a good deal of their genealogy. I found that the
Kikuyu tribe was divided into a number of clans, or _mahirriga_, each of
which bore a distinctive heraldic sign on their shields. The origin of
these clans was wrapped in mystery, none of the natives with whom I
discussed the question being able to tell me how they originally came
into existence, or what was their real purpose. The word “clan,” as we
understand it, suggests unity and combination, but this certainly was
not the interpretation of the term accepted by the members of these
Kikuyu clans, the members of which were mixed up indiscriminately, and
scattered all over the country. They all knew to which of the clans they
belonged, and there the connexion seemed to end, so far as I could
gather. The only similar instance of such “clans” that I can call to
mind is the “clan” system which formerly existed among the Red Indians
of North America, where men of different, and often hostile, tribes
might belong to the same “clan,” the clans being known by the names of
various animals, such as bear, wolf, fox, &c.

All the Kikuyu worship a god called Ngai, and I was given to understand
that they had also another god, whom they called Ngoma, though this
latter appeared to correspond more to our idea of the devil; for
example, when a native went into a fit of hysterics at one of their
war-dances, as I have previously stated was frequently the case, they
said that it was Ngoma who had entered into him and caused it.

I noticed, in various parts of the country, quite a number of large
trees which had been left standing alone, and which I took to have been
left as landmarks when the ground had been cleared for cultivation. They
were usually to be found on the top of a hill, and stood out prominently
in the landscape. I found on inquiry, however, that these trees were
looked upon as sacred, and had some religious or superstitious
significance. The natives had many other curious beliefs and practices,
and had many ways of seeking the favour of their god Ngai. Some of the
chiefs, when things did not go right, were in the habit of killing a
sheep, which they then took into the bush, and left there as a sacrifice
to Ngai; and when a sheep had been sacrificed in this way, none of the
natives would go near it, for fear of offending the god. When I remarked
that Ngai did not eat, and therefore did not require food, they replied,
“Oh, yes, in the morning everything is gone.” I took the trouble to find
out what became of the sheep, and, as I expected, saw that the hyenas
came during the night and ate it; and, to prove this, I shot a hyena one
night while in the act of devouring the sacrificial sheep. But when I
told them that this was the Ngai for whose benefit they were making
these sacrifices, it did not alter their belief. Some of them told me
that Ngai lived on the top of Mount Kenia; but others said that his
habitation was on a mountain in the Kedong Valley, not far from Lake
Naivasha. This mountain, on the summit of which is the crater of an
extinct volcano, called Longanot, is known by the name of Kilemongai,
which means “the mountain of God”; and it was said by the natives that
any one going up this mountain would never come down again, as they were
bound to die up there. This piece of superstition probably originated
when the mountain was active, and there was every probability that any
one going up would have but a poor chance of getting down alive.

When going down to Naivasha I had on various occasions noticed that the
natives when they crossed certain streams used to leave a little food at
a particular place, generally a few sweet potatoes broken up—sometimes
it was left in the bush; and when I asked why they had done that, they
gave me to understand that they were performing some religious rite, but
I never managed to get any satisfactory explanation of it.

Still more curious, to my mind, were some huge heaps of stones to be
seen at certain places as we passed along the caravan track. When we
came within sight of one of these heaps a native would pick up a stone,
or he had, perhaps, been carrying one for some time in anticipation of
coming to the spot, and cast it on the heap, at the same time muttering
some prayer to Ngai, as it was on these occasions that he would ask Ngai
for anything that he was in need of. It struck me as very remarkable
that in my later travels in Abyssinia I should come across the same kind
of heaps of stones, while some of my Abyssinian followers went through a
similar performance of adding to the heap. When I questioned an
Abyssinian as to the meaning of the performance, he would reply by
pointing in the direction of a church, which stood on the top of a hill
away in the distance, and tell me that, not being able to go to the
church to make his devotions, he threw a stone on the heap as a
substitute for the performance of his religious duty; and I noticed that
while putting the stone on the heap he would bow towards the church. The
Abyssinians are, of course, members of a branch of the Coptic Church,
and it struck me as possible that the idea had in some way travelled
from them to the Kikuyu, who copied it, not knowing precisely what it
meant, but understanding that it was some form of worship of Ngai.

I have already mentioned that the practice of spitting plays a large
part in many of the Kikuyu customs, and I also found that the same thing
prevailed among the people in the district up towards Lake Rudolph, and
in fact it was the custom with the majority of the people up towards the
north, as I found when I came in contact with them in my later travels.
It might seem to Europeans a vulgar thing to enlarge upon, but it was by
no means regarded in the same light by the inhabitants of East Africa,
amongst whom it was regarded as the highest compliment you could pay a
man if you spat on him, or, better still, on his children. On my first
introduction to the big savage chief Wagombi, he asked me to spit on his
children; and among both the Masai and Kikuyu a friendly introduction
was not complete unless spitting had entered into it. They very seldom
speak of their children without spitting, and I concluded that the
practice denoted respect.

The Kikuyu had a great variety of dances; some were for men only and
some for women only, while there were some in which it was the custom
for both sexes to take part. There was also one particular dance, which
was danced by all the young boys before they were circumcised, in which
all who took part were painted white from head to foot, while each wore
a kind of toy shield on the left arm and carried, in place of the usual
spear of the warriors, a white wand, decorated with white goat’s hair.
This band of whitewashed young savages went from village to village
performing their dance, which they did very well, keeping remarkably
good time, and as the postures were gone through each time in exactly
the same way and in precisely the same order, it was evident that they
had some recognized rule and method in their dancing.

[Illustration: RIVER SCENERY]

Although the Kikuyu are fearless fighters when their blood is up and
will slay their enemies without the slightest compunction, they have a
most extraordinary fear of the dead, and would not on any account touch
a corpse, for which reason they never bury their dead. I have known a
few instances of particularly wealthy or important natives being
accorded the honour of burial, but, as a rule, when a native dies, if he
happens to be in his hut, the body is left there, and no one ever enters
the hut again. If a poor man, or a man of no particular standing,
happens to fall sick, and they think he is likely to die, he is carried
into the bush at some distance from the village, a fire is lighted, and
a pile of wood placed handy so that he can replenish it, and he is then
left to die.

The Kikuyu, like nearly all other African tribes, are polygamous, and
the general rule seems to be that any ordinary individual may have three
or four wives, though, as marriage is simply a question of paying so
much for the woman, the number is apt to vary with the man’s wealth,
some of the bigger chiefs having as many as twenty or thirty. They do
not, of course, regard women in the same way that we do, but look upon
them more in the light of slaves, the value of a wife being reckoned at
about thirty sheep. The women have to do all the work of the family and
house, the man himself doing practically nothing. They build the huts,
cultivate the shambas, and do all the field work, though at certain
times of the year when new ground has to be cleared for cultivation the
men condescend to take a share in the work. Each wife has her own
separate hut, where she lives with her family, and, if her husband is a
big chief, he may have a hut for his own individual use, but, as a rule,
he resides with his different wives alternately. They have very large
families, and the children begin to take their share of the work at a
very early age—the little girl of three years of age relieving her
mother of the care of the baby of one year, and, as they grow older,
their share in the work increases in proportion. The very young boys
have their share in the work too, and may be seen at a very early age
tending the herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. This practice, prevalent
almost throughout Africa, of making the woman support the family, while
the man does little but loaf or fight, is at the root of the often
openly expressed desire of the (so-called) Christian natives that the
Church should allow polygamy among her African converts—a desire which
has been quite as strongly expressed by the “civilized” and educated
natives on the West Coast as among the more primitive tribes of the East
and the interior.

On the whole, the people seemed to lead a very happy and contented life.
They are almost vegetarians in their manner of living, their staple food
being sweet potatoes, although they include a variety of other articles
in their diet, such as yams (which they call _kigwa_), matama, beans,
Indian corn (or maize), and a smaller grain called _mawhali_, besides
bananas, sugar-cane, &c. They also have a very small grain like
canary-seed, called _umkanori_, which they grind into flour by means of
a hand-mill, composed of two stones—a large one at the bottom, on which
they place the grain, and a smaller one on top, with which they grind
it, after the fashion of the mills described in the Bible as being in
use in the East thousands of years ago. With the flour made from the
umkanori-seed they make a kind of porridge, which I found very
palatable. The natives call it _ujuru_, and it combines the properties
of both food and drink, being left to ferment until it somewhat
resembles _tywala_, or Kafir beer, and is very nourishing. When the
natives are going on a journey which takes them any distance from their
homes, or out to work in the fields, they take a calabash of ujuru with
them, a smaller calabash, cut in half, being used as a cup, into which
the liquid is poured for drinking.

The Kikuyu appeared to have no regular hour for eating, except in the
evening, when the day’s work is over. Then everybody, men, women, and
children, could be seen sitting round a huge calabash, cut in half to
form a kind of basin, all helping themselves from the contents of the
vessel, which would, perhaps, consist of sweet potatoes, or Indian corn,
or perhaps bananas, roasted. In connexion with this custom of the
evening meal, I may here make mention of the open-handed hospitality
which is the rule rather than the exception among all the native races
of Africa; in fact, I make bold to say that any man who is willing to
work at all cannot possibly be stranded in Africa, unless, it may be, in
one of the larger towns. I have often noticed a native come into a
village at the time of the evening meal, walk up to the circle, and sit
down and help himself to sweet potatoes or whatever there might be; and
on my remarking to the headman on the number of his grown-up sons I have
been told, “Oh, that is not one of my sons; he is a stranger.” When I
asked where he came from, I was told that they did not know; they had
not asked him even his name, and knew nothing whatever about him. He
would settle himself by the fire for the night, and go on his way the
next morning without his host being any the wiser as to his name or
where he came from.

This is only one of the points in which the ignorant heathen so often
set an example worthy of imitation by some of the so-called civilized

They grow a calabash which serves them for almost every household
purpose, such as storing liquid, carrying water, or as a drinking
vessel. For carrying grain or other purposes of that kind they make a
bag from the fibre which they obtain from certain trees, and which
varies in size according to the purpose for which it is required; while
for cooking or for storing large quantities of water they use
earthenware pots, which are made in certain districts of the Kikuyu
country in practically the same way as pottery was made in the early
days in our own country, being fashioned out of a particular kind of
clay and then burnt to harden them. The method of cooking is very much
the same throughout Africa, a small fire being made within a triangle,
composed of three large stones. An old camp may always be recognized by
these three stones, which show where the fire was made for cooking,
although all other traces of the camp may have disappeared under a
luxuriant growth of grass, several feet high.

The Kikuyu make all their own weapons—spears, swords, and arrows—from
the iron which is found in various parts of the country, and which they
smelt in the old-fashioned way. I found that the style of bellows used
by them was the same as those I had seen in other parts of Africa, being
made out of a sheepskin, fashioned to a pointed bag, which, when opened,
admitted the air and expelled it again when pressed down. Two sets of
bellows were worked together, one with each hand. The native blacksmith
uses a large stone as an anvil, and possesses a variety of hammers, some
of them being simply ordinary pieces of stone, while others are in the
form of a dumb-bell, which he grasps in the middle when striking with
it. Singularly enough, the tongs which he uses to hold the heated iron
are practically the same as those used by the English blacksmith. As the
smith is, of course, paid for his labour in kind, he charges one sheep
for a spear, while a sword may be had for the same price. I found that a
lot of the iron-wire which I brought into the country was worked up into
swords and spears, possibly because it entailed less labour than the
working up of the native iron. In addition to the fighting weapons, they
made iron rings and chains, which were worn as ornaments.

Speaking of ornaments, one very characteristic feature of Kikuyu
adornment is the enormous size of their ear appendages—they cannot be
called earrings. When the children are quite young a hole is made in the
lobe of the ear, similar to the fashion in Europe of piercing the lobe
for earrings. But they are not content with the comparatively small
ornaments that satisfy the vanity of European women: their ambition is
to have the ear ornament as large as they can possibly manage; so the
hole in the lobe of the ear is distended by means of a series of wooden
pegs, gradually increasing in size until it is large enough to allow of
the insertion of a jam-jar or condensed milk tin, which are by no means
unusual ornaments for a native to be seen wearing in the ear. And very
proud they are as they go about wearing these extraordinary adornments,
which one would think must be decidedly uncomfortable for the wearers;
they certainly appear so to European eyes, but the natives do not seem
to consider them so, and are quite satisfied with the effect.

I do not think that I have mentioned that the Kikuyu cultivate a large
amount of tobacco from which to make snuff, for, although they do not
smoke, all the men take snuff. Many of the other tribes grow tobacco,
but not to such an extent as the Kikuyu, who know better how to cure it
than any of their neighbours; in fact, the Kikuyu tobacco has such a
reputation in the country that to my surprise I found that the natives
about Lake Rudolph, and even right round as far as Abyssinia, were
inquiring for Kikuyu tobacco.

The most striking incidents of my life at this time while I was living
among the Kikuyu were occurrences which took place on some of the
journeys down to Naivasha with the caravans taking in food. On two
occasions while marching down I had people killed by elephants, which
were fairly numerous in the bamboo forest at certain times of the year.
With a safari of a thousand men the long line of porters extended for
about five or six miles, winding through the forest like a huge serpent
and tailing away into the distance; and occasionally, when an elephant
crossed the path, one of the stragglers in the rear would find himself
suddenly encircled round the body by an elephant’s trunk and hurled
several feet in the air, to be trampled to death under the ponderous
brute’s feet when his body crashed to the ground again. The porters
nearest to him would then set up a shout, which was repeated all along
the line until it reached me, when I would immediately rush back as
quickly as possible, only to find, when I at length reached the spot,
that the elephant had been lost in the forest long before I got there,
the bamboos growing so thickly that it could not be seen for any great
distance. Incidents of this sort happened on two occasions on the road
to Naivasha.

The forest was full of animal life, including a fair number of bushbuck
and some specimens of a very rare kind of buck known as the bongo. The
bongo has horns like those of the bushbuck, but very much larger,
curving backwards with one or two spiral twists, and ending in a point
tipped with white. The hide is reddish in colour, with very narrow white
stripes. There are a few of the species to be found at the Ravine. Among
the other inhabitants of the forest I have seen wart hogs and wild pigs,
while the colobus monkey makes his home in the bamboo forest, and is
regarded as sacred by the natives, who, as far as I could understand,
were in the habit of placing sacrifices in the forest, which these
monkeys came and ate. The skin of the colobus monkey is greatly prized,
the hair being very long, while the upper part of the body is jet black,
with a white stripe down each side, widening towards the tail, which is
also white, the result of the peculiar arrangement of the two colours
being to give the animal a very curious appearance. Guinea-fowl were
very plentiful, and I also saw some partridges, but was never tempted to
shoot any. At times we had great difficulty in getting through the
forest, in consequence of the elephants having pulled down a number of
the bamboos and thus blocked the path, and we frequently had to make a
new path before we could proceed on our journey.

I had some personal experiences with animals in the forest, which added
a little excitement to the journeys. On one occasion as we were going
along some of the boys pointed into the bush, saying, “Yama,” which is
the Swahili word for meat, and is applied indiscriminately to any
animal. It was getting dusk, and, peering into the bush, I could see
something dark moving, but not being able in the half-darkness to see
what it was, I thought that the best thing to do was to try the effect
of a bullet on it. I had no sooner fired than the animal charged out on
me, and I saw that it was a huge rhinoceros. Having only soft-nosed
bullets, my shot had not injured it, and as it was only about ten paces
from where I was standing I had only just time to spring out of the way
before it blundered past me. Immediately every man dropped his load and
sprang up the nearest tree, while the rhino, after passing me, slowed
down and began sniffing about among the loads which the porters had
thrown to the ground in their hurry to get to places of safety. Although
I knew that unless I could hit him in a vulnerable spot it was no use
firing, I gave him a few shots at random, which had the effect of
driving him off.

One night we had a peculiar experience with a lion. With such a number
of porters it was impossible to provide tents for all the men, so we
used to bivouac at nights either on the edge of the forest or in some
deep ravine where we were sheltered from the wind. On the particular
evening of which I am writing we were settled for the night in a ravine,
and I was suddenly aroused from my sleep by shouting, howling, and the
waving of firebrands, while at the same moment a huge boulder came
crashing through my tent. Thinking that it was at least an attack by the
Kalyera or Masai or some of the other natives, I rushed out of my tent
to find that what had really happened was that a lion had come prowling
round the camp, and was in the act of springing on some man sleeping
below when he dislodged a boulder from the overhanging ledge on which he
was crouching for the spring, which had dropped on my tent. The noise
made by the porters and the stone slipping from under its feet must have
scared the animal, as he made off just as I came out. There were quite a
number of lions on the Kinangop Plain and near Naivasha, so we always
made big fires at night to guard the camp, and never had the bad luck to
have any one taken. One day a Masai reported that a lion had been into
the kraal and had killed thirty sheep, every one of which had been
killed by a tap of his paw, but none of them had been eaten.

I was told of a remarkable occurrence which had taken place at Naivasha.
One of the officials there had a white horse, and one night a prowling
lion sprang on its back. Hearing the noise, one of the soldiers fired,
and, although it was too dark to take an accurate aim, he was fortunate
enough to hit the lion, which dropped off the horse’s back dead, while
the horse was none the worse, save for a few scratches from the lion’s
claws. Of course, it was purely a chance shot, as it was much too dark
for the man to see clearly, and that was probably how he came to kill
the lion—niggers being, as a rule, atrocious shots with a rifle.

When going into Naivasha, the country around there being considered
practically safe, I often used to gallop on ahead of the caravan on my
mule, taking only a couple of boys with me, to let them know that the
safari was coming and to make arrangements for it on arrival. On one of
these occasions, when crossing the Kinangop Plain, I had a rather lively
experience with a leopard. After being cooped up in the hills for so
long it was a pleasure to get a good gallop over the open plain, and I
was riding along, thoroughly enjoying the exercise, when, chancing to
look round to see how far my gun-bearer was behind, I saw a leopard
following me at a distance of about thirty yards. I at once pulled up,
when the leopard immediately followed my example, and, after looking at
one another for a minute or two, the animal began walking slowly up and
down, swishing its tail about, and looking for all the world like a big
cat, but it did not offer to approach any nearer. This went on for some
time, until I at last saw the boy come into sight, carrying my gun; but
directly he saw the leopard, which was between us, he was afraid to come
any farther, and though I waved my hand to him to make his way round to
me, he would not move. The leopard still continued to march up and down,
until presently it saw the boy and appeared to hesitate, as if wondering
which of us to attack, though my mule had evidently been the first
attraction. The animal seemed to be puzzled at seeing me on its back,
and apparently did not quite know what to make of it. Seeing that the
boy was too scared to come to me, I made a detour—the leopard still
following me at about the same distance—and as soon as I reached the boy
I dismounted quickly, and, taking my gun from him, fired at the animal,
and evidently hit him, for he gave a bound and cleared off. Whilst he
was making off as fast as he could go I managed to get two more shots
in, and followed him until he disappeared into some bushes. Knowing that
one does not stand a chance with a wounded leopard in a bush, I
hesitated to follow, but I did not like to leave it; so I tried, by
throwing stones and in other ways, to find out whether it was still
alive and likely to be dangerous or whether I had actually finished it.
Hearing no movement, I plucked up courage, after some manœuvring, to
go into the bush. Moving as stealthily as I could, not knowing whether
the animal might not spring out on me at any moment, I worked my way
cautiously in, but I had not gone many yards before I found it lying
stone dead.

A wounded leopard is one of the most dangerous animals in the world to
tackle, and two of my friends were lamed for life as a result of
following up leopards which they had only wounded. One was a man named
Hall, and the other a hunter named Vincent. The latter had wounded a
leopard, and was following it into the bush when the animal sprang at
him suddenly and tried to seize him by the throat, and a hand-to-hand
fight ensued. Vincent managed to throw the animal off and fired at it,
but it flew at him again, and the struggle went on until he had emptied
his magazine into the brute’s body, having fired ten rounds into it. The
leopard had managed in the struggle to fasten its teeth in his knee and
to bite him very severely. As the result blood poisoning set in, and
Vincent was laid up for several months and was lamed for life.

                               CHAPTER X

Government send an expedition into my country to take over the
administration—Go with my followers to meet the Government officials—Am
asked to disarm my followers by the Government officials, who are in a
state of panic—Consent to this to allay their fears, and am then put
under arrest—Am charged with “dacoity”- -Am sent down to Mombasa to be
tried, and placed in the jail—Am released on bail—Tried and acquitted—I
am appointed intelligence officer, and guide to a Government expedition
into the Kikuyu country

I had been living and trading in the Kikuyu country for something like
two and a half years now, and during the whole of that time had had no
white visitors in the country, when one day the news was brought in that
some white men had come into my neighbourhood. News of an event of this
sort of course spreads very quickly, and the natives reported to me that
at Mberri, about thirty miles to the east of my headquarters, two white
men were camping with a lot of troops, and had commenced to build a
fort. When I had made a few inquiries, I found that they were Government
officials, who had come out to take over the country, and when I was
satisfied of this, as soon as I could spare the time, I called all the
chiefs together and told them that these two white men were evidently
officers of the Government and had come to take the country over, and
that as it had hitherto fallen to my lot to settle quarrels and disputes
and generally manage the affairs of the whole country, so now, I
explained, these new-comers had been sent for that purpose and to take
my place. I gave the chiefs some days’ notice to be ready to go up with
me, and said that I would take them up and introduce them to the

When the time came to start for Mberri all the chiefs did not turn up,
but I found that a good number of the thirty-six who at that time looked
to me as their head were ready to accompany me. Each chief brought some
of his followers with him, and we started off with about one thousand
men, and, as it was too far for a day’s march, I camped after travelling
about three-parts of the way to the fort. Resuming our journey the next
morning, we had nearly covered the remaining portion of the distance,
when it suddenly struck me that if such a large body of armed natives
were seen approaching the fort without any notice of their coming having
been received, they might easily be mistaken for a hostile force coming
to attack the new station, so I called a halt about two or three miles
from the fort, and, leaving the natives behind, went on ahead to report
their arrival.

On reaching Mberri I met one of the officers in charge of the fort, a
Mr. Hall, who turned out to be a man I knew very well, having met him
previously at Fort Smith, when he was in charge of that station; while
Captain Longfield, who was with him, was also known to me through my
having been in communication with him on several occasions respecting
certain happenings in the Kikuyu country. The two officials received me
in a friendly way and invited me to have some breakfast with them.
Having reported to them that I had brought in a number of friendly
chiefs to introduce to them, and explained my mission, I sent a man back
to my people to tell them to come on in, and was still at breakfast when
I heard a lot of shouting and talking, and went out to see what was the
matter. On asking what the fuss was about, I was told that my askaris
were being placed under arrest, and when I inquired what they had been
doing, was told that they had no right to be in uniform. As a matter of
fact they were not wearing a Government uniform, but as they were all
dressed alike in khaki, this was made a pretext for a display of
officiousness on the part of the officials, and the officer proceeded to
cut some buttons off their tunics, and the rank badges off the arms of
the sergeant and corporal, which, as I alone was responsible for their
dress, was a needlessly insulting piece of red tape. I had previously
ordered my men to disarm, and they submitted very quietly to the
insulting disfigurement of their clothes. My greatest crime of all in
the eyes of these officials, however, was the fact that I was flying the
Union Jack, which my men carried with them, as they were accustomed to
do on all their expeditions. I mildly put the question to the officer as
to whether he expected me to fly the Russian flag, or any other except
that of my own country, but it seemed that, to the official mind, it was
a most serious offence for an Englishman to display the flag under which
he had been born and for which he had fought, unless he held some
position in the official oligarchy which ruled, or was in the habit of
thinking it ruled, the country.

In the meantime a fearful row was going on amongst my people and the
other Kikuyu who lived near Mberri, who had joined them. Mr. Hall and
Captain Longfield were in a terrible state of panic. They asked me why I
had brought all those men there, saying that there was bound to be a
fight, and no end of trouble. I told them that there would be no trouble
with my men, as I could manage them all right. They asked me to disarm
them, and I agreed to do so, provided that they would be responsible for
their weapons, and on their undertaking to do so, I explained to the
chiefs that it was the white men’s wish that they should disarm. This
they very reluctantly consented to do, and gave up their weapons on my
assuring them that they would be restored to them.

When my men were all disarmed, and their weapons had been safely stowed
in a tent, under the care of a sentry, the official announced that I was
to consider myself a prisoner as well. To this I merely replied, “All
right,” feeling that if I were to express the feelings of utter contempt
I possessed at that moment for these two gallant specimens of British
officialdom, it would be the worse for my people and would only give an
excuse for ill-treatment. I could see too much unpleasantness ahead for
them as it was, if these two gentlemen were fairly representative of the
class to whom the future administration of the country was to be
entrusted, if I acted with precipitation and gave way to my natural
feelings against the mean trick that had been played on me. I was told
that I should be allowed to retain my cook and personal servants, and
that no restraint would be put upon my movements, provided that I would
give my word of honour not to attempt to clear out. As my real offence
was that I had brought into a state of order a country which, previous
to my coming, had such a reputation that no official would set foot
across the border if he could help it, I had no cause to fear the
results of an investigation into my conduct, and I made up my mind to
await calmly the termination of this comedy. Besides, I thought that my
personal influence might very likely be needed to prevent some
“regrettable occurrence.” Both the officials were in such a state of
unreasoning fear of the natives that it was more than likely that they
would be guilty of some piece of foolishness which might set the whole
country in a blaze. So I retired to my tent and amused myself for a
great part of the day with a gramophone which I had brought with me. Of
course, my men could not understand what had happened, and, fortunately,
none of them knew that I was under arrest.

In the meantime my men were being questioned as to what had happened in
the Kikuyu country during the time that I had been there, and the
following day an askari came to my tent and presented me with a lengthy
document, written on blue paper, which proved to be a summons to appear
that day before the officers in charge of the fort. The summons read
something after the following style: “I, Francis George Hall, charge
you, John Boyes, that during your residence in the Kenia district you
waged war, set shauris, personated Government, went on six punitive
expeditions, and committed dacoity.” I must confess that I read over
this formidable list of charges with some amusement, though I was well
aware that any one of them, if proved, meant capital punishment. There
was one item on the list that I could not make out, and I took the first
opportunity of inquiring the meaning of the word “dacoity,” which was a
term I had never heard used in the country before. I remembered reading
a book called “The Last of the Dacoits,” and it struck me that either
the title of the book was wrong, or that the official, in his anxiety to
fulfil his instructions to pile up as heavy a list of crimes against me
as possible, had allowed his imagination to run away with him. It was
explained to me that “Dacoit” was an Indian term, meaning a native

At the time appointed I presented myself at the “court-house,” which was
a primitively-constructed mud-hut, furnished with two chairs and a
table, and as the two former were occupied by Mr. Hall and Captain
Longfield, there was nothing left for me but to make myself as
comfortable as possible on the corner of the table, which I did, much to
the scandal of those two important officials. The charge having been
read over to me, I was cautioned in the same manner that an English
bobby cautions a prisoner, that anything I might say, &c., and then I
was asked what I had to say. I told them that I certainly had nothing to
say to them one way or the other, and would reserve my defence, and the
proceedings—which were of a purely formal character—were then over and I
returned to my tent.

The next four days were spent in collecting evidence against me, and as
nobody could be persuaded to go to my headquarters to collect evidence
against me on the spot, Captain Longfield himself finally went, taking
with him the whole of his troops, while during his absence Mr. Hall
gathered all the information he could from the chiefs and other natives
at Mberri.

When they had, as they thought, satisfactorily arranged for sufficient
evidence to secure my conviction, the Kikuyu who had come in with me had
their arms restored to them, and I and my personal bodyguard, together
with about two hundred native witnesses, were sent down to Nairobi under
charge of an escort of about ten native soldiers, commanded by a black
sergeant! The situation was ludicrously Gilbertian. Here was I, a
(so-called) dangerous outlaw, being sent down to be tried for my life on
a series of awful indictments, through a country in which I had only to
lift a finger to call an army of savage warriors to my assistance. I was
accompanied by a personal following twenty times as numerous as the
guard of ten natives who kept me prisoner, and who trembled every time
they passed a native village lest the inhabitants should rush out and
wipe them out of existence; while on the first day out the humour of the
situation was considerably increased by the sergeant in charge of the
escort handing me the large blue envelope containing the statement of
the evidence against me, with a request that I would take charge of it
for him, as he was afraid he might lose it! I must say that I thoroughly
appreciated the humour of the whole affair. I was the only mounted man
in the whole outfit, still having my mule, and it struck me as
distinctly amusing that I should be practically taking myself down to
Nairobi, to be tried for my life, with the whole of the evidence under
my arm!

During the journey, which, though only sixty miles in a straight line,
took us five days, as we had to pick a path—there being then no road—and
to avoid several swamps, some of the soldiers tried to make my men carry
their loads; but I thought that this was going a little too far, and
would not allow anything of the sort. We saw plenty of game along the
road, and also some lions, but as I was, of course, without my rifle, I
could not do any shooting.

When we arrived at Nairobi I presented myself at the Government
headquarters, which were then in a little tin shanty, now used by some
Indian coolies as a wash-house, while the remainder of the party sat
down outside whilst I went in to see the official. The Goanese clerk who
inquired my business told me that the Sub-Commissioner was very busy
just then and I could not see him. It was quite remarkable how very busy
these officials always were when any one, not of the official or
missionary class, wanted to see them. I had always experienced the same
difficulty in getting an interview, and no doubt the clerk thought that
I had come to make one of my usual complaints. On this occasion I did
not happen to be in a hurry, so telling the clerk that I would call back
in about an hour’s time, I went for a stroll round the town, and took
the opportunity of having a look at Nairobi. On my return I was received
by the Sub-Commissioner, who asked me what I wanted, so I handed him the
packet containing the statement of evidence, and when he had looked
through it he said that he would make arrangements at once to have me
sent down to Mombasa.

Things were done in a different way here, and I quickly realized the
change when I got outside the office and found myself surrounded by a
guard of six Indian soldiers with fixed bayonets.

That same day I was taken by the afternoon train to Mombasa, under
charge of the escort of Indian soldiers, with a white officer in
command, and on arriving there I was handed over to another white
official. After some considerable delay, the papers apparently not being
in order in some respect, I was duly admitted to the Mombasa jail, which
was the old Portuguese fort—a massive building, whose frowning walls
rise sheer above the cliff commanding the entrance to Mombasa. Many a
time, in days gone by, has the tide of battle rolled around these grim
walls, the many sanguinary conflicts in which it has figured having
earned for Mombasa the title of the “Isle of War.” Looked at from the
outside, the fort is a gloomy-looking place, with its huge entrance
gates guarded by sentries; but its extent is best judged from the
inside, and I found that there was plenty of room within its massive
walls; while the apartment allotted to my use proved to be much more
comfortable than I had expected—being, in fact, quite on a par with, if
it did not surpass, the accommodation which the only hotel in Mombasa at
that time could provide. I found that I was perfectly free to roam about
the fort at will, though, of course, I was not allowed to pass outside
the gates.

I had been incarcerated in the fort for some weeks before any of my
friends got to know of my arrest, and then one of them, Mr. Claude
Smith, also a trader and hunter, like myself, hearing of my position,
came down to Mombasa to see me. After having paid me a visit, he got the
only lawyer in the country, who was a Parsee, to conduct my defence;
while a few days later these two managed to secure my release, on a bail
of 10,000 rupees, and I left the fort and went up to Nairobi.

The bare statement that Claude Smith came down to Mombasa to see me, and
secured my release on 10,000 rupees bail, will probably not convey the
idea to the general reader that he did anything calling for special
notice. But, when the facts of the case are taken into consideration, it
will be seen that the comradeship which existed among us early pioneers
in that wild, official-ridden territory, was of a kind which does not
usually flourish among the stay-at-home, arm-chair critics who, from the
comfort of the club fireside or the smug atmosphere of the Exeter Hall
platform, condemn the traders and settlers as irredeemable blackguards
or, as one complacent official described them to a gathering of
uneducated natives, as _washenzi Uliya_, the translation of which is
“the savages of Europe.” In the first place, although I had no claim on
him whatever, he came down some four hundred miles from Naivasha, where
he was hunting, leaving his expedition for the purpose, and found the
10,000 rupees bail—which had to be actually deposited—from his own
pocket, and remained with me until the case was dismissed—thus
sacrificing many weeks of valuable time in my interests. Further than
all this, he incurred the bitter enmity of the official who had
instigated the whole business against me, and who never rested until he
had fabricated a similar charge against my friend, needless to say with
the result of triumphal acquittal for both of us.

When my trial came on, I found that all the charges against me, except
the one of dacoity, had been withdrawn; which fact only served to
confirm the information I had received—were any confirmation needed—as
to the origin of, and reason for, the whole conspiracy against me. The
trial was by judge and jury, and after hearing the evidence against me
the court acquitted me, and I left the court-house, as the judge said,
without a stain on my character—the judge even going so far as to say
that he did not understand why the case had been brought at all, and,
finally, apologising to me for the waste of my valuable time!

As to why the case had been brought I could have given the judge a good
deal of information which would have enlightened him considerably, but
as I had come so triumphantly out of the matter, I did not see that I
had anything to gain by stirring up the mud. At that time there were not
more than a dozen independent white men in the country; all the rest
were Government officials, missionaries, or men engaged in the
construction of the Uganda Railway, and, for some reason or other, the
governing class were always bitterly hostile to the commercial and
hunting element, and took every occasion of impressing upon us that we
were not wanted in the country. Further than this, the class of men
holding the Government appointments at that time were by no means
representative of the best elements even of officialdom; being, in many
cases, unsuccessful traders with a little backstairs influence, or the
least useful class of Army officer, with absolutely no experience of the
people or the country and no administrative training.[15] This state of
affairs is by no means peculiar to British East Africa, but has been
experienced in most of our other African Crown Colonies, and, indeed,
prevailed in many of them up to quite recently, and may do so yet for
all I know. Fortunately, so far as British East Africa is concerned,
there are now good prospects of the carrying out of a saner and more
intelligent policy under the guidance of the new Governor, Sir Percy
Girouard. If the colony is ever to become anything more than a happy
hunting ground for official inefficients, every assistance must be given
to those who are willing to invest their money in the country, and petty
officialism must be put in its proper place in the machinery of


Footnote 15:

  It must be remembered that the administration of the country was just
  starting. The Government had to put up with what officials they could


In my case there were many mixed motives underlying the conspiracy to
get me ousted from the Kikuyu country, and if possible from the
dependency, but it is perhaps better that I should be silent about all
this. One reason, perhaps, for desiring my removal was the apprehension
that existed out there that the authorities at home might think that
after all the man who single-handed had reduced to peace and order a
country into which no white man had ever successfully entered before,
might not be a bad one to entrust with its future administration in the
interests of the Empire. Of course, such an intrusion into the sacred
official class by a common trader, who actually understood the
natives—as far as a white man may—and was able to exercise a kindly
influence over them, was to be prevented at all hazards, even at the
cost of the said trader’s life if need be.

For my part, although no man likes to give up practically supreme power,
even among savages, I had always recognized that the day must come—and
had been at some trouble to prepare the natives for it—when the
administration of the country would be duly taken over by the official
bureaucracy, and my only aim was to assist the officials as far as
possible when that day came, so that the change might be brought about
with as little disturbance to the existing state of order as possible.
Unfortunately, the petty spite and official arrogance and inefficiency
of certain individuals defeated my object, and within a comparatively
short period I was grieved to find that my old friend and blood brother,
Wagombi, irritated at the tactless way in which he was treated by the
new officials, was carrying fire and sword through the whole country,
and raiding almost up to the walls of the boma where the new
Administrator lay trembling and afraid to venture a quarter of a mile
outside his own camp.

However, as I have already said, all those who have the true interests
of British East Africa at heart are hoping for a better state of things
under the experienced and enlightened administration of Sir Percy

After the fiasco of my trial, I returned to Karuri’s, and continued my
food-buying, taking the supplies into Naivasha as before. I still
experienced the same trouble with the Kalyera natives on the way down
with the food for the Government stations, and finally the matter was
reported to the Governor, Sir Charles Eliot, who resided at Zanzibar,
which was then the headquarters of the Government. As a result of these
representations, an expedition was sent out under Captain Wake, of the
East African Rifles, with Mr. McLellan as civil officer, and I was asked
to accompany them as guide and intelligence officer. I was only too
pleased to have this opportunity of proving to the Government my
readiness to help, and I willingly agreed to go with the expedition.

                               CHAPTER XI

Origin of the Kikuyu—The family—Circumcision—Marriage—Land

It may be of interest to the general reader if I give, in a single
chapter, a brief account of the manners and customs of the Kikuyu
people, and some description of the country in which they live. It must
be borne in mind that the information contained in this section is not
the result of direct questioning of the people, as it is well known to
all who have any _real_ knowledge of the African native that to ask
directly for information of this sort from him simply results in the
acquisition of a large amount of information which, however interesting
it may be to read, contains the smallest possible proportion of actual
truth. Therefore, the account of the Kikuyu and their country given in
the following pages is the result of my own personal knowledge and
observation during the period of my residence among them. It may not be
as picturesque as some other published accounts, but I am prepared to
vouch for its accuracy.

Owing to the fact that no accurate map of this part of Africa has yet
been prepared, it is a matter of some difficulty to give exactly the
boundaries and dimensions of the Kikuyu country; but, roughly speaking,
it is bounded on the north by a line which almost coincides with the
Equator; on the west by the Aberdare Range, a range of bamboo-covered
hills, uninhabited by any tribe; on the south by a kind of debatable
land, forming part of the Athi Plain, extending from Nairobi to Fort
Hall, to the south of which lies the Wakamba country; on the east, for a
considerable distance by the Tana River, beyond which it only extends
for a short distance towards the north-east. These boundaries may have
been somewhat modified since the opening up of the country by the
Government of British East Africa, but in the main they are still
correct. The area of this district would be about four thousand square

As I never attempted to take any sort of census during my “reign,” I can
only give approximately the population, but I should say, as far as I
was able to ascertain, that the total number of the tribe would be about
half a million—rather more than less—of whom the women outnumbered the
men considerably, the constant warfare tending to keep the number of the
male population at a fairly steady figure.

The accounts given of the origin of the Kikuyu tribe vary considerably,
and the nigger’s talent for fiction, and his readiness to oblige any
one—particularly a white man—who asks for a legend, make it extremely
difficult to distinguish where truth ends and fiction begins; but I will
give the two principal accounts as they were given to me, and my own
opinion of the credibility of both, and let the reader judge for

The first story is that given me by Karuri, the chief who was my first
friend among these interesting people, who was certainly one of the most
intelligent natives I have ever come in contact with. His account was
that the original inhabitants of the country, a tribe called the Asi,
were hunters who took no interest in agriculture, and that the Kikuyu
were a tribe who came into the country, and purchased tracts of land
from the Asi for purposes of cultivation. Gradually more and more of the
Kikuyu came in until they had cleared most of the forest land of which
the country originally consisted, while the Asi were gradually absorbed
into the Kikuyu tribe by marriage, or wandered farther afield in search
of the game which the increasing population and the clearing of the
forests had driven away to new retreats. Karuri himself based his
strongest claim to his chieftaincy on the fact that he was a direct
descendant of these Asi.

The other account, which was given me by a headman named Kasu, now a
powerful chief under the new regime, reminds one somewhat of the story
of Ishmael. The legend runs that a Masai warrior, living on the borders
of what is now the Kikuyu country, but was then a vast forest, inhabited
by a race of dwarfs, of whom the Kikuyu speak as the Maswatch-wanya, was
in the habit of ill-treating one of his wives to such an extent that she
used from time to time to take refuge among the dwarfs, returning to her
husband’s kraal after each flight. Finally his treatment became so bad
that she fled to the dwarfs and remained there, giving birth to a son
shortly after her definite settlement among them. Later on, the story
runs, she had children to her own son, which children intermarried with
the Maswatch-wanya, and from their offspring the present Kikuyu race
derive their descent.

Of the two accounts, my observation would lead me to look for the truth
rather in the direction of the latter than the former. In the first
place, as I think I have before pointed out, a strong physical
resemblance exists between the Kikuyu and the Masai; the former, indeed,
might almost be taken for a shorter, more stockily built branch of the
latter race, while I could easily pick out a hundred Kikuyu who, mixed
with an equal number of Masai, could not be told from the latter, even
by an expert. Again, the weapons and war-dress of the two races are
identical—a fact which to any one who is aware of the unique character
of the Masai weapons is a strong point in itself. Further, when actually
on the war-path—and _only_ then—the Kikuyu are in the habit of singing a
Masai war-song, in the Masai tongue, referring to a former noted warrior
chief of the Masai named Bartion. Again, their manner of circumcising
the young men is exactly the same as that practised by the Masai, which
differs from the custom of any other race, as I shall show later on. The
name for God, Ngai, is the same in both peoples, and they both have a
similar custom of retiring to a so-called “sacred grove” in the bush,
where they slaughter a sheep, which is afterwards roasted and eaten in
honour of their god.

These points, to my mind, all go to show a connexion between the Kikuyu
and the Masai, rather than, as some inquirers argue, between the Kikuyu
and the Wakamba. Of course, in the districts bordering on the Wakamba
country, where it has been customary for the two tribes to seize one
another’s women in their frequent raids, many of the Kikuyu show traces
of Wakamba blood, while on the Masai border the traces of Masai
influence are stronger than in the districts more remote; but I am not
arguing on the basis of the border districts, but from the race as a
whole. Again, the Wakamba, though not now known to be cannibals, still
follow the practice prevalent among cannibal tribes of filing the teeth
to a sharp point—a practice unknown both to the Masai and the Kikuyu.
The Wakamba also are eaters of raw meat, while the Masai, though
blood-drinkers, always cook their meat, and the Kikuyu are practically
vegetarians. In the manner of dressing the hair, too, the Kikuyu follow
the Masai fashion of plaiting strands of bark fibre into the hair, which
is then done up in a sort of pigtail, while the Wakamba wear the
covering provided by Nature without any fancy additions.

Another custom common to both the Masai and Kikuyu, though not practised
by the Wakamba, is that of wearing the most extraordinary ear ornaments,
which, as mentioned earlier in the book, are sometimes as large as a
condensed milk tin, and are worn passed through holes specially made in
the lobe of the ear. The practice is to pierce the lobe of the boys’
ears some time in early childhood, and from that time onwards the
aperture then made is gradually enlarged by the wearing of a succession
of wooden plugs or discs of graduated sizes, until an object as large as
a large-sized condensed milk tin can be easily passed through it. This
operation extends over some years, and the natural result is to convert
the ring of flesh into what looks like—and as far as feeling is
concerned, might as well be—a leather loop, which sometimes hangs down
far enough to touch the shoulder. It is the great ambition of every
Kikuyu youth to be able to wear a bigger ear ornament than his
neighbour, and, in order to attain the desired end, I have known them to
pass a straight stick of wood through the hole in the lobe of one ear,
across the back of the neck, through the lobe of the other, thus keeping
them both constantly stretched.

[Illustration: WAKAMBA WOMEN]

The country itself is very rough, and it is often a matter of difficulty
to find a level piece sufficiently large to pitch one’s camp on. It is
situated at an elevation of some six thousand feet above sea-level, and
consists of a series of ranges of low hills, divided by deep valleys,
through most of which flows a stream of greater or less magnitude, none
of which ever seem to become quite dried up, even in the driest of dry
seasons. On account of the comparatively temperate climate, due to the
elevation, and of the extreme fertility of the soil, the country is an
ideal spot for the native agriculturist, who gets his two crops a year
with a minimum of labour. Consequently the country is very thickly
populated; in fact, I do not know any part where, on raising the tribal
war-cry, I could not, in an extremely short space of time, gather at
least a couple of thousand fighting men. The principal crops are the
sweet potato, _kigwa_ (a kind of yam of very large dimensions), and
_ndoma_ (a vegetable something after the fashion of a turnip, with
leaves from three to four feet long and about eighteen inches wide at
their widest part). Bananas are the only fruit that I ever came across,
but they grow large quantities of sugar-cane, beans of various kinds
(from my fondness for which in preference to sweet potatoes I got my
native name of Karanjai, or “The eater of beans”) , and another
vegetable, which seemed to be a cross between a bean and a pea and which
grew on a bush; of grains they have several, of which the principal are
maize, _matama_, which is the same as the Indian dhurra and is found all
over Africa, _umkanori_, which resembles canary-seed in appearance, and
_mawhali_, a somewhat similar seed to the umkanori, from which the
fermented gruel known as ujuru is made. The Kikuyu seem to be possessed
of a perfect mania for cultivation, their practice being to work a plot
of ground until it begins to show signs of exhaustion, when it is
allowed to lie fallow or used only for grazing stock for a period of
seven years, new ground being broken to take its place in the meanwhile.
All the Kikuyu keep stock of some kind, either sheep, cattle, or
goats—sometimes all three—which are principally used as currency for the
purpose of paying fines and buying wives, the quantity of meat eaten
being very small.

The system of government is somewhat peculiar, but appeared to be a form
of the feudal system, based on the family. A village generally consists
of members of one family, the headman being the father, who had
originally settled in that particular spot with his wives. Each wife has
her own hut, her own _shamba_, or allotment for cultivation, and her own
storehouse, in which the proceeds of her labour are kept. Each woman
lives in her own hut, with her family round her, until the boys are old
enough to marry, when they set up their own hut, or huts, according to
the number of wives in which they are wealthy enough to indulge. The
headman or patriarch of the family, in my time, ruled the village, and,
within bounds, had the right of punishing any breach of discipline—even
to the extent of killing a disobedient son and burning his huts. The
women are well treated, and, as they perform all the work of the family,
with the exception of clearing new ground for cultivation, prefer to
marry a man with two or three other wives rather than a bachelor, as the
work of keeping their lord and master in comfort is thus rendered

Marriage is, as in most savage tribes, by purchase, the usual purchase
price of a woman being thirty sheep. There is no marriage ceremony in
vogue among them, but after the handing over of the girl by her father
in exchange for the sheep a feast is usually held to celebrate the
event. Occasionally the husband is allowed to make the payments on the
instalment plan, but this is not encouraged, as it is apt to lead to
quarrelling and disagreements. The youthful marriages common among such
tribes do not prevail among the Kikuyu, as no man is allowed to marry
until he has been circumcised, which operation usually takes place about
the age of seventeen or eighteen, and he does not generally take a wife
until two or three years later; while the usual age for marriage among
the women is eighteen, though the operation which corresponds to
circumcision in their case is performed as soon as they reach the age of

This practice of circumcision of the males at such a late age appears to
prevail only among the Masai and Kikuyu, all other African races, so far
as I can learn, following the Jewish custom and performing the operation
during infancy. The method of performing the operation in vogue with
these two tribes also differs from that in use elsewhere, so that a
description of it may be of interest. On the day fixed for the ceremony
the boys all turn out some time before daylight and are taken down to
the river, where they have to stand for half an hour up to the waist in
the ice-cold water until they are absolutely numb with the cold. They
are then taken out and led to the operator, who nearly severs the
foreskin with two cuts of his knife, then, folding the severed portion
back, secures it on the under side with a thorn driven through the
flesh. The boy then returns to his village and rests for a few days
until the wound is healed. No boy is supposed to utter a sound during
the operation, and it is probable that the numbing effect of the icy
bath prevents their feeling any or very much pain. In the case of the
girls also the bath in the cold river is a preliminary to the operation,
and neither boys nor girls ever seem to suffer any serious consequences
from this rough-and-ready operation. In the case of the girls the
operation, which consists of the excision of the clitoris, is performed
by an old woman, whose special duty it is to perform the operation with
one of the razors used for shaving the head.

The various sections of the tribe are ruled by chiefs, of whom the
principal during my stay in the country were Wagombi, Karkerrie, and
Karuri, but in addition to these there were innumerable petty
chieftains, many of whom owed no allegiance to any higher authority in
the country. Kingship, or chiefship, seemed to be decided mainly on the
principle that might is right, though it was of great advantage for a
candidate for the headship of any section of the tribe to have a
reputation for magic—or medicine, as they call it. Wealth and
intelligence also counted for something, and a chief who had proved
himself a brave warrior and good administrator would generally be
allowed to retain his headship of a district so long as he lived, though
it did not follow that his son would succeed to his honours unless he
were capable of taking hold of the reins of government with a firm hand.
In spite of the apparent uncertainty of succession, there is seldom any
trouble with regard to it, as it is generally pretty well known some
time before a vacancy takes place who the next chief will be, although I
never found that there was any sort of election to the office.

The chief, once accepted, is autocratic in the ordinary details of
government, trying all cases himself and pronouncing sentence, from
which there is no appeal; but in matters of moment affecting the general
welfare of the people he is aided in coming to a decision by the
counsels of the assembled elders of his district, a body something after
the fashion of the old Saxon Witan.

For ordinary infractions of the law, or offences against his authority
as chief, he pronounced such punishment as his discretion and judgment
dictated; but for cases of wounding or murder a regular scale of fines
was laid down—fining being the usual punishment, except in cases of open
rebellion. Open rebellion generally entailed a descent on the offenders
by the chief’s warriors, and the wiping out of the rebellious villages
and their inhabitants. For an ordinary case of wounding the fine was ten
sheep, while for the murder of a woman it was thirty sheep—the price
which her husband would have had to pay for her on marriage—and for a
man a hundred sheep. The tenure of land is very simple, the freehold
being vested in the man who takes the trouble to make the clearing, and
as there is plenty of space for all, and the wants of the people are
few, anything in the shape of agrarian agitation is unknown; in fact,
during the whole of my stay in the country I never knew any instance of
a dispute over land.

It must be borne in mind that many great changes have taken place in the
Kikuyu country, and in British East Africa generally, since the period,
some ten years since, covered by this book. In the days when I started
on my first contract for the conveyance of food to the troops engaged in
the suppression of the Soudanese mutiny, the spot on which Nairobi, the
present capital of the colony, stands was simply a patch of swampy
ground on the edge of the plain which extends to the borders of the
hilly Kikuyu country. Here the railway construction people pitched one
of their settlements and put up a station, and from this has risen the
town of some fifteen thousand inhabitants, of whom fully one thousand
are white, a larger proportion than can be found in any settlement of
the same age on the continent of Africa, while I may add that everything
points to an increased rather than a diminished rate of progression!

Nairobi is no bush settlement, where one expects to “rough it” as part
of the ordinary daily routine. On leaving the train one can engage a
cab, or even a motor, to drive one to a good hotel; if you know any one
in the town, you can be put up for an excellent club; while one’s
commercial requirements are met by a fine post-office, banks of good
standing, and stores where one may obtain anything that the most
fastidious European or savage tastes can require.

Undoubtedly the colony of British East Africa has everything in its
favour and, given ordinary luck, has a great future before it. The
climate is everything that the European settler could desire. Being
about six thousand feet above sea-level, the country is not subjected to
the extremes of heat and wet which prevail in other parts of the
continent, but has merely a good average rainfall, while the temperature
seldom exceeds 75° in the shade, even in the hottest weather. The soil,
particularly in the Kikuyu district, is extremely fertile, and will grow
almost any European vegetable, and most European fruits, in addition to
wheat, coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, and tobacco, as well as cotton,
rubber, sisal hemp, sansovera fibre, and, of course, on the coast, the
ubiquitous cocoanut. On the whole, British East Africa presents as good
an opportunity to the man of limited capital, with a capacity for work,
as any spot to be found in the length and breadth of the British Empire.
In addition to agriculture, such industries as cattle-farming,
sheep-farming, pig-breeding, and ostrich-farming are already being
carried on with great success. Under the wise administration of the
present Governor, Sir Percy Girouard, the prospects of the country are
improving by leaps and bounds. This is principally due to two important
factors: the encouragement given by the Governor to capitalists willing
to invest money in the colony; and his full and frank recognition, for
the first time in the history of the colony, that the future of this
valuable dependency lies in the hands of the settlers, rather than in
those of the official caste.

The value of land is rapidly increasing, and estates which, ten years
ago, could have been bought for 2s. 8d. an acre are now fetching 20s. an
acre, though grants may still be obtained from the Government land

In the Kikuyu country itself vast changes have, of course, taken place
in the ten years which have elapsed since I was supreme there. Four or
five Government stations have been established, roads have been opened
up in various directions, while many white settlers have come in, and
are doing well, in addition to the swarm of missionaries of various
sects who have settled all over the country; in fact, I gave my own
house to one of the first, I think I may say the first—a Roman Catholic
priest—who came into the country. The people themselves have settled
down quietly under the new conditions, and pay the hut-tax regularly,
which is a by no means inconsiderable item in the annual revenue of the
colony. The Kikuyu are excellent workers, and are now to be met with in
every part of the dependency, and in almost every trade, while the
chiefs have taken to building stone houses in place of their native
huts, and riding mules. In my opinion the Kikuyu will ultimately become
the most important among the native races of this part of the continent,
owing to their greater intelligence, industry, and adaptability.

Of course, at the present day, my name is little more than a legend
among the Kikuyu, around which many wonderful stories have been built up
by the people. In the nine years which have elapsed since I left the
country many of the older men who knew me have died, while the rising
generation, who, as children, only knew of me as the most powerful
influence in the province, have only vague memories of actual
happenings, which they have gradually embroidered until I should have
great difficulty in recognizing some of the occurrences myself in their
present form.

A book of this sort will probably be looked upon as incomplete without
some expression of opinion as to the value of missions and the
missionary influence. It must not be inferred from the various remarks
scattered through the book that I am one of that fairly numerous body
who, with considerable experience to back their opinion, profess to
regard the missionary as the worst curse that can fall on a newly-opened
country, but I do say that the whole system on which these missions are
conducted requires to be thoroughly revised. The primary mistake, from
which most of the trouble springs, is the assumption, to which all
missionaries seem to be officially compelled to subscribe, that the
African negro is, or can be made by education, the moral and
intellectual equal of the white man, and that by teaching him to read
and write and say the Lord’s Prayer by rote the inherent characteristics
resulting from centuries of savagery can be utterly nullified in the
course of a year or two. The deliberate and considered opinion of those
best qualified to know, the men who have to live among these people, not
for a year or two, but for a lifetime, brought into constant and more
really intimate contact with them than the great majority of
missionaries, is, that education in the narrow meaning of the term is a
very doubtful blessing to the average negro compared with the enormous
benefits to be conferred by a sound course of industrial training. As an
instance in point, let us take the case of Uganda, where the missionary
has had a free hand, such as he has probably had in no other part of the
world, for the last twenty years. Yet, after all this time, there is
hardly a single Uganda artisan to be found—and those of poor quality—in
Uganda itself; British East Africa has to look to the native of India to
find the skilled artisans required for the service of the community. And
it must be borne in mind that the Waganda are undoubtedly the most
intelligent of all the native races of East Africa, so that the settler
may fairly consider himself justified when he charges the missionaries
with neglecting, practically entirely, one of the greatest aids to the
civilization of the native that he could possibly use. The native,
properly trained to handicrafts, and able to understand the advantage of
skill in his particular line, would be much more likely, as his means
increased, to see the advantages of civilization, and to appreciate the
benefits of that education which, as often as not, now lands him in
jail; while the civilized negro, become a really useful member of the
community, would also be much more likely to prove a satisfactory
convert to Christianity than the material at present paraded as such, of
whom the average white man with experience of Africa will tell you that
he would not have a “mission native” as a servant at any price.

Let the missionaries turn their minds and funds to the industrial, as
well as the moral and religious, instruction of the natives, and they
will find every settler in the land prepared to support their efforts,
while the Empire will, undoubtedly, benefit enormously in every way.

Finally, one of the greatest difficulties which hampers the development
of our African colonies, and renders the task of the administrator who
really _does_ know something of the work he has taken in hand a
heart-breaking one, is the utter inability of the good people at home to
realize the absolutely irrefutable truth contained in Kipling’s
statement that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain
shall meet.” The average missionary and new-comer to Africa generally
arrives with his mind stored with the statements contained in the
reports of missionary societies or the books of well-to-do
globe-trotters, and is firmly convinced that he knows all there is to be
known about the country and its people. When he has been a year or two
in the country he will, if he has any remnants of common sense left,
begin to realize that it is about time he began to try to learn
something of the people among whom his lot is cast; while at the end of
ten, fifteen, or more years he will frankly confess the utter
impossibility of the white man ever being able to, as an able African
administrator once put it, “get inside the negro’s skin,” and really
know him thoroughly. I question if there have ever, in the history of
the world, been twenty pure-bred whites altogether who have really known
the native of Africa, and if you hear a man boasting that he “knows the
nigger thoroughly,” you may safely put him down as a man of very limited
experience of the negroid races.

The ultimate solution of the negro problem lies, not in the “poor
coloured brother” direction, but in training him in handicrafts, and
thus making him a useful, productive member of the community; and as
soon as this fact is recognized, and carried to its logical result, so
soon will the “colour problem”- -which at present weighs heavily on the
mind of every thinking white man who really realizes what it means—cease
to be the ever-present bogey of our African Administration.

And here for the moment I will end my story. It was my intention, when I
first started to write this account of my experiences among the Kikuyu,
to have extended the period of this book to the times of my more recent
adventures on the African continent. I found, however, that space would
not allow me to include all I wished to put down in writing in one small
volume. I have, I think, much more to relate which might be of interest
to the general reader. I have spent the last ten years of my life either
exploring in the wilds of the Dark Continent or have been occupied as a
professional hunter of big game, and should this book of mine find any
favour with the public, I hope in a short time to recommence my labours
as an author again.

My next experience immediately after the facts related in this book was
to take the Governor of British East Africa, Sir Charles Eliot, on a
personally conducted tour to the scenes of my adventures and throughout
the wilder parts of his domain. Later, many stirring adventures with
lion and elephant have been my lot. My wanderings have led me across the
desert from British East Africa into Abyssinia, into the Congo territory
and elsewhere. I hope some of the adventures which befell me in these
travels may, in the future, prove interesting to the public.




 Adcock, 21
 Africander Corps, 27
 Animal life, 272-8
 Ants, plague of, 130-1
 Asi, the, 297
 Askari, the, 40
 Athi plain, the, 47

 Baden-Powell, General Sir R. S. S., 30
 Bamboo forests, 78-9, 122, 272
 Banana growing, 302
 Bartier, 134, 154-5, 217-21, 224
 Bartion, 299
 Bee-keeping, 161
 Bongo, the, 273
 Boyes, John, early days, 2;
   goes to sea, 3-4;
   first adventure, 4-5;
   escapade at Heligoland, 5-6;
   Hull to Liverpool, 6-7;
   Rotterdam escapade, 8;
   sails as A.B., 9;
   illness at Laguna, 9-11;
   joining the R.N.R., 12;
   West Africa, 12-15;
   disappointment regarding certificate, 15;
   Africa, 15, 16;
   work on the railway, 18, 19;
   bound for Bulawayo, 21-6;
   joins Matabeleland Mounted Police, 26-7;
   work with Africander Corps, 27-30;
   first stores, 31;
   holiday at East London, 32;
   goes on the stage, 32;
   goes to sea again, 32;
   bound for Mombasa, 33-6;
   transport caravans, 38-41, 44-5;
   adventures with lions, 44, 59, 60, 69, 70, 274-5;
   loss of stores, 55-7;
   end of the journey, 60;
   desertion of natives, 61-2;
   Rice transport, 71-4;
   into the Kikuyu country, 76-91;
   trading, 87-90, 137, 142-7, 163-4, 198-9;
   settling of native quarrels, 93-5;
   cementing relationship, 97-9;
   teaching the natives self-protection, 106-8;
   precautions against attack, 108-9;
   a second house, 111-12;
   attacked by natives, 112-14;
   his standing with natives, 118-20, 126-9;
   trouble with natives, 137-42;
   his death prophesied, 145;
   tricking the natives, 166-7;
   plot and attack, 167-74;
   disappearance of cattle, 174-7;
   rain at last, 178;
   desire to establish peace, 179, 216;
   camp in Wagambi’s country, 185-6;
   into hostile country, 199-202;
   the Wanderobo country, 203-15;
   help for the Goanese, 217-24;
   fight against the Chinga, 224-32;
   its effects, 234-5;
   stores taken to Naivasha, 240;
   settling down, 240-3;
   taking starving natives to Karuri’s, 248-51;
   life in a native village, 253-4;
   adventures with animals, 273-8;
   interviews Government officials, 280-3;
   summons of, 284-7;
   in Mombasa jail, 288-9;
   on bail, 289-91;
   his trial and acquittal, 291;
   officialdom, 291-4;
   a post under Government, 294;
   general survey, 295-315
 “British Mission to Uganda” quoted, 49-52
 Building a house, 90-1

 Cachukia, 238-9
 Caranja, 132
 Chinga, the, 152, 216-32, 234
 Circumcision, practice of, 304-5
 Clock, native wonder at, 166-7, 173
 Colonial fruit and produce stores, Bulawayo, 31
 Cooking customs, 268-9
 Coptic Church, the, 263
 Cow, value of the, 163

 Dances of natives, 104-5, 264-5
 “Dead Donkey Camp,” 74
 Dhow, the Arab, 33-6
 Dick, Mr., 56
 Drinking, _see_ Njohi
 Drought, _see_ Rain-famine
 Durban, 32

 East London, 32
 Eating customs, _see_ Food
 Eleminteita, Lake, 58-9
 Elephants, natives killed by, 272;
   hunting of, 165-6
 Eliot, Sir Chas., 294, 315
 Elliott, G. F. Scott, quoted, 52-3
 Elstop, 30-1
 Engelfingin, 2
 Equator Camp, 60-1

 Famine, 247-50
 Findlay, 116-17
 Fire-stick, the, 89, 90
 Flour, bartering of, 87-8, 114
 Food of the Kikuyu, 267-8
 Food stores, 142, 146, 240
 Fort Smith, 50
 Frielich, 31

 Gibbons, 39, 46, 53, 60-1, 66, 71, 116-17, 144, 199
 Gilkinson, Mr., 252
 Girouard, Sir Percy, 292, 294, 308
 Goanese, the, 216-24, 234
 Gorges, Captain, 77, 88
 Government, the Kikuyu system of, 302-3
 Grant, 23-5, 27
 “Great Rift Valley, The,” 52
 Gregory, Professor, 52
 Guard-keeping, 106-7
 Guasa Nyero River, 189, 205, 213

 Hall, 278
 Hall, Mr. F. G., 281-2, 285-6
 Hand-shaking, native custom of, 128
 Heligoland, 5
 Henga, 154-5
 Hicks Pasha, 66
 Honey-bird, the, 207-8
 Hospital arrangements at Laguna, 9-11
 Hubner, 42

 Industries of B. E. Africa, 308-9
 “Isle of War,” _see_ Mombasa
 Ivory, trading for, 144, 146, 163-6, 178, 187, 198, 203, 212, 233

 Juganowa Makura, 133-5

 Kalyera, the, 122, 124-5, 132-5, 136, 149-50, 248, 259, 294
 “Karanjai,” 126, 127, 132-3
 Karkerrie, 144, 160-3, 166-7, 170-3, 179, 191-4, 231, 235, 305
 Karuri, 81-2, 85-8, 92, 94-5, 145, 150, 179, 229, 233, 235, 237-9,
    245-6, 255-6, 297, 305
 Kasu, 297
 Katuni, 161-2, 173, 178
 Kedong Valley, 54, 77-8, 88
 Kikuyu, the, 49-53, 74-5, 76-99, 102, 127, &c., 152-5, 183, 259-60,
    264-71, 295-315
 Kikuyu tribe, origin of the, 92-3, 296-300;
   chiefship of, 305-6;
   punishments of, 306-7
 Kilemongai, 262
 Kinangop plain, 75, 78-9, 276
 Kipling quoted, 313
 Kismayu, 173
 _Knight of St. John_, 7
 Kolb, Dr., 212-13

 Laguna, 9
 Laikipia plain, 183
 _Lake Simcoe_, 9, 11-12
 Leopard, adventure with a, 276-8
 Lions, coolies, fear of, 42;
   audacity of, 42-3;
   adventures with, 42-4, 48, 59, 69-70, 274-6
 Liverpool, 7
 Longanot, 262
 Longfield, Captain, 281-2, 285-6

 Mabrook Camp, 71
 McLellan, Mr., 294
 Mahigga, 219
 Majuba Hill, 18
 Maklutsi, 22-3
 Man-eating lions, 51, _see_ Lions
 Market, native, 192-3
 Marriage customs, 265-6, 303-4
 Martin, 51-2, 60
 Masai, the, 49, 54-7, 65, 73, 93;
   attack on the Kikuyu, 112-14;
   their relation with the Kikuyu, 298-300
 Maswatch-wanya, the, 92, 160
 Matabele, the, 26;
   first war, 28
 Matabeleland Mounted Police, 26-7
 _Matama_, 302
 _Mawhali_, 302
 Mberri, 279-83
 Measurements, native standard of, 164-5
 Medicine, 159-60, _see also under_ Poisons
 Menzini, 78-9, 149
 Miles, Sergeant, 76
 Milk, superstitions about, 135-6
 Missionaries, 309-14
 Mombasa, 36-7, 288-9
 Monkey, the Colobus, 273
 Mount Kenia, 108, 143, 183-4, 159-60, 242
 Mud-fish, 24-5
 Muga-wa-diga, 156-8, 161-2, 173, 178, 191-5
 Mule, native astonishment of, 150
 Music of the Kikuyu, 102-5

 Nandi, the, 61
 Nairobi, 47-8, 148, 287, 307-8
 Naivasha, 74-5, 88, 114-5, 122, 125, 240, 275
 Naivasha, Lake, 58
 Nakuru, 60, 71
 “Naturalist in Mid-Africa, A,” quoted, 52-3
 News, transmission of, 66-7
 Ngai, 92, 127, 133, 197, 260-3
 Ngoma, 197, 260
 Niekerk, Captain Van, 27
 Njohi, drinking of, 142-3, 161-2, 193-4
 Njora River, 62
 Nyeri, 173

 O’Hara, 42
 Olomondo, 189-90, 193-6, 203, 206, 213-15
 Ornaments of the Kikuyu, 270-1

 Paget, Colonel, 28
 Perenti, 42-3
 Pigasangi, 97-9, 178-9, 187, 191-8
 Poisons, native, 118-20
 Poisons of Karuri, 245-6
 Population of the Kakuyu, 296
 Portal, Sir Gerald, quoted, 49-52
 Prophesying by natives, 159-60

 Rain-famine, 247-8
 Rain-maker, chief, 219, 235-8, 239-40
 Rain-makers, 155, _see_ Witch-doctors
 Rain-making to order, 166-7, 210-11
 Ravine, Fort, 60
 Religious observances, 197-8, 255-8, 261-3
 Rial, 42-3, 65
 Rudolph, natives of Lake, 263

 Salisbury, 23
 Salt, native liking for, 129;
   method of obtaining, 129-39;
   substitute for, 130
 Selous, F. C., 30
 Shangani Patrol, 27-8
 Shimoni, 36
 Sin-vomiting, 257-8
 Smallpox, outbreak of, 243-5
 Smith, Claude, 289-90
 Smith, Major, 60
 Somali traders, difficulties with, 239-43
 South Africa, 17
 Spitting, custom of, 263-4
 Standerton, 19-20
 Superstitions of natives, 135-6, 143, 182, 207-8, 210, 213-14, 245-7,
 Swahili, the, 39-40, 65, 184, 209, 251
 Sword, method of wearing the, 90, 127, 237

 Tato, 109, 110, 144, 163-77, 216
 Tea, native liking for, 129
 Teck, Prince Alexander of, 28
 Thieves, native method of protection from, 246-7
 Thompson, Joseph, 52
 Tobacco-growing, 271
 Trading, difficulties of, 240-3
 Trading stations, 124
 Trading with natives, 87-90, 137, 142, 146-7, 163-4, 198-9
 Treachery of natives, 90-1, 127
 Turkana country, 106

 Uganda Railway, 36, 38, 41, 54, 71
 _Umkanori_, 302
 Umvunga Drift, 30
 Uwini, 28-9

 Vegetation in Kikuyu country, 301-2, 308
 Vincent, 278

 Wagombi, 108, 143, 160-1, 178-88, 190-8, 202-4, 215, 231, 235, 294, 305
 Wakamba, 45, 119-20, 299-300
 Wake, Captain, 294
 Wa-Kikuyu, _see_ Kikuyu
 Walsh, Mr. and Mrs., 114-15
 Wanderobo tribe, the, 165, 189-90, 203-5
 Water, locating of, 72-3
 Wattle, planting of Black, 240-1
 Weapons of the Kikuyu, 269-70
 Wilson, Major, 28
 Witch-doctors, 143-5, 159-60, _see_ Poisons
 Women, protection of, 275-6
 Wunjaggi, 125, 127-8

 Yorks and Lancs Regiment, 28

 Zanzibar, 32
 Zebra, the, 73



                           Transcriber’s Note

The author refers to Laguna, Brazil, as ‘Laguña’. However, the index
correctly removes the tilde. To avoid confusion, the text was corrected.

The Index entry on p. 316, for John Boyes, garbles two subentries on
line breaks: ‘join- the R.N.R.’ and ‘disappointment regards -ing
certificate’. It seems probable that the ‘-ing’ was simply misplaced.
The entires have been corrected to appear as ‘joining the R.N.R.’ and
‘disappointment regards certificate’.

The references here are to the page and line in the original.

  9.21     and on arriving at Lagu[ñ/n]a                  Replaced.
  92.12    conversations with Ka[r]uri                    Inserted.
  316.25   join[ing] the R.N.R.                           Added.
  316.27   disappointment regards[ ing]                   Removed.

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