IN THE SWAMPS ON THE GUAS NGISHU. BEATING FOR LIONS WE CAME UPON A STRANGE AND FASCINATING WILD BEAST, WHICH BECAME ATTACHED TO OUR PARTY. THE LITTLE WANDEROBO DOG
One of the most exciting phases of African hunting is the beating of swamps for lion. A long skirmish line of native porters is sent in at one end of the swamp and, like a gigantic comb, sweeps every live thing ahead of it as it advances through the reeds. All kinds of swamp life are stirred into action, and a fairly large swamp will yield forth the contents of a pretty respectable menagerie. Sometimes a hyena or two will be flushed and once in a while a lion will be driven out.
It is the constant expectation of the last-named animal that gives such keen and long sustained interest to the work of beating a swamp. One never knows what to expect. A suspicious stir in the reeds may mean a lion or only a hyena; an enormous crashing may sound like a herd of elephants, but finally resolve itself into a badly frightened reedbuck. Most of the time you expect reedbuck, but all the time you have to be ready for lion. As a general thing a lion will slink along in the reeds ahead of the beaters and not reveal himself until he is driven to the end of the cover. Then he will grunt warningly or show an ear or a lashing tail above the reeds, and instantly every one is in a state of intense expectancy. What the next move will be no one knows, but it is more than likely to be something of a supremely dramatic sort.
One day we were beating swamps on the Guas Ngishu Plateau. Lions seemed to be numerous in that district. Two days before I had killed two lions near by, and during the morning Stephenson and I had each killed a lioness in the same line of marshy reed beds. We now intended advancing to the next large swamp of the chain and see whether a large, black-maned lion might not be routed out.
Conditions seemed propitious, for in this selfsame swamp Colonel Roosevelt had seen the best lion of his trip some weeks before. Perhaps the lion might still be there.
The campaign was planned with great thoroughness. Forty or fifty porters were formed into the customary skirmish line and on each side we paralleled the beaters with our rifles. At the word of command the column began to advance and the interest reached a fever heat. The swamp was five or six hundred yards long, and for the first three hundred yards nothing of a thrilling sort occurred. The shouts of the beaters blended into a rhythmic, melodious chant and the swish of their sticks as they thrashed the reeds was enough to make even the king of beasts apprehensive.
Abdi, the Somali Head-man
Along the Nzoia River
Beating a Swamp for Lions
Over on my side of the swamp there was a wide extension of dry reeds and bushes through which I was obliged to go in order to keep in touch with the skirmish line of porters. We had got three-quarters the full length of the swamp and any moment might reasonably expect to hear from a lion if there was one ahead of us. Every rifle was at readiness and the porters were advancing less impetuously. In fact, they were pretending to go forward without doing so.
Suddenly a wild shout from a porter near by, then a hurried retreat of other porters, and then a cautious advance gave sign that something desperate was about to happen. We caught a glimpse of reeds moving about and then saw something crouched in the grass beneath. Two ears were finally distinguished among the tangle of rushes, and there was no further doubt about it. It was not a lion. It wasn't even a hyena.
It was a little dog. His presence in the middle of that swamp was about as logical as if he had been a musk-ox or a walrus. However, there he was, gazing up at us from the bulrushes, with mild, friendly eyes and a little tail that was poised for wagging at the slightest provocation. He was instantly christened "Moses" for obvious reasons. Later the name was changed to Mosina, also for obvious reasons.
After the line of porters had regained their composure the lion beat continued, but no lion appeared. The sum total of the wild beasts yielded by that promising swamp was one (1) little black and tan dog with white feet.
It Was Not a Lion
Some of our genealogical experts addressed themselves to the task of figuring out the why and wherefore of little Mosina and what in the world she was doing out in a lion and leopard infested place. Leopards in particular are fond of dogs, not the way you and I are fond of them, but in quite a different way. A leopard, so it is said, prefers a dog to any other food and will take daring chances in an effort to secure one for breakfast, dinner, or supper. Therefore, how little Mosina escaped so long is a mystery yet unsolved.
The experts decided after a thorough consideration of the case, viewing it from all possible angles, that the little dog was a Wanderobo dog. The Wanderobo are natives who live solely by hunting and generally have the most primitive sort of a grass hut at the edge of a swamp or deep in the solitudes of the forest. They put rude honey boxes up in the trees to serve as beehives, and it is from this honey and from the game that they kill with their bows and arrows and traps and spears that they manage to eke out a meager living.
Like all true hunters, they keep dogs, and it is more than likely that little Mosina was the ex-property of some wild-eyed, naked Wanderobo who lived in the swamp. When our great crowd of noisy beaters appeared at the other end of the swamp the Wanderobo had doubtless crawled out of his hole and made off for the nearest tall grass. In going he had left behind Mosina as a rear-guard to cover his retreat or to stay the invaders' advance until he could reach the nearest spot available to a hasty man.
So we adopted this theory as to why Mosina was in the bulrushes, and in honor of her Wanderobo associations we again changed her name to "Little Wanderobo Dog." So far as I know, she is the only dog in history who has had three separate and distinct names within two hours. Of course, there are people who have called dogs more than three different names in much less time, but they were not Christian names. One of the bachelor members of the committee, who is known to be a woman-hater, conferred the honorary title of the pronoun "he" on Little Wanderobo Dog, and she has been "he" ever since. But not without a bitter fight by those of the committee who think the pronoun "she" is infinitely more to be admired.
Little Wanderobo Dog did not wait to be adopted. He adopted us, but not ostentatiously at firstjust a friendly wag here and there to show that he had at last found what he was looking for. By degrees he became more friendly and genial, so that at the end of an hour he was thoroughly one of us.
I have never seen a milder-eyed dog than Little Wanderobo. Innocence and guilelessness struggled for supremacy, with "confidence in strangers" a close third. You couldn't help liking him, for with those meek and gentle eyes, together with manners above reproach, he simply walked into your heart and made himself at home.
I think that we were a good deal of a surprise to him. In all his short young life he had probably never known anything but kicks and cuffs. When he met a stranger he naturally expected to have something thrown at him, or to have a stubby toe or hard sandal projected into his side. Imagine his wonderment to find people who actually petted him and played with him. At first he didn't know how to play, but it was amazing to see how fast he learned. He was ready to play with any and all comers at any and all times. You could arouse him from a deep slumber and he would be ready to engage in any form of gaiety at a second's notice.
They talk about "charm." Some people have it to a wonderful degree. You like them the minute you meet them, and often don't really know why. Perhaps because you simply can't help it. Well, that was the chief characteristic of Little Wanderobo Dog. He had more charm than anything I've ever met, and so it is only natural that he should have walked into our affections in the most natural, unaffected sort of way.
I don't know what he thought of us, but I really believe that he thought he had gone to Heaven. We fed him and played with him, and finally he gained a little assurance, and actually barked. He barked at one of our roosters, and then we knew that he considered himself past the probation stage. He had confidence enough to assert himself in a series of lusty barks without fearing a hostile boot or an angry shout. The first time he barked we all rushed out of our tents in wonder and admiration. It was the most important event of the day, and it caused a great deal of talk of a friendly nature.
There was one umbrageous cloud on Little Wanderobo Dog's horizon, howevera cloud that he soon learned to evade. The Mohammedans didn't like him. It is a part of their creed to hate dogs almost as much as pork, and to be touched by a dog means many prayers to Allah to wipe away the stain of contact. But Little Wanderobo Dog was not conversant with the Mohammedan creed at first, and in his gladness and joy of life he embraced everybody in the waves of affection and friendliness that radiated from him like a golden aura.
The Somali gunbearers were disciples of Allah, and they began to kick at him before he was within eight feet of them. Two of the tent boys were also Mohammedans, but they had to be more circumspect in their hostility. Whenever Little Wanderobo Dog came around they would edge away, which gave the former a certain sense of importance because it was flattering to have a number of grown-up men fear him so much. Then there were a number of the porters who were Mohammedans of a sort, but these were wont to say, "O, what is a creed among friends?"
It was quite cold up on the plateau at night. Sometimes the wind swept down from the distant fringe of mountains and shook the tents until the tent pegs jumped out of the ground. The night guard would pile more wood on the big central camp-fire near our tents and the porters, in their eighteen or twenty little tents, would huddle closer together for warmth. They were nights for at least three blankets, and even four were not too many.
Consequently Little Wanderobo Dog was confronted by the necessity of adopting a place to sleep where he would be safe from those sharp arrows of the north wind that swept across the high stretches of the plateau. So he ingratiated himself into my tent with many friendly wags of his tail and a countenance of such benign faith in human nature that he was allowed to remain. At many times in the night I was awakened and I knew that Little Wanderobo Dog was dreaming about some wicked swamp ogre that was trying to kick him.
At first he was not a silent sleeper, but later on these awful nightmares came with less frequency and I presume his dreams took on a more beatific character. As a watch-dog I don't believe he had great value, because of his readiness to make friends with anything and anybody. If a leopard had come into the tent he would have said, "Excuse me, but I think you are in the wrong place," but he would never have barked or conducted himself in an ungentlemanly way.
One could never tell what was likely to come into one's tent at night, even with armed askaris patrolling the camp all night long. One cold night, before Little Wanderobo Dog had come to live with us, I was awakened by a curious rustle of the tent flaps. I listened and then watched the tent flap for some moments, thinking that the wind might have been responsible. But there was no wind and it seemed beyond doubt that some animal had entered.
For a long time I listened, but could hear nothing; and yet at the same time I had a positive conviction that I was not alone in the tent. I wondered if it could be a leopard, or some small member of the cat tribe. I knew that it wasn't a dog, for there were no dogs anywhere in the vicinity of the camp. As the minutes went by without any hostile move from the darkness, I decided to let whatever it was stay until it got ready to depart. So I went to sleep.
Once more in the night I was awakened by a noise in the tent and as nearly as I could diagnose the situation, the noise came from under my cot. But, I reasoned, if the animal is there, it's behaving itself and if it were on mischief bent it would have transacted its business long before. So I went to sleep again.
Just at dawn the clarion crow of a rooster came from under my bed. It was one of the roosters the cook had bought from a Boer settler and had come in to escape the coldness of the night air without. It was a most agreeable surprise, for there was a homelike sound in the crow of the rooster that was pleasantly reminiscent of the banks of the Wabash far away.
After Little Wanderobo Dog became "acclimated" to the warm and friendly atmosphere of hospitality of the camp, he began to show evidences of tact and diplomacy. He bestowed his attentions, with unerring impartiality to all of us. In the evening, and frequently during the day, he would pay ceremonial visits to each of the four tents of the msungu, as the white people are called. First he would approach the threshold of one tent, cock an inquiring ear at the occupant, and upon receiving the customary sign of welcome would wag himself in and pay his respects. After a short call he would wag his way out and call at the next tent, where the same performance was repeated.
A Ceremonial Call
He never burst into a place like a cyclone of happiness, but rather, he sort of oozed in and oozed out, his mild brown eyes brimming with gentleness and his tail, that eloquent insignia of canine gladness, wigwagging messages of good cheer.
In one of the tents of the msungu there was a pet monkey. It had been captured down on the Tana River months before and at first was wild and vicious. As time went by it lost much of its wildness and to those it liked was affectionate and friendly. To all others it presented variable moods, sometimes friendly and sometimes unexpectedly and unreasonably hostile. We feared that Little Wanderobo Dog would have some bad moments with the little Tana River monkey, and their first meeting was awaited with keen interest. We thought the monkey would scratch all the gentleness out of the Little Wanderobo Dog's eyes and that the two animals would become bitter enemies.
But nothing of the sort happened. Little Wanderobo Dog managed the matter with rare tact. He succeeded in slowly overcoming the monkey's prejudices, then in inspiring confidence, and finally in establishing play relations. It was worth a good deal to see the dog and monkey playing together, the latter scampering down from his tent-pole aery, leaping on the dog, and scampering hurriedly over the latter, with a quick retreat to the invulnerable heights of the tent-pole. Little Wanderobo Dog would allow the monkey to roam at will over his features and anatomy, thereby showing tolerance which I thought impossible for any animal to show. After Little Wanderobo Dog had paid his devoirs to his host, which he did each day with great punctiliousness, he would then retire to some sunny spot and enjoy his siesta. He was great on siestas and usually had several each day.
The Entente Cordiale
In time he learned to distinguish between Mohammedans and other dark-complexioned people and held himself aloof from the former, thereby escaping any humiliating races with the heavy boots of the gunbearers and other followers of Allah. He made friends with little Ali, the monkey's valet, a small Swahili boy who looked like a chocolate drop in color, and like a tooth-powder ad in disposition. It was Ali's duty to carry the monkey on our marches.
The little gray monkey, with its venerable looking black face fringed with a sunburst of white hair, would be tied to an old umbrella of the Sairey Gamp pattern, and would sit upon it as the small boy carried it along the trails on his shoulder, like a musket. Sometimes when the sun was strong the umbrella would be raised to shield the monkey's eyes, which could not stand the fierce glare incident to a long march upon sun-baked trails. At such times the monkey, who rejoiced in the brief name of J.T. Jr.the same being emblazoned on the little silver collar around its neckat such times the monkey would scamper from shoulder to shoulder of the small boy, with occasional excursions up in the woolly kinks of the heights above. It was a funny picture and one that never failed to amuse those who watched it.
Well, Little Wanderobo Dog, by some prescient instinct hardly to be expected in one brought up in a swamp, decided that little Ali and the monkey were to be his "companions of the march." So, when the tents were struck and Abdi, the head-man, shouted "Funga nizigo yaka!" and the tented city of yesterday became a scattered heap of sixty-pound porters' loads, Little Wanderobo would seek out Ali and prepare to bear him company during the long stretches of the march. And then when the long line of horsemen, native soldiers, porters, tent boys, gunbearers, ox gharries, and all began to wind their sinuous way over veldt or through forest, there was none in the line more picturesque than Ali and J.T. Jr. surrounded by the affable Little Wanderobo Dog.
Being Posed for a Post Mortem Picture
The Three Comrades
It is little wonder that friendship soon ripened into love, and that we all became speedily and irrevocably attached to the little swamp angel. His presence in any gathering was like a benediction of good cheer, and when his tail was in full swing he looked like a golden jubilee. As I say, it was no wonder we liked him, and I think I may also say, without flattering ourselves, that the sentiment was reciprocated. I don't believe the joy he showed at all times could have been assumed. It must have been pure joy, without alloy.
His table manners were above reproach. He would, never grab or show unseemly greed. He awaited our pleasure and each bone or chop that fell his way was received with every token of mute but eloquent gratitude. You were constantly made to feel that he loved you for yourself and not for what he hoped you would give him. If I were to be wrecked on a desert island, I believe there is hardly more than one person that I'd prefer to have as my sole companion than Little Wanderobo Dog.
Perhaps a few words about the architecture of the little dog might not come amiss. He was built somewhat on the lines of the German renaissance, being low and rakish like a dachshund, but with just a little more freeboard than the dachshund. His legs were straight instead of bowed, as are those of his distinguished German cousin. His ears were hardly as pendulous, being rather more trenchant than pendulous, and therefore more mobile in action. His tail was facile and retroussé, with a lateral swing of about a foot and an indicated speed of seventeen hundred to the minute. When you add to these many charms, those mild eyes, surcharged with love light, and a bark as sweet as the bark of the frangipanni tree and as cheerful as the song of the meadow-lark, you may realize some of the estimable qualities that distinguished Little Wanderobo Dog.
For some weeks he stayed with us, Tray-like in his faithfulness, and always in the vanguard when danger threatened the rear. One day our caravan passed through a group of migrating Wanderobos. There were a dozen or so of men, all armed with spears and bows and arrows; also fifteen or twenty women, thirty or forty totos, and about a score of dogs.
Here was the test. Would Little Wanderobo Dog, reclaimed from the swamp, harken to the call of the blood and join the band of his own kind? If he did, we could only bow our heads in grief and submission, for after all were not we only foster friends and not blood relations? But Little Wanderobo Dog never wavered in his allegiance to us. He had planted his lance by our colors and with these he would stick till death.
He passed those other Wanderobo dogs as if they were creatures from another world. If he felt tempted to join his fellow dogs, there was no indication of it, and at night when we reached our camp we found our faithful follower at his accustomed post, stanch, firm and true to his colors, which were black and tan.
But alas, there comes a time when the best of friends must part. And the dark day came when I saw Little Wanderobo Dog for the last time. It was at Escarpment. Our long months of hunting were over. Our horses and porters and all our equipment were on the train bound for Nairobi, where we were to settle our affairs and leave Africa and its happy hunting ground. Little Wanderobo Dog had been let out of his first-class compartment in the train and was running up and down the platform, wigwagging messages of gladness with his tail and sniffing friends and strangers with dog-like curiosity. Some friends of ours were at the train to say howdy-do and to shake our hands, and with these the little dog was soon on friendly terms.
When the train whistle blew and the bell was rung and some more whistles blew and more bells were rung, Little Wanderobo Dog was taken back into his car. The last good-bys were said and we were off for Nairobi. Suddenly there was a startled cry, a whisk of a tail, and the dog was goneout of the car window. He lit on his nose, but as far back as we could see he sat in the middle of the next track and gazed at the receding train. Two days later Mrs. Tarlton came down from Escarpment and said that she had rescued the dog and that he was installed in the hospitable home of Mrs. Hampson, where he would remain until he rejoined those members of our party who were to remain in Africa some months longer. It is likely that Little Wanderobo Dog may be taken on a great elephant hunt in Uganda and, who knows, some time he may visit America. I hope so, for I'd like to give him a dinner.
Our Last View
CHAPTER ONE | CHAPTER TWO | CHAPTER THREE | CHAPTER FOUR | CHAPTER FIVE | CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN | CHAPTER EIGHT | CHAPTER NINE| CHAPTER TEN | CHAPTER ELEVEN | CHAPTER TWELVE | CHAPTER THIRTEEN | CHAPTER FOURTEEN | CHAPTER FIFTEEN | CHAPTER SIXTEEN | CHAPTER SEVENTEEN | CHAPTER EIGHTEEN | CHAPTER NINETEEN | CHAPTER TWENTY | CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE | CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
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