The African Adventurers: A Return to the Silent Places

The African Adventurers: A Return to the Silent Places

by Peter Hathaway Capstick

ISBN: 9780312076221

Publisher St. Martin's Press

Published in Biographies & Memoirs/Travelers & Explorers

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Sample Chapter

African Adventurers, The
Part One
Frederick Courteney Selous
It was not just cold, it was cold.
The giraffe hunt was almost a distant memory, the faces of Dorehill and Mandy almost blurs; that of Sadlier, who had taken the extra horses, a blank.
The nineteen-year-old imagined the path to be parallel to the road. Upon seeing some twenty giraffes, the party had split, the youngster was on one side and the two older men on the other. The newcomer and his friend and partner, Dorehill, had already grown tired of the lean African game; the prospect of a giraffe in fine condition, oozing fat that crackled and spit in the fire, was almost too much. Yet the young man was alone. He had fired three shots and had had an answer at a distance off to his right. But although he had fired twice more, the bushveld of King Khama's country was as silent as a good child. Fighting hard, he swallowed the panic in his already dry throat and settled down for the icy night, the ancient sands of Gondwanaland spreading their chill through his buttocks.
He had ridden a long way, so far that the sun had already set, thin and anemic, a washed-out reddish disc in the west. Where was the road? he thought. It should have been here before this. That the road was only faint wagon tracks bothered him not a lot; his friends should have taken a similar line. They would be just ahead. Sure they would ... .
There was no night wind, the killing wind, as he settled down. It was a creepingcold, a cold that oozed like water into his limbs and ignored him as he pulled the thin shirt around him. It was so cold that he decided to make tracks toward where the road had to be. Shivering, he resaddled his horse and moved wraithlike into the brassy moonlight.
It was perhaps three hours before he called a halt. He had to have a fire. He had heard of chattering teeth but he didn't really believe it before this. Yet, he was new to the country of Khama, and as fast as he would break open the huge paper cartridges for his four-bore, ignite the powder with his percussion caps, the fire was snuffed out by the dew-dampened grass. Suddenly he was out of ammunition, the greasy dark gunpowder spread into the torn fragments of his shirttail gone. Frustrated but still sure that he would hit the road, he cut some damp grass with his clasp knife and lay down for the night. Using his felt hat for a pillow, he slipped down to his icy bed, the saddle over his chest. Still, the cold attacked, sliding inexorably from his numb feet to his bare head. Soon, his shivering became uncontrollable and he was forced to sprint back and forth to a nearby tree to keep his chilled blood flowing. So much for tropical Africa, he thought. The lonely, lunatic calls of spotted hyenas--perhaps on their way to drink?--haunted his shudders until finally the sun advertised that it would be along shortly and, with it, some warmth.
It was the end of the first day.
There is no color in the winter bushveld, only the flitting and chirping of fire finches and waxbills; and only these where there is water. There were no birds. There was no water, either.
He pulled the saddle over the exhausted hunting pony and freed and tied-off reins, noting how the belly of the horse had shrunk as he tightened the cinch. The horse would only plod along at a slow walk, its thirst and hunger obvious. Yet, it was a good horse for which the young man had traded for the equivalent of seventy-five British pounds. Considering that a first-class ticket by steamer to England from South Africacost less than half that, it was a most valuable horse indeed, having survived the horse sickness or horse distemper. Yet, without water it was nothing, not so much as the creaking of leather that it produced as it walked.
He still had the smooth-bore, the huge four-gauge, but it was useless without its ammunition, which had been wasted trying to make the fire. His trousers, bush-torn and tattered, were as futile against the night cold as was his hat. If only he had brought his coat with him from the wagon when they had first seen the giraffes in the wonderful heat of day. If only ...
A tree loomed ahead as the sun began to slide silently upward and the young man decided to climb it. Perhaps in this land of few landmarks there might be just one? The winter bush was uniformly gray, but there was a scraggly line of furred hills in the distance, a single koppie, as the Afrikaners call it, a huge mound of rocks in front of the bearded shadow of the hills. Was it familiar? The young man didn't know. Three gemsbuck, the giant oryx antelope of southern Africa, passed very close, as if knowing that there was no ammunition left.
The man continued, his sun-blond hair now matted and streaked with precious sweat. He knew the Southern Cross and its brilliance in Khama's skies and decided to follow it, but he had convinced himself that he had already crossed the road of wagon tracks in the dim light of early morning. His horse, nearly dead with thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, reluctantly spun about when the man decided to retrace his tracks. After all, he was positive. It was a very expensive conviction in early Africa.
The miles melted by in a grayness of bush. At last, there was a small koppie, home to hyrax, leopards, and cobras. The man climbed it and looked into the distance. He climbed it, arguing with himself all the time if the road lay ahead or behind. But the mocking winter gray of the bush met his every glance until he turned around. There was a thin, tenuoustendril of smoke. He thought it too central a spire to be a grass fire and he thought that it was kindled by some Masarwa--half-breed black Bushmen--who would be able to guide him to Pelatsi, his goal.
He turned his horse around and made for the fire, but when he arrived at the point where he thought the smoke should be, there was nothing. He concluded that the road was now behind him and swung his horse around once more. As the sun was at its highest, he decided that he was again wrong. There was no road and he would die, dried to leather if the hyenas didn't get him. They probably would.
At this point, the blond young man realized that he had never reached the road and he thought that he might have passed it during the low light of dawn or night. His spirits buoyed by his realization, he thought how good a cup of tea might taste when he reached his wagons at shortly after sundown. Yet, his thoughts sank with the copper and cerise of the sun as it bedded down for another night. So did the young man, now as parched and hungry as his bedraggled horse.
The second night was spent on the icy earth, under the gaze of a full moon that tinted the colorless bush into gilded foliage. As the young man thought, there was no food, water, fire, or blanket, and he was right. Leaving his own problems, he turned to those of his horse. Rather than tie all seventy-five British pounds worth of him to a tree, he decided to hobble him with riempies--rawhide thongs--in the hope that the horse could crop enough of the pale, shriveled winter grass to carry its master when dawn came up, frozen and chill. Perhaps, the young man thought, the horse might even wind water.
It was even colder than the night before, a Kalahari blackness that would freeze even the tea kettle if he were back in camp. When dawn reluctantly bled over the eastern sky, the man found that he could not even rise, so wooden had his legs become through the long night. After some minutes, he was able to restore circulation by frenzied rubbing and wentin search of the horse. It wasn't there. Gone. Disappeared.
After a few hundred yards, the young man realized that he had not the strength to follow the hard, scuffed spoor on the dry earth. Now, he had nothing, neither fire nor blanket, neither loaded gun nor even horse. He was as completely alone as he would ever be and, he knew, he was close to death.
He knew he could not carry the saddle and hung it in the crotch of a tree above the reach of hyenas, who would love the leather as much as his own hide if they caught him. Yet, he shouldered the empty smooth-bore duck gun rather than leave it behind. To leave it would have been a sort of surrender that he was not prepared to make, at least not yet.
He walked as fast as he could go, a mechanical, drag-stepped shuffle, all of that day toward another long row of hills that he prayed might be the Bamangwato Range. Thirst corroded his mouth and tongue, making swallowing almost impossible. But, then, there was no saliva left to swallow in any case. He knew that hunger had reached its long, cold hand far past his belly and was now gnawing on his ever-weaker muscles. When the moon was an hour high for the third night he reached the edge of the mysterious hills. Praying that cool, wind-washed fields of native corn would meet his gaze, he almost foundered. More bush and no sign of water or food. Blinking back tears of desperation, he wandered his bloodshot blue eyes over more rocky, low hills and, with a strangled cry of horror, fell to a ragged sitting position. With no promise of water or food he knew that his best ally was rest. Far away, a jackal mocked him.
The young man slipped behind a boulder and thought for a few moments of his fate. Bamangwato--the small native settlement--was not there. Realistically, he knew that he was almost surely doomed to die of hunger and thirst in a place that might not even be known to God, let alone to any rescue party. Yet, he thought further and summoned his remarkable powers of recuperation. It would be too much, he thought,to die like this, like a rat in a hole. He was still thinking about this when he fell into an exhausted sleep, warmer tonight due to the slight elevation and freedom from the shrouds of cold that haunted the low valleys like a lonely wraith.
When he awoke, it was near dawn of the fourth day without food or water. He hated the cold, but he also knew that if he had to contend with heat at night he would be dead by now. Already his terrible hunger pangs had ceased--he knew this was a very bad sign--but his thirst was a living, dry, strangling noose that ran from his swollen lips down past his protruding tongue into his raw throat. As the taunting varicose veins of dawn stretched ahead, and he glanced across the wilderness of broken rock and bush, he noticed a smallish koppie that somehow looked familiar. It looked curiously like one that he knew to be near the Shakani vleis or dried marshlands. In fact, several other features seemed familiar, including a low line of stone hills and a few more koppies. There were a few Bushmen tending goats there, he recalled, if it was the same place. In his desperation, the young man convinced himself that they were the same features of his memory, although when looking at them he never dreamed that their further identification would mean his life.
But they were far away, gleaming in a purplish hue in the distance. Staggering and limping, he made his way down from his evening eyrie and finally made the plain while the sun was still relatively low. As he reached the plain and started forward, he knew that he could not survive another night without water or food. He was completely exhausted, but also saw that the bush was so dense that he would be forced to climb trees now and then to keep his bearings. Although he knew that he must rest, he also knew that delay meant death and when he stopped, each two or three minutes drove him onward with what might well be futile hope. For some reason he noticed a cock and hen ostrich on his tortured march. So run the minds of the delirious ... .
The sun was making its last, fatal move below the horizonwhen the man saw two Bushmen at some distance, coppery and shimmering in the late sun. A garbled scream caught their attention and they hastened over to the man, one taking the four-bore gun and the other helping the youngster to camp. There were three huts that denoted the scarcity of what was then the rarest animal of the desert areas: man. Collapsing into a rather dignified heap, the young man thought he was saved and that fountains of precious water would be his for the asking. Wrong. An old Bushman, fondling a section of giraffe intestine full of water spoke in Setswana: "Buy the water."
The young man was stunned. He knew that the spring at the vlei was only two hundred steps away, but he was caved in. While he battled with his irritation and his lack of trade goods, a child came in with a big calabash full of goat's milk.
"Reka marsi," the young man croaked. "I'll buy the milk."
He pulled out his large folding knife to trade and was rewarded with not only the milk but the water as well.
The only problem that the young man had from then on was with the language. He spoke no Bushman dialect at all and but little Setswana--the general language of Khama's land of Tswana people--but was finally able to make arrangements (although he would have to walk all the way himself) to reach Pelatsi, where the wagons were. That night no one ever had a more restful sleep at the side of a large fire and with a small chunk of duiker antelope rumbling around his stomach, making that organ remember what it was meant for.
When he arrived at Pelatsi after an absence of five nights and four days he was almost considered a modern Lazarus. A huge feed was prepared for him and he drank enough water to pry amazement from his companions, hardened bush hands. He was saved.
The next day he found that his friends had not deserted him but had hired six men, four Bechuana Kafirs (a regretfully still-used term originally used by the Arabs to designate a nonbeliever in The Prophet and which became later pejorative)and two Masarwa Bushmen to track the young man. That the six shunned their duty after a few miles and declared to a man that the youngster had galloped to Bamangwato was obviously not so. The trackers had been supplied with meat and no doubt sat against some trees and ate it with no further thought of their charge. I hope it went hard with them. Incidentally, the horse made it to Bamangwato alive through what must have been serried ranks of hyenas and lions. Despite his value, the young man took a price of ten pounds in case the horse should return, which he thought unlikely. this was money that transferred ownership of the animal based upon speculation at a fraction of the regular price. If the horse did not come home, the buyer was out the price. In any case, although the animal did come back, he was badly injured by his rawhide hobbles, which reduced the horse's value.
The young man was almost well again, his ordeal a memory, and he could laugh at a story that one of his bush pals told. The great American frontiersman, Daniel Boone, was once asked if he had ever been lost in the wild territories of America. Dan'l thought for a few moments and said: "Nope. Ain't never bin lost. But there was a time in Kaintuck when I was powerful confused for five days."
The young man was Frederick Courteney Selous, probably the most shining example of English manhood that the Victorian Empire could field in the Britain of those days.
Selous was the beau ideal of the "playing fields of Rugby." In fact, he was not the only hero of Africa who went to the school: several, including Ionides, also attended. My treatment of Selous should be explained in the context of my own efforts.
I really don't care about his miscegenational love life or his intrigues when he led the "Pioneer Column" into what is now Zimbabwe or his friction with Cecil John Rhodes in doing so. I am a hunting writer and hardly fit to handle the nuances of sex,personality, or performance that are apparently most important to British writers. Thus, please excuse me if I do not get into the intrigue of Selous's life. I can recommend two excellent books on his life if this sort of thing appeals to you. Try the older book by his close friend, John G. Millais, The Life of Frederick Courtenay [sic] Selous, D.S.O. or a much newer and well-researched work entitled The Mighty Nimrod by British author Stephen Taylor. Taylor writes very well and cannot be blamed if he had not had exposure to early hunting terms such as Baldwin's use of "lions, tigers and wolves" in his classic book African Hunting and Adventure. Taylor says correctly that the last two species don't exist in Africa. Well, not in English, they don't. But they--or their translations--do in the early language of the interior, which was far more Dutch or Afrikaans than English. The leopard was called the tijger (tiger) and "wolves" covered a plethora of doglike carnivora such as Cape hunting dogs and, sometimes in early works, jackals and other critters that went whooop or yawwwrl in the night. Hell, the early Flemish peasants who became the Afrikaners even called the wildebeest a "wild cow."
Why Millais chose to substitute an "a" instead of the correct "e" in Selous's middle name is one of the great questions of Africana collecting. Just put it down to error, I suppose. If anybody meant well by his biography, it was Millais, Selous's old friend.
I recall a remonstration that was common when I was, several hundred years ago, in the army. Recruits were somewhat fuzzy about the difference between "gun" and "rifle." Only for a while. They used the M-1 Garand in my day, and any recruit who became confused about the relativity (a gun being smooth-bored and a rifle with rifling) was required under threat of a stroke of lightning from God to hold their Garands at a right angle to their bodies and repeat fifty times: "This is my rifle, this is my gun"--pointing to their lizard--this is for fightin', this is for fun."
I am only interested in Selous's rifle ... .
It is pronounced "Sel-oo," and a hell of a Victorian he was. He came from a good family and had the best of education, although he and University never met. He went to Rugby, which is about as elite as you can get, but didn't go to college in the American sense: he was in Africa at age nineteen. That pleases me; I was never able to get past freshman mathematics although I tried four times. I went eight semesters to the University of Virginia but could never pass it. Never even close, even though it was the same course. Since I deal in such esoterica as mathematical internal, external, and terminal ballistics with no problems, you'd think I would have learned by rote. Nope. That I never got more than a "C" in English is obvious. No sense of humor, those professors. They certainly professed doom for me ... .
Seeing as how we might as well call him Fred, as his family did, he arrived in Africa on September 4th, 1871, at what was then Algoa Bay and now Port Elizabeth in South Africa. He had 400 British pounds in his pocket, which was a mighty amount of wherewithal at that date. It was $2000, and very lucky was the laborer who earned $10 a month. Fred Selous had trained for this moment all his life, even sleeping on the bare wood floor of his shared room at Rugby as well as raiding innumerable birds' nests for his egg collection while he was growing up. Probably nobody arrived with the will that he did to make a great career of the "Far Interior," as it had been called by such luminaries as William Cornwallis Harris (one of the earliest hunter/adventurers who went north from South Africa some forty years before Selous).
Fred started trying to make his independent fortune on the diamond mines in Kimberly. But he also realized that the farther north he went, the easier it would be to break off and head directly for the Far Interior. That he had 300 pounds of luggage consigned to a transport rider (a huge amount for personal luggage in those days even for a stay of years) showed his greenness. The young man journeyed for twomonths to Kimberly, arriving on October 28th. Fred had some "small" shooting on the route. He killed a male bushbuck, a springbuck, a klipspringer, and eight rheboks. He was most proud that he had carried them all to the wagons on his own shoulders. He was five-foot-nine, at his greatest height and all muscle, although he didn't know what to be in shape meant until he started hunting elephant.
Selous learned about Africa early, the day he arrived at Kimberly. A "small double breech-loading rifle by Reilly" was stolen without a trace from his wagon. He now had a double ten-bore by Vaughan, "a very inferior weapon as it threw its bullets across one another, and a little double gun that shot well with both shot and bullet." Might it have been one of the very early Fosbury Patents of rifle and ball guns?
Whatever, Selous rode over to Pneil, a gold town, and there met one Arthur Laing, then going on to the gold and diamond field by cart. Although completely broke, Laing charmed Selous into writing the following in later years: "A passionate devotion to the flowing bowl had dragged him down step by step, till he did not own so much as the shoes he stood in. He was, however, in his sober moments, which, when within ten miles of canteen, were both short and infrequent, an intelligent and a well-informed man."
This not being a biography, suffice it to say that Selous and his partner made it to Kimberly and beyond, and Kuruman, which was more or less the jumping-off place for the Interior. Since he had first left by ox wagon, Selous had formed a friendship and a partnership with "a young man about my age named Dorehill, a son of General Dorehill, with whom I had contracted a great friendship on board ship." Dorehill was sharing digs and a tent with Sadlier, whom Selous proposed to come along into the Interior, and Sadlier accepted.
Selous and his young partners had not very much money for tea, coffee, mealie meal (corn meal), sugar, or salt, but decided to try anyway. A few beads completed their outfit. Selous had paid 145 pounds for their wagon, 6 pounds 10shillings each for at least twelve head of oxen, and 11 pounds apiece for some horses. He was no longer a rich immigrant.
Sadlier had been in the American Civil War and knew something of how things went on trek. Probably his first test was occasioned by a terrible turn of events when Dorehill leaned over Selous's shoulder as Selous was reloading ammunition and about a pound of black powder was free. Of course, thanks to one of Murphy's antecedents, a spark got into the powder, which went up with a whoof!, and burned both Selous's face and that of Dorehill until they were almost skinless. Sadlier mixed a solution of salt and oil that was "guaranteed" to prevent scarification. Though it was something less than painless, Selous remained without marks of the black powder even though he took weeks to recover.
In the meantime, Selous had been forced to buy two muzzle-loading duck guns, smooth-bores that would take a four-ounce ball. God Almighty, they kicked something fierce when given a load of a handful of black powder, well over twelve drams when loaded. This is substantially more than triple the magnum load of a twelve-gauge in modern times, and three times the resistance of the ball to shoulder, which translates into "kick." But does it! I've tried a four-bore.
Selous, in later years, said that he was "heartily sorry that I ever had anything to do with them." Their kick made a "ferocious" sound like a love word. Several times Selous was smashed out of the saddle by recoil and many times more was knocked over by raw kick. He said that his reputation as a hunter was not due to fine shooting and perhaps these early four-bores by Hollis of Birmingham had something to do with it. They destroyed his nerves and he never shot really well again. That he was a great hunter was due to his ability at getting in close where he could not miss.
A fortunately atypical circumstance arose when he was hunting elephant some time later. He was using the Hollis four-bores. Incidentally, the definition of "bore" is the numberof pure lead balls that equated the diameter of the gun. A four-bore or gauge (the same) meant that it would take a quarter-pound, four ounces of round lead, about .91 caliber--a lot more trouble than the quarter-pounder that you buy at a fast-food chain.
Selous was hunting with his gunbearer, Balamoya, and another retainer, Nuta, when he had a failure of his cap, meaning that the gun would not go off. He "snapped" ignition of his first shot when one of the Hollises did not fire. Selous was following a bull elephant when he was handed the second gun. He put a ball straight into the bull's chest and brought the bull to his knees, but he was up again and ran past Selous at thirty yards: "Taking a good sight for the middle of his shoulder, I pulled the trigger." He didn't know that the gunbearer had reloaded it again with a four-ounce ball and another twelve drams of powder!
This time the gun went off--it was a four-bore elephant gun, loaded twice over, and the powder thrown in each time by a Kafir with his hands--and I went off too! I was lifted, from the ground, and turning round in the air, fell with my face in the sand, whilst the gun was carried yards away over my shoulder. At first I was almost stunned from the shock, and I soon found that I could not lift my right arm. Besides this, I was covered with blood, which spurted from a deep wound under the right cheek-bone, caused by the stock of the gun as it flew upwards from the violence of the recoil. The stock itself--though it had been bound, as are all elephants guns, with the inside skin of an elephant's ear [it works, I tried it] put on green, which when dry holds it as firmly as iron--was shattered to pieces, and the only wonder was that the barrel did not burst. Whether the two bullets hit the elephant or not I cannot say. But I think they must have done so, for he only went a few yards after I fired, and then stood still, raising his trunk every now and then, and dashing water tinged with blood over his chest. I went cautiously up to forty yards or so of him, and sat down. Though I could not hold my arm out, I could raise my forearm, so as to get hold of the trigger; but the shock had so told on me, that I found that Icould not keep the sight within a yard or so of the right place. The elephant remained perfectly still; so I got Nuta to work my arm about gently, in order to restore its power, and hoped that in the meantime the Kafir, whose shouting had originally brought the elephant to me, would be able to go up and fetch W[ood]. No doubt if I had shouted he would have come at once, for he could have not been very far off; but had I done so, the elephant might either have charged, or else continued his flight, neither of which alternatives did I desire. After a short time, seeing no chance of aid arriving, and my nerves having got a little steadier, I took my favorite gun from Nuta, and, resting my elbow on my knee, took a quiet pot shot. I was, however, still very unsteady in this position, but I do not think the bullet could have struck very far from the right place. The elephant on receiving the shot made a rush forwards, crashing through the bushes at a quick walk, so that we had to run at a quick trot to keep him in sight. He now seemed very vicious, for, hearing a dry branch snap, he turned and ran toward us, and then stood with his ears up to try and get our wind.
Sclous was many things, but an author who was especially subdued or terrified by paragraphs was not one of his weak points.
Selous, in his first visit to the Far Interior, was one of the early hunters to reach the kraal of the Matabele despot, Lobengula. The Matabele people held sway in the north, but they had also been an immense power in the relative south until the Afrikaners drove them from the Vaal River north to mostly the area of today's Zimbabwe, not even Rhodesia at the time of their move. They had been founded as a fighting tribe by one Mzilikazi, an impi (or regimental) leader under the famous Shaka Zulu, the black conqueror of southern Africa. Mzilikazi--all spellings of his name are phonetic--was esentially a bad-ass. He grabbed a good amount of cattle, in which tribal wealth was then and even now reckoned, and refused to pay his tribute to Shaka. The translation of Matabele has some astonishing presumptions, but it is generallyconceded that it meant "refugees" or "runaways." Makes sense to me.
Lobengula called his capital Gubulawayo, the "place of killing," and it was not badly named. Even to sneeze in the presence of the king meant instant death by having one's brains bashed out with knobkerries--the fierce fighting clubs of the Matabele. He was a true ruler, his word being law. Yet for all of the folderol he was a pretty nice guy, at least to Selous. But Fred was hardly the first to enter Mzilikazi's country.
There was Mr. G. A. "Elephant" Phillips and a host of other men, mostly Afrikaans names, some of whom were famous despite the fact that their owners were usually illiterate. Perhaps Selous's early book, A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa (Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1881) painted them too pale. Besides Phillips in the kraal were a Mr. Kisch, late auditor-general of the Transvaal, Sadlier, Jan Viljoen, and several others.
When Phillips translated at his meeting with Lobengula, Selous was badly underestimated. Lobengula was a little under six feet, according to Selous--a corpulent chocolate majesty dressed in a greasy shirt and a dirty pair of white men's trousers. Yet there was no question that he was regal.
Lobengula, son of Mzilikazi, asked Selous's interpreter, Phillips, whose wagons were before him. Phillips explained that they belonged to the young Selous. Lobengula asked why he was at the kraal and what Selous intended to do.
"I have come to hunt elephants," said the fuzzy-bearded Englishman. Lobengula burst out laughing.
"Was it not steenbucks that you came to hunt? Why, you're only a boy."
Selous answered that although he was only a boy, this was his purpose. Lobengula, without answering, rose and left followed by fifty retainers who called out his praise names, Black Elephant, Prince of Princes, Calf of the Black Cow, and such. Selous noted the low doors of the Zulu/Matabelehuts---made low so that an enemy could only enter by crawling, thus reducing his fighting effectiveness--and Lobengula's difficulty in crawling in because of his bulk. Well, Selous thought, at least the king has not said no.
Two days of indecision racked Selous until he was able to see the king again. Phillips again interpreted: "I ask leave to hunt elephants in your country," said the Englishman.
"Have you ever seen an elephant?" asked Lobengula.
"No," answered Selous through Phillips.
"Oh, they will soon drive you out of the country, but you may go and see what you can do."
Selous grabbed the initiative and, as Lobengula had relegated elephant hunting to certain parts of his realm, asked the potentate where he might hunt.
"Oh, you may go wherever you like; you are only a boy." Selous's early trip was made.
Selous had always been fascinated by the statement of Dr. Livingstone, when the great man had himself been mauled by a lion that the claw and teeth wounds had not hurt until after the mauling. One of the great characters of Selous's early acquaintance was the then-old Petrus Jacobus, who Selous reckoned to be the oldest and most experienced elephant and lion hunter of all. Jacobus was even then recuperating from a severe difference of opinion with a lion about eight days before. Selous had learned quite a bit of the Dutch-based Afrikaans language and was able to speak to the old man.
This meeting was with many other Afrikaans hunters on the River Sebakwe, north of Gubulawayo. Selous, who had barely driven off a night-intruding lion not long before, asked Jacobus how he had come to be mauled.
Petrus Jacobus had been on the Umnyati River, some distance to the north, with only his daughter-in-law. I know the area pretty well, having hunted there myself in 1971. Jacobus was resting in the shade of one of his wagons when the young woman saw what she thought was a wart hog coming down to water. Jacobus grabbed his rifle with the commentthat the pig was a lion and that it was stalking the horses. Petrus Jacobus took off after it with three dogs.
Jacobus tried a running shot at the lion with his muzzle-loader but missed, yet the dogs had bayed the lion. Jacobus approached with a small black boy. The lion, on the side of a hill, immediately broke through the ring of dogs and charged straight at Jacobus. Still a distance away, he fired his only shot and missed. Reaching the old man, the big cat slammed into him and bit him terribly in the left thigh and then in the left arm and hand. Fortunately, the three dogs were all this time doing their own chewing at the lion's tail end and eventually drew him off. Selous says that Jacobus was terribly mangled and thought that the lion "had done for him."
Always believing in home remedies as they had little access to drugstores, the Afrikaners were great fans of herbal medicine. In the case of Jacobus, this entailed bathing the wounds in a mixture of fresh milk and castor oil. Well, it worked and Jacobus recovered to tell Selous, many years later, that his wounds sometimes gave him great pain, especially in wet weather.
Some forty miles due south of the Sebakwe lie the first kraals of the Mashuna (now known as Mashona or Shona) people and Selous had a high opinion of them from the start. They were the fragmented clans who won the Rhodesian bush war against the whites and many of the Matabele in the 1980s. Curiously, as my good friend Brian Marsh, the novelist and writer, points out, it was Selous who later gave the name to the Shonas of "Maswina." As Brian notes, the name has a very interesting origin, although it is now considered beneath Shona dignity to use such a derogatory name for themselves.
This interesting footnote to history was a product of 1890, when Selous was both building roads for the Pioneer Column that invaded what would become Southern Rhodesia and making treaties with certain Portuguese East African tribes such as the Manica, who were settled about where Wally Johnson lived and hunted ivory (see The Last Ivory Hunter, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988).
An old informant of Brian told the tale that when Selous was using Shonas to build roads, the labor was always hungry. When an antelope was shot by Selous, the road builders would gut it and run sections of intestines through their fingers to clean them before throwing the ropelike intestinal lengths on the fire to cook.
Selous asked his interpreter--he could speak no Shona dialect at the time--what it was called in Shona when the men cleaned out pieces of offal between thumb and forefinger as they did.
"Ku-svina," the interpreter said, using the verb form.
"Then they shall be known as Masvina [those who strip entrails] from now on," pronounced Selous, using the plural Ma- form. This became "Maswina" as the whites could not properly pronounce the word in Shona and each time Selous would kill an antelope he would call upon the Masvina to eat it. In fact, the word became a general term for the many fragmented tribes and clans of the Shona who shared a similar language. As Brian says, the people became known in those days as the Maswina and their language as Chiswina, the tongue of the Maswina. Interesting stuff, history.
Fred Selous is generally considered to be one of the finest hunters produced by Western civilization. Curiously, he did not agree with such a pronouncement, declaring that the fact he hunted a lot did not necessarily make him a great hunter. But on his first trip to Mashunaland, as Selous called it, he did spend some time with a man who was Selous's own idea of the greatest hunter. He was a diminutive, alcoholic ex-jockey from Grahamstown in South Africa, a Hottentot named Cigar.
Cigar was himself well worthy of inclusion on the list of great African hunters. He shot a six-bore gun, which was in itself quite remarkable for a man so slight that he had once been a jockey. He originally got to the Far Interior driving a wagon for a Henry McGillewe some years before Selous methim and was even employed on "halves"--just like the grubstake of the itinerant prospector, getting a horse, gun, ammo, and food in exchange for half of the ivory, or other species such as rhino, that he shot--by none other than the scalliwag and great elephant hunter William Finaughty. (See the Peter Capstick Library of classic reprints of African hunting.) Selous had originally been slated to join the company of the Boer hunter Jan Viljoen but he sliced his foot badly and was unable to leave with the group on time. Sadlier went with Viljoen's party with the promise that Selous would be picked up later when his foot had healed. This hope proved in vain and it being an ill wind that blows nobody any good, Selous was blown to Cigar.
Selous thought the world of the wizened little hunter and declared that he had never seen his equal on foot after elephants, which was really saying something as Selous hunted with some of the great names of the Interior. At first, as Cigar says himself, he was scared green of elephants, which shows that he was no idiot. Gradually, he got over his nervousness and his natural fine marksmanship against game won out. He became one of the aces of the ivory world.
Cigar took Selous under his wing and tried either to teach him or kill him. The Boers lived roughly, even their families subsisting in pole-and-dagga huts during the hunting season, but with the luxury of coffee, sugar, and tobacco. The "native" hunters had none of these frills and Selous lived the same way. Hunting was on foot, through necessity, in tsetse country. They had their guns, limited ammunition--twenty shots--blankets, some mealie meal, and water. Selous had run out of tea (he was an inveterate tea drinker all his life and nearly a teetotaler) as well as sugar but Cigar allowed himself no such luxuries.
When Selous and Cigar left the wagons, they were eight--two men also hunting who carried their own gear as well as three porters lugging fresh meat and incidentals and one teenager of Selous, what the Zulus used to call an indibiboy, who humped his blankets ana spare ammunition. Selous carried one of the old Hollises himself. Very possibly, he was the first Englishman--at least with a Rugby education--who had assaulted the bush with so little. He was to get so much from the experience.
As he said, "This was hardly doing the thing en grand seigneur, I was young and enthusiastic in those days, and trudged along under the now intense heat with a light heart."
You know, to really appreciate the hunting Selous had with Cigar, you really must read A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa. Space, short of a hunting biography, does not permit going into each kill that Selous, Cigar, and his followers made. Yet from this crucible was formed a great personality who could run for hours on spoor and usually kill when his run stopped.
Selous had jumped off from a place called Jomani, and when he returned with Cigar, his pals Mandy and Dorehill had arrived. Mandy had been hunting with a George Wood, the same who shared many close ones with Selous. I would leave this part of Selous's history but for a macabre incident that would warm the heart of any exploratory small boy ... .
There was--as Selous calls him--a "bastard" man named Lucas who had a Hottentot employee. I think that he means a "Baster" man, whose community now lives in Namibia and whose name implies no illegitimacy. The Hottentot had, however, lost his cool and executed one black servant for not serving water quickly enough. I presume he was very thirsty, as he killed the boy quite dead by blowing out his brains. Most efficient. However, that same night--to use Selous's words--Lucas caught and bound the young murderer and brought him into the encampment.
All the Kafirs at once assembled and demanded his life in expiration of that of their comrade, and upon Lucas giving him up, at once knocked his brains out with knobkerries. I did not know anything about it until the execution was over. From what Lucas told me there was little doubt that the ruffian deserved hisfate, but I was glad I did not see him killed. His body was dragged just over a little ridge not three hundred yards from the wagons. In the night hyenas came and laughed and howled around the corpse for hours, but never touched it. The second night the same thing happened, but on the third they ate him up. Now, as these hyenas were beasts belonging to an uninhabited country, they were unused to human remains, and had not, I think, lost their instinctive dread of the smell of man; for in the Matabele country, where the bodies of people killed for witchcraft are always "given to the hyenas," a corpse is invariably dragged off even from the very gates of a kraal before the first night is many hours old.
Trust Selous to be the naturalist interested even in hyenas eating bodies.
Following his time in the bush with Cigar, during which he had killed his first elephant, Fred came away with almost 450 pounds of ivory that he had shot himself and another 1200 pounds that he had accumulated by trade. His net was about 300 British pounds, a mighty nice living for anybody in the 1870s, and a very fine return on his original (or his father's) investment of 400 pounds. But his great triumph came when he saw Lobengula at Gubulawayo again: "When I told the king that his elephants had not driven me out of the country, but that, on the contrary, I had killed several, he said laughingly, 'Why, you are a man; when are you going to take a wife?'--and upon my telling him that if he would give me one I would take her at once, he said. 'Oh! You must combeesa [sic] [court one] yourself; there are lots of them.'"
Selous decided to stay in the Matabele country while his friends such as Dorehill figured on going to the diamond diggings, probably for a bit of recreation and trading. Selous reckoned on remaining behind to do the next dry season hunting elephant with his new pal, George Wood.
Wood was known as a hard, smooth article, which Selous endorsed when he confirmed him to be "a very cool and courageous man, one whose pulse beat as calmly when face toface with a wounded elephant and snarling lion, as it did when quietly eating his breakfast." He had hunted for many years with Henry Hartley, William Finaughty, Gifford, Leask, and Biles, all retired since things had gone the tsetse fly's way. They were all horsemen, hunting from the saddle. It took a different breed of man to hunt elephant on foot. Selous was one of the new ones ... .
Wood, according to Selous, arrived from the gold and diamond fields somewhat shop-worn. He stopped at Hope Fountain (taken from the Afrikaans fontein meaning "spring") and was nursed by Mrs. Thompson, the wife of the local missionary, for quite some time. His problem was not at all rare--malaria, called just "fever" in those days. In fact, he had to be lifted out of his wagon and carried to the house, so bad were his symptoms. Yet, he recovered, which was fairly unusual in that place and time.
Wood was strictly H. Rider Haggard material. He was raised in the north of England, Yorkshire, and had an excellent education but, like yours truly, he was an African at heart. Wood was a white chameleon, fitting in with the most elaborate African ceremonies. He astonished the young Selous with his fluency in Sindebele and his demeanor at the beer drinks and meals. He was, to all practicalities, a white Ndebele.
Selous spent the best part of two years with George Wood, although they hunted separately. The Matabele, when there was no brewing facility available--brewing was usually done by the women--used "pot" or, if you want to be formal, cannabis, to revive their spirits. Certainly, they were revived ... .
Selous had now been in Africa for about three years and had transmuted his original stake from 400 pounds into almost 2000, a pretty fair return, although he had earned it in blood and sweat.
When he returned to Tati, a small village full of lazing dogs, hot wind, and the smell of dung in bright sunshine, he got his mail for the first time and, unknown to history, decidedto go back to England, where he stayed, avoiding the biographer's pen from May of 1875 until February of 1876. Family problems? We just don't know.
Fred was a pretty good son and, when there had been no contact at all for these three years, he was thought at home to be dead. There is no surviving mail whatever to his mother, Ann Selous, for all this time. Personally, I suspect that it had been lost somewhere in the Interior before it reached the mail ship. It was not like Fred Selous not to write for three years. When he arrived home, the fatted calf was killed and he was a hero both to his family and his friends. Whether he had not written or his correspondence was lost remains to be seen, but he promised his mother that he would write regularly, especially if he was off into "the blue" and would not be in touch for some time.
Selous was largely educated in public school (why it is called public school when it is private has always eluded me, despite some serious research), at Rugby, by a headmaster named James Wilson, who took over in 1869 from a man named Temple, himself an institution. Wilson always overlooked major transgressions such as Selous's having a gun, although Selous thought he was much more clever than he was. Wilson knew all about it and other such infringements. There was a supper in Fred's honor, the "Old Boy" come home. That it was an extraordinary success was to the great surprise of Selous himself, who thought that he had no particular talent in public speaking. History was to prove him wrong.
Fred made his second landing at Algoa Bay on the ides of March, 1876. Perhaps, like Caesar, he should have taken note ... .
Selous had decided to go to the Zambesi River and put most of his early profits into the endeavor. He had an immense amount of baggage--three tons--and it was so much that another ship rather than his transport to South Africahad to take it. The ship was about six weeks late and Selous had to wait for its arrival. To put it mildly, he was royally irked, and it took him another four months to get to the Matabele country. Also, the freight rates by wagon were up about fifty percent, which did not please him either. Of course, most of his 6000 pounds of baggage were trade goods with which he planned to buy ivory.
After a rather extended giraffe hunt, he got mixed up with a wounded lion--the wound being caused by Selous the afternoon before the showdown.
At this point, Fred and his partner, Dorehill, had joined up with two other English sportsmen/hunters, William Grandy, and Lewis Horner, capital chaps, what? Yet, Fred was alone when he stuck a ball--ten-bore--into a large male lion and finally lost it after hours of tracking through the wait-a-bit thorn near Tati. Yet, despite some showers, the spoor and the blood were still sufficiently visible to enable the lion to be tracked. As the hunting party drew near to give the lion his quietus, it roared in a hollow vortex that rattled the bushveld. Selous was likely scared--or stupid not to be--but he walked in on the spot where the grunting roars were emanating from. It charged.
It rushed, as lions usually do, in a low, khaki streak rather than bounding like those who have not been charged by lions would have you believe. Let Fred tell it:
As it was, however, I was peering about into the bush to try and catch sight of him, holding my rifle advanced in front of me, and on full cock, when I became aware that he was coming at me through the bush. The next instant out he burst. I was so close that I had not even time to take a sight, but, stepping a pace backwards, got the rifle to my shoulder, and, when his head was close upon the muzzle, pulled the trigger, and jumped to one side. The lion fell Almost at my very feet, certainly not six feet from the muzzle of the rifle. Grandy and Horner, who had a good view of the charge, say that he just dropped in his tracks when I fired, which I could not see for the smoke [of his blackpowder rifle]. One thing, however, I had time to notice, and that was he did not come at me in bounds, [this was Selous's first wounded lion] but with a rush along the ground. Perhaps it was his broken shoulder that hindered him from springing, but for all that he came at a very great rate, and with his mouth open. Seeing him on the ground, I thought I must have shattered his skull and killed him, when, as we were advancing toward him, he stood up again. [Oh, my ...] Dorehill at once fired with a Martini-Henry rifle and shot him through the thigh. On this he fell down again, and, rolling over on to his side, lay gasping. We now went up to him, but as he still continued to open his mouth, Horner gave him a shot in the head ... . He was an average sized-lion, his pegged-out skin [rather than between the pegs] measuring 10 ft. 3 in. from nose to tip of tail, sleek, and in find condition, and his teeth long and perfect.
Selous had shot him above the right eye, which he believed caused enough brain damage to kill the lion. Both his English pals had fired at the lion but, with the exception of the thigh shot, had missed as there were no bullet marks. Take it from me, an angry lion in a hurry can be a tough target.
Selous's initial problems on his return to Africa after his English trip seemed to portend how his life would change for the worse. It was during the prolonged stay at Tati that George Westbeech would enter his life as well as those of Dorehill, Grandy, and Horner.
Westbeech was practically as much of a fixture of Mashonaland as was Lobengula. He was really sort of an African Davy Crockett who had known and been a pal of Lobengula since before he became king and was also a good friend of Sepopa, the ferocious king of the Barotses. Westbeech was almost larger than life. He had come to the Matabele dominions almost fifteen years before, a well-educated man turned about as native as a white could get. He was almost malaria-proof, a strange brand of British Levantine who typified the energetic trader. He had traded with Sepopa since 1871 some 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of ivory at favorable rates as he stocked bettertrade goods--especially guns and powder--than did his competitors. But as there was considerable tribal warfare when Selous met him in 1876, ivory poundage was drastically down.
Because of these firearms in the hands of the tribes, Selous found out from Westbeech that Matabeleland was almost "shot out" of elephant, and he elected to head down to Kimberly from Tati on a round-trip journey that took five months. Among the incidents of his trip were the killing and eating of his horse by a lion that got away wounded and a fall from another horse that cracked the tibia, bone serum actually leaking from his leg. Typical of Selous, the injury is only mentioned in a brief footnote.
It was April of 1877, the beginning of the winter dry season, when Selous again arrived at Tati and found out what had happened to the hunting party Westbeech had organized to the Zambesi. Fred had decided against going--instead heading down to Kimberly--because of the severe risk of malaria during the wet season. Just as well that he did: Grandy had died of it just when he seemed to have the fever beaten and both Dorehill and Horner also contracted bad bouts. Selous left for the Zambesi, having gambled all his earlier profits on outfitting a party that included an Englishman, Mr. Kingsley, a young colonist reputed to be a fine shot and rider, a Mr. Miller, and five Africans. All his companions were shooting for Selous on "halves" and a disaster was the result. The total score of the trip was the taking of three small elephants by Miller and a gross profit of two pounds! The party hunted separately to cover more ground and Selous never so much as saw an elephant.
Thirst, hunger, fever, and lions were not the only adversaries that nearly cost Selous his life. There were also Cape buffalo. One of his closest shaves took place on the Nata River, near the modern border of present-day Botswana and Zimbabwe, in May 1874.
Fred was hunting for the pot early on the morning of the 20th when, an hour after sunrise, he hit the spoor of twohuge old buffalo bulls. Riding hard along the tracks in the sandy, dry riverbed, he finally caught up with them. This small mutual admiration society consisted of what the Bamangwato call kwatales, almost hairless with age and tremendous in body. Fred thought that they looked nearly like rhinos.
Reaching a relatively open patch of bush, Fred reined up, sliding from the saddle with his four-bore in hand. At thirty yards, he looked down the barrel of the duck gun and squeezed the trigger. There was the sharp metallic click of the hammer striking the bare nipple of the muzzle loader. Somehow, the percussion cap must have been brushed away by branches.
Remounting, Selous stuck on another cap and took up the chase as the two bulls cantered away with their strange rocking-horse gait. One buffalo had fallen behind the other and Fred decided to concentrate on him. The bull crossed a small, dry gully and turned to face Selous, his bosses looking like oak burls and his worn horns gleaming wickedly in the early sun. He had been chivvied around enough, Selous knew, and he would likely charge. Not dismounting this time, he hoisted the gun and fired. Once more there was the hollow click. Again the percussion cap had fallen off. The buffalo spun around and ran off. Fred put on a third cap and held it on the nipple with his thumb.
After several minutes of chase, Selous got back into range just as the bull disappeared into a patch of mopane scrub. Suddenly the bull stopped short, whirled, and came back out looking for trouble. It found it. It saw the horse and came straight ahead, its nose pushed forward and bass grunts echoing the slam of its dinner-plate hooves against the dry ground. Selous would never forget it:
There was no time to be lost, as I was not more than forty yards from him; so, reining in with a jerk and turning my horse at the same instant broadside on, I raised my gun, intending to put a ball, if possible, just between his neck and shoulder, which,could I have done so, would either have knocked him down, or at any rate made him swerve, but my horse, instead of standing steady as he had always done before, now commenced walking forward, though he did not appear to take any notice of the buffalo. There was no time to put my hand down and give another wrench on the bridle (which I had let fall on the horse's neck), and for the life of me I could not get a sight with the horse in motion. A charging buffalo does not take many seconds to cover forty yards, and in another instant his outstretched nose was within six feet of me, so, lowering the gun from my shoulder, I pulled it right off in his face, at the same time digging the spurs deep into my horse's sides. But it was too late, for even as he sprang forward the old bull caught him full in the flank, pitching him, with me on his back, into the air like a dog. The recoil of the heavily-charged elephant-gun with which I was unluckily shooting, twisted it clean out of my hands, so that we all, horse, gun and man, fell in different directions. My horse gained its feet and galloped away immediately, but even with a momentary glance, I saw that the poor brute's entrails were protruding in a dreadful manner. The buffalo, on tossing the horse, had stopped dead, and now stood with his head lowered within a few feet of me. I had fallen in a sitting position and facing my unpleasant-looking adversary. I could see no wound on him, so must have missed, though I can scarcely understand how, as he was very close when I fired.
However, I had not much time for speculation, for the old brute, after glaring at me for a few seconds with his sinister-looking blood-shot eyes, finally made up his mind, and, with a grunt, rushed at me. I threw my body out flat along the ground to one side, and just avoided the upward thrust of his horn, receiving, however, a severe blow on the left shoulder with the round part of it; nearly dislocating my right arm with the force with which my elbow was driven against the ground; and receiving also a kick on the instep from one of his feet. Luckily for me, he did not turn again, as he most certainly would have done had he been wounded, but galloped clean away.
The first thing to be done was to look after my horse, and at about 150 yards from where he had been tossed, I found him. The buffalo had struck him full in the left thigh; it was an awfulwound, and as the poor beast was evidently in the last extremity, I hastily loaded my gun and put him out of his misery. My Kafirs coming up just then, I started with them, eager for vengeance, in pursuit of the buffalo, but was compelled finally to abandon the chase, leaving my poor horse unavenged.
By 1877, Fred Selous had succeeded in forging his circle of friends from the hunters of the Interior. Although still in his middle twenties, Fred had earned the respect of his peers not only for his bush skills but because of his reputation of fair dealing and not being a gossip. That October, in the company of a soldier of fortune named L. M. Owen, a man who had fought in one of the "Kaffer Wars" against the Xhosa people of South Africa, Selous finalized his plans to make a foray north of the Zambesi into the Mashukulumbwe (Baila) country where he had heard that elephants were behind every bush. Fred had met Owen on the banks of the Chobe River in today's Botswana and perhaps made a too-quick character judgment of the man. He later wrote, "Unfortunately we did not hit it off very well together," and in his soft way, "as much through my fault, no doubt, as his, owing to what I may call incompatibility of temper." This is a classic of understatement even for Selous!
The Mashukulumbwe area of northern Zambia and parts of the then--Belgian Congo were cannibal territory and the people fierce warriors. If you have read my earlier book, Death in the Silent Places, you will recognize this area as the same one in which P. J. Pretorius was ambushed and nearly killed and eaten in 1904.
As soon as Fred and Owen crossed the Zambesi, they realized that the relative order of the Matabele had given way to that of the Portuguese and black slavers. As the thoroughly horrible trek continued through the country, Christmas came and went, leaving both Selous and Owen very sick and starving, their not having found elephants. Little time went by before they realized that far from making a successful hunting trip of the venture, they would be lucky to return the 700miles to the nearest mission station at Inyati alive. They had reached a kraal that was under the chieftainship of a man named Sitanda, a sable rascal if ever there was one. This place was some three weeks' walk north of the Kafue River in what became Zambia, and the first day after their arrival, Owen came down with severe malaria and Selous the same on the third day. Sitanda refused to grant them porters and even their own headman was sick. By January 8th, Owen was "very bad; he had lost all power in his limbs." Selous had been sleeping badly, but the next day he foolishly went lechwe hunting in the marches and got fever himself. There was nothing but Warburg's fever tincture--in which Selous had great faith--but no quinine or even decent food or water. On January 15th, Selous noted that he felt somewhat better but Sitanda had refused to sell them food or to help them get porters. Obviously, the old man thought the whites would die and he would get their kit.
They also had little help from a Portuguese slave trader whom they had met earlier and who had come up to Sitanda's kraal. The man would not give them any calico barterwear to buy food, and Selous was forced to sell the man a fine elephant gun, half a bag of powder, and fifty bullets for the ridiculous price of twenty-four feet of shoddy cloth (called "Mericani" in those times as it was made in America). On the 23rd, the Portuguese came by with a slave for sale and since, as Selous noted, it was of vital importance to get carriers, he bought the eighteen-year-old whose teeth were filed to cannibal points. He cost Fred 320 loaded cartridges and he made it clear to the young man through an interpreter that he was not wanted as a slave but could either go free on reaching the Zambesi or continue working for wages. Despite the fact that Fred had had another bout of fever during the night, they began their return trip on the 24th of January, only making a few miles a day in their condition. On the 29th, the slave escaped, taking with him a valuable breech-loading elephant gun and all of Fred's Martini-Henrycartridges. The elephant gun was later recovered by tracking the slave's spoor.
By the 10th of February, reduced to two-and-a-half pieces of the calico, it was obvious that unless Selous--who was feeling better--went on ahead to try to make Inyati and the missionary station there, the whole party would starve to death. It was decided to leave Owen with two servants and two whole pieces of calico, which should enable him to buy enough food to hold out for a while as Selous went for help as far as a Portuguese place run by one Mendonça, who sent two men with some food for Owen. The sick man reached the small Portuguese island on March 5th. Fred's health ranged from very poor to recovering but there was no way that Owen could walk on. Selous managed to trade with Medonça and got seven pieces of calico with which he hired eight men to carry Owen on a litter from a point on the south bank of the Zambesi. Owen was carried from April 6th until the 17th despite much grumbling from his Banyai carriers. Fred reckoned on at least three weeks walking until he reached Nyati, but on May 3rd, he was told at a small Matabele outpost that Nyati only lay twenty miles away! The next day he staggered into the station practically into the arms of the Reverend W. Sykes.
Within two more days a relief column was sent to rescue Owen and in a few weeks was back with him and Selous's servant, Franz. It took Selous, who was in better health than Owen, two months and three weeks to recover his health and condition. He was alive but much chastened. Selous would never be the same again.

Excerpted from "The African Adventurers: A Return to the Silent Places" by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Copyright © 0 by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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