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thought I should have died, and made my peace with God, forgiving all men, even my uncle and the fishers; and as soon as I had thus made up my mind to the worst, clearness came upon me: I observed the night was falling dry; my clothes were dried a good deal; truly, I was in a better case than ever before since I had landed on the isle; and so I got to sleep at last, with a thought of gratitude.
The next day (which was the fourth of this horrible life of mine) I found my bodily strength run very low. But the sun shone, the air was sweet, and what I managed to eat of the shell-fish agreed well with me and revived my courage.
I was scarce back on my rock (where I went always the first thing after I had eaten) before I observed a boat coming down the sound and with her head, as I thought, in my direction.
I began at once to hope and fear exceedingly; for I thought these men might have thought better of their cruelty and be coming back to my assistance. But another disappointment such as yesterday's was more than I could bear. I turned my back, accordingly, upon the sea, and did not look again till I had counted many hundreds. The boat was still heading for the island. The next time I counted the full thousand, as slowly as I could, my heart beating so as to hurt me. And then it was out of all question. She was coming straight to Earraid!
I could no longer hold myself back, but ran to the seaside and out, from one rock to another, as far as I could go. It is a marvel I was not drowned; for when I was brought to a stand at last, my legs shook under me, and my mouth was so dry, I must wet it with the sea water before I was able to shout.
All this time the boat was coming on; and now I was able to perceive it was the same boat and the same two men as yesterday. This I knew by their hair, which the one had of a bright yellow and the other black. But now there was a third man along with them, who looked to be of a better class.
As soon as they were come within easy speech, they let down their sail and lay quiet. In spite of my supplications, they drew no nearer in, and what frightened me most of all, the new man tee-hee'd with laughter as he talked and looked at me.
Then he stood up in the boat and addressed me a long while, speaking fast and with many wavings of his hand. I told him I had no Gaelic; and at this he became very angry, and I began to suspect he thought he was talking English. Listening very close, I caught the word, "whateffer," several times; but all the rest was Gaelic, and might have been Greek and Hebrew for me.
"Whateffer," said I, to show him I had caught a word.
"Yes, yes—yes, yes," says he, and then he looked at the other men, as much as to say, "I told you I spoke English," and began again as hard as ever in the Gaelic.
This time I picked out another word, "tide." Then I had a flash of hope. I remembered he was always waving his hand toward the mainland of the Ross.
"Do you mean when the tide is out ?" I cried,
and could not finish.
"Yes, yes," said he. "Tide."
At that I turned tail upon their boat (where my adviser had once more begun to tee-hee with laughter), leaped back the way I had. come, from one stone to another, and set off running across the isle as I had never run before. In about half an hour I came out upon the shores of the creek; and, sure enough, it was shrunk into a little trickle of water, through which I dashed, not above my knees, and landed with a shout on the main island.
A sea-bred boy would not have stayed a day on Earraid; which is only what they call a tidal islet; and except in the bottom of the neaps, can be entered and left twice in every twenty-four hours, either dry-shod, or at the most by wading. Even I, who had the tide going out and in before me in the bay, and even watched for the ebbs, the better to get my shell-fish—even I (I say), if I had sat down to think, instead of raging at my fate, must have soon guessed the secret and got free. It was no wonder the fishers had not understood me. The wonder was rather that they had ever guessed my pitiful illusion, and taken the trouble to come back. I had starved with cold and hunger on that island for close upon one hundred hours. But for the fishers, I might have left my bones there, in pure folly.
And even as it was, I had paid for it pretty dear, not only in past sufferings, but in my present case; being clothed like a beggar-man, scarce able to walk, and in great pain of my sore throat.
I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and I believe they both get paid in the end; but the fools first.
By Roualeyn Gordon Cumming
Note.—Mr. dimming, a native of Scotland, was always passionately fond of hunting. Even in boyhood he devoted most of his time to sports of the field, and showed a great fondness for all forms of natural history.
For a time he served in the English army in India, and hunted the big game of those regions. However, he was not satisfied with this, and after a visit to Newfoundland, which was more disappointing to him, he went to Africa and there spent five adventurous years hunting and exploring.
Throughout this time he kept a journal of his exploits and adventures, and it is from this journal that he wrote his A Hunter's Life Among Lions, Elephants and Other Wild Animals of South Africa, from which the following selection is taken. We may judge from his account that he did not find Africa as disappointing as India and Newfoundland had proved.
His style is not that of a literary man, but he has the happy faculty of presenting things in a very vivid manner, so that we are willing to make some allowance for faults in style. He was conscious of his weakness in this matter, and partially explained it by saying, "The hand, wearied all day with the grasping of a rifle, is not the best suited for wielding the pen."
N the 25th, at dawn of day, we inspanned, and trekked about five hours in a northeasterly course, through a boundless open country sparingly adorned with dwarfish old trees. In the distance the long-sought mountains of Bamangwato at length loomed blue We halted beside a glorious fountain,
which at once made me forget all the cares and difficulties I had encountered in reaching it. The name of this fountain was Massouey, but I at once christened it "the Elephant's own Fountain." This was a very remarkable spot on the southern borders of endless elephant forests, at which I had at length arrived. The fountain was deep and strong, situated in a hollow at the eastern extremity of an extensive vley,1 and its margin was surrounded by a level stratum of solid old red sandstone. Here and there lay a thick layer of soil upon the rock, and this was packed flat with the fresh spoor of elephants. Around the water's edge the very rock was worn down by the gigantic feet which for ages had trodden there.
The soil of the surrounding country was white and yellow sand, but grass, trees, and bushes were abundant. From the borders of the fountain a hundred well-trodden elephant foot-paths led away in every direction, like the radii of a circle. The breadth of these paths was about three feet; those leading to the northward and east were the most frequented, the country in those directions being well wooded. We drew up the wagons on a hillock on the eastern side of the water. This position commanded a good view of any game that might approach to drink. I had just cooked my breakfast, and commenced to feed, when I heard my men exclaim, "Almagtig keek de ghroote clomp cameel;" and, raising my eyes from the sassaby2 stew, I beheld a truly beautiful and very unusual scene.
1. A vley is a swamp or morass.
2. The sassaby is a large African antelope, resembling the hartbeest, but having regularly curved horns.