CHAPTER V. A primitive craft - Stalking the giraffes - My first giraffes - Rare sport with the finny tribe - Thieving elephants.
I laid my prize upon some green reeds, and covered it carefully with the same cool material. I then replaced my bait by a lively fish, and once more tried the river. In a very short time I had another run, and landed a small fish of about nine pounds, of the same species. Not wishing to catch fish of that size, I put on a large bait, and threw it about forty yards into the river, well up the stream, and allowed the float to sweep the water in a half circle, thus taking the chance of different distances from the shore. For about half an hour nothing moved. I was just preparing to alter my position, when out rushed my line, and, striking hard, I believed I fixed the old gentleman himself, for I had no control over him whatever. Holding him was out of the question; the line flew through my hands, cutting them till the blood flowed, and I was obliged to let the fish take his own way. This he did for about eighty yards, when he suddenly stopped. This unexpected halt was a great calamity, for the reel overran itself, having no checkwheel, and the slack bends of the line caught the handle just as he again rushed forward, and with a jerk that nearly pulled the rod from my hands he was gone! I found one of my large hooks broken short off. The fish was a monster!
After this bad luck I had no run until the evening, when, putting on a large bait, and fishing at the tail of a rock between the stream and still water, I once more had a fine rush, and hooked a big one. There were no rocks down stream, all was fair play and clear water, and away he went at racing pace straight for the middle of the river. To check the pace I grasped the line with the stuff of my loose trousers, and pressed it between my fingers so as to act as a brake and compel him to labor for every yard; but he pulled like a horse, and nearly cut through the thick cotton cloth, making straight running for at least a hundred yards without a halt. I now put so severe a strain upon him that my strong bamboo bent nearly double, and the fish presently so far yielded to the pressure that I could enforce his running in half circles instead of straight away. I kept gaining line until I at length led him into a shallow bay, and after a great fight Bacheet embraced him by falling upon him and clutching the monster with hands and knees; he then tugged to the shore a magnificent fish of upward of sixty pounds. For about twenty minutes lie had fought against such a strain as I had never before used upon a fish; but I had now adopted hooks of such a large size and thickness that it was hardly possible for them to break, unless snapped by a crocodile. My reel was so loosened from the rod, that had the struggle lasted a few minutes longer I must have been vanquished. This fish measured three feet eight inches to the root of the tail, and two feet three inches in girth of shoulders ; the head measured one foot ten inches in circumference. It was of the same species as those I had already caught.
Over a month was passed at our camp, Ehetilla, as we called it. The time passed in hunting, fishing, and observing the country, but it was for the most part uneventful. In the end of October we removed to a village called Wat el Negur, nine miles south-east of Ehetilla, still on the bank of the Atbara.
Our arrival was welcomed with enthusiasm. The Arabs here had extensive plantations of sesame, dhurra, and cotton, and the nights were spent in watching them, to scare away the elephants, which, with extreme cunning, invaded the fields of dhurra at different points every night, and retreated before morning to the thick, thorny jungles of the Settite. The Arabs were without firearms, and the celebrated aggageers or sword-hunters were useless, as the elephants appeared only at night, and were far too cunning to give them a chance. I was importuned to drive away the elephants, and one evening, about nine o'clock, I arrived at the plantations with three men carrying spare guns. We had not been half an hour in the dhurra fields before we met a couple of Arab watchers, who informed us that a herd of elephants was already in the plantation; we accordingly followed our guides. In about a quarter of an hour we distinctly heard the cracking of the dhurra stems, as the elephants browsed and trampled them beneath their feet.