CHAPTER IX. FORM A RAFT WITH THE SPONGING BATH.
Masara, Mahomet, Wat Gamma, and Bacheet, formed the establishment of Ehetilla, which was the Arab name of our locality. Bacheet was an inveterate sportsman and was my constant and sole attendant when shooting; his great desire was to accompany me in elephant-hunting, when he promised to carry one of my spare rifles as a trusty gun-bearer, and he vowed that no animal should ever frighten him.
A few extracts from my journal written at that time will convey a tolerable idea of the place and our employments.
"September 23. - Started for the Settite river. In about four hours' good marching N.N.E. through a country of grass and mimosa bush that forms the high land between that river and the Atbara, I reached the Settite about a mile from the junction. The river is about 250 yards wide, and flows through a broken valley of innumerable hillocks and deep ravines of about five miles in width, precisely similar in character to that of the Atbara; the soil having been denuded by the rains, and carried away by the floods of the river towards the Nile. The heat was intense; there was no air stirring; a cloudless sky and a sun like a burning-glass. We saw several nellut (Taurotragus strepsiceros), but these superb antelopes were too wild to allow a close approach. The evening drew near, and we had nothing to eat, when fortunately I espied a fine black-striped gazelle (Gazella Dorcas), and with the greatest caution I stalked it to within about a hundred paces, and made a successful shot with the Fletcher rifle, and secured our dinner. Thus provided, we selected a steep sugarloaf-shaped hill, upon the peak of which we intended to pass the night. We therefore cleared away the grass, spread boughs upon the ground, lighted fires, and prepared for a bivouac. Having a gridiron, and pepper and salt, I made a grand dinner of liver and kidneys, while my men ate a great portion of the gazelle raw, and cooked the remainder in their usual careless manner by simply laying it upon the fire for a few seconds until warmed half through. There is nothing like a good gridiron for rough cooking; a frying-pan is good if you have fat, but without it, the pan is utterly useless. With a gridiron and a couple of iron skewers a man is independent: - the liver cut in strips and grilled with pepper and salt is excellent, but kabobs are sublime, if simply arranged upon the skewer in alternate pieces of liver and kidney cut as small as walnuts, and rubbed with chopped garlic, onions, cayenne, black pepper, and salt. The skewers thus arranged should be laid either upon the glowing embers, or across the gridiron.
"Not a man closed his eyes that night - not that the dinner disagreed with them - but the mosquitoes! Lying on the ground, the smoke of the fires did not protect us; we were beneath it, as were the mosquitoes likewise; in fact the fires added to our misery, as they brought new plagues in thousands of flying bugs; with beetles of all sizes and kinds: these, becoming stupified in the smoke, tumbled clumsily upon me, entangling themselves in my long beard and whiskers, crawling over my body, down my neck, and up my sleeping-drawers, until I was swarming with them; the bugs upon being handled squashed like lumps of butter, and emitted a perfume that was unbearable. The night seemed endless; it was passed in alternately walking to and fro, flapping right and left with a towel, covering my head with a pillow-case, and gasping for air through the button-hole, in an atmosphere insufferably sultry.
"At length morning dawned, thank Heaven! I made a cup of strong coffee, ate a morsel of dhurra bread, and started along the high ground parallel with the course of the Settite river up stream.
"After walking for upwards of four hours over ground covered with tracks of giraffes, elephants, and antelopes about a fortnight old, I saw four tetel (Antelopus Bubalis), but I was unfortunate in my shot at a long range in high grass. We had been marching south-east, and as I intended to return to camp, we now turned sharp to the west. The country was beautiful, composed of alternate glades, copses, and low mimosa forest. At length I espied the towering head of a giraffe about half a mile distant; he was in the mimosa forest, and was already speculating upon our party, which he had quickly observed. Leaving my men in this spot to fix his attention, I succeeded in making a good stalk to within one hundred and twenty yards of him. He was exactly facing me, and I waited for him to turn and expose the flank, but he suddenly turned so quickly that I lost the opportunity, and he received the bullet in his back as he started at full speed; for the moment he reeled crippled among the mimosas, but, recovering, he made off. I could not fire the left-hand barrel on account of the numerous trees and bushes. I called my men, and followed for a few hundred yards upon his track, but as this was directly in an opposite direction to that of my camp I was forced to give up the hunt.*
* We found the remains of the Giraffe a few days later.