CHAPTER IX. FORM A RAFT WITH THE SPONGING BATH.
"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 grand 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 break, and compel him to labour 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 upwards of sixty pounds. For about twenty minutes he 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 the same species as those I had already caught.
"This closed the sport for the day. We called all hands to carry the fish to camp, and hoisted the flag, which was quickly followed by the arrival of a number of men from Sofi, to receive all that we could spare. The largest fish we cut into thin strips, - these we salted and dried; the head made delicious soup, with a teaspoonful of curry-powder.
"September 26. - The weather is now intensely hot, and the short spear grass is drying so rapidly that in some stony places it can be fired. The birds appear to build their nests at various seasons. Many that built three months ago are again at work; among others is a species of black Mina, that takes entire possession of a tree, which it completely covers with nests coarsely constructed of sticks. A few days ago I found several trees converted into colonies of many hundred dwellings.
"I never allow either the monkeys or baboons to be disturbed: thus they have no fear of our party, but with perfect confidence they approach within thirty or forty yards of the tents, sitting upon the rocks and trees, and curiously watching all that takes place in the camp. I have only seen one species of monkey in this neighbourhood - a handsome dark grey animal with white whiskers. The baboons are also of one species, the great dog-faced ape (Cynocephalus); these grow to a very large size, and old Masara fully expects to be carried off and become the wife of an old baboon, if they are allowed to become so bold.
"This afternoon I took a stroll with the rifle, but saw nothing except a young crocodile about six feet long; this was on the dry summit of a hill, far from water. I shot it and took the skin. I can only conclude that the small stream in which he had wandered from the river-bed had become dry, and the creature had lost its way in searching for other water.
"September 27. - I started from the tent at 6 A.M. and made a circuit of about eighteen miles, seeing nothing but tetel and gazelles, but I had no luck. Hot and disgusted, I returned home, and took the rod, hoping for better luck in the river. I hooked, but lost, a small fish, and I began to think that the fates were against me by land and water, when I suddenly had a tremendous run, and about a hundred and fifty yards rushed off the reel without the possibility of stopping the fish. The river was very low; thus I followed along the bank, holding hard, and after about half an hour of difference of opinion, the fish began to show itself, and I coaxed it into the shallows; here it was cleverly managed by Bacheet, who lugged it out by the tail. It was an ugly monster, of about fifty pounds, a species of silurus, known by the Arabs as the 'coor;' it differed from the silurus of Europe by haviimg a dorsal fin, like a fringe, that extended along the back to the tail. This fish had lungs resembling delicate branches of red coral, and, if kept moist, it would exist upon the land for many hours like an eel. It smelt strongly of musk, but it was gladly accepted by the Sheik of Sofi, who immediately answered to the flag.
"While shooting this morning I came suddenly upon a small species of leopard that had just killed a snake about five feet in length; the head was neatly bitten off and lay upon the ground near the body; the animal was commencing a meal off the snake when it was disturbed, and I lost sight of it immediately in the high grass.