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hours, “when the heavens are nearest,’ all the beasts of the forest are astir. From his hidden post of observation the watcher sees them as they come one by one to drink from the river near at hand : water-buck, bush-buck, then a tiny antelope, pausing at every step, on the alert for traces of some unseen enemy, till it reaches the river and stoops to drink :
Just then I saw a jackal come up on its trail and begin carefully to stalk it, not even rustling a leaf in its advance on the poor little antelope. All of a sudden the jackal stopped dead for a second and then made off out of sight as fast as he could go. I looked round to discover the cause of this sudden exit, and then to my surprise saw a large and very beautiful leopard crouching down and moving noiselessly in the direction of our tree. At first I thought it must be stalking some animal on the ground below us, but I soon realised that it was Mahina [the writer's gun-bearer] that the brute was intent on.
Such is Nature's way under tropical stars, and such the simple life with its golden rule beautifully ‘symmetrical,’ as doctors say of well-defined disease. But this is a comparatively uneventful night far on in the book. Colonel Patterson has to tell of others bearing a darker, or should we say a more strikingly natural, character ? Nights in human settlements made dreadful by the roarings of approaching peril and by silences more eloquent still of danger, when the shouts of terrified men pass from camp to camp the warning : “Beware, brothers, the devil is coming.’
In part this story of the two man-eating lions who, in a corner of British East Africa seriously disturbed the process of Empirebuilding, actually bringing work on one section of the Uganda Railway works to a standstill for several weeks, is already a matter of minor history. Colonel Patterson has here for the first time put into permanent form the incidents, and grim enough they are. Working over a radius of eight miles containing widely scattered camps of working men surrounded by impenetrable jungle, the man-eaters possessed natural advantages of which for nine months they made use so cunning and disastrous that the natives believed they had no mere mortal enemies to deal with but the angry spirits of two departed native chiefs protesting in this manner against the desecration of their country by a railway. The author records the feelings of despair with which, as he kept vigil in the most likely places night after night, far-off cries and commotion would tell him that the lions had accomplished their deadly work elsewhere. Swift and terrible are the tragedies described. One of the author's jemadars, ‘a fine powerful Sikh, sleeps in a tent with half a dozen workmen. Suddenly at midnight a lion puts his head through the open door, seizes Ungan Singh by the throat, the unfortunate man throwing his arms round the lion's neck and crying out, ‘Let go l’ as he disappears in the darkness. And noiseless always. Through fences of thorn held to be impassable, the great cat-like mysterious creatures continually force their way without a sound. They are the embodiment of sudden destruction. A man casually opens his tent door to find himself face to face with death. Or, as he lies sick in the security of hospital, the huge brute plunges upon him through the roof, so ending his ills once for all. Or he is quietly taken from beside his sleeping wife, who wakes ‘with a feeling as if the pillow had been moved from under her.” Sometimes the man-eaters betrayed fear in the presence of human beings: we read of one in his haste to be gone carrying off a mattress instead of the man lying upon it, of another mistaking a bag of rice for the coolie's head; but in the end they were very bold, and would fetch their victim as he sat amongst his friends by a brightly burning fire, and—regardless of man and his weapons—would devour him within earshot of the enclosure. One such night the author recalls when ‘the sound of their dreadful purring filled the air and rang in my ears for days afterwards.” The Indian coolie has no great objection to death in the abstract and—it is in this perhaps that he most differs from ourselves—is under no obligation to show more of altruistic sentiment than he feels. It was little to him that every few nights one or another of his fellow-workmen perished horribly so long as his own chances of escape stood as three or four thousand to one. But as the main railway camp moved forward, leaving at Tsavo a few hundred concentrated in one spot, then—in the words of the Hindu poet who afterwards celebrated these events—‘the people would sit and cry like cranes, complaining of the deeds of the lions.” Numbers of them, after a formal protest to their chief that they had come from India to work for the Government, not to serve as food for demons, fled from the evil-haunted place, those who dared to remain building themselves ‘lion-proof' huts, or sleeping in pits under their tents, or slinging their bed to the branches of any available tree. The part played by the narrator in this strange contest between man and beast must be read chiefly between the lines. From a lightly dropped ‘as usual' we learn that the engineer in charge of the line added to his daily work of railway construction the extra duty of demon-hunting by night. There were also holidays spent in painful exploration of thorny undergrowth, where it is to be conjectured that the hunter was exceedingly fortunate in failing to meet with his desired enemy, and one critical night which might easily have crowned instead of avenging the many catastrophes that went before. It is a noticeable proof of the dread and horror inspired by the deeds of these too successful man-eaters that the author in recounting their exploits never once accords them any of the terms of respect their persistent daring in some sense, one must think, deserved. Nor were their depredations altogether without cause. In a suggestive sentence Colonel Patterson tells how as from the frail wooden platform he felt rather than saw his formidable antagonist edging his way nearer and nearer, the profound stillness of the jungle was broken by “a long-drawn sigh, sure sign of hunger.” One is conscious of a futile desire to hear the story for a moment from the other side. Viewed so, the black criminality of the lions would resolve itself into skilful and perilous hunting for necessary food, and the criminals would not differ greatly from some of their human neighbours, from the Wa Kamba, for example, of whom we learn that they were “a peace-loving people when not hungry,” in which state they would think nothing of annihilating a railway maintenance for the food stores in their possession. There is no evidence that the Tsavo man-eater killed for the sake of killing. If he was a brute, on the whole it may be said that he was not an unreasonable brute. What shall we say of his fellow-beast, the Tsavo leopard, who in one night, for the mere fun of it, destroyed thirty sheep and goats 2 And of many others like him well known to Nature? We shall hardly escape from the conclusion lately set down by one who ought to know. “It is useless,’ writes Mr. Selous, “for the scientist or the divine to tell an old hunter that there is no cruelty in Nature, because the man who has spent many years of his life in a wild country knows by actual experience that such an assertion is not true.’’ There are pages here also, notably those on the mutiny of the Pathan stonemasons, which throw a dark light on the human side, and are yet not to be read without pride. For the rest, the story moves fairly balanced between construction and destruction, and appeals to us in the first instance no doubt by that which measured in chapters is its least part, the epic of the Tsavo lions, so amazingly old, so amazingly new, having its roots, one must suppose, in the first experiences of the race, and for flower—the Uganda Railway and that desert sprig of civilisation, Nairobi, with its six thousand inhabitants, its telegraph wires, and its ‘well laid out racecourse ** Travellers in British East Africa may or may not view with interest the Tsavo Bridge, whose building was accomplished in the face of difficulties so extraordinary, but we must owe it at least a debt of gratitude as having occasioned a book of singular interest. Whether its perusal will in all respects increase the love and reverence it is said we should feel for Nature and all her wild children, will probably depend on the private use to which we put that hard-exercised word. Nature and human nature “neat' are not unlikely to prove upsetting to some of our comfortable home-grown theories. We may prefer—it is often more convenient—to ignore them in that form. To pursue the dreams we like to dream upon English lawns when the weather is fine, it is fortunately not necessary to observe Nature very closely. Is that a patch of feathers in the distance and a sated feline creature slinking out of sight : Very likely. We do not look that way. Our business is to greet the dawn in unison with singing birds— above all, to feel ourselves innocent, kind, and gentle, being one with Nature. ELEANOR CECIL.
‘YouNG lady, with a linnet in a cage”;
As these, who now—thy venal suitors—rage,
And round thee rude, ignoble conflict wage For ashes pale—long fled the blushing flame o That to thy cheek, as Reynolds touched it, came, : - Whenas thy charms did every Muse engage 2 li Thy world admitted no such insolent crowd
As now may stare into thy maiden eyes,
Make of thy smile in this mean mart the prize;
All else the diamond or the dollar buys.