National Geographic : 1925 Feb
CAIRO TO CAPE TOWN, OVERLAND 149 though they would not shrink at a human shinbone. There was native warfare in Rejaf as late as 1910. We had men of all ages in our safari; some as young as 16; one at least 60. Four of the youngest ones were reserved as personal boys, two to put up the camp beds and wait on table; two to make the fires and cook (?). One of my personal boys had his hair cut and shaved in scrolls; the other had a topknot of wool which decorated his crown. Porter gave each of her boys a string of bright glass beads to wear, which made them easy to identify. When we reached Shoga it was dark. There was an empty hut, and we pro ceeded to make camp. We had never erected our camp equipment before. Cer tainly the boys did not know how to do it. In the intense darkness one could not see these black boys two feet away. De tached, spooky hands were always reach ing out of the dark to help with a task. For amateurs to make camp in an un known land-put up beds, mosquito nets, tables and chairs, and cook a meal under such conditions-was no small task. The only real mistake we made was to place our beds on the inside of the hollow square facing our carriers. Placed on the outside of the square, there was more privacy and much less noise. We made this mistake but once. These resthouses are set down in the wilderness, apparently adjacent to noth ing but water. Sometimes there would ble a native village concealed on the far slope of a near-by hill, but unless one looked twice it was almost impossible to discern them. SAVAGE AFRICA CELEBRATES THE MOON The resthouses are surrounded by stockades of saplings to keep out prowl ing animals. Inside the ground is bare. The hut shelters are made of mud and straw, with hard dirt floors. Sometimes there is a mud fireplace for cooking; sometimes not. At Shoga we saw no native village, but soon heard one. The moon came up, the first clear and cloudless night for weeks. The rains had passed north. Shortly after we turned in, we heard the thrum of a tom-tom calling quietly, insistently. A fire was reflected against the sky. Ap parently there were to be "doings." Our carriers became very restless. The moon was affecting them, too. Dark forms walked from group to group. There were sibilant whispers and mut tered conversations. Then the tom-tom began to sob and moan. The noise seemed to come from immediately outside the stockade, but the glare of the fire assured us it was ioo yards off. Nevertheless, I rolled on my side, felt for my revolver, and placed it under my pillow. Dead tired and aching for sleep, we lay wide awake and waited. The fire mounted higher. The whole sky grew red. The tom-toms beat a wild and furious quickstep. Suddenly we heard a chorus of a thousand voices! Such singing! Those who have listened to plantation songs by a large group of American Negroes will have a slight conception of the glorious harmony and resonance of these voices. Men and women sang to gether, and a fairy flood of children's voices floated in at intervals, followed by an ecstatic cheering. A CIRCLING MULTITUDE DANCES ALL NIGHT From 8 o'clock, when the drums first called them together, till the dim of the moon, they sang, they danced, they beat their tom-toms. One song they sang was as fast as "Jingle Bells," with almost as many parts as "Three Blind Mice." It ended with a mighty and sustained crescendo, like the locomotive cheer at an American football game. When the last echo of this cheer ing died out, we could still hear the chink chink, chink-chink, of the metal orna ments which the women wore around their arms and ankles. Long after midnight we deserted our beds and walked into the clearing behind the resthouse and watched the multitude of dark forms circling the fire. Round and round they went, until our eyes grew weary from watching them. Perhaps more adventuresome spirits would have walked across the distance and intruded on the show; but we were new to the premises and still a little fearful about savage Africa.