King Solomon's Mines HTML version

Umbopa Enters Our Service
It takes from four to five days, according to the speed of the vessel and the state of the
weather, to run up from the Cape to Durban. Sometimes, if the landing is bad at East
London, where they have not yet made that wonderful harbour they talk so much of, and
sink such a mint of money in, a ship is delayed for twenty-four hours before the cargo
boats can get out to take off the goods. But on this occasion we had not to wait at all, for
there were no breakers on the Bar to speak of, and the tugs came out at once with the long
strings of ugly flat- bottomed boats behind them, into which the packages were bundled
with a crash. It did not matter what they might be, over they went slap- bang; whether
they contained china or woollen goods they met with the same treatment. I saw one case
holding four dozen of champagne smashed all to bits, and there was the champagne
fizzing and boiling about in the bottom of the dirty cargo boat. It was a wicked waste, and
evidently so the Kafirs in the boat thought, for they found a couple of unbroken bottles,
and knocking off the necks drank the contents. But they had not allowed for the
expansion caused by the fizz in the wine, and, feeling themselves swelling, rolled about
in the bottom of the boat, calling out that the good liquor was "tagati"--that is, bewitched.
I spoke to them from the vessel, and told them it was the white man's strongest medicine,
and that they were as good as dead men. Those Kafirs went to the shore in a very great
fright, and I do not think that they will touch champagne again.
Well, all the time that we were steaming up to Natal I was thinking over Sir Henry
Curtis's offer. We did not speak any more on the subject for a day or two, though I told
them many hunting yarns, all true ones. There is no need to tell lies about hunting, for so
many curious things happen within the knowledge of a man whose business it is to hunt;
but this is by the way.
At last, one beautiful evening in January, which is our hottest month, we steamed past the
coast of Natal, expecting to make Durban Point by sunset. It is a lovely coast all along
from East London, with its red sandhills and wide sweeps of vivid green, dotted here and
there with Kafir kraals, and bordered by a ribbon of white surf, which spouts up in pillars
of foam where it hits the rocks. But just before you come to Durban there is a peculiar
richness about the landscape. There are the sheer kloofs cut in the hills by the rushing
rains of centuries, down which the rivers sparkle; there is the deepest green of the bush,
growing as God planted it, and the other greens of the mealie gardens and the sugar
patches, while now and again a white house, smiling out at the placid sea, puts a finish
and gives an air of homeliness to the scene. For to my mind, however beautiful a view
may be, it requires the presence of man to make it complete, but perhaps that is because I
have lived so much in the wilderness, and therefore know the value of civilisation, though
to be sure it drives away the game. The Garden of Eden, no doubt, looked fair before man
was, but I always think that it must have been fairer when Eve adorned it.
To return, we had miscalculated a little, and the sun was well down before we dropped
anchor off the Point, and heard the gun which told the good folks of Durban that the
English Mail was in. It was too late to think of getting over the Bar that night, so we went
comfortably to dinner, after seeing the Mails carried off in the life-boat.
When we came up again the moon was out, and shining so brightly over sea and shore
that she almost paled the quick, large flashes from the lighthouse. From the shore floated
sweet spicy odours that always remind me of hymns and missionaries, and in the