King Solomon's Mines HTML version

Our March Into The Desert
We had killed nine elephants, and it took us two days to cut out the tusks, and having
brought them into camp, to bury them carefully in the sand under a large tree, which
made a conspicuous mark for miles round. It was a wonderfully fine lot of ivory. I never
saw a better, averaging as it did between forty and fifty pounds a tusk. The tusks of the
great bull that killed poor Khiva scaled one hundred and seventy pounds the pair, so
nearly as we could judge.
As for Khiva himself, we buried what remained of him in an ant-bear hole, together with
an assegai to protect himself with on his journey to a better world. On the third day we
marched again, hoping that we might live to return to dig up our buried ivory, and in due
course, after a long and wearisome tramp, and many adventures which I have not space to
detail, we reached Sitanda's Kraal, near the Lukanga River, the real starting-point of our
expedition. Very well do I recollect our arrival at that place. To the right was a scattered
native settlement with a few stone cattle kraals and some cultivated lands down by the
water, where these savages grew their scanty supply of grain, and beyond it stretched
great tracts of waving "veld" covered with tall grass, over which herds of the smaller
game were wandering. To the left lay the vast desert. This spot appears to be the outpost
of the fertile country, and it would be difficult to say to what natural causes such an
abrupt change in the character of the soil is due. But so it is.
Just below our encampment flowed a little stream, on the farther side of which is a stony
slope, the same down which, twenty years before, I had seen poor Silvestre creeping back
after his attempt to reach Solomon's Mines, and beyond that slope begins the waterless
desert, covered with a species of karoo shrub.
It was evening when we pitched our camp, and the great ball of the sun was sinking into
the desert, sending glorious rays of many-coloured light flying all over its vast expanse.
Leaving Good to superintend the arrangement of our little camp, I took Sir Henry with
me, and walking to the top of the slope opposite, we gazed across the desert. The air was
very clear, and far, far away I could distinguish the faint blue outlines, here and there
capped with white, of the Suliman Berg.
"There," I said, "there is the wall round Solomon's Mines, but God knows if we shall ever
climb it."
"My brother should be there, and if he is, I shall reach him somehow," said Sir Henry, in
that tone of quiet confidence which marked the man.
"I hope so," I answered, and turned to go back to the camp, when I saw that we were not
alone. Behind us, also gazing earnestly towards the far-off mountains, stood the great
Kafir Umbopa.
The Zulu spoke when he saw that I had observed him, addressing Sir Henry, to whom he
had attached himself.
"Is it to that land that thou wouldst journey, Incubu?" (a native word meaning, I believe,
an elephant, and the name given to Sir Henry by the Kafirs), he said, pointing towards the
mountain with his broad assegai.