End Of The Great Shikar: This is chapter 21 of the book “Two Dianas in Somaliland: The Record of a Shooting Trip”, which is a narrative of a daring and victorious shooting expedition undertaken by two cousins, Agnes and Cecily, who carry the spirit of true sportswomen and the right attitude for this adventure.
A native Somaliland escort accompanies them during this expedition. British writer and big game hunter Agnes Herbert keeps the reader hooked with her refreshing writing style throughout the novel. She wonderfully describes the beauty and austerity of the jungle and desert in the passages as the two ladies travel through the country.
The chapters of this book start with one or more quotations from Shakespeare, thus revealing the author as a high-class Englishwoman of culture. The discussions in the book show that the author is highly skilled with guns.
This work beautifully and with great success presents a new perspective of a female British imperialist hunter bagging big game in the isolated jungle of Somaliland and Ethiopia, which is deserving of the reader’s interest and attention.
The Record of a Shooting Trip
By Agnes Herbert
With Twenty-Five Illustrations Reproduced from Photographs
London: John Lane
TWO DIANAS IN SOMALILAND
End Of The Great Shikar
Approved warriors, and my faithful friends
Then must I count my gains
And so I take my leave
Midsummer Night’s Dream
At last Berbera in the distance. At last the one remaining night in our tent—over. At last, the final breakfast in the open—over. Then the outskirts of the town, and then Berbera itself.
The leader of the Opposition and Ralph met us almost at once, looking quite respectable and clean. They said they had been waiting right there for two days for fear we should come unwelcomed. We put up at the old familiar rest-house in the European Square, and our camels and impedimenta generally camped in front of us. Our first dinner in “civilization” did not please us half as much as the culinary efforts of Cecily’s chef. Roast chicken with flies is not, after all, so appetizing as badly cooked oryx, served up with hunger sauce, and at least, in the jungle, we escaped that last resource of the average cook when she can’t think up a pudding—stewed rhubarb. I wonder if there is a country where the weed can be avoided? Here it was again, a mass of flies and fermentation, singing away to itself in a little dish.
After dinner, we sat outside the bungalow fighting battles o’er again, and regretting, oh, with such an ache of longing, the jungle and the wild. That night we hardly slept at all. We missed the camp sounds, the grunting camels, the sound of the fires being piled, we missed the open—all! We stretched out longing arms and touched a wall! We paced a floor that was not ground.
Everything in the world comes to an end. How sad that is sometimes! How we longed to turn the hands of the clock back, and Time with it!
The next day, we joined our camp again and began to make arrangements for its disbandment. We had come in at a bad time—camels being a drug in the market. The leader and Ralph disposed of theirs by public auction, but there could not be much of a demand for any more at this time of the year. Our beasts were in a very fair condition, all things considered, but we had great difficulty in getting rid of them. At last Clarence produced a dirty old Arab, whose appearance gave one the idea he had no means whatever, but of course this is not peculiar to Arabs, for some of our home millionaires are afflicted in the same way. The old gentleman bargained and bargained until I almost let the creatures go at 30 Rs. apiece, but Ralph arrived at the crucial moment and put a different complexion on the matter. He rushed into the discussion with vigor and called the offer piracy, robbery, and things of that sort. I never could have been so personal myself. The Arab did not seem to think any worse of my kinsman for it, and the camels changed hands at the much-improved price of 35 Rs. apiece.
The ponies were practically given away, and I had no end of a difficulty to unearth a philanthropist willing to board and lodge “Sceptre.” We only just got rid of our camels in time! That very evening, the sportsman arrived in Berbera whom we had left cogitating at Aden. His wife was going stronger than ever, and her temper was, if possible, worse. He had not lost her. What a wasted opportunity! Their caravan had taken a completely different route to ours, having been to the Boorgha country and round by the Bun Feroli. Their trophies were very fine and numerous, and the kindly old shikari showed them to us with great pleasure and pride. He managed to be a sportsman in spite of Madam, not, I am sure, by her aid. She was a Woman’s-Righter, and like Sally Brass, a regular one-er. Regardless of the plain fact that we must all be hopelessly ignorant of home affairs, she worried our lives out of an evening to discover our trivial, worthless opinions on all sorts of political questions. It was very amusing to hear Cecily artfully trying to conceal her dense ignorance; we listened to them one night after dinner, and Madam, who probably knew as little of the subject as her victim, desired to know what Cecily thought of Mr. Chamberlain’s fiscal policy. My cousin did not enlarge, so that her lack of knowledge was overwhelmingly apparent. She shook her head solemnly, and said darkly, with grave emphasis, “What indeed!”
Now, “What, indeed!” can cover a multitude of things if said just as it should be. Put the accent on both words and try it next time you are cornered.
I know Madam regarded us four as a ribald crew and kept her fickle smiles only for “the Leader,” whom she desired to propitiate because his place at home adjoined hers, and as the old shikari meant to put up for Parliament at the next election, Madam saw a faint chance of securing a vote. We got a great deal of amusement out of her wiles and blandishments. One day in between the camel-selling and general disbandment we had much difficulty to repress our mirth, as we heard the warrior being tackled something like this.
“Of course, Major,” very suavely, “I can count on your vote?”
“I ought to say ‘Of course’ too. But what precisely are your husband’s political views?”
“Oh, he hasn’t any. Except on big game shooting.”
“Well, that simplifies matters, anyhow,” said the officer, musingly. “Could you tell me if he holds with an eight hours’ day?”
“I expect so.” Then added, as an afterthought, “What—er—what kind of a day is it?”
“Oh,” answered the no-wiser warrior, “an eight hours’ days is—er—an eight hours’ day.”
“To be sure,” in a tone of great relief. “How silly of me! I should persuade my husband to have any kind of day his constituents most preferred.”
“But imagine,” put in Cecily, “if they all wanted different!”
“There are three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, I believe,” said the offended lady, frigidly.
The old husband was much more likeable, and we got on well with him when we were allowed a look in. He had a pretty wit, and told stories in an inimitable manner, though not always of come-in-with-the-fish variety. Indeed, some of his anecdotes could better have made an entree with the curry. I dare say so much camp life had roughened him a little. When Madam waxed sarcastic, and scornfully told him a tale was too far-fetched, he would say quite good-humoredly he could never fetch his stories from far enough, as he was for ever seeing the light of auld lang syne in some eye. He had that best and most useful of gifts, the power to say things apropos at just the right moment. Most of us think them up afterwards when it is too late. Such a power is a gift worth having from the gods, just as malapropisms come from another quarter.
The traveler’s bungalow affected to put us all up. Ralph said it was affectation merely, as the place was so crowded out he slept with his feet through the window!
Anything that was likely to be of the least use to him we gave to Clarence, to his great joy, and his choice did fall on some quaint things. An ordinary English axe was his first selection; he passed over the native ones in lofty scorn. In addition to these few simple gifts we decided to bestow on him, as a mark of our immense appreciation of the good work done, our spare 12-bore, in order that he might go out on his next shikar with every degree of safety. Such a present overwhelmed our follower by its magnificence, and he was almost too excited to speak or express his thanks. At first, he did not realize we meant to give it, and it was very pleasant indeed to watch his face as the wonderful truth dawned on his mind.
The rest of our men filed past us as we stood ready to pay them by the side of the tent that had been our home for so long. Every man got his bonus of money and a little present besides from the stores, and we shook hands all round. I think we all felt the same regret at parting. Absurd as it may sound, the saying “Goodbye” to these rough followers of ours was a sentimentally sad business.
“What days and nights we’d seen, enjoyed, and passed.” And truly few travelers had been better served. Clarence was immensely anxious to go home with us, and become, I don’t quite know what, in our household. He spoke to me very seriously about it.
“Yu welly good people,” he said; “me go to Englan’ all same you.” But England and Clarence could never amalgamate, and we had to explain to him we would all look forward to meeting again in Berbera someday.
Cecily gave my Waterbury to the cook—a cheap way of giving a present, as I told her; but she had to give him a useful mark of her appreciation, she said, and her own watch was broken. I said farewell to this personage more in sorrow than in anger, and he went off winding his Waterbury as hard as he could go.
Clarence helped us pack the trophies in great cases, a big piece of work, and one that took us right up to the time of sailing. We counted our gains, and found that they included rhino, lion, leopard, harte-beest, dibatag, gerenük, oryx, aoul, Speke’s gazelle, klipspringer, Pelzeln’s gazelle, wart-hog, hyaena, jackal, wolf, ostrich, marabou, dik-dik, and one or two other varieties of game and birds. As for our losses—well, I was assured the Baron was no loss at all. For on being guided by Clarence to the filthy abode in the native quarter where the Baron’s family resided, I was given to understand that his removal was a source of gratification to them all. The amount of money owing him, and a little over, which I tendered apologetically enough, instantly caused the very memory of the ill-fated man to fade away. Our other follower, who died naturally with no assistance from us, directly or indirectly, did not appear to have any belongings.
And so the great shikar ended, and for nearly four months and a half we had lived in tents, and played at being nomads.
Every one of our men came to the quay to see us off, Clarence carrying his rifle, the cook still winding his watch. We all shook hands over again.
“Salaam aleikum, Clarence.”
“Aleikum salaam, Mem-sahibs.”
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