Alan Field.

Lays of West Africa and ditties of the coast online

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hours one winter
In far-away England. I flung at his head all unthinking

a splinter
Of coal huge in size, and expected to see him a corpse

dead and gory
With myself tried for murder. I missed by great luck.)

But I stray from the story
I looked to see Smith in the claws, and the jaws of the

terrible creature
Whose form seemed eclipsed behind fangs. The great

mouth was a hypnotic feature.
When, all in a flash, with the speed of its flight, and its

death, and the gun-shot
The guinea-fowl whizzed (for the leopard indeed t'was

a hurrying lunch hot)
Straight into the gullet agape of poor ' Spots.' If his

throat had been wider
It would not have jammed, but have been in his

omnibus paunch an ' insider.'
Smith lifted his gun (in a second or two the whole thing

had transpired)
And, but for my cry, " Do not shoot," in desperate

defence would have fired
But I saw (and indeed it were foolish to try and kill

leopards with 'sixes')
That, of all his life's worries, the panther was now in the

worst of his fixes.
He choked, and he gurgled, and spluttered, and tumbled

about in endeavour
To try and respire, in vain, for his breathing was corked

up for ever.

1 took out my watch and observed, and Science may

note to the minute
That (if beasts have a heaven), in four struggling moments

the leopard was in it.
From trees, to the top of whose summits in horror had

swiftly ascended
With Castanet knees and their eyes bulging out, our two

negroes descended.
It was not a time for discussion, words fail on such

startling occasions
As we followed the corpse into camp. Should we tell

the plain truth or evasions ?
We sat, Smith and I, silent still, as Robinson measured

the carcase.
From tail-tip to nose t'was nine feet ! Fate in records

beginning to mark us.
But we found that old Robin had had an equally weird

Our yarn I have spun. Let him spin that of his, while

withholding your censure
From his slightly broad Doric and style. My fault, I

have owned, is digressing
Away from the subject in hand. I may here make a

note of the blessing
Of having a natural bent for smooth and mellifluent

Than to keep me from it were less hard to deprive of his

ham a Kent ham eater.


It is all verra weel for Jones to havers
The bit man fancies himsel' Robbie Burns,
Wi' his lang-winded vairse, his demi-semi-quavers
Yet he canna stick to his last but every-whither turns.
Noo I'll tell ye just what happed when they twa left camp,
I took ma rifle, wi' a lad, and wandered ben the river.
Where, sittin'doon, me thocht that, if 't did no turn damp,
I'd bide a wee ahint the bank wi' oot a risk o' fever.
And hoped maybe a crocodile micht crawl oot where a


Across a creek, ayont a stretch o' sand, looked verra likely,
And so gie me a chance to try ma sichts, and get some



When " Presairve us a' ! " I cried, " Whats yon queer beast

a snortin michtily ? "

The cannie black came near to whisper his outlandish lingo.
" One elephant he lib for water, all same bath he taking.
Master him fit to shoot one time." " I will," I said, " By

jingo ! "
We crawled a whiles, and eft soon saw the beastie called

4 earth -shaking '
Beneath us in the girth-high stream, oershadowcd by some

He stood, a fearsome tusker, while we watched him there

a playing,

Too fascinated for a time to think to shoot. His haunches
Were turned uswards, the huge black head with water he

was spraying.
Just as I slipped a cartridge in, and, wishfull for to move


So as I micht get in ma shot, I wished to cough or hiccup,
When, frae a twig aboon his head a long wisp swayed

above him.
" Losh ! what's yon " I thocht, as, sudden, the great beastie

jerked to pick up
His trunk so lang, o' water full, and threw his frontal

And then I saw, an' blackie too, that long green whip

swift curling,
A snake it was, which downwards struck as quick as flash

o' fire.
That broke the spell. I slipped ma finger round the

trigger twirling,
The 'tusker' still stood there all fours. The serpent

slowly came up,

To vanish 'mid the foliage, the man my elbow grasped,
Just as I drew a steady bead he pushed my ready aim up,
I turned in wrath "No good be shoot. Them snake done

kill," he gasped.

Too true ! the vast leviathan was now with rigors shivering,
Whiles, as we watched, his joints gave way till wi' an awful

That sent the splashing spray aloft, he fell, the huge bulk


Still and more still. The ghost he gave wi' ane tremendous

And lay there dead ! The venom'd fangs had done their

treach'rous murder.
I turned to camp to send some men his tusks to get and

bring in
And thocht ma frens would greet ma tale wi cries "I'll

see you furder."

" Oh, what a what !" wi' other fleers as similarly stingin'.
But just aboot the time ma folk the ivories returned with
(I taped them o'er, quite ten feet each, a record most

When Smith and Jones, I saw at once each face excitement

burned with
Fate seemed to say 'Ye shall not slay, for thus I will abuse

you all.'


Of all the Ju-ju I have struck
This was by far the worst,
For proxy slaying is not luck.
To have some beastly jungle Puck
Kill all one's creatures first.

Our carriers could not make out,
Until we raised their wages,
If good or ill would fall. In doubt
Their motto is to quick clear out,
And has been so for ages.

We therefore took but bush-men three
And left the rest behind,
To form a standing camp, where we
Could send all trophies back to be
Skinned, cured, and safe to find.

Well, things went on from worse to worst

And, as I must be brief,

I'll run thro : each event accurst,

It makes me feel as if I'd burst

To make you own belief.


The first day out we found a grove
Of plant so very sensitive
That, as we entered, oped, and wove
A passage for us. Made a cove
Fear lest he might offence it give.

Beyond there lay an open plain,
Beneath a height we rested on,
While just below us (Luck again !)
A rhino slept in drowsy vein.
We tossed who'd kill the mastodon.

Jones won, and knelt him down in style,
Robinson wandered off.
My rising hair quite stirred my tile
To hear that sound to men so vile,
A Lion's charging cough.

" Look round, poor Jones ! " I wildly yelled.
"I fear your number's up"
Jones ducked, as though he had been felled.
The charge was launched, my breath I held,
Prayers I sent (and worse), up.

I breathed once more, but stared aghast.
No lion there ! though Jones erect !
Right o'er his form the beast had passed.
Below him Jones was gazing. Fast
His tears fell. "Come ! " he becked.

I stood beside him, held his hand,

A sympathetic mate.

Down there we viewed the rhino grand

Stone-dead. His spine could not withstand

The lion's falling weight.

While that rude monster of the waste
Impaled on the rhinoceros.
The horn had pierced him in his haste
Heart-deep, as o'er the brink he raced,
It really was preposterous.

The lion's hide beyond all size
Of measures in the book.
The rhino's head was such a prize
That, but that foot-rule never lies
Our faith in inches shook.

If so far you have read, let me beg you pursue to

This story we cannot live down, but are writing it here

in collusion.
Smith tells how our Scots friend had left us, the time of

the lion disaster.
But not the clear reason. It seems that lunch drew him

as draws any plaster.
So back he had walked to the basket, with a thirst

which he says was worth 'siller.'
To find there no guardian men, but a great and most

hairy gorilla.
The shock was enough for most men to have lost all

their presence of mind,
But Robinson knew that all apes are born mimics, and

trusted to find
This brute was not any exception. He opened the

basket and drew
Out the cutlery, forks, knives, and spoons, a tin-opener

and the corkscrew.
Then (at conjuring tricks he was good, for the which

hostesses fought to get him
And, being a bachelor too, all the girls used to praise

and abet him.)
In short, at all sleight-of-hand feats, he was easily

nulli secundus
It seemed rather sullying art, after showing to Beauty

his wonders,
To come down to a bloodthirsty ape in the depth of an

African jungle.
But Robinson's audience now more exacting than

Duchess or fun-girl.
So adroitly he managed his hands, and improvised

Conjurer's patter,
While, a mimic exact, the gorilla imitated, omitting the

First, mixing a brandy and soda, to steady his nerves for

the tussle,

The ape followed suit. And betrayed in his forearm
magnificent muscle,


When Robinson, half in a dream, turned his sleeves in

the style of the platform,
The gorilla pretended rolled-cuffs, smacked his lips at

poor Robinson's fat form.
Then followed the piece de resistance, Rob simply out-

Heroded Herod
In the way he performed, tho' for wand he had only a

grass-stem, a mere rod.
He shammed that he swallowed the spoons, the gorilla

did likewise, not shamming
But really and truly succeeded, without any single one

Then the forks and the knives, when it came to the

opener-thing and the corkscrew,
And Rob saw the face of his guest change in colour

thro' purple to dark blue
His nerve quite collapsed, as he turned to fly madly the

scene of the lunching,
He heard the gorilla pursue, then a kind of confused

metal scrunching,
Nothing more he remembered. We came on him

faintingly swooning and followed
The path of his flight from the basket, we hoped that at

least was not swallowed.
No need of our rifles, again \vas repeated our fortune

The gorilla lay there, by its side, quite as dead as our

other game previous.
Your ideas of gorillas perhaps are based on the contents

of bottles
In which baby apes pickled lie, in spirits of wine to

their throttles.
Or the small chimpanzees at the Zoo, but the true beast

is really tremendous.
He can stretch down one arm from a tree, raise a human

to strangle and end us,
With a great booming chest, which he strikes when in

horrible anger he rages
As tall as a man. I had rather peruse this account in

these pages
Than meet one. Imagine the shock, as we gazed on the

wretched gorilla.


So human he looked on his back, we reproachfully spoke

to his killer.
But Robinson said "I'd much sooner have slain than be

slain. It's fair scandals
To take any other view point." This was true so \ve

turned to the handles.
For everywhere over the corpse there stuck out, apart

and in bunches,
Our cutlery, it was bathetic to reflect on our teaspoons

as lunches.
We recovered the list, all but one, a dessert fork,

Smith vows it will harm it,
And that Rob who has swallowed it ought to pay us for

omitting to palm it.
But that is apart from the fact that unanimously we


To the cutlery-killed the high place which the tape-
measure showed it recorded.


And that's aboot a', except counting the spoil,

Of the leopard, the tusker, the rhino, and lion.

With ma michty gorilla I slew by my coil

O' brains versus brute. But we never set eye on

A beast we could kill with our skill at the rifle

And knowledge o' bush-craft. The worst luck occurred

At our base-camp, where Brown o' Tarkwa feared he'd


Of laughter, ere he could relate what he heard.
For he chanced to pass there just ere we returned,
And viewed all laid out in a row our big game.
While, from our black babble-mouthed servants, he learned
The full details of each, and the death of the same.
Since that day our lives hae been no less than a burden
But, now that in print the fair truth is confessed,
No chaffing yarn-spinner will earn himself guerdon
O' thanks. For stale jokes na-ane ever is blessed.

ne ifieason.

He who to the West Coast goes
Has reasons good, or worse.
Why one of Ind, from Simla's snows
Went there, explains this verse.

I shall always hate it Kitty, hate that jolting of the tonga
When it kept with rhythmic jangle, as the miles grew

long and longer
Saying to the Hills above me "grey-eyed Kitty does not

love me."
" Does not love me " it kept beating, with the echoes all

Kept repeating, while the fleeting milestones told me that

the meeting
In the winter would but splinter all my hope of Love's

" Do not bother, love another, since that Kitty loves you

This it told me, can you scold me, when the thought came

ever, ever,

That the fashion of my passion was a foolishness to cherish,
Since the fires of Love neglected must from want of fuel


And the train-wheels gave me warning like the tonga in the

Rumbling " Do not love, forget her ! There are others,

kinder, better,
Who may kiss you, she'll not miss you for your worship she

is scorning."
Love will vanish when you banish all this thought of

"friendly letters"
Can you, when you burn to make her yours, and in your

arms to take her
Be content with coldly writing "Dear Miss Chill-Heart"

thus inditing.


" When your heart but longs for Kitty can you be content
with pity ?

This from your " mere friend " in Poona who would just as

soon, nay, sooner
Be away from you as near you, and as like to love as fear


Yes, the tonga and ag-gari,* were, p'raps, wise as any fairy.
I will hearken to their saying, and will elsewhere go

"Zukhmi-dil"t no longer singing but " Dil-khoosh "J the

changes ringing.

flMnfe*eet> Bill.

* *

Oh, what gleams in the pan so bright

Pink-eyed Bill ?
Oh, what has the dredge brought to light

Pink-eyed Bill ?

Is it mica or gold ? So often we're sold
All glitters may not be all right
Though this reach of the river is quite

The best site.

Where the heavy alluvial might
Be washed by the floods at their height,

Pink-eyed Bill.
Oh, speak and relieve me of fright !

The directors at Home will be pleased,

Pink-eyed Bill.
And the mind of our Chairman be eased,

Pink-eyed Bill.
While the market in jungles. Raise hope in the done


The Kaffirs with envy'll be seized,
And our palms, yours and mine, will be greased.

I am teased

* Ag-gari Puff-puff.

f *' Zukhmi-dil" " The wounded heart ;" a Pathan love song.

J Dil-khoosh The happy heart.

To know if we really have leased
A spot where, as good as a feast,
Is enough for a Report at least,

Pink-eyed Bill.
Oh, examine, and don't be a beast !

For we know that there's gold in the land,

Pink-eyed Bill.

That the niggers for ages have panned,

Pink-eyed Bill.

And the old Portugese scooped the stuff out like cheese

From the Chiefs, and the reefs, and the sand.

The black source is not at our command,

It is banned.

Now we have to make ' kings ' understand

Any hopeful concessions we've planned.

While, until High Officials have scanned,

Pink-eyed Bill.

Every scheme, and thereto placed their hand,

I'd as soon 'jump ' a claim on the Rand.

When I came to Axim, green as grass,

Pink-eyed Bill.
I was filled with an ignorance crass,

Pink-eyed Bill.

Then I first saw your sort, which a lesson me taught,
At the bar of the Steamer, old Ass,
You were gulping champagne from a glass,
Just as though it were soda or Eass

For en masse

You come out, with a First Saloon pass,
Cigarette on each ear, bold as brass,

Pink-eyed Bill.
But it seems to be rather a farce,

Pink-eyed Bill.

N.C.O.'s of fine Corps should, Alas !
Be sent Second when you are First Class.


But, do haste ye as quick as you can,

Pink-eyed Bill.
Say, oh, what glitters there in the pan,

Pink-eyed Bill ?

Are you muttering " muddy," or something is " ruddy,"
That invariable word of your clan,
Applied anyhow on no plan ?

Be a man !

Mines are dips in a lucky-tub's bran.
With less Waterloo far than Sedan,

Pink-eyed Bill.
Do behave like a European,

Pink-eyed Bill !
Not a chi-chi, hybrid, black-and-tan !

It's a set of false teeth you have found,

Pink-eyed Bill !
In a sardonic grin firmly bound,

Pink-eyed Bill !

No wonder your bile is quite stirred by that smile
So gruesome. Did you hear a sound ?
Sneering chuckle come out of the ground ?
See, the gold palate plate's scarcely browned !

Worth a pound.

Someone's been here before us. That mound
Is the ' dump ' where the dredge went aground,

Pink-eyed Bill.
And this odious smile, I'll be bound,

Pink-eyed Bill.
Is all that he's left the mean hound !


Country parsons, and those who ambitiously set,

Pink-eyed Bill.

All their fortunes, and wife's, against odds it's a bet,

Pink-eyed Bill.

That instead of a semblance of cash dividend.

All they get is a sardonic smile at the end.

When the bottom falls out of the mining market.


There's a public has not enough common-sense yet
To come in from the rain when its going to be wet.

These abet

Promoters to spread their prospectuses' net,
Which many skilled minds have composed ere they let
It appear as a lure in a Journal's inset.
And each from success gets a fat perquisite,

Pink eyed Bill.
Behind the scenes often I've been quite a pet,

Pink-eyed Bill.

As a. persona grata I know the Banket.
Just reflect that, who ever has cause to regret
The fact that but heavy ' calls ' shareholders get,
And that they, wretched gamblers, are deeply in debt,
There is no one but they ! Other claims are all met,
The promoters have vanished long ere the upset.

Don't forget
That this false grinning smile is our only asset.

Sana S>a Oajia.'

Were powers mine I would roll back the days
Until life touched again the border line

Where boyhood verges on his first essays
Of puberty, but have experience mine.

With knowledge old, but senses keen with youth,
The rose-path I would tread, without the thorn.

Impulse would follow Wisdom, choosing Truth,
If Truth were wise, if unwise, Wisdom scorn.

Where I have kiss'd could I but love again.

Could own the fair quick monies I have spent.
Have all past glamours, and evade the pain.

Then would that make for pleasure and content.

1 Sanu da Gajia ' " Hail to you, in your weariness ! " A
Hausa salutation.


Ube Bailiff's Song.

You can't serve an Officer on Service

With a nasty long blue writ.
Then the only charge of which he's nervous

Is the Charge when, in a different way, he's " hit."
So it's good to be a soldier if a debtor,
When an expedition's starting to a show.
For you need'nt then examine every letter,
Or suspect a ' bum ' in every man you know.

You can't serve an M.P. when he's sueing

With eloquence the Speaker's eye
Promote his private Bill is what he's doing

And yours must wait till bye-and-bye.
So it's cheap to be in Parliament if owing
For the fur-coat that on hustings was displayed,
And, moreover, when your motor home is going
You can claim a bobby's escort if afraid.

Thus folk of whom you should be wary are

Those who live by tongue or blade.
Don't insult the House, or Military ah !

When they're busy by expecting to be paid.
Though a writter's life's the best for any misanthrope
To work off the grudge he has against his kin.
Yet with heroes, and Hon. Mem.'s, he has'nt any

For he's " up against " a class he can't run in.


Saf Hnjima.

Until the Armageddon breaks

To sweep the Ages all away,

Melting the polish. Savage makes

Our complex social Code to-day.

While Law Courts still the Jousts replace

And men converse in friendly strain

We yet shall say in parting case

" Well, Toodle-oo ! We'll meet again ! "

With hands, on knees, and heads bent low,

The Island yellow people say

Their ' Sayonara ' ere they jo

Each on his " honourable " way.

The Teutons grunting mutter all,

When comes the exit gag to speak,

Auf wiedersehcns gutteral

As though to courteous be were weak.

The very beasts p'raps understand
Each dog, and pup, and mangy ma
Some canine formulaed shake-hands.
The Hausas say ' Sat Attjima.'
And, when we've slipped a fat pourboire
Into his palm, our garden French
A bientot Monsieur, Au revoir !
Murmurs as if he felt the wrench.

The yellow, black, and white, and mute,
End off in some way talking nicely.
Each phrase its people seems to suit
The nation using it precisely.
But if you mix them "Waal O'Hara"
It sounds than Au revoir more queer
" I guess its time for Sayonara "
So " Lets Sai anjima, right here ' "





(Second Edition).


83, Great Titchfield St.

Journal of Tropical Medicine.

"... Even the general reader, who
never contemplates visiting West Africa,
will find it most fascinating. . . . No
orte is forgotten ; the soldier, the mer-
chant, the naturalist, the missionary,
the nurse, the sportsman and the ama-
teur gardener, will each and all find
what they want to guide them, from
the making of househo d drinks to the
shooting of big game. ... A book
which it is hoped will be made a
compulsory part of the equipment
by Government, mercantile or mis-
sionary author i ties of everyone of their
nominees proceeding to West Africa."

Badminton Magazine. "The in-
experienced traveller, bound for any of
the localities indicated by the title, will
be under a deep obligation to the author
if he procures this little book. It will
probably save that traveller a good deal
of money, and will furthermore ensure
him a vast amount of comfort and con-
venience which would otherwise be lack-
ing. . . The little book wanted writing,
and could net be better written"

West African Mall. '"Verb.Sap. 1
is a book of concentrated knowledge. . .
It will supply a long-felt want. After
reading this little book, wkich is full of
wisdom, a man with ever so little expe-
rience will be able to do himself well,
and the veriest greenhorn will only have
himself to blame if he do-s himself badly.
. . . It is a little b ok -which no one going
to the Constc an afford to miss reading. . .
It is good enough to save time, money,
temper, health and life, and it only costs
half-a-crown ! ' Verb. Sap. ! ' "

The African World. "Wisdom on
the West Coast ! A boon to the man
going out ! . . . 'Verb. Sap.' simply
brims over with precisely the information
for which the average man diligently
searches in vain a few weeks before sail-
ing from Liverpool. . . . The average
reader will learn more in an hour from
a study of what Mr. Field has to tell
him than he would in a week poring
. ver the tomes in a library. . . . None
going to the West Coast should be
without this booklet It will be useful
every minute of the day while you are
getting ready to sail, and will constantly
be useful for rejerente afterwards. It
meets a want and meets it adequately"


(with two Colonial Editions).

Army & Navy Gazette. "Clever

stories from the pen of a humorous
writer, ... A well-written and very
entertaining volume."

Birmingham Post. "In his par-
ticular line ALAN FIELD is one of the
best of our authors "

Dundee Courier. "The book grips

Scotsman. " Full value in sensa-
tion, but the chief merit is in skill of
invention and strength of style."

Liverpool Mercury. " Good to
read . . . written with considerable
power and not a little dramatic

St. James Gazette. "Smartly

Daily Express. "Mr. FIELD is al-
ways clever and interests us mightily
every time.'"

British Weekly. "Exceedingly
interesting tales."

United Service Magazine. "Ex-
cellent stories."

Vanity Fair. "The farces are very
amusing, while the tragical tales are
painful but powerful."'

Outlook. "A pleasant collection
seasoned with wholesome humour."

Ladies' Field. " Full of imagina-
tive power of a weird kind."

Sheffield Independent. "As good
as anything Kipling has put in prose."


(ist Edition of 20,000 Copies.)

Published by the MOMBASA



The Spectator devotes two columns
of commendation to "thii delightful
little book" (issue September ist, 1906 )

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Online LibraryAlan FieldLays of West Africa and ditties of the coast → online text (page 4 of 4)