Page:Hopkinson Smith--armchair at the inn.djvu/137

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camp, and especially for the friendly village, would be a godsend, and, taking five men, I was soon on his track. They are strong-legged and quick movers, these elephants, and a few hours’ start makes it difficult for a white man to catch up with them. All that day I followed him, never getting near him, although the spoor, stripped saplings, and vines showed that he was but a few miles ahead. At nightfall I gave him up, sent my men back, and, to avoid fording a deep stream, made a short détour to the right. The sun had set and darkness had begun to fall. And it comes all at once and almost without warning in these parts.

“My men being out of reach, I pushed ahead until I struck a narrow path twisting in and out of the heavier trees and less tangled underbrush. Here I came upon an open place with signs of cultivation and caught sight of another unexpected village, the first I had run across in that day’s march. This one, on nearer approach, proved to be a collection of small huts straggling along the edge of what at last became a road or street. Squatting in front of these rude dwellings sat the inhabitants staring at me in wonder—the first white man they had ever seen.