The Man-eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures
by J. H. Patterson
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THE MAN-EATERS OF TSAVO AND Other East African Adventures


Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson, D.S.O.




It is with feelings of the greatest diffidence that I place the following pages before the public; but those of my friends who happen to have heard of my rather unique experiences in the wilds have so often urged me to write an account of my adventures, that after much hesitation I at last determined to do so.

I have no doubt that many of my readers, who have perhaps never been very far away from civilisation, will be inclined to think that some of the incidents are exaggerated. I can only assure them that I have toned down the facts rather than otherwise, and have endeavoured to write a perfectly plain and straightforward account of things as they actually happened.

It must be remembered that at the time these events occurred, the conditions prevailing in British East Africa were very different from what they are to-day. The railway, which has modernised the aspect of the place and brought civilisation in its train, was then only in process of construction, and the country through which it was being built was still in its primitive savage state, as indeed, away from the railway, it still is.

If this simple account of two years' work and play in the wilds should prove of any interest, or help even in a small way to call attention to the beautiful and valuable country which we possess on the Equator, I shall feel more than compensated for the trouble I have taken in writing it.

I am much indebted to the Hon. Mrs. Cyril Ward, Sir Guilford Molesworth, K.C.I.E., Mr. T.J. Spooner and Mr C. Rawson for their kindness in allowing me to reproduce photographs taken by them. My warmest thanks are also due to that veteran pioneer of Africa, Mr. F.C. Selous, for giving my little book so kindly an introduction to the public as is provided by the "Foreword" which he has been good enough to write.

J.H.P. August, 1907.


It was some seven or eight years ago that I first read, in the pages of The Field newspaper, a brief account written by Col. J.H. Patterson, then an engineer engaged on the construction of the Uganda Railway, of the Tsavo man-eating lions.

My own long experience of African hunting told me at once that every word in this thrilling narrative was absolutely true. Nay more: I knew that the author had told his story in a most modest manner, laying but little stress on the dangers he had run when sitting up at nights to try and compass the death of the terrible man-eaters, especially on that one occasion when whilst watching from a very light scaffolding, supported only by four rickety poles, he was himself stalked by one of the dread beasts. Fortunately he did not lose his nerve, and succeeded in shooting the lion, just when it was on the point of springing upon him. But had this lion approached him from behind, I think it would probably have added Col. Patterson to its long list of victims, for in my own experience I have known of three instances of men having been pulled from trees or huts built on platforms at a greater height from the ground than the crazy structure on which Col. Patterson was watching on that night of terrors.

From the time of Herodotus until to-day, lion stories innumerable have been told and written. I have put some on record myself. But no lion story I have ever heard or read equals in its long-sustained and dramatic interest the story of the Tsavo man-eaters as told by Col. Patterson. A lion story is usually a tale of adventures, often very terrible and pathetic, which occupied but a few hours of one night; but the tale of the Tsavo man-eaters is an epic of terrible tragedies spread out over several months, and only at last brought to an end by the resource and determination of one man.

It was some years after I read the first account published of the Tsavo man-eaters that I made the acquaintance of President Roosevelt. I told him all I remembered about it, and he was so deeply interested in the story—as he is in all true stories of the nature and characteristics of wild animals—that he begged me to send him the short printed account as published in The Field. This I did; and it was only in the last letter I received from him that, referring to this story, President Roosevelt wrote: "I think that the incident of the Uganda man-eating lions, described in those two articles you sent me, is the most remarkable account of which we have any record. It is a great pity that it should not be preserved in permanent form." Well, I am now glad to think that it will be preserved in permanent form; and I venture to assure Col. Patterson that President Roosevelt will be amongst the most interested readers of his book.

It is probable that the chapters recounting the story of the Tsavo man-eating lions will be found more absorbing than the other portions of Col. Patterson's book; but I think that most of his readers will agree with me that the whole volume is full of interest and information. The account given by Col. Patterson of how he overcame all the difficulties which confronted him in building a strong and permanent railway bridge across the Tsavo river makes excellent reading; whilst the courage he displayed in attacking, single-handed, lions, rhinoceroses and other dangerous animals was surpassed by the pluck, tact and determination he showed in quelling the formidable mutiny which once broke out amongst his native Indian workers.

Finally, let me say that I have spent the best part of two nights reading the proof-sheets of Col. Patterson's book, and I can assure him that the time passed like magic. My interest was held from the first page to the last, for I felt that every word I read was true.

F. C. SELOUS. WORPLESDON, SURREY. September 18, 1907.




Heads of Eight Lions shot by the Author in British East Africa Frontispiece Mombasa, from the Harbour 1 The Native Quarter, Mombasa 2 "Well-wooded hills and slopes on the mainland" 3 Vasco da Gama Street and Pillar 5 "The best way to get three ... was by gharri 6 "I pitched my tent under some shady palms" 7 "Kilindini is on the opposite side of the island" 10 "The Place of Deep Waters" 11 "A lucky shot brought down the huge bird" 14 "I slept that night in a little palm hut" 15 "This interminable nyika" 17 "The river crossed by means of a temporary bridge" 18 Women of Uganda 19 The tent from which jemadar Ungan Singh was carried off 23 "My own tent was pitched in an open clearing" 29 "We shared a hut of palm leaves and boughs" 30 "The camps of the workmen had also been surrounded by thorn fences" 31 "Railhead Camp, with its two or three thousand workmen" 33 "The two wounded coolies were left where they lay, a piece of torn tent having fallen over them" 35 "A luncheon served in the wilds, with occasionally a friend to share it" 43 "It very soon became a great pet" 46 "Heera Singh made a wild spring into the water to get clear of the falling stone" 47 "The door which was to admit the lion" 62 "When the trap was ready, I pitched a tent over it" 64 "They found him stuck fast in the bushes of the boma" 70 "Perched on the top of water-tanks" 73 "I took up my position in a crib made of sleepers" 77 Whitehead on a Trolley at the exact spot where the Lion jumped upon him 79 Abdullah and his two Wives 80 A party of Wa Jamousi 83 "His length from tip of nose to tip of tail was nine feet eight inches" 92 Head of the first Man-Eater 93 "The following evening I took up my position in this same tree" 100 "He measured nine feet six inches from tip of nose to tip of tail, and stood three feet eleven and a half inches high" 103 "The bridge over the Tsavo rapidly neared completion" 108 "The heavy stones were swung into position" 109 "The girder was run over its exact place" 110 "And finally lowered gently into position" 111 "Very soon I had the satisfaction of seeing the first train cross the finished work" 112 The completed Tsavo bridge 113 One of the Trolley Lines after the Flood 114 Swahili Caravan Porters 120 "Such was my cook, Mabruki" 122 The women ... wear a long, brightly-coloured cloth" 123 "The women attire themselves only in a short kilt" 125 "We arrived at M'Gogo's capital" 126 "Making pombe in the hollowed-out stump of a tree" 127 Wa Taita Men 129 M'Kamba Woman 131 "Until it joins the Athi River" 136 "The banks of the Sabaki are lined with trees" 138 "I caught sight of a fine waterbuck and successfully bowled him over" 146 "A young one was lying down in the grass quite close to me" 147 A crocodile on the Sabaki 153 "Beyond all doubt, the man-eaters' den!" 158 "Watch the animals come down to drink" 161 "The antelope swinging by his feet" 165 Hippo Head 167 "Slaves chained neck to neck as was the custom" 174 Hospital Tent at Voi where Mrs. O'Hara rested 178 In the Bazaar at Kampala 181 "The great Athi Plains" 182 "First the earth surface has to be prepared" 184 "Cuttings have to be made and hollows banked up" 185 "Another gang drops the rails in their places" 187 "It never moved again" 190 "The trophy was well worth the pains I had taken to add it to my collection" 191 Jackson's Hartebeeste, and Zebra 194 Waterbuck 195 "Fortunately the brute fell dead after this final effort" 201 "We managed to bring them in triumph to the camp" 214 "I got near enough for a safe shot, which bowled the antelope over stone-dead" 218 Wart-hog 220 "A successful snapshot of an impala just after it had been shot" 228 A Masai Chief 232 Masai Warriors 233 Masai Woman 234 Masai Girls 235 Masai Women 237 N'derobbo Boy 239 N'derobbo Boy, with Collabus Monkey 240 N'derobbo Girl 241 Wa Kikuyu 244 "The women of the Wa Kikuyu carry the heavy loads" 245 "Spooner's plucky servant, Imam Din" 281 A Collection of Trophies 285 He was kept on view for several days, and then shot 291 Impala 292 "I took a photograph of him standing reside his fine trophy" 295 "Succeeded in finishing him off without further trouble" 297 Steamer unloading at Kisumu, on Lake Victoria Nyanza 299 The Grand Falls, Tana River 300 Shimone, "The Place of Falling Water" (Eldama Ravine) 301 Oryx 302 Roan Antelope 303 "An excellent, cheery fellow ... named Landaalu" 304 Crossing a Stream on the Cook's Box 305 Crossing the Angarua River 307 Reedbuck 309 The New Eland—T. oryx pattersonianus 316 Thomson's Gazelle 321 War Canoe on Lake Victoria Nyanza, near the Ripon Falls 325 Preparing Breakfast in Camp 326 View in the Kenya Province 331 "A flying visit in a rickshaw to Kampala" 332 "Clad in long flowing cotton garments" 333 Jinja 334 "Rushing over the Ripon Falls" 335 "The mighty river stretching away to the north amid enchanting scenery" 337 Wa Kikuyu Warriors 346 Map of British East Africa 347 Facsimile of address presented to the author on his departure from East Africa in 1899 348-351




It was towards noon on March 1, 1898, that I first found myself entering the narrow and somewhat dangerous harbour of Mombasa, on the east coast of Africa. The town lies on an island of the same name, separated from the mainland only by a very narrow channel, which forms the harbour; and as our vessel steamed slowly in, close under the quaint old Portuguese fortress built over three hundred years ago, I was much struck with the strange beauty of the view which gradually opened out before me. Contrary to my anticipation, everything looked fresh and green, and an oriental glamour of enchantment seemed to hang over the island. The old town was bathed in brilliant sunshine and reflected itself lazily on the motionless sea; its flat roofs and dazzlingly white walls peeped out dreamily between waving palms and lofty cocoanuts, huge baobabs and spreading mango trees; and the darker background of well-wooded hills and slopes on the mainland formed a very effective setting to a beautiful and, to me, unexpected picture.

The harbour was plentifully sprinkled with Arab dhows, in some of which, I believe, even at the present day, a few slaves are occasionally smuggled off to Persia and Arabia. It has always been a matter of great wonder to me how the navigators of little vessels find their way from port to port, as they do, without the aid of either compass or sextant, and how they manage to weather the terrible storms that at certain seasons of the year suddenly visit eastern seas. I remember once coming across a dhow becalmed in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and its crew making signals of distress, our captain slowed down to investigate. There were four men on board, all nearly dead from thirst; they had been without drink of any kind for several days and had completely lost their bearings. After giving them some casks of water, we directed them to Muscat (the port they wished to make), and our vessel resumed its journey, leaving them still becalmed in the midst of that glassy sea. Whether they managed to reach their destination I never knew.

As our steamer made its way to its anchorage, the romantic surroundings of the harbour of Mombasa conjured up, visions of stirring adventures of the past, and recalled to my mind the many tales of reckless doings of pirates and slavers, which as a boy it had been my delight to read. I remembered that it was at this very place that in 1498 the great Vasco da Gama nearly lost his ship and life through the treachery of his Arab pilot, who plotted to wreck the vessel on the reef which bars more than half the entrance to the harbour. Luckily, this nefarious design was discovered in time, and the bold navigator promptly hanged the pilot, and would also have sacked the town but for the timely submission and apologies of the Sultan. In the principal street of Mombasa—appropriately called Vasco da Gama Street—there still stands a curiously shaped pillar which is said to have been erected by this great seaman in commemoration of his visit.

Scarcely had the anchor been dropped, when, as if by magic, our vessel was surrounded by a fleet of small boats and "dug-outs" manned by crowds of shouting and gesticulating natives. After a short fight between some rival Swahili boatmen for my baggage and person, I found myself being vigorously rowed to the foot of the landing steps by the bahareen (sailors) who had been successful in the encounter. Now, my object in coming out to East Africa at this time was to take up a position to which I had been appointed by the Foreign Office on the construction staff of the Uganda Railway. As soon as I landed, therefore, I enquired from one of the Customs officials where the headquarters of the railway were to be found, and was told that they were at a place called Kilindini, some three miles away, on the other side of the island. The best way to get there, I was further informed, was by gharri, which I found to be a small trolley, having two seats placed back to back under a little canopy and running on narrow rails which are laid through the principal street of the town. Accordingly, I secured one of these vehicles, which are pushed by two strapping Swahili boys, and was soon flying down the track, which once outside the town lay for the most part through dense groves of mango, baobab, banana and palm trees, with here and there brilliantly coloured creepers hanging in luxuriant festoons from the branches.

On arrival at Kilindini, I made my way to the railway Offices and was informed that I should be stationed inland and should receive further instructions in the course of a day or two. Meanwhile I pitched my tent under some shady palms near the gharri line, and busied myself in exploring the island and in procuring the stores and the outfit necessary for a lengthy sojourn up-country. The town of Mombasa itself naturally occupied most of my attention. It is supposed to have been founded about A.D. 1000, but the discovery of ancient Egyptian idols, and of coins of the early Persian and Chinese dynasties, goes to show that it must at different ages have been settled by people of the very earliest civilisations. Coming to more modern times, it was held on and off from 1505 to 1729 by the Portuguese, a permanent memorial of whose occupation remains in the shape of the grim old fortress, built about 1593—on the site, it is believed, of a still older stronghold. These enterprising sea-rovers piously named it "Jesus Fort," and an inscription recording this is still to be seen over the main entrance. The Portuguese occupation of Mombasa was, however, not without its vicissitudes. From March 15, 1696, for example, the town was besieged for thirty-three consecutive months by a large fleet of Arab dhows, which completely surrounded the island. In spite of plague, treachery and famine, the little garrison held out valiantly in Jesus Fort, to which they had been forced to retire, until December 12, 1698, when the Arabs made a last determined attack and captured the citadel, putting the remnant of the defenders, both men and women, to the sword. It is pathetic to read that only two days later a large Portuguese fleet appeared off the harbour, bringing the long-looked-for reinforcements. After this the Portuguese made several attempts to reconquer Mombasa, but were unsuccessful until 1728, when the town was stormed and captured by General Sampayo. The Arabs, however, returned the next year in overwhelming numbers, and again drove the Portuguese out; and although the latter made one more attempt in 1769 to regain their supremacy, they did not succeed.

The Arabs, as represented by the Sultan of Zanzibar, remain in nominal possession of Mombasa to the present day; but in 1887 Seyid Bargash, the then Sultan of Zanzibar, gave for an annual rental a concession of his mainland territories to the British East Africa Association, which in 1888 was formed into the Imperial British East Africa Company. In 1895 the Foreign Office took over control of the Company's possessions, and a Protectorate was proclaimed; and ten years later the administration of the country was transferred to the Colonial Office.

The last serious fighting on the island took place so recently as 1895-6, when a Swahili chief named M'baruk bin Rashed, who had three times previously risen in rebellion against the Sultan of Zanzibar, attempted to defy the British and to throw off their yoke. He was defeated on several occasions, however, and was finally forced to flee southwards into German territory. Altogether, Mombasa has in the past well deserved its native name of Kisiwa M'vitaa, or "Isle of War"; but under the settled rule now obtaining, it is rapidly becoming a thriving and prosperous town, and as the port of entry for Uganda, it does a large forwarding trade with the interior and has several excellent stores where almost anything, from a needle to an anchor, may readily be obtained.

Kilindini is, as I have said, on the opposite side of the island, and as its name—"the place of deep waters"—implies, has a much finer harbour than that possessed by Mombasa. The channel between the island and the mainland is here capable of giving commodious and safe anchorage to the very largest vessels, and as the jetty is directly connected with the Uganda Railway, Kilindini has now really become the principal port, being always used by the liners and heavier vessels.

I had spent nearly a week in Mombasa, and was becoming very anxious to get my marching orders, when one morning I was delighted to receive an official letter instructing me to proceed to Tsavo, about one hundred and thirty-two miles from the coast, and to take charge of the construction of the section of the line at that place, which had just then been reached by railhead. I accordingly started at daylight next morning in a special train with Mr. Anderson, the Superintendent of Works, and Dr. McCulloch, the principal Medical Officer; and as the country was in every way new to me, I found the journey a most interesting one.

The island of Mombasa is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Macupa, and the railway crosses this by a bridge about three-quarters of a mile long, called the Salisbury Bridge, in honour of the great Minister for Foreign Affairs under whose direction the Uganda Railway scheme was undertaken. For twenty miles after reaching the mainland, our train wound steadily upwards through beautifully wooded, park-like country, and on looking back out of the carriage windows we could every now and again obtain lovely views of Mombasa and Kilindini, while beyond these the Indian Ocean sparkled in the glorious sunshine as far as the eye could see. The summit of the Rabai Hills having been reached, we entered on the expanse of the Taru Desert, a wilderness covered with poor scrub and stunted trees, and carpeted in the dry season with a layer of fine red dust. This dust is of a most penetrating character, and finds its way into everything in the carriage as the train passes along. From here onward game is more or less plentiful, but the animals are very difficult to see owing to the thick undergrowth in which they hide themselves. We managed, however, to catch sight of a few from the carriage windows, and also noticed some of the natives, the Wa Nyika, or "children of the wilderness."

At Maungu, some eighty miles from the coast, we came to the end of this "desert," but almost the only difference to be noticed in the character of the country was that the colour of the dust had changed. As our train sped onwards through the level uplands we saw a fine ostrich striding along parallel with the line, as if having a race with us. Dr. McCulloch at once seized his rifle and by a lucky shot brought down the huge bird; the next and greater difficulty, however, was to secure the prize. For a time the engine-driver took no notice of our signals and shouts, but at last we succeeded in attracting his attention, and the train was shunted back to where the ostrich had fallen. We found it to be an exceptionally fine specimen, and had to exert all our strength to drag it on board the train.

Soon after this we reached Voi, about a hundred miles from the coast, and as this was the most important station on the line that we had yet come to, we made a short halt in order to inspect some construction work which was going on. On resuming our journey, we soon discovered that a pleasant change had occurred in the character of the landscape. From a place called N'dii, the railway runs for some miles through a beautifully wooded country, which looked all the more inviting after the deadly monotony of the wilderness through which we had just passed. To the south of us could be seen the N'dii range of mountains, the dwelling-place of the Wa Taita people, while on our right rose the rigid brow of the N'dungu Escarpment, which stretches away westwards for scores of miles. Here our journey was slow, as every now and again we stopped to inspect the permanent works in progress; but eventually, towards dusk, we arrived at our destination, Tsavo. I slept that night in a little palm hut which had been built by some previous traveller, and which was fortunately unoccupied for the time being. It was rather broken-down and dilapidated, not even possessing a door, and as I lay on my narrow camp bed I could see the stars twinkling through the roof. I little knew then what adventures awaited me in this neighbourhood; and if I had realised that at that very time two savage brutes were prowling round, seeking whom they might devour, I hardly think I should have slept so peacefully in my rickety shelter.

Next morning I was up betimes, eager to make acquaintance with my new surroundings. My first impression on coming out of my hut was that I was hemmed in on all sides by a dense growth of impenetrable jungle: and on scrambling to the top of a little hill close at hand, I found that the whole country as far as I could see was covered with low, stunted trees, thick undergrowth and "wait-a-bit" thorns. The only clearing, indeed, appeared to be where the narrow track for the railway had been cut. This interminable nyika, or wilderness of whitish and leafless dwarf trees, presented a ghastly and sun-stricken appearance; and here and there a ridge of dark-red heat-blistered rock jutted out above the jungle, and added by its rugged barrenness to the dreariness of the picture. Away to the north-east stretched the unbroken line of the N'dungu Escarpment, while far off to the south I could just catch a glimpse of the snow-capped top of towering Kilima N'jaro. The one redeeming feature of the neighbourhood was the river from which Tsavo takes its name. This is a swiftly-flowing stream, always cool and always running, the latter being an exceptional attribute in this part of East Africa; and the fringe of lofty green trees along its banks formed a welcome relief to the general monotony of the landscape.

When I had thus obtained a rough idea of the neighbourhood, I returned to my hut, and began in earnest to make preparations for my stay in this out-of-the-way place. The stores were unpacked, and my "boys" pitched my tent in a little clearing close to where I had slept the night before and not far from the main camp of the workmen. Railhead had at this time just reached the western side of the river, and some thousands of Indian coolies and other workmen were encamped there. As the line had to be pushed on with all speed, a diversion had been made and the river crossed by means of a temporary bridge. My principal work was to erect the permanent structure, and to complete all the other works for a distance of thirty miles on each side of Tsavo. I accordingly made a survey of what had to be done, and sent my requisition for labour, tools and material to the head-quarters at Kilindini. In a short time workmen and supplies came pouring in, and the noise of hammers and sledges, drilling and blasting echoed merrily through the district.



Unfortunately this happy state of affairs did not continue for long, and our work was soon interrupted in a rude and startling manner. Two most voracious and insatiable man-eating lions appeared upon the scene, and for over nine months waged an intermittent warfare against the railway and all those connected with it in the vicinity of Tsavo. This culminated in a perfect reign of terror in December, 1898, when they actually succeeded in bringing the railway works to a complete standstill for about three weeks. At first they were not always successful in their efforts to carry off a victim, but as time went on they stopped at nothing and indeed braved any danger in order to obtain their favourite food. Their methods then became so uncanny, and their man-stalking so well-timed and so certain of success, that the workmen firmly believed that they were not real animals at all, but devils in lions' shape. Many a time the coolies solemnly assured me that it was absolutely useless to attempt to shoot them. They were quite convinced that the angry spirits of two departed native chiefs had taken this form in order to protest against a railway being made through their country, and by stopping its progress to avenge the insult thus shown to them.

I had only been a few days at Tsavo when I first heard that these brutes had been seen in the neighbourhood. Shortly afterwards one or two coolies mysteriously disappeared, and I was told that they had been carried off by night from their tents and devoured by lions. At the time I did not credit this story, and was more inclined to believe that the unfortunate men had been the victims of foul play at the hands of some of their comrades. They were, as it happened, very good workmen, and had each saved a fair number of rupees, so I thought it quite likely that some scoundrels from the gangs had murdered them for the sake of their money. This suspicion, however, was very soon dispelled. About three weeks after my arrival, I was roused one morning about daybreak and told that one of my jemadars, a fine powerful Sikh named Ungan Singh, had been seized in his tent during the night, and dragged off and eaten.

Naturally I lost no time in making an examination of the place, and was soon convinced that the man had indeed been carried off by a lion, as its "pug" marks were plainly visible in the sand, while the furrows made by the heels of the victim showed the direction in which he had been dragged away. Moreover, the jemadar shared his tent with half a dozen other workmen, and one of his bedfellows had actually witnessed the occurrence. He graphically described how, at about midnight, the lion suddenly put its head in at the open tent door and seized Ungan Singh—who happened to be nearest the opening—by the throat. The unfortunate fellow cried out "Choro" ("Let go"), and threw his arms up round the lion's neck. The next moment he was gone, and his panic-stricken companions lay helpless, forced to listen to the terrible struggle which took place outside. Poor Ungan Singh must have died hard; but what chance had he? As a coolie gravely remarked, "Was he not fighting with a lion?"

On hearing this dreadful story I at once set out to try to track the animal, and was accompanied by Captain Haslem, who happened to be staying at Tsavo at the time, and who, poor fellow, himself met with a tragic fate very shortly afterwards. We found it an easy matter to follow the route taken by the lion, as he appeared to have stopped several times before beginning his meal. Pools of blood marked these halting-places, where he doubtless indulged in the man-eaters' habit of licking the skin off so as to get at the fresh blood. (I have been led to believe that this is their custom from the appearance of two half-eaten bodies which I subsequently rescued: the skin was gone in places, and the flesh looked dry, as if it had been sucked.) On reaching the spot where the body had been devoured, a dreadful spectacle presented itself. The ground all round was covered with blood and morsels of flesh and bones, but the unfortunate jemadar's head had been left intact, save for the holes made by the lion's tusks on seizing him, and lay a short distance away from the other remains, the eyes staring wide open with a startled, horrified look in them. The place was considerably cut up, and on closer examination we found that two lions had been there and had probably struggled for possession of the body. It was the most gruesome sight I had ever seen. We collected the remains as well as we could and heaped stones on them, the head with its fixed, terrified stare seeming to watch us all the time, for it we did not bury, but took back to camp for identification before the Medical Officer.

Thus occurred my first experience of man-eating lions, and I vowed there and then that I would spare no pains to rid the neighbourhood of the brutes. I little knew the trouble that was in store for me, or how narrow were to be my own escapes from sharing poor Ungan Singh's fate.

That same night I sat up in a tree close to the late jemadar's tent, hoping that the lions would return to it for another victim. I was followed to my perch by a few of the more terrified coolies, who begged to be allowed to sit up in the tree with me; all the other workmen remained in their tents, but no more doors were left open. I had with me my .303 and a 12-bore shot gun, one barrel loaded with ball and the other with slug. Shortly after settling down to my vigil, my hopes of bagging one of the brutes were raised by the sound of their ominous roaring coming closer and closer. Presently this ceased, and quiet reigned for an hour or two, as lions always stalk their prey in complete silence. All at once, however, we heard a great uproar and frenzied cries coming from another camp about half a mile away; we knew then that the lions had seized a victim there, and that we should see or hear nothing further of them that night.

Next morning I found that one of the brutes had broken into a tent at Railhead Camp—whence we had heard the commotion during the night—and had made off with a poor wretch who was lying there asleep. After a night's rest, therefore, I took up my position in a suitable tree near this tent. I did not at all like the idea of walking the half-mile to the place after dark, but all the same I felt fairly safe, as one of my men carried a bright lamp close behind me. He in his turn was followed by another leading a goat, which I tied under my tree in the hope that the lion might be tempted to seize it instead of a coolie. A steady drizzle commenced shortly after I had settled down to my night of watching, and I was soon thoroughly chilled and wet. I stuck to my uncomfortable post, however, hoping to get a shot, but I well remember the feeling of impotent disappointment I experienced when about midnight I heard screams and cries and a heart-rending shriek, which told me that the man-eaters had again eluded me and had claimed another victim elsewhere.

At this time the various camps for the workmen were very scattered, so that the lions had a range of some eight miles on either side of Tsavo to work upon; and as their tactics seemed to be to break into a different camp each night, it was most difficult to forestall them. They almost appeared, too, to have an extraordinary and uncanny faculty of finding out our plans beforehand, so that no matter in how likely or how tempting a spot we lay in wait for them, they invariably avoided that particular place and seized their victim for the night from some other camp. Hunting them by day, moreover, in such a dense wilderness as surrounded us, was an exceedingly tiring and really foolhardy undertaking. In a thick jungle of the kind round Tsavo the hunted animal has every chance against the hunter, as however careful the latter may be, a dead twig or something of the sort is sure to crackle just at the critical moment and so give the alarm. Still I never gave up hope of some day finding their lair, and accordingly continued to devote all my spare time to crawling about through the undergrowth. Many a time when attempting to force my way through this bewildering tangle I had to be released by my gun-bearer from the fast clutches of the "wait-a-bit"; and often with immense pains I succeeded in tracing the lions to the river after they had seized a victim, only to lose the trail from there onwards, owing to the rocky nature of the ground which they seemed to be careful to choose in retreating to their den.

At this early stage of the struggle, I am glad to say, the lions were not always successful in their efforts to capture a human being for their nightly meal, and one or two amusing incidents occurred to relieve the tension from which our nerves were beginning to suffer. On one occasion an enterprising bunniah (Indian trader) was riding along on his donkey late one night, when suddenly a lion sprang out on him knocking over both man and beast. The donkey was badly wounded, and the lion was just about to seize the trader, when in some way or other his claws became entangled in a rope by which two empty oil tins were strung across the donkey's neck. The rattle and clatter made by these as he dragged them after him gave him such a fright that he turned tail and bolted off into the jungle, to the intense relief of the terrified bunniah, who quickly made his way up the nearest tree and remained there, shivering with fear, for the rest of the night.

Shortly after this episode, a Greek contractor named Themistocles Pappadimitrini had an equally marvellous escape. He was sleeping peacefully in his tent one night, when a lion broke in, and seized and made off with the mattress on which he was lying. Though, rudely awakened, the Greek was quite unhurt and suffered from nothing worse than a bad fright. This same man, however, met with a melancholy fate not long afterwards. He had been to the Kilima N'jaro district to buy cattle, and on the return journey attempted to take a short cut across country to the railway, but perished miserably of thirst on the way.

On another occasion fourteen coolies who slept together in a large tent were one night awakened by a lion suddenly jumping on to the tent and breaking through it. The brute landed with one claw on a coolie's shoulder, which was badly torn; but instead of seizing the man himself, in his hurry he grabbed a large bag of rice which happened to be lying in the tent, and made off with it, dropping it in disgust some little distance away when he realised his mistake.

These, however, were only the earlier efforts of the man-eaters. Later on, as will be seen, nothing flurried or frightened them in the least, and except as food they showed a complete contempt for human beings. Having once marked down a victim, they would allow nothing to deter them from securing him, whether he were protected by a thick fence, or inside a closed tent, or sitting round a brightly burning fire. Shots, shouting and firebrands they alike held in derision.



All this time my own tent was pitched in an open clearing, unprotected by a fence of any kind round it. One night when the medical officer; Dr. Rose, was staying with me, we were awakened about midnight by hearing something tumbling about among the tent ropes, but on going out with a lantern we could discover nothing. Daylight, however, plainly revealed the "pug" marks of a lion, so that on that occasion I fancy one or other of us had a narrow escape. Warned by this experience, I at once arranged to move my quarters, and went to join forces with Dr. Brock, who had just arrived at Tsavo to take medical charge of the district. We shared a hut of palm leaves and boughs, which we had constructed on the eastern side of the river, close to the old caravan route leading to Uganda; and we had it surrounded by a circular boma, or thorn fence, about seventy yards in diameter, well made and thick and high. Our personal servants also lived within the enclosure, and a bright fire was always kept up throughout the night. For the sake of coolness, Brock and I used to sit out under the verandah of this hut in the evenings; but it was rather trying to our nerves to attempt to read or write there, as we never knew when a lion might spring over the boma, and be on us before we were aware. We therefore kept our rifles within easy reach, and cast many an anxious glance out into the inky darkness beyond the circle of the firelight. On one or two occasions, we found in the morning that the lions had come quite close to the fence; but fortunately they never succeeded in getting through.

By this time, too, the camps of the workmen had also been surrounded by thorn fences; nevertheless the lions managed to jump over or to break through some one or other of these, and regularly every few nights a man was carried off, the reports of the disappearance of this or that workman coming in to me with painful frequency. So long, however, as Railhead Camp—with its two or three thousand men, scattered over a wide area—remained at Tsavo, the coolies appeared not to take much notice of the dreadful deaths of their comrades. Each man felt, I suppose, that as the man-eaters had such a large number of victims to choose from, the chances of their selecting him in particular were very small. But when the large camp moved ahead with the railway, matters altered considerably. I was then left with only some few hundred men to complete the permanent works; and as all the remaining workmen were naturally camped together, the attentions of the lions became more apparent and made a deeper impression. A regular panic consequently ensued, and it required all my powers of persuasion to induce the men to stay on. In fact, I succeeded in doing so only by allowing them to knock off all regular work until they had built exceptionally thick and high bomas round each camp. Within these enclosures fires were kept burning all night, and it was also the duty of the night-watchman to keep clattering half a dozen empty oil tins suspended from a convenient tree. These he manipulated by means of a long rope, while sitting in safety within his tent; and the frightful noise thus produced was kept up at frequent intervals during the night in the hopes of terrifying away the man-eaters. In spite of all these precautions, however, the lions would not be denied, and men continued to disappear.

When the railhead workmen moved on, their hospital camp was left behind. It stood rather apart from the other camps, in a clearing about three-quarters of a mile from my hut, but was protected by a good thick fence and to all appearance was quite secure. It seemed, however, as if barriers were of no avail against the "demons", for before very long one of them found a weak spot in the boma and broke through. On this occasion the Hospital Assistant had a marvellous escape. Hearing a noise outside, he opened the door of his tent and was horrified to see a great lion standing a few yards away looking at him. The beast made a spring towards him, which gave the Assistant such a fright that he jumped backwards, and in doing so luckily upset a box containing medical stores. This crashed down with such a loud clatter of breaking glass that the lion was startled for the moment and made off to another part of the enclosure. Here, unfortunately, he was more successful, as he jumped on to and broke through a tent in which eight patients were lying. Two of them were badly wounded by his spring, while a third poor wretch was seized and dragged off bodily through the thorn fence. The two wounded coolies were left where they lay, a piece of torn tent having fallen over them; and in this position the doctor and I found them on our arrival soon after dawn next morning. We at once decided to move the hospital closer to the main camp; a fresh site was prepared, a stout hedge built round the enclosure, and all the patients were moved in before nightfall.

As I had heard that lions generally visit recently deserted camps, I decided to sit up all night in the vacated boma in the hope of getting an opportunity of bagging one of them; but in the middle of my lonely vigil I had the mortification of hearing shrieks and cries coming from the direction of the new hospital, telling me only too plainly that our dreaded foes had once more eluded me. Hurrying to the place at daylight I found that one of the lions had jumped over the newly erected fence and had carried off the hospital bhisti (water-carrier), and that several other coolies had been unwilling witnesses of the terrible scene which took place within the circle of light given by the big camp fire. The bhisti, it appears, had been lying on the floor, with his head towards the centre of the tent and his feet neatly touching the side. The lion managed to get its head in below the canvas, seized him by the foot and pulled him out. In desperation the unfortunate water-carrier clutched hold of a heavy box in a vain attempt to prevent himself being carried off, and dragged it with him until he was forced to let go by its being stopped by the side of the tent. He then caught hold of a tent rope, and clung tightly to it until it broke. As soon as the lion managed to get him clear of the tent, he sprang at his throat and after a few vicious shakes the poor bhisti's agonising cries were silenced for ever. The brute then seized him in his mouth, like a huge cat with a mouse, and ran up and down the boma looking for a weak spot to break through. This he presently found and plunged into, dragging his victim with him and leaving shreds of torn cloth and flesh as ghastly evidences of his passage through the thorns. Dr. Brock and I were easily able to follow his track, and soon found the remains about four hundred yards away in the bush. There was the usual horrible sight. Very little was left of the unfortunate bhisti—only the skull, the jaws, a few of the larger bones and a portion of the palm with one or two fingers attached. On one of these was a silver ring, and this, with the teeth (a relic much prized by certain castes), was sent to the man's widow in India.

Again it was decided to move the hospital; and again, before nightfall, the work was completed, including a still stronger and thicker boma. When the patients had been moved, I had a covered goods-wagon placed in a favourable position on a siding which ran close to the site which had just been abandoned, and in this Brock and I arranged to sit up that night. We left a couple of tents still standing within the enclosure, and also tied up a few cattle in it as bait for the lions, who had been seen in no less than three different places in the neighbourhood during the afternoon (April 23). Four miles from Tsavo they had attempted to seize a coolie who was walking along the line. Fortunately, however, he had just time to escape up a tree, where he remained, more dead than alive, until he was rescued by the Traffic Manager, who caught sight of him from a passing train. They next appeared close to Tsavo Station, and a couple of hours later some workmen saw one of the lions stalking Dr. Brock as he was returning about dusk from the hospital.

In accordance with our plan, the doctor and I set out after dinner for the goods-wagon, which was about a mile away from our hut. In the light of subsequent events, we did a very foolish thing in taking up our position so late; nevertheless, we reached our destination in safety, and settled down to our watch about ten o'clock. We had the lower half of the door of the wagon closed, while the upper half was left wide open for observation: and we faced, of course, in the direction of the abandoned boma, which, however, we were unable to see in the inky darkness. For an hour or two everything was quiet, and the deadly silence was becoming very monotonous and oppressive, when suddenly, to our right, a dry twig snapped, and we knew that an animal of some sort was about. Soon afterwards we heard a dull thud, as if some heavy body had jumped over the boma. The cattle, too, became very uneasy, and we could hear them moving about restlessly. Then again came dead silence. At this juncture I proposed to my companion that I should get out of the wagon and lie on the ground close to it, as I could see better in that position should the lion come in our direction with his prey. Brock, however, persuaded me to remain where I was; and a few seconds afterwards I was heartily glad that I had taken his advice, for at that very moment one of the man-eaters—although we did not know it—was quietly stalking us, and was even then almost within springing distance. Orders had been given for the entrance to the boma to be blocked up, and accordingly we were listening in the expectation of hearing the lion force his way out through the bushes with his prey. As a matter of fact, however, the doorway had not been properly closed, and while we were wondering what the lion could be doing inside the boma for so long, he was outside all the time, silently reconnoitring our position.

Presently I fancied I saw something coming very stealthily towards us. I feared, however, to trust to my eyes, which by that time were strained by prolonged staring through the darkness, so under my breath I asked Brock whether he saw anything, at the same time covering the dark object as well as I could with my rifle. Brock did not answer; he told me afterwards that he, too, thought he had seen something move, but was afraid to say so lest I should fire and it turn out to be nothing after all. After this there was intense silence again for a second or two, then with a sudden bound a huge body sprang at us. "The lion!" I shouted, and we both fired almost simultaneously—not a moment too soon, for in another second the brute would assuredly have landed inside the wagon. As it was, he must have swerved off in his spring, probably blinded by the flash and frightened by the noise of the double report which was increased a hundredfold by the reverberation of the hollow iron roof of the truck. Had we not been very much on the alert, he would undoubtedly have got one of us, and we realised that we had had a very lucky and very narrow escape. The next morning we found Brock's bullet embedded in the sand close to a footprint; it could not have missed the lion by more than an inch or two. Mine was nowhere to be found.

Thus ended my first direct encounter with one of the man-eaters.



During all this troublesome period the construction of the railway had been going steadily forward, and the first important piece of work which I had commenced on arrival was completed. This was the widening of a rock cutting through which the railway ran just before it, reached the river. In the hurry of pushing on the laying of the line, just enough of the rock had originally been cut away to allow room for an engine to pass, and consequently any material which happened to, project outside the wagons or trucks caught on the jagged faces of the cutting. I myself saw the door of a guard's van, which had been left ajar, smashed to atoms in this way; and accordingly I put a gang of rock-drillers to work at once and soon had ample room made for all traffic to pass unimpeded. While this was going on, another gang of men were laying the foundations of a girder bridge which was to span a gully between this cutting and Tsavo Station. This would have taken too long to erect when railhead was at the place, so a diversion had been made round it, the temporary track leading down almost to the bed of the nullah and up again on the further side. When the foundations and abutments were ready, the gully was spanned by an iron girder, the slopes leading up to it banked up on either side, and the permanent way laid on an easy grade.

Then, also, a water supply had to be established; and this meant some very pleasant work for me in taking levels up the banks of the river under the cool shade of the palms. While doing this, I often took my camp-kit with me, and a luncheon served in the wilds, with occasionally a friend to share it—when a friend was available—was delightful. On one occasion in particular, I went a long way up the river and was accompanied by a young member of my staff. The day had been exceedingly hot and we were both correspondingly tired when our work was finished, so my companion suggested that we should build a raft and float down-stream home. I was rather doubtful, of the feasibility of the scheme, but nevertheless he decided to give it a trial. Setting to work with our axes, we soon had a raft built, lashing the poles together with the fibre which grows in abundance all over the district. When it was finished, we pushed it out of the little backwater where it had been constructed, and the young engineer jumped aboard. All went well until it got out into midstream, when much to my amusement it promptly toppled gracefully over. I helped my friend to scramble quickly up the bank out of reach of possible crocodiles, when, none the worse for his ducking, he laughed as heartily as I at the adventure.

Except for an occasional relaxation of this sort, every moment of my time was fully occupied. Superintending the various works and a hundred other duties kept me busy all day long, while my evenings were given up to settling disputes among the coolies, hearing reports and complaints from the various jemadars and workpeople, and in studying the Swahili language. Preparations, too, for the principal piece of work in the district—the building of the railway bridge over the Tsavo river—were going on apace. These involved, much personal work on my part; cross and oblique sections of the river had to be taken, the rate of the current and the volume of water at flood, mean, and low levels had to be found, and all the necessary calculations made. These having at length been completed, I marked out the positions for the abutments and piers, and the work of sinking their foundations was begun. The two centre piers in particular caused a great deal of trouble, as the river broke in several times, and had to be dammed up and pumped dry again before work could be resumed. Then we found we had to sink much deeper than we expected in order to reach a solid foundation indeed, the sinking went on and on, until I began to despair of finding one and was about to resort to pile-driving, when at last, to my relief, we struck solid rock on which the huge foundation-stones could be laid with perfect safety.

Another great difficulty with which we had to contend was the absence of suitable stone in the neighbourhood. It was not that there was none to be found, for the whole district abounds in rock, but that it was so intensely hard as to be almost impossible to work, and a bridge built of it would have been very costly. I spent many a weary day trudging through the thorny wilderness vainly searching for suitable material, and was beginning to think that we should be forced to use iron columns for the piers, when one day I stumbled quite by accident on the very thing. Brock and I were out "pot-hunting," and hearing some guinea-fowl cackling among the bushes, I made a circuit half round them so that Brock, on getting in his shot, should drive them over in my direction. I eventually got into position on the edge of a deep ravine and knelt on one knee, crouching down among the ferns. There I had scarcely time to load when over flew a bird, which I missed badly; and I did not have another chance, for Brock had got to work, and being a first-rate shot had quickly bagged a brace. Meanwhile I felt the ground very hard under my knee, and on examination found that the bank of the ravine was formed of stone, which extended for some distance, and which was exactly the kind of material for which I had long been fruitlessly searching. I was greatly delighted with my unexpected discovery, though at first I had grave misgivings about the distance to be traversed and the difficulty of transporting the stone across the intervening country. Indeed, I found in the end that the only way of getting the material to the place where it was wanted was by laying down a tram line right along the ravine, throwing a temporary bridge across the Tsavo, following the stream down and re-crossing it again close to the site of the permanent bridge. Accordingly, I set men to work at once to cut down the jungle and prepare a road on which to lay the double trolley line. One morning when they were thus engaged, a little paa—a kind of very small antelope—sprang out and found itself suddenly in the midst of a gang of coolies. Terrified and confused by the shouting of the men, it ran straight at Shere Shah, the jemadar, who promptly dropped a basket over it and held it fast. I happened to arrive just in time to save the graceful little animal's life, and took it home to my camp, where it very soon became a great pet. Indeed, it grew so tame that it would jump upon my table at meal times and eat from my hand.

When the road for the trolley line was cleared, the next piece of work was the building of the two temporary bridges over the river. These we made in the roughest fashion out of palm trees and logs felled at the crossing places, and had a flood come down they would, of course, have both been swept away; fortunately, however, this did not occur until the permanent work was completed. The whole of this feeding line was finished in a very short time, and trollies were soon plying backwards and forwards with loads of stone and sand, as we also discovered the latter in abundance and of good quality in the bed of the ravine. An amusing incident occurred one day when I was taking a photograph of an enormous block of stone which was being hauled across one of these temporary bridges. As the trolley with its heavy load required very careful manipulation, my head mason, Heera Singh, stood on the top of the stone to direct operations, while the overseer, Purshotam Hurjee, superintended the gangs of men who hauled the ropes at either end in order to steady it up and down the inclines. But we did not know that the stream had succeeded in washing away the foundations of one of the log supports; and as the weight of the trolley with the stone came on the undermined pier, the rails tilted up and over went the whole thing into the river, just as I snapped the picture. Heera Singh made a wild spring into the water to get clear of the falling stone, while Purshotam and the rest fled as if for their lives to the bank. It was altogether a most comical sight, and an extraordinary chance that at the very moment of the accident I should be taking a photograph of the operation. Fortunately, no one was injured in the slightest, and the stone was recovered undamaged with but little trouble.

Not long after this occurrence my own labours were one day nearly brought to a sudden and unpleasant end. I was travelling along in an empty trolley which, pushed by two sturdy Pathans, was returning to the quarry for sand. Presently we came to the sharp incline which led to the log bridge over the river. Here it was the custom of the men, instead of running beside the trolley, to step on to it and to let its own momentum take it down the slope, moderating its speed when necessary by a brake in the shape of a pole, which one of them carried and by which the wheels could be locked. On this occasion, however, the pole was by some accident dropped overboard, and down the hill we flew without brake of any kind. Near the bridge there was a sharp curve in the line, where I was afraid the trolley would jump the rails; still, I thought it was better to stick to it than to risk leaping off. A moment afterwards I felt myself flying head first over the edge of the bridge, just missing by a hair's breadth a projecting beam; but luckily I landed on a sand bank at the side of the river, the heavy trolley falling clear of me with a dull thud close by. This accident, also, was happily unattended by injury to anyone.



It seemed fated that the building of the Tsavo Bridge should never be allowed to proceed in peace for any length of time. I have already described our troubles with the lions; and no sooner did the beasts of prey appear to have deserted us, for the time being at any rate, than other troubles, no less serious, arose with the workmen themselves. After I had discovered the stone for the bridge, I sent down to the coast for gangs of masons to work and dress it. The men who were sent me for this purpose were mostly Pathans and were supposed to be expert workmen; but I soon found that many of them had not the faintest notion of stone-cutting, and were simply ordinary coolies who had posed as masons in order to draw forty-five instead of twelve rupees a month. On discovering this fact, I immediately instituted a system of piecework, and drew up a scale of pay which would enable the genuine mason to earn his forty-five rupees a month—and a little more if he felt inclined—and would cut down the impostors to about their proper pay as coolies. Now, as is often the case in this world, the impostors were greatly in the majority; and accordingly they attempted to intimidate the remainder into coming down to their own standard as regards output of work, in the hope of thereby inducing me to abandon the piece-work system of payment. This, however, I had no intention of doing, as I knew that I had demanded only a perfectly fair amount of work from each man.

These masons were continually having quarrels and fights amongst themselves, and I had frequently to go down to their camp to quell disturbances and to separate the Hindus from the Mohammedans. One particularly serious disturbance of this sort had a rather amusing sequel. I was sitting after dusk one evening at the door of my hut, when I heard a great commotion in the masons' camp, which lay only a few hundred yards away. Presently a jemadar came rushing up to me to say that the men were all fighting and murdering each other with sticks and stones. I ran back with him at once and succeeded in restoring order, but found seven badly injured men lying stretched out on the ground. These I had carried up to my own boma on charpoys (native beds); and Brock being away, I had to play the doctor myself as best I could, stitching one and bandaging another and generally doing what was possible. There was one man, however, who groaned loudly and held a cloth over his face as if he were dying. On lifting this covering, I found him to be a certain mason called Karim Bux, who was well known to me as a prime mischief-maker among the men. I examined him carefully, but as I could discover nothing amiss, I concluded that he must have received some internal injury, and accordingly told him that I would send him to the hospital at Voi (about thirty miles down the line) to be attended to properly. He was then carried back to his camp, groaning grievously all the time.

Scarcely had he been removed, when the head jemadar came and informed me that the man was not hurt at all, and that as a matter of fact he was the sole cause of the disturbance. He was now pretending to be badly injured, in order to escape the punishment which he knew he would receive if I discovered that he was the instigator of the trouble. On hearing this, I gave instructions that he was not to go to Voi in the special train with the others; but I had not heard the last of him yet. About eleven o'clock that night I was called up and asked to go down to the masons' camp to see a man who was supposed to be dying. I at once pulled on my boots, got some brandy and ran down to the camp, where to my surprise and amusement I found that it was my friend Karim Bux who was at death's door. It was perfectly evident to me that he was only "foxing," but when he asked for dawa (medicine), I told him gravely that I would give him some very good dawa in the morning.

Next day at noon—when it was my custom to have evil-doers brought up for judgment—I asked for Karim Bux, but was told that he was too ill to walk. I accordingly ordered him to be carried to my boma, and in a few moments he arrived in his charpoy, which was shouldered by four coolies who, I could see, knew quite well that he was only shamming. There were also a score or so of his friends hanging around, doubtless waiting in the expectation of seeing the "Sahib" hoodwinked. When the bed was placed on the ground near me, I lifted the blanket with which he had covered himself and thoroughly examined him, at the same time feeling him to make sure that he had no fever. He pretended to be desperately ill and again asked for dawa; but having finally satisfied myself that it was as the jemadar had said—pure budmashi (devilment)—I told him that I was going to give him some very effective dawa, and carefully covered him up again, pulling the blanket over his head. I then got a big armful of shavings from a carpenter's bench which was close by, put them under the bed and set fire to them. As soon as the sham invalid felt the heat, he peeped over the edge of the blanket; and when he saw the smoke and flame leaping up round him, he threw the blanket from him, sprang from the bed exclaiming "Beiman shaitan!" ("Unbelieving devil!"), and fled like a deer to the entrance of my boma, pursued by a Sikh sepoy, who got in a couple of good whacks on his shoulders with a stout stick before he effected his escape. His amused comrades greeted me with shouts of "Shabash, Sahib!" ("Well done, sir"), and I never had any further trouble with Karim Bux. He came back later in the day, with clasped hands imploring forgiveness, which I readily granted, as he was a clever workman.

A few days after this incident I was returning home one morning from a tree in which I had been keeping watch for the man-eaters during the previous night. Coming unexpectedly on the quarry, I was amazed to find dead silence reigning and my rascals of workmen all stretched out in the shade under the trees taking it very easy—some sleeping, some playing cards. I watched their proceedings through the bushes for a little while, and then it occurred to me to give them a fright by firing my rifle over their heads. On the report being heard, the scene changed like magic: each man simply flew to his particular work, and hammers and chisels resounded merrily and energetically, where all had been silence a moment before. They thought, of course, that I was still some distance off and had not seen them, but to their consternation I shouted to them that they were too late, as I had been watching them for some time. I fined every man present heavily, besides summarily degrading the Headman, who had thus shown himself utterly unfit for his position. I then proceeded to my hut, but had scarcely arrived there when two of the scoundrels tottered up after me, bent almost double and calling Heaven to witness that I had shot them both in the back. In order to give a semblance of truth to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative, they had actually induced one of their fellow workmen to make a few holes like shot holes in their backs, and these were bleeding profusely. Unfortunately for them, however, I had been carrying a rifle and not a shot gun, and they had also forgotten to make corresponding holes in their clothing, so that all they achieved by this elaborate tissue of falsehood was to bring on themselves the derision of their comrades and the imposition of an extra fine.

Shortly after this, when the masons realised that I intended to make each man do a fair day's work for his money, and would allow nothing to prevent this intention from being carried out, they came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to put me quietly out of the way. Accordingly they held a meeting one night, all being sworn to secrecy, and after a long palaver it was arranged that I was to be murdered next day when I made my usual visit to the quarry. My body was to be thrown into the jungle, where of course it would soon be devoured by wild beasts, and then they were to say that I had been killed and eaten by a lion. To this cheerful proposal every man present at the meeting agreed, and affixed his finger-mark to a long strip of paper as a binding token. Within an hour after the meeting had dispersed, however, I was aroused by one of the conspirators, who had crept into my camp to give me warning. I thanked him for his information, but determined to go to the quarry in the morning all the same, as at this stage of affairs I really did not believe that they were capable of carrying out such a diabolical scheme, and was rather inclined to think that the informant had been sent merely to frighten me.

Accordingly the next morning (September 6) I started off as usual along the trolley line to the lonely quarry. As I reached a bend in the line, my head mason, Heera Singh, a very good man, crept cautiously out of the bushes and warned me not to proceed. On my asking him the reason, he said that he dared not tell, but that he and twenty other masons were not going to work that day, as they were afraid of trouble at the quarry. At this I began to think that there was something in the story I had heard overnight, but I laughingly assured him there would be no trouble and continued on my way. On my arrival at the quarry, everything seemed perfectly peaceful. All the men were working away busily, but after a moment or two I noticed stealthy side glances, and felt that there was something in the wind. As soon as I came up to the first gang of workmen, the jemadar, a treacherous-looking villain, informed me that the men working further up the ravine had refused to obey his orders, and asked me if I would go and see them. I felt at once that this was a device to lure me into the narrow part of the ravine, where, with gangs in front of me and behind me, there would be no escape; still I thought I would see the adventure through, whatever came of it, so I accompanied the jemadar up the gully. When we got to the further gang, he went so far as to point out the two men who, he said, had refused to do what he told them—I suppose he thought that as I was never to leave the place alive, it did not matter whom he complained of. I noted their names in my pocket-book in my usual manner, and turned to retrace my steps. Immediately a yell of rage was raised by the whole body of some sixty men, answered by a similar shout from those I had first passed, and who numbered about a hundred. Both groups of men, carrying crowbars and flourishing their heavy hammers, then closed in on me in the narrow part of the ravine. I stood still, waiting for them to act, and one man rushed at me, seizing both my wrists and shouting out that he was going to "be hung and shot for me"—rather a curious way of putting it, but that was his exact expression. I easily wrenched my arms free, and threw him from me; but by this time I was closely hemmed in, and everywhere I looked I could see nothing but evil and murderous-looking faces. One burly brute, afraid to be the first to deal a blow, hurled the man next him at me; and if he had succeeded in knocking me down, I am certain that I should never have got up again alive. As it was, however, I stepped quickly aside, and the man intended to knock me down was himself thrown violently against a rock, over which he fell heavily.

This occasioned a moment's confusion, of which I quickly took advantage. I sprang on to the top of the rock, and before they had time to recover themselves I had started haranguing them in Hindustani. The habit of obedience still held them, and fortunately they listened to what I had to say. I told them that I knew all about their plot to murder me, and that they could certainly do so if they wished; but that if they did, many of them would assuredly be hanged for it, as the Sirkar (Government) would soon find out the truth and would disbelieve their story that I had been carried off by a lion. I said that I knew quite well that it was only one or two scoundrels among them who had induced them to behave so stupidly, and urged them not to allow themselves to be made fools of in this way. Even supposing they were to carry out their plan of killing me, would not another "Sahib" at once be set over them, and might he not be an even harder task-master? They all knew that I was just and fair to the real worker; it was only the scoundrels and shirkers who had anything to fear from me, and were upright, self-respecting. Pathans going to allow themselves to be led away by men of that kind? Once having got them to listen to me, I felt a little more secure, and I accordingly went on to say that the discontented among them would be allowed to return at once to Mombasa, while if the others resumed work and I heard of no further plotting, I would take no notice of their foolish conduct. Finally I called upon those who were willing to return to work to hold up their hands, and instantly every hand in the crowd was raised. I then felt that for the moment the victory was mine, and after dismissing them, I jumped down from the rock and continued my rounds as if nothing had happened, measuring a stone here and there and commenting on the work done. They were still in a very uncertain and sullen mood, however, and not at all to be relied upon, so it was with feelings of great relief that an hour later I made my way back, safe and sound, to Tsavo.

The danger was not yet past, unfortunately, for scarcely had I turned my back to go home when the mutiny broke out again, another meeting being held, and a fresh plot made to murder me during the night. Of this I was soon informed by my time-keeper, who also told me that he was afraid to go out and call the roll, as they had threatened to kill him also. At this further outrage I lost no time in telegraphing for the Railway Police, and also to the District Officer, Mr. Whitehead, who immediately marched his men twenty-five miles by road to my assistance. I have no doubt, indeed, that his prompt action alone saved me from being attacked that very night. Two or three days afterwards the Railway Police arrived and arrested the ringleaders in the mutiny, who were taken to Mombasa and tried before Mr. Crawford, the British Consul, when the full details of the plots to murder me were unfolded by one of them who turned Queen's evidence. All the scoundrels were found guilty and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment in the chain-gangs, and I was never again troubled with mutinous workmen.



The lions seemed to have got a bad fright the night Brock and I sat up in wait for them in the goods-wagon, for they kept away from Tsavo and did not molest us in any way for some considerable time—not, in fact, until long after Brock had left me and gone on safari (a caravan journey) to Uganda. In this breathing space which they vouchsafed us, it occurred to me that should they renew their attacks, a trap would perhaps offer the best chance of getting at them, and that if I could construct one in which a couple of coolies might be used as bait without being subjected to any danger, the lions would be quite daring enough to enter it in search of them and thus be caught. I accordingly set to work at once, and in a short time managed to make a sufficiently strong trap out of wooden sleepers, tram-rails, pieces of telegraph wire, and a length of heavy chain. It was divided into two compartments—one for the men and one for the lion. A sliding door at one end admitted the former, and once inside this compartment they were perfectly safe, as between them and the lion, if he entered the other, ran a cross wall of iron rails only three inches apart, and embedded both top and bottom in heavy wooden sleepers. The door which was to admit the lion was, of course, at the opposite end of the structure, but otherwise the whole thing was very much on the principle of the ordinary rat-trap, except that it was not necessary for the lion to seize the bait in order to send the door clattering down. This part of the contrivance was arranged in the following manner. A heavy chain was secured along the top part of the lion's doorway, the ends hanging down to the ground on either side of the opening; and to these were fastened, strongly secured by stout wire, short lengths of rails placed about six inches apart. This made a sort of flexible door which could be packed into a small space when not in use, and which abutted against the top of the doorway when lifted up. The door was held in this position by a lever made of a piece of rail, which in turn was kept in its place by a wire fastened to one end and passing down to a spring concealed in the ground inside the cage. As soon as the lion entered sufficiently far into the trap, he would be bound to tread on the spring; his weight on this would release the wire, and in an instant down would come the door behind him; and he could not push it out in any way, as it fell into a groove between two rails firmly embedded in the ground.

In making this trap, which cost us a lot of work, we were rather at a loss for want of tools to bore holes in the rails for the doorway, so as to enable them to be fastened by the wire to the chain. It occurred to me, however, that a hard-nosed bullet from my .303 would penetrate the iron, and on making the experiment I was glad to find that a hole was made as cleanly as if it had been punched out.

When the trap was ready I pitched a tent over it in order further to deceive the lions, and built an exceedingly strong boma round it. One small entrance was made at the back of the enclosure for the men, which they were to close on going in by pulling a bush after them; and another entrance just in front of the door of the cage was left open for the lions. The wiseacres to whom I showed my invention were generally of the opinion that the man-eaters would be too cunning to walk into my parlour; but, as will be seen later, their predictions proved false. For the first few nights I baited the trap myself, but nothing happened except that I had a very sleepless and uncomfortable time, and was badly bitten by mosquitoes.

As a matter of fact, it was some months before the lions attacked us again, though from time to time we heard of their depredations in other quarters. Not long after our night in the goods-wagon, two men were carried off from railhead, while another was taken from a place called Engomani, about ten miles away. Within a very short time, this latter place was again visited by the brutes, two more men being seized, one of whom was killed and eaten, and the other so badly mauled that he died within few days. As I have said, however, we at Tsavo enjoyed complete immunity from attack, and the coolies, believing that their dreaded foes had permanently deserted the district, resumed all their usual habits and occupations, and life in the camps returned to its normal routine.

At last we were suddenly startled out of this feeling of security. One dark night the familiar terror-stricken cries and screams awoke the camps, and we knew that the "demons" had returned and had commenced a new list of victims. On this occasion a number of men had been sleeping outside their tents for the sake of coolness, thinking, of course, that the lions had gone for good, when suddenly in the middle of the night one of the brutes was discovered forcing its way through the boma. The alarm was at once given, and sticks, stones and firebrands were hurled in the direction of the intruder. All was of no avail, however, for the lion burst into the midst of the terrified group, seized an unfortunate wretch amid the cries and shrieks of his companions, and dragged him off through the thick thorn fence. He was joined outside by the second lion, and so daring had the two brutes become that they did not trouble to carry their victim any further away, but devoured him within thirty yards of the tent where he had been seized. Although several shots were fired in their direction by the jemadar of the gang to which the coolie belonged, they took no notice of these and did not attempt to move until their horrible meal was finished. The few scattered fragments that remained of the body I would not allow to be buried at once, hoping that the lions would return to the spot the following night; and on the chance of this I took up my station at nightfall in a convenient tree. Nothing occurred to break the monotony of my watch, however, except that I had a visit from a hyena, and the next morning I learned that the lions had attacked another camp about two miles from Tsavo—for by this time the camps were again scattered, as I had works in progress all up and down the line. There the man-eaters had been successful in obtaining a victim, whom, as in the previous instance, they devoured quite close to the camp. How they forced their way through the bomas without making a noise was, and still is, a mystery to me; I should have thought that it was next to impossible for an animal to get through at all. Yet they continually did so, and without a sound being heard.

After this occurrence, I sat up every night for over a week near likely camps, but all in vain. Either the lions saw me and then went elsewhere, or else I was unlucky, for they took man after man from different places without ever once giving me a chance of a shot at them. This constant night watching was most dreary and fatiguing work, but I felt that it was a duty that had to be undertaken, as the men naturally looked to me for protection. In the whole of my life I have never experienced anything more nerve-shaking than to hear the deep roars of these dreadful monsters growing gradually nearer and nearer, and to know that some one or other of us was doomed to be their victim before morning dawned. Once they reached the vicinity of the camps, the roars completely ceased, and we knew that they were stalking for their prey. Shouts would then pass from camp to camp, "Khabar dar, bhaieon, shaitan ata" ("Beware, brothers, the devil is coming"), but the warning cries would prove of no avail, and sooner or later agonising shrieks would break the silence, and another man would be missing from roll-call next morning.

I was naturally very disheartened at being foiled in this way night after night, and was soon at my wits' end to know what to do; it seemed as if the lions were really "devils" after all and bore a charmed life. As I have said before, tracking them through the jungle was a hopeless task; but as something had to be done to keep up the men's spirits, I spent many a weary day crawling on my hands and knees through the dense undergrowth of the exasperating wilderness around us. As a matter of fact, if I had come up with the lions on any of these expeditions, it was much more likely that they would have added me to their list of victims than that I should have succeeded in killing either of them, as everything would have been in their favour. About this time, too, I had many helpers, and several officers—civil, naval and military—came to Tsavo from the coast and sat up night after night in order to get a shot at our daring foes. All of us, however, met with the same lack of success, and the lions always seemed capable of avoiding the watchers, while succeeding, at the same time in obtaining a victim.

I have a very vivid recollection of one particular night when the brutes seized a man from the railway station and brought him close to my camp to devour. I could plainly hear them crunching the bones, and the sound of their dreadful purring filled the air and rang in my ears for days afterwards. The terrible thing was to feel so helpless; it was useless to attempt to go out, as of course the poor fellow was dead, and in addition it was so pitch dark as to make it impossible to see anything. Some half a dozen workmen, who lived in a small enclosure close to mine, became so terrified on hearing the lions at their meal that they shouted and implored me to allow them to come inside my boma. This I willingly did, but soon afterwards I remembered that one man had been lying ill in their camp, and on making enquiry I found that they had callously left him behind alone. I immediately took some men with me to bring him to my boma, but on entering his tent I saw by the light of the lantern that the poor fellow was beyond need of safety. He had died of shock at being deserted by his companions.

From this time matters gradually became worse and worse. Hitherto, as a rule, only one of the man-eaters had made the attack and had done the foraging, while the other waited outside in the bush; but now they began to change their tactics, entering the bomas together and each seizing a victim. In this way two Swahili porters were killed during the last week of November, one being immediately carried off and devoured. The other was heard moaning for a long time, and when his terrified companions at last summoned up sufficient courage to go to his assistance, they found him stuck fast in the bushes of the boma, through which for once the lion had apparently been unable to drag him. He was still alive when I saw him next morning, but so terribly mauled that he died before he could be got to the hospital.

Within a few days of this the two brutes made a most ferocious attack on the largest camp in the section, which for safety's sake was situated within a stone's throw of Tsavo Station and close to a Permanent Way Inspector's iron hut. Suddenly in the dead of night the two man-eaters burst in among the terrified workmen, and even from my boma, some distance away, I could plainly hear the panic-stricken shrieking of the coolies. Then followed cries of "They've taken him; they've taken him," as the brutes carried off their unfortunate victim and began their horrible feast close beside the camp. The Inspector, Mr. Dalgairns, fired over fifty shots in the direction in which he heard the lions, but they were not to be frightened and calmly lay there until their meal was finished. After examining the spot in the morning, we at once set out to follow the brutes, Mr. Dalgairns feeling confident that he had wounded one of them, as there was a trail on the sand like that of the toes of a broken limb. After some careful stalking, we suddenly found ourselves in the vicinity of the lions, and were greeted with ominous growlings. Cautiously advancing and pushing the bushes aside, we saw in the gloom what we at first took to be a lion cub; closer inspection, however, showed it to be the remains of the unfortunate coolie, which the man-eaters had evidently abandoned at our approach. The legs, one arm and half the body had been eaten, and it was the stiff fingers of the other arm trailing along the sand which had left the marks we had taken to be the trail of a wounded lion. By this time the beasts had retired far into the thick jungle where it was impossible to follow them, so we had the remains of the coolie buried and once more returned home disappointed.

Now the bravest men in the world, much less the ordinary Indian coolie, will not stand constant terrors of this sort indefinitely. The whole district was by this time thoroughly panic-stricken, and I was not at all surprised, therefore, to find on my return to camp that same afternoon (December 1) that the men had all struck work and were waiting to speak to me. When I sent for them, they flocked to my boma in a body and stated that they would not remain at Tsavo any longer for anything or anybody; they had come from India on an agreement to work for the Government, not to supply food for either lions or "devils." No sooner had they delivered this ultimatum than a regular stampede took place. Some hundreds of them stopped the first passing train by throwing themselves on the rails in front of the engine, and then, swarming on to the trucks and throwing in their possessions anyhow, they fled from the accursed spot.

After this the railway works were completely stopped; and for the next three weeks practically nothing was done but build "lion-proof" huts for those workmen who had had sufficient courage to remain. It was a strange and amusing sight to see these shelters perched on the top of water-tanks, roofs and girders—anywhere for safety—while some even went so far as to dig pits inside their tents, into which they descended at night, covering the top over with heavy logs of wood. Every good-sized tree in the camp had as many beds lashed on to it as its branches would bear—and sometimes more. I remember that one night when the camp was attacked, so many men swarmed on to one particular tree that down it came with a crash, hurling its terror-stricken load of shrieking coolies close to the very lions they were trying to avoid. Fortunately for them, a victim had already been secured, and the brutes were too busy devouring him to pay attention to anything else.



Some little time before the flight of the workmen, I had written to Mr. Whitehead, the District Officer, asking him to come up and assist me in my campaign against the lions, and to bring with him any of his askaris (native soldiers) that he could spare. He replied accepting the invitation, and told me to expect him about dinner-time on December 2, which turned out to be the day after the exodus. His train was due at Tsavo about six o'clock in the evening, so I sent my "boy" up to the station to meet him and to help in carrying his baggage to the camp. In a very short time, however, the "boy" rushed back trembling with terror, and informed me that there was no sign of the train or of the railway staff, but that an enormous lion was standing on the station platform. This extraordinary story I did not believe in the least, as by this time the coolies—never remarkable for bravery—were in such a state of fright that if they caught sight of a hyena or a baboon, or even a dog, in the bush, they were sure to imagine it was a lion; but I found out next day that it was an actual fact, and that both stationmaster and signalman had been obliged to take refuge from one of the man-eaters by locking themselves in the station building.

I waited some little time for Mr. Whitehead, but eventually, as he did not put in an appearance, I concluded that he must have postponed his journey until the next day, and so had my dinner in my customary solitary state. During the meal I heard a couple of shots, but paid no attention to them, as rifles were constantly being fired off in the neighbourhood of the camp. Later in the evening, I went out as usual to watch for our elusive foes, and took up my position in a crib made of sleepers which I had built on a big girder close to a camp which I thought was likely to be attacked. Soon after settling down at my post, I was surprised to hear the man-eaters growling and purring and crunching up bones about seventy yards from the crib. I could not understand what they had found to eat, as I had heard no commotion in the camps, and I knew by bitter experience that every meal the brutes obtained from us was announced by shrieks and uproar. The only conclusion I could come to was that they had pounced upon some poor unsuspecting native traveller. After a time I was able to make out their eyes glowing in the darkness, and I took as careful aim as was possible in the circumstances and fired; but the only notice they paid to the shot was to carry off whatever they were devouring and to retire quietly over a slight rise, which prevented me from seeing them. There they finished their meal at their ease.

As soon as it was daylight, I got out of my crib and went towards the place where I had last heard them. On the way, whom should I meet but my missing guest, Mr. Whitehead, looking very pale and ill, and generally dishevelled.

"Where on earth have you come from?" I exclaimed. "Why didn't you turn up to dinner last night?"

"A nice reception you give a fellow when you invite him to dinner," was his only reply.

"Why, what's up?" I asked.

"That infernal lion of yours nearly did for me last night," said Whitehead.

"Nonsense, you must have dreamed it!" I cried in astonishment.

For answer he turned round and showed me his back. "That's not much of a dream, is it?" he asked.

His clothing was rent by one huge tear from the nape of the neck downwards, and on the flesh there were four great claw marks, showing red and angry through the torn cloth. Without further parley, I hurried him off to my tent, and bathed and dressed his wounds; and when I had made him considerably more comfortable, I got from him the whole story of the events of the night.

It appeared that his train was very late, so that it was quite dark when he arrived at Tsavo Station, from which the track to my camp lay through a small cutting. He was accompanied by Abdullah, his sergeant of askaris, who walked close behind him carrying a lighted lamp. All went well until they were about half-way through the gloomy cutting, when one of the lions suddenly jumped down upon them from the high bank, knocking Whitehead over like a ninepin, and tearing his back in the manner I had seen. Fortunately, however, he had his carbine with him, and instantly fired. The flash and the loud report must have dazed the lion for a second or two, enabling Whitehead to disengage himself; but the next instant the brute pounced like lightning on the unfortunate Abdullah, with whom he at once made off. All that the poor fellow could say was: "Eh, Bwana, simba" ("Oh, Master, a lion"). As the lion was dragging him over the bank, Whitehead fired again, but without effect, and the brute quickly disappeared into the darkness with his prey. It was of course, this unfortunate man whom I had heard the lions devouring during the night. Whitehead himself had a marvellous escape; his wounds were happily not very deep, and caused him little or no inconvenience afterwards.

On the same day, December 3, the forces arrayed against the lions were further strengthened. Mr. Farquhar, the Superintendent of Police, arrived from the coast with a score of sepoys to assist in hunting down the man-eaters, whose fame had by this time spread far and wide, and the most elaborate precautions were taken, his men being posted on the most convenient trees near every camp. Several other officials had also come up on leave to join in the chase, and each of these guarded a likely spot in the same way, Mr. Whitehead sharing my post inside the crib on the girder. Further, in spite of some chaff, my lion trap was put in thorough working order, and two of the sepoys were installed as bait.

Our preparations were quite complete by nightfall, and we all took up our appointed positions. Nothing happened until about nine o'clock, when to my great satisfaction the intense stillness was suddenly broken by the noise of the door of the trap clattering down. "At last," I thought, "one at least of the brutes is done for." But the sequel was an ignominious one.

The bait-sepoys had a lamp burning inside their part of the cage, and were each armed with a Martini rifle, with plenty of ammunition. They had also been given strict orders to shoot at once if a lion should enter the trap. Instead of doing so, however, they were so terrified when he rushed in and began to lash himself madly against the bars of the cage, that they completely lost their heads and were actually too unnerved to fire. Not for some minutes—not, indeed, until Mr. Farquhar, whose post was close by, shouted at them and cheered them on—did they at all recover themselves. Then when at last they did begin to fire, they fired with a vengeance—anywhere, anyhow. Whitehead and I were at right angles to the direction in which they should have shot, and yet their bullets came whizzing all round us. Altogether they fired over a score of shots, and in the end succeeded only in blowing away one of the bars of the door, thus allowing our prize to make good his escape. How they failed to kill him several times over is, and always will be, a complete mystery to me, as they could have put the muzzles of their rifles absolutely touching his body. There was, indeed, some blood scattered about the trap, but it was small consolation to know that the brute, whose capture and death seemed so certain, had only been slightly wounded.

Still we were not unduly dejected, and when morning came, a hunt was at once arranged. Accordingly we spent the greater part of the day on our hands and knees following the lions through the dense thickets of thorny jungle, but though we heard their growls from time to time, we never succeeded in actually coming up with them. Of the whole party, only Farquhar managed to catch a momentary glimpse of one as it bounded over a bush. Two days more were spent in the same manner, and with equal unsuccess; and then Farquhar and his sepoys were obliged to return to the coast. Mr. Whitehead also departed for his district, and once again I was left alone with the man-eaters.

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