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of dead mist or smoke which hung lifeless, like cigar-smoke in a quiet room, about four feet from the ground; but there was a silence that was terrible, for in it we listened in vain for the voices of men. At first we assured ourselves that there was no one around the bottom of the shaft, for we had expected that some one, injured by the explosion, might have been able to crawl toward the man-hoist; but there was no trace of any human being.
Walking slowly and peering before us through the bull's-eyes of our helmets, to right and left, we advanced down the entry, our lights cutting the blackness like the white fingers of twin searchlights. Suddenly, far off in the darkness, there came a sound. It was laughter. We stopped and listened. High, shrill, and mad, the notes caught our ears. Again we advanced, and the laughter broke into a high, shrill song. To right and left we swung the bars of our searchlights, feeling for the voice. Suddenly the white light brought out of the darkness a tangled mass of blackened timbers which seemed to fill the entry, and into the light from the pile of wreckage staggered the figure of a man, his clothes hanging in sooty ribbons, and his face and body blackened beyond recognition. Only the whites of his eyes seemed to mark him from the wreckage which surrounded him. In a high-pitched voice he called to us, and we knew that he was mad. “Come! Come!” he cried. “Let's get out of here. Come on, boys! Let's go somewhere”; and then, as his arms instinctively caught our necks, and we felt for his waist, he began talking to Jesus. With our swaying burden, we turned and retraced our steps down the entry, and fifteen minutes after our descent into the mine, we handed out of the hoist the first man rescued, to his friends.
Once more came the vision of the great black wall of people in the lights at the mine-mouth, and again we plunged down into the blackness and silence of the mine. Reaching bottom, we walked as rapidly as we were able beyond the point where we had found the madman, to where the great structure of the scale-house had once filled a cross-cut between B entry and the air-course behind it. Where once had been solid timbers and the steel structure of the scales, now remained nothing but the bare walls of the cross-cut, swept clean by a giant force, and in the entry the crumbled and twisted wreckage marked where the force of the explosion had dropped it in its course. With a swing of my light I swept the floor of the cross-cut. Halfway down it, on the floor, lay what seemed to be a long bundle of rags. I knew it was a man. There was no movement as I walked toward it, and as I knelt over it a sudden impulse came to me to disbelieve my first thought that this could be a man. Prevented from seeing clearly by the bull's-eye of my helmet and the poor light of my electric lamp, I felt for his chest, and as my hand touched his breast, I felt that it was warm and wet. Perhaps he was alive. I ran my light along the bundle. Those were his feet. I turned it the other way. The man was headless. Instantly I got to my feet, and in the faint glimmer of McPherson's light I saw that he had found something in the wreckage. “What is it?” I bellowed to him through my helmet. He pointed with his ray of light. A body hung in the mass of wreckage, thrown into it like putty against a screen. We turned and continued our way up the entry.
Halfway between the shafts there was a temporary canvas stopping, and we knew that if we could tear this down, the air from the fan which had been speeded up must short-circuit, and pass through B entry, clearing out the after-damp before it. Most of the men, if not all, would be in this entry; of that we were confident. By tearing down the brattice and freeing the direction of the ventilation, life might be saved.
As I have said, I had entered the mine on my first trip with a short charge of oxygen, and in the urgency had failed to replenish it before going down the second time. As I turned from the cross-cut a sudden tugging at my lungs told me that my air was running low. Beside the track, in a pool of water, lay a blackened object that I knew to be a man. He was the only one I recognized, and I knew that it must be Daman, one of the gas inspectors, — the body was so small. A few feet beyond him lay another, and another, all blackened and unrecognizable. The white wall of the brattice gleamed suddenly before us, and in a second we had torn it from its fastenings. One side had already disappeared from the force of the explosion. Why it was not all torn to ribbons, I do not know.
As I turned, I called to McPherson that I was in, and as I spoke a sudden blackness engulfed me. My air was gone. The sights of that awful night and the long strain of the months of dangerous work on high-strung nerves had caught me. I came to with my eyes closed, and a clean, sweet taste of fresh air in my mouth. I thought I was above ground, but opening my eyes I saw that I was looking through the bull's eye of my helmet at a blackened roof, dim in the single shaft of a lamp. McPherson was talking to me. He had dragged me from where I lay to where he had felt the air blow strongest. My weight, increased by the forty-five pounds of the helmet, made it impossible for him to think of moving me unaided. There was no time to summon assistance. In the strong current of air, he had opened my valves and trusted that, revived by the fresh air, I could reach the hoisting-shaft under my own locomotion before the after-damp could overcome me. Faint and reeling, I got to my feet; we started down the entry, our arms about each other's necks. We were both staggering, and halfway to the sump I fell. Then we crawled and rested and crawled again. I think I remember splashing in the water at the foot of the hoisting shaft, but nothing more. We had saved only one man of the twenty-seven who had entered the mine.
AN ELEPHANT HUNT 1
For two days after reaching our camp in the open glade on the mountain side it rained. We were glad of this, because it meant that the elephants would not be in the bamboos, and Cuninghame and the 'Ndorobo went off to hunt for fresh signs. 1 From African Game Trails. Charles Scribner's Sons. Reprinted by permission,
Cuninghame is as skilful an elephant hunter as can be found in Africa, and is one of the very few white men able to help even the wild bushmen at their work. By the afternoon of the second day they were fairly well satisfied as to the whereabouts of the quarry.
The following morning a fine rain was still falling when Cuninghame, Heller, and I started on our hunt; but by noon it had stopped. Of course we went in single file and on foot; not even a bear hunter from the cane-brakes of the lower Mississippi could ride through that forest. We left our home camp standing, taking blankets and a coat and change of underclothing for each of us, and two small Whymper tents, with enough food for three days; I also took my wash kit and a book from the Pigskin Library. First marched the 'Ndorobo guides, each with his spear, his blanket round his shoulders, and a little bundle of corn and sweet-potato. Then came Cuninghame, followed by his gun-bearer. Then I came, clad in khaki-colored flannel shirt and khaki trousers buttoning down the legs, with hobnailed shoes and a thick slouch hat; I had intended to wear rubber-soled shoes, but the soaked ground was too slippery. My two gun-bearers followed, carrying the Holland and the Springfield. Then came Heller, at the head of a dozen porters and skinners; he and they were to fall behind when we actually struck fresh elephant spoor, but to follow our trail by the help of a Dorobo who was left with them.
For three hours our route lay along the edge of the woods. We climbed into and out of deep ravines in which groves of treeferns clustered. We waded through streams of swift water, whose course was broken by cataract and rapid. We passed through shambas, and by the doors of little hamlets of thatched beehive huts. We met flocks of goats and hairy, fat-tailed sheep guarded by boys; strings of burden-bearing women stood meekly to one side to let us pass; parties of young men sauntered by, spear in hand.
Then we struck into the great forest, and in an instant the sun was shut from sight by the thick screen of wet foliage. It was a riot of twisted vines, interlacing the trees and bushes. Only the elephant paths, which, of every age, crossed and recrossed it hither and thither, made it passable. One of the chief difficulties in hunting elephants in the forest is that it is impossible to travel, except very slowly and with much noise, off these trails, so that it is sometimes very difficult to take advantage of the wind; and although the sight of the elephant is dull, both its sense of hearing and its sense of smell are exceedingly acute.
Hour after hour we worked our way onward through tangled forest and matted jungle. There was little sign of bird or animal lise. A troop of long-haired black-and-white monkeys bounded away among the tree-tops. Here and there brilliant flowers lightened the gloom. We ducked under vines and climbed over fallen timber. Poisonous nettles stung our hands. We were drenched by the wet boughs which we brushed aside. Mosses and ferns grew rank and close. The trees were of strange kinds. There were huge trees with little leaves, and small trees with big leaves. There were trees with bare, fleshy limbs, that writhed out through the neighboring branches, bearing sparse clusters of large frondage. In places the forest was low, the trees thirty or forty feet high, the bushes that choked the ground between, fifteen or twenty feet high. In other places mighty monarchs of the wood, straight and tall, towered aloft to an immense height; among them were trees whose smooth, round boles were spotted like sycamores, while far above our heads their gracefully spreading branches were hung with vines like mistletoe and draped with Spanish moss; trees whose surfaces were corrugated and knotted as if they were made of bundles of great creepers; and giants whose buttressed trunks were four times a man's length across.
Twice we got on elephant spoor, once of a single bull, once of a party of three. Then Cuninghame and the 'Ndorobo redoubled their caution. They would minutely examine the fresh dung; and above all they continually tested the wind, scanning the tree tops and lighting matches to see from the smoke what the eddies were near the ground. Each time after an hour's stealthy stepping and crawling along the twisted trail a slight shift of the wind in the almost still air gave our scent to the game,