Green hills of africa, p.1
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       Green Hills of Africa, p.1

           Ernest Hemingway
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Green Hills of Africa

  Ernest Hemingway: Green Hills of Africa

  Ernest Hemingway. Green hills of Africa

  OCR: Proekt "Obshchij Tekst"

  Last-modified: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 16:29:42 GMT






  Dear Mr. J. P.

  Just tell them you are a fictional character and it is your bad luck to

  have a writer put such language in your speeches. We all know how prettily

  the best brought up people speak but there are always those not quite out of

  the top drawer who have an 'orrid fear of vulgarity. You will know, too, how

  to deal with anyone who calls you Pop. Remember you weren't written of as

  Pop. It was all this fictional character. Anyway the book is for you and we

  miss you very much.

  E. H.




  We were sitting in the blind that Wanderobo hunters had built of twigs

  and branches at the edge of the salt-lick when we heard the motor-lorry

  coming. At first it was far away and no one could tell what the noise was.

  Then it was stopped and we hoped it had been nothing or perhaps only the

  wind. Then it moved slowly nearer, unmistakable now, louder and louder

  until, agonizing in a clank of loud irregular explosions, it passed close

  behind us to go on up the road. The theatrical one of the two trackers stood


  'It is finished,' he said.

  I put my hand to my mouth and motioned him down.

  'It is finished,' he said again and spread his arms wide. I had never

  liked him and I liked him. less now.

  'After,' I whispered. M'Cola shook his head. I looked at his bald black

  skull and he turned his face a little so that I saw the thin Chinese hairs

  at the corners of his mouth.

  'No good,' he said. {'Hapana m'uzuri.'}

  'Wait a little,' I told him. He bent his head down again so that it

  would not show above the dead branches and we sat there in the dust of the

  hole until it was too dark to see the front sight on my rifle; but nothing

  more came. The theatrical tracker was impatient and restless.

  A little before the last of the light was gone he whispered to M'Cola

  that it was now too dark to shoot.

  'Shut up, you,' M'Cola told him. 'The Bwana can shoot after you cannot


  The other tracker, the educated one, gave another demonstration of his

  education by scratching his name, Abdullah, on the black skin of his leg

  with a sharp twig. I watched without admiration and M'Cola looked at the

  word without a shadow of expression on his face. After a while the tracker

  scratched it out.

  Finally I made a last sight against what was left of the light and saw

  it was no use, even with the large aperture.

  M'Cola was watching.

  'No good,' I said.

  'Yes,' he agreed, in Swahili. 'Go to camp?'


  We stood up and made our way out of the blind and out through the

  trees, walking on the sandy loam, feeling our way between trees and under

  branches, back to the road. A mile along the road was the car. As we came

  alongside, Kamau, the driver, put the lights on.

  The lorry had spoiled it. That afternoon we had left the car up the

  road and approached the salt-lick very carefully. There had been a little

  rain, the day before, though not enough to flood the lick, which was simply

  an opening in the trees with a patch of earth worn into deep circles and

  grooved at the edges with hollows where the animals had licked the dirt for

  salt, and we had seen long, heart-shaped, fresh tracks of four greater kudu

  bulls that had been on the salt the night before, as well as many newly

  pressed tracks of lesser kudu. There was also a rhino who, from the tracks

  and the kicked-up mound of strawy dung, came there each night. The blind had

  been built at close arrow-shot of the lick, and sitting, leaning back, knees

  high, heads low, in a hollow half full of ashes and dust, watching through

  the dried leaves and thin branches I had seen a lesser kudu bull come out of

  the brush to the edge of the opening where the salt was and stand there,

  heavy-necked, grey, and handsome, the horns spiralled against the sun while

  I sighted on his chest and then refused the shot, wanting not to frighten

  the greater kudu that should surely come at dusk. But before we ever heard

  the lorry the bull had heard it and run off into the trees, and everything

  else that had been moving, in the bush on the flats, or coming down from the

  small hills through the trees, coming toward the salt, had halted at that

  exploding, clanking sound. They would come, later, in the dark, but then it

  would be too late.

  So now, going along the sandy track of the road in the car, the lights

  picking out the eyes of night birds that squatted close on the sand until

  the bulk of the car was on them and they rose in soft panic; passing the

  fires of the travellers that all moved to the westward by day along this

  road, abandoning the famine country that was ahead of us, me sitting, the

  butt of my rifle on my foot, the barrel in the crook of my left arm, a flask

  of whisky between my knees, pouring the whisky into a tin cup and passing it

  over my shoulder in the dark for M'Cola to pour water into it from the

  canteen, drinking this, the first one of the day, the finest one there is,

  and looting at the thick bush we passed in the dark, feeling the cool wind

  of the night and smelling the good smell of Africa, I was altogether happy.

  Then ahead we saw a big fire and as we came up and passed, I made out a

  lorry beside the road. I told Kamau to stop and go back and as we backed

  into the firelight there was a short, bandy-legged man with a Tyrolese hat,

  leather shorts, and an open shirt standing before an unhooded engine in a

  crowd of natives.

  'Can we help?' I asked him.

  Wo,' he said. 'Unless you are a mechanic. It has taken a dislike to me.

  All engines dislike me.'

  'Do you think it could be the timer? It sounded as though it might be a

  timing knock when you went past us.'

  'I think it is much worse than that. It sounds to be something very


  'If you can get to our camp we have a mechanic.'

  'How far is it?'

  'About twenty miles.'

  'In the morning I will try it. Now I am afraid to make it go farther

  with that noise of death inside. It is trying to die because it dislikes me.

  Well, I dislike it too. But if I die it would not annoy it.'

  'Will you have a drink?' I held out the
flask. 'Hemingway is my name.'

  'Kandisky,' he said and bowed. 'Hemingway is a name I have heard.

  Where? Where have I heard it? Oh, yes. The {dichter}. You know Hemingway the


  'Where did you read him?'

  'In the {Querschnitt.'}

  'That is me,' I said, very pleased. The {Querschnitt} was a German

  magazine I had written some rather obscene poems for, and published a long

  story in, years before I could sell anything in America.

  'This is very strange,' the man in the Tyrolese hat said. 'Tell me,

  what do you think of Ringelnatz?'

  'He is splendid.'

  'So. You like Ringelnatz. Good. What do you think of Heinrich Mann?'

  'He is no good.'

  'You believe it?'

  'All I know is that I cannot read him.'

  'He is no good at all. I see we have things in common. What are you

  doing here?'


  {'Not} ivory, I hope.'

  'No. For kudu.'

  'Why should any man shoot a kudu? You, an intelligent man, a poet, to

  shoot kudu.'

  'I haven't shot any yet,' I said. 'But we've been hunting them hard now

  for ten days. We would have got one to-night if it hadn't been for your


  'That poor lorry. But you should hunt for a year. At the end of that

  time you have shot everything and you are sorry for it. To hunt for one

  special animal is nonsense. Why do you do it?'

  'I like to do it.'

  'Of course, if you {like} to do it. Tell me, what do you really think

  of Rilke?'

  'I have read only the one thing.'


  'The Cornet.'

  'You liked it?'


  'I have no patience with it. It is snobbery. Valery, yes. I see the

  point of Valery, although there is much snobbery too. Well at least you do

  not kill elephants.'

  'I'd kill a big enough one.'

  'How big?'

  'A seventy-pounder. Maybe smaller.'

  'I see there are things we do not agree on. But it is a pleasure to

  meet one of the great old {Querschnitt} group. Tell me what is Joyce like? I

  have not the money to buy it. Sinclair Lewis is nothing. I bought it. No.

  No. Tell me to-morrow. You do not mind if I am camped near? You are with

  friends? You have a white hunter?'

  'With my wife. We would be delighted. Yes, a white hunter.'

  'Why is he not out with you?'

  'He believes you should hunt kudu alone.'

  'It is better not to hunt them at all. What is he? English?'


  'Bloody English?'

  'No. Very nice. You will like him.'

  'You must go. I must not keep you. Perhaps I will see you to-morrow. It

  was very strange that we should meet.'

  'Yes,' I said. 'Have them look at the lorry to-morrow. Anything we can


  'Good night,' he said. 'Good trip.'

  'Good night,' I said. We started off and I saw him walking toward the

  fire waving an arm at the natives. I had not asked him why he had twenty

  up-country natives with him, nor where he was going. Looking back, I had

  asked him nothing. I do not like to ask questions, and where I was brought

  up it was not polite. But here we had not seen a white man for two weeks,

  not since we had left Babati to go south, and then to run into one on this

  road where you met only an occasional Indian trader and the steady migration

  of the natives out of the famine country, to have him look like a caricature

  of Benchley in Tyrolean costume, to have him know your name, to call you a

  poet, to have read the {Querschnitt}, to be an admirer of Joachim Ringelnatz

  and to want to talk about Rilke, was too fantastic to deal with. So, just

  then, to crown this fantasy, the lights of the car showed three tall,

  conical, mounds of something smoking in the road ahead. I motioned to Kamau

  to stop, and putting on the brakes we skidded just short of them. They were

  from two to three feet high and when I touched one it was quite warm.

  {'Tembo,'} M'Cola said.

  It was dung from elephants that had just crossed the road, and in the

  cold of the evening you could see it steaming. In a little while we were in


  Next morning I was up and away to another salt-lick before daylight.

  There was a kudu bull on the lick when we approached through the trees and

  he gave a loud "bark, like a dog's but higher in pitch and sharply throaty,

  and was gone, making no noise at first, then crashing in the brush when he

  was well away; and we never saw him. This lick had an impossible approach.

  Trees grew around its open area so that it was as though the game were in

  the blind and you had to come to them across the open. The only way to make

  it would have been for one man to go alone and crawl and then it would be

  impossible to get any sort of a close shot through the interlacing trees

  until you were within twenty yards. Of course once you were inside the

  protecting trees, and in the blind, you were wonderfully placed, for

  anything that came to the salt had to come out in the open twenty-five yards

  from any cover. But though we stayed until eleven o'clock nothing came. We

  smoothed the dust of the lick carefully with our feet so that any new tracks

  would show when we came back again and walked the two miles to the road.

  Being hunted, the game had learned to come only at night and leave before

  daylight. One bull had stayed and our spooking him that morning would make

  it even more difficult now.

  This was the tenth day we had been hunting greater kudu and I had not

  seen a mature bull yet. We had only three days more because the rains were

  moving north each day from Rhodesia and unless we were prepared to stay

  where we were through the rains we must be out as far as Handeni before they

  came. We had set February 17th as the last safe date to leave. Every morning

  now it took the heavy, woolly sky an hour or so longer to clear and you

  could feel the rains coming, as they moved steadily north, as surely as

  though you watched them on a chart.

  Now it is pleasant to hunt something that you want very much over a

  long period of time, being outwitted, outmanoeuvred, and failing at the end

  of each day, but having the hunt and knowing every time you are out that,

  sooner or later, your luck will change and that you will get the chance that

  you are seeking. But it is not pleasant to have a time limit by which you

  must get your kudu or perhaps never get it, nor even see one. It is not the

  way hunting should be. It is too much like those boys who used to be sent to

  Paris with two years in which to make good as writers or painters, after

  which, if they had not made good, they could go home and into their fathers'

  businesses. The way to hunt is for as long as you live against as long as

  there is such and such an animal; just as the way to paint is as lon
g as

  there is you and colours and canvas, and to write as long as you can live

  and there is pencil and paper or ink or any machine to do it with, or

  anything you care to write about, and you feel a fool, and you are a fool,

  to do it any other way. But here we were, now, caught by time, by the

  season, and by the running out of our money, so that what should have been

  as much fun to do each day whether you killed or not was being forced into

  that most exciting perversion of life; the necessity of accomplishing

  something in less time than should truly be allowed for its doing. So,

  coming in at noon, up since two hours before daylight, with only three days

  left, I was starting to be nervous about it, and there, at the table under

  the dining tent fly, talking away, was Kandisky of the Tyrolese pants. I had

  forgotten all about him.

  'Hello. Hello,' he said. 'No success? Nothing doing? Where is the


  'He coughed once and went away,' I said. 'Hello, girl.'

  She smiled. She was worried too. The two of them had been listening

  since daylight for a shot. Listening all the time, even when our guest had

  arrived; listening while writing letters, listening while reading, listening

  when Kandisky came back and talked.

  'You did not shoot him?'

  'No. Nor see him.' I saw that Pop was worried too, and a little

  nervous. There had evidently been considerable talking going on.

  'Have a beer, Colonel,' he said to me.

  'We spooked one,' I reported. 'No chance of a shot. There were plenty

  of tracks. Nothing more came. The wind was blowing around. Ask the boys

  about it.'

  'As I was telling Colonel Phillips,' Kandisky began, shifting his

  leather-breeched behind and crossing one heavy-calved, well-haired, bare leg

  over the other, 'you must not stay here too long. You must realize the rains

  are coming. There is one stretch of twelve miles beyond here you can never

  get through if it rains. It is impossible.'

  'So he's been telling me,' Pop said. 'I'm a Mister, by the way. We use

  these military titles as nicknames. No offence if you're a colonel

  yourself.' Then to me, 'Damn these salt-licks. If you'd leave them. alone

  you'd get one.'

  'They ball it all up,' I agreed. 'You're so sure of a shot sooner or

  later on the lick.'

  'Hunt the hills too.'

  Til hunt them, Pop.'

  'What is killing a kudu, anyway?' Kandisky asked. 'You should not take

  it so seriously. It is nothing. In a year you kill twenty.'

  'Best not say anything about that to the game department, though,' Pop


  'You misunderstand,' Kandisky said. 'I mean in a year a man could. Of

  course no man would wish to.'

  'Absolutely,' Pop said. 'If he lived in kudu country, he could. They're

  the commonest big antelope in this bush country. It's just that when you

  want to see them you don't.'

  'I kill nothing, you understand,' Kandisky told us. 'Why are you not

  more interested in the natives?'

  'We are,' my wife assured him.

  'They are really interesting. Listen...' Kandisky said, and he spoke on

  to her.

  'The hell of it is,' I said to Pop, 'when I'm in the hills I'm sure the

  bastards are down there on the salt. The cows are in the hills but I don't

  believe the bulls are with them now. Then you get there in the evening and

  there are the tracks. They {have} been on the lousy salt. I think they come

  any time.'

  'Probably they do.'

  'I'm sure we get different bulls there. They probably only come to the

  salt every couple of days. Some are certainly spooked because Karl shot that

  one. If he'd only killed it clean instead of following it through the whole

  damn countryside. Christ, if he'd only kill any damn thing clean. Other new

  ones will come in. All we have to do is to wait them out, though. Of course

  they can't all know about it. But he's spooked this country to hell.'

  'He gets so very excited,' Pop said. 'But he's a good lad. He made a

  beautiful shot on that leopard, you know. You don't want them killed any

  cleaner than that. Let it quiet down again.'

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