Water! Water!

IN two hours' time, about four o'clock, I woke up. As soon as the first heavy demand of bodily fatigue had been satisfied the torturing thirst from which I was suffering asserted itself. I could sleep no more. I had been dreaming that I was bathing in a running stream with green banks, and trees upon them, and I awoke to find myself in that arid wilderness, and to remember that, as Umbopa had said, if we did not find water that day we must certainly perish miserably. No human creature could live long without water in that heat. I sat up and rubbed my grimy face with my dry and horny hands. My lips and eyelids were stuck. together, and it was only after some rubbing and with an effort that I was able to open them. It was not far off the dawn, but there was none of the bright feel of dawn in the air, which was thick with a hot murkiness I cannot describe. The others were still sleeping. Presently it began to grow light enough to read, so I drew out a little pocket copy of the "Ingoldsby Legends" I had brought with me, and read the. "Jackdaw of Rheims." When I got to where

"A nice little boy held a golden ewer,
Embossed, and filled with water as pure
As any that flows between Rheims and Namur,"
I literally smacked my cracked lips, or, rather, tried to smack them. The mere thought of that pure water made me mad. If the cardinal had been there with his bell, book, and candle, I would have whipped in and drank his water up, yes, even if he had already filled it with the suds of soap worthy of washing the hands of the pope, and I knew that the whole concentrated curse of the Catholic Church should fall upon me for so doing. I almost think I must have been a little light-headed with thirst and weariness and want of food; for I fell to thinking how astonished the cardinal and his nice little boy and the jackdaw would have looked to see a burned-up brown-eyed, grizzled-haired little elephant-hunter suddenly bound in and put his dirty face into the basin and swallow every drop of the precious water. The idea amused me so that I laughed or rather cackled aloud, which woke the others up, and they began to rub their dirty faces and get their gummed-up lips and eyelids apart.

As soon as we were all well awake we fell to discussing the situation, which was serious enough. Not a drop of water was left. We turned the water-bottles upside down and licked the tops, but it was a failure; they were as dry as a bone. Good, who had charge of the bottle of brandy, got it out and looked at it longingly; but Sir Henry promptly took it away from him, for to drink raw spirit would only have been to precipitate the end.

"If we do not find water we shall die," he said.

"If we can trust to the old don's map there should be some about," I said; but nobody seemed to derive much satisfaction from that remark, it was so evident that no great faith could be put in the map. It was now gradually growing light, and as we sat blankly staring at each other I observed the Hottentot Ventvögel rise and begin to walk about with his eyes on the ground. Presently he stopped short and, uttering a guttural exclamation, pointed to the earth.

"What is it?" we exclaimed, and simultaneously rose and went to where he was standing pointing at the ground.

"Well," I said, "it is pretty fresh Springbok spoor; what of it?"

"Springboks do not go far from water," he answered in Dutch.

"No," I answered, "I forgot; and thank God for it." This little discovery put new life into us; it is wonderful how, when one is in a desperate position, one catches at the slightest hope, and feels almost happy in it. On a dark night a single star is better than nothing.

Meanwhile Ventvögel was lifting his snub nose, and sniffing the hot air for all the world like an old Impala ram who scents danger. Presently he spoke again.

"I smell water," he said.

Then we felt quite jubilant, for we knew what a wonderful instinct these wild-bred men possess.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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