THE MIN-EATERS OF TSAVO.* IN the preface—a brief note of
admiration—which Mr. F. C.
&Ions has written to this book he quotes Mr. Roosevelt's opinion of Colonel Patterson's original descriptions of the reign of terror created by the man-eating lions which descended on the Uganda Railway. Those descriptions appeared in the
Field, and we cannot do better than reproduce Mr. Roosevelt's words : "I think that the incident of the Uganda man-eating
lions 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." This book does preserve the incident in permanent form, and it adds a great deal that naturally could not appear in the brief articles in the Field. To Mr. Roosevelt's judgment we need only add the valuable one of that veteran hunter Mr. Selons himself : "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 Colonel Patterson." The story, indeed, is so amazing that the reader might at first
suppose it to be exaggerated. But quite apart from the entire absence of artifice in Colonel Patterson's style, which is itself an evidence of truth, an overwhelming amount of independent testimony supports the genuineness of all the details. So far as is known, there were only two man-eating lions at Tsavo at the time of which Colonel Patterson writes, yet before they were killed they had carried off no fewer than twenty-eight Indian coolies from the railway camps, besides natives of whom no accurate account could be kept. The workers on the Uganda line went into laager, as it
were, behind &mots, or high hedges, of thorn ; they kept fires and bright lights burning; they made noises through the night ; and they kept watchers on the look out. And yet the man-eaters, with an inexplicable silence, forced their way through the bomas, visiting a different place every night, and thus almost always evaded the watchers and
successfully pulled their man out of one of the tents. The boldness of the lions increased as their appetite grew by what it fed on, and latterly they cared not for shots or noise or lights. In one case a lion jumped upon the roof of a station and tried to drag off the corrugated-iron to get at the man sleeping inside. Only the sudden terrible screams and commotion in the part of the camp where the lion had seized his prey told night after night to the rest of the campers where the tragedy had happened. No wonder that the Indians and natives came to the conclusion that they were attacked, not by animals, but by devils disguised. At one time the greater part of the workmen fled in panic from Tsavo, and the work of the Uganda Railway was actually brought to a stand- still entirely owing to the terror spread by the man-eaters. It was that state of affairs which Colonel Patterson vowed to end, and did end, after superhuman toil and at great peril. We quote now from Colonel Patterson's narrative of his first experience of the man-eaters :-
"I had only been a few days at Tsavo when I first heard that these brutes had been seen in the neighbourhood. Shortly after- wards 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 Man-Eaters of Tsavo, and other East African Advsntares. By Lieutenant- Colonel J. H. Patterson. D.8.0. With a Foreword by Frederick Courteney Selous. Illustrated. London : Macmillan and Co. [7a ed. wt.]
the victims of foul play at the hands of some of their comrades. They were, as it happened, very good workmen, and bad 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 jetnadars, 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 his head in at the open tent door
and seized Ungan Singh—who happened to be nearest the open- ing—by the throat. The unfortunate fellow cried out Chore' ('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?"
As the story goes on the strain becomes more tense and the horror deeper as the lions wax in audacity. And yet there
were comic interludes. For example, an enterprising Indian trader was riding along on his donkey one night when a lion sprang on them, knocking them both over. The donkey was injured, and the lion was just about to seize the trader when his claws became entangled in a rope to which two empty oil- cans were attached. The rattle and clatter of these gave him such a fright that he bolted into the jungle like a cat with a tin pot at her tail. A few weeks later the lion might not have been scared even by those empty cans. Although Colonel Patterson sat up night after night to shoot the lions, and although be tried to track them home after every tragedy, he came at last to the conclusion that the only solution was to trap them. He made an enormous kind of rat-trap which was baited by live men, only the bait was safely screened off from the part into which the lion was to walk. A tent was placed over the trap. The raillery of those who thought the lions much too cunning to walk into a trap happened to be mistaken, and the trap really did catch one of the man-eaters. The state of " nerves " in which the camp was may be judged from the fact that the human "bait" (two Indians), who ought to have shot the lion easily enough through the bars, fired in panic in all directions and so damaged the cage that the lion escaped without apparently being much hurt. Of himself Colonel Patterson writes :—
"This constant night watching was most dreary and fatiguing work, but I felt that it was a duty that bad 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, K/iabar dar, bhaieon, shaitan ate' (' Beware, brothers, the devil is coming'), but tho 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 hope- less 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 wilder- ness around us."
After the flight cf hundreds of workmen, those who remained at the camp built " lion-proof " huts :—
"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 wont 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."
The first time that Colonel Patterson actually saw one of the liolu3 in the jungle his rifle misfired. But as the donkey which the lion had been eating remained, Colonel Patterson made a machan, or scaffolding, near the donkey's body, and deter- mined to spend the night there. This scaffolding—a plank
on the top of four converging poles—was insecure and only twelve feet high. As Mr. Selous says, hungry man-eaters
have been known to bring men down from higher perches than that. The lion came as Colonel Patterson foresaw. The first sign of his approach was his "deep, long-drawn sigh" of hunger. A growl followed; the hunter had been observed.
Then matters took an unexpected turn. The hunter became the hunted. For two hours the lion stalked round and round
the machan, gradually edging nearer and nearer :— " I began to feel distinctly creepy,' and heartily repented my folly in having placed myself in such a dangerous position. I kopt perfectly still, however, hardly daring even to blink my eyes : but the long-continued strain was telling on my nerves, and my feelings may be better imagined than described when about midnight suddenly something came flop and struck me on the back of the head. For a remnant I was so terrified that I nearly fell off the plank, as I thought that the lion had sprung on me from behind. Regaining my senses in a second or two, I realised that I had been hit by nothing more formidable than an owl, which had doubtless mistaken me for the branch of a tree— not a very alarming thing to happen in ordinary circumstances, I admit, but coming at the time it did, it almost paralysed me. The involuntary start which I could not help giving was immediately answered by a sinister growl from below. After this I again kept as still as I could, though absolutely trembling with excitement ; and in a short while I heard the lion begin to creep stealthily towards me. I could barely make out his form as he crouched among the whitish undergrowth ; bat I saw enough for my purpose, and before he could come any nearer, I took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot was at once followed by a most terrific roar, and then I could hear him leaping about in all directions."
We must commend the reader to the book for the narrative of the death of the second lion. Colonel Patterson also retells the astonishing and tragic story of how Mr. Ryall was seized by a lion from a carriage on the Uganda Railway. The throe occupants of the carriage—Mr. Huebner, Mr. Parenti, and Mr. Ryall—were spending the night in the carriage for the very purpose of shooting a lion. They became tired of
watching, having seen nothing but two " glowworms " (these were no doubt the eyes of the lion ; Herr Schillings's photo- graphs show the brilliance of animals' eyes at night), and fell asleep. The sliding-door of the carriage was barely open, and the lion, which bad been stalking the hunters for hours, forced it further open and sprang in. The door closed behind it. There were the three men and the lion in the tiny closed
compartment. The lion stood on Mr. Parenti, who was lying on the floor, and seized Mr. Ryall, who was in the lower of the two berths. In order to escape through an inner door into the servants' end of the carriage Mr. Huebner had to
step on the lion's body. Experience proves that a lion cannot give its attention to more than one thing at a time, and Mr. Huebner escaped unchallenged and unharmed. Mr. Parenti was also unharmed, but could not move till the lion had leaped out of the carriage with Mr. Ryall's body. After reading this engrossing and stirring chronicle we have a new and more intelligent sympathy with the people who were prevented by lions from rebuilding Samaria. From Herodotua onwards lion stories have been told; but we do not believe that if history were ransacked it could produce instances of more wonderful leonine audacity than that of the two beasts which stopped the building of the Uganda Railway.