16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 9


Two Dianas in Somali/and. By Agnes Herbert. (John Lane. 12s. not.)—Chivalry and fair criticism alike force us to give the place of honour among recent sporting books to the Two Dianas. We confess frankly that we read the early chapters of Miss Herbert's book with considerable distaste, and that to the end the reader never quite knows when the author will harass him with some piece of doubtful taste or doubtful humour. The tone of bravado and devil-may-care-ness is irksome at first, when it is only a few simple conventions which the Dienes are defying. When it comes to be lions and rhinos and every known dis- comfort, we are captivated in spite of ourselves. Gradually we find the author a very different person from the rather risques and slangy young woman whom the first chapters would persuade us of. She is, in the first place,_ the most genuine of sportsmen. She goes out to slay, and slays generously ; but it is clear on every page that she loves the rigour of the game. He would be a bold shikari who would presume to compete with these untiring ladies. As she gets deeper into the wilds, the aggressiveness goes out of her tone. Passages of really fine descriptive writing appear in the colloquial narrative. She quotes a line from Dante as the origin of the phrase " to paint the town red" ; she pro- claims herself a Socialist and moralises shrewdly on the native problem ; and, having proved herself interesting, she goes on to confess herself human. When one of her hunters is killed by a rhino her sangfroid breaks down for a moment, and we like her the better. By the time the most prejudiced reader gets to the end he will admit that he has been well entertained. We have rarely heard of a more successful hunting trip. A list of their trophies included rhino, lion, leopard, hartebeest, dibatag, oryx, Speke's gazelle, klipspringer, wart-hog, hyena, jackal, wolf, ostrich, marabou, and dik-dik. Here is the spirit in which the modern woman approaches the most terrible of wild beasts : " We nearly went of our heads with joy and excitement when we suddenly came on a neat little path made by lions." The first encounter was sufficiently exciting. There were two lions in a thicket, and Miss Herbert shot one. Then, forgetting about the other, she ran forward, and was promptly charged. Happily the lion only tore her legs before he was shot from close quarters by her companion. There is a story of a night spent in the bush alone with a Somali hunter, which shows the strength of Miss Herbert's nerves, as does also the tragic tale of the rhinoceros hunt, when the great brute killed one of her followers, in spite of a plucky attempt on her part to rescue him. She confesses that where rhinos are concerned she is a coward; but there is very little trace of cowardice in her record. Bad luck was mingled with good, for another of her men died, the butler levanted on a camel, and she had a bad attack of fever. But the great Shikdr ended safely and prosperously, though the Dienes were made ill by their return to civilisation. " We missed the camp sounds, the grunting camels, the sound of the fires being piled, we missed the open—all ! We stretched our longing arms and touched a wall ! We paced a floor that was not ground." Every hunter will sympathise, and the book will awaken un-Christian envy in some imperfectly civilised breasts.