fighter," said Dowle. "This is stirring stuff." He leaned over to
Kovacs as if to speak confidentially. "Hungarians," he announced.
"They will conquer the world. Do you know why?"
puzzled, said nothing.
can follow you into a revolving door and leave first."
Kovacs smiled. He
did not understand. At times Dowle could have the tact of a fire engine even
though he meant no offense. "This," said Dowle with a great sweep of
his arm, "is an aviary of very interesting people."
I was probably
hearing things, but I could swear there was a band playing outside the bar. You
could hear the distant thumps of a bass drum and the rattle of snares, the
humph-humph of a tuba. Suddenly the door was flung open and an African dressed
in a ragged Salvation Army uniform pranced into the bar. He slammed to a halt
by the counter and snapped a vibrating salute. He removed his white cap and
began to pass it through the bar. And beyond the door, in formation upon the
lawn, there was a band. With a whistle and a clap of the drum it swung into God
Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.
It was time to
make the Christmas dole, for the Salvation Army is present in Africa just as
surely as it is on Fifth Avenue: the Million Dollar, Boom-a-ty-Boom South
Kinangop Marching Band. We all dug deep for it, then emptied out on the lawn
for the concert. The heat trapped within the bar escaped into the cold night,
smoking, as though there had been a fire inside. The band played O Tannenbaum,
and wisps of steam curled up from the instruments.
possibly 20 of them. Some had uniforms, some did not. One wore a Colobus monkey
head skin. Dowle nudged me and pointed. It was the askari. He was trying to
keep upright in the front rank, weaving, making pawing motions at the
zebra-hide drum slung at his side. Throughout the concert not one of us on the
lawn said a word. To have spoken of the off-key trombones, the ill-timed
interruptions of the tuba, would have been to insult Christmas itself. The band
concluded with a rousing Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. The leader saluted again
and shouted an order in the shrill howl of a sergeant major getting a grip on
about-turned and marched back into the night, returning to nowhere. For a long
time you could hear the beat of the drum marking cadence. Then there was only
One by one the
guests and the customers went back to the bar. Men watched their drinks and did
not speak. I decided to turn in.
arrived at dawn with a Thermos of hot tea and a paper bag of scones and we
walked ankle-deep in the hoarfrost through the gray light and into the forest.
It was very quiet there. The only sounds were our breathing, the whisper of the
ferns as we passed. Then a bird called, a monkey chattered. There was mist
hanging in the hollows and shrouding the fig trees. We hiked perhaps two miles
to the stream, which knifed and tumbled through the forest. It was heavily
overhung with foliage so that you could not cast, but there were lovely pools
and long stretches of pocket water. At its widest it was only 20 feet.