"I will go," Ngui said. "You can get dressed."
"Take chai first."
"There is no need. Chai afterwards. It is a young lion."
"Send breakfast," I said to the cook. He woke cheerfully and now he winked at me. "Piga simba," he said. "We'll eat him for supper."
Keiti was standing by the cooking fire now with his slashed flat doubting smile. He had wound his turban in the dark and there was an end that should have been tucked in. His eyes were doubting too. There was nothing of the feeling of a serious lion hunt.
"Hapana simba kubwa sana," Keiti said to me, his eyes mocking but apologetic and absolutely confident. He knew it was not the big lion that we had heard so many times. "Anake," he said to make an early morning joke. This meant, in Kamba, a lion old enough to be a warrior and marry and have children but not old enough to drink beer. His saying it and making the joke in Kamba was a sign of friendliness, made at daylight when friendliness has a low boiling point, to show, gently, that he knew I was trying to learn Kamba with the non-Moslem and alleged bad element and that he approved or tolerated.
Ngui had started down the track the hunting car had worn in the new grass. He was walking in his contemptuous imitation of the way he had been trained to march in the King's African Rifles. It was not contemptuous toward anyone nor toward the K.A.R. It was how he felt in the too early morning on a fruitless errand. I should have called him back but he was carrying one of the killing spears and there was a definite report I must make to Mary and if I simply gave her opinions rather than evidence it would not make for good feeling around home. No one could gauge nor measure how deeply she felt about the lion nor how many things were involved. I had functioned on this lion business almost as long as I could remember anything that had happened. In Africa you could remember around a month at a time if the pace was fast. The pace had been almost excessive and there had been the allegedly criminal lions of Selengai, the lions of Magadi, the lions of here, against whom allegations had now been repeated four times, and this new intruding lion who had, as yet, no fiche or dossier. This was a lion who had coughed a few times and gone about hunting the game that he was entitled to. But it was necessary to prove that to Miss Mary and to prove that he was not the marauding lion she had hunted for so long who was charged with many offenses and whose huge pug marks, the left hind one scarred, we had followed so many times only to see him going away into tall grass that led to the heavy timber of the swamp or to the thick bush of the gerenuk country up by the old manyata on the way to the Chyulu hills. He was so dark that with his heavy black mane he looked almost black and he had a huge head that swung low when he moved off into country where it was impossible for Mary to follow him. He had been hunted for many years and he was very definitely not a tourist-camera lion.
Now I was dressed drinking tea in the early morning light by the built-up fire and waiting for Ngui. I saw him coming across the field with the spear on his shoulder stepping out smartly through the grass still wet with dew. He saw me and came toward the fire leaving a trail behind him through the wet grass.
"Simba dume kidogo," he said, telling me it was a small male lion. "Anake," he said, making the same joke Keiti had. "Hapana mzuri for Memsahib."
"Thank you," I said. "I'll let Memsahib sleep."