The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
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In an open cart Elspeth Huxley set off with her parents to travel to Thika in Kenya. As pioneering settlers, they built a house of grass, ate off a damask cloth spread over packing cases, and discovered—the hard way—the world of the African. With an extraordinary gift for detail and a keen sense of humor, Huxley recalls her childhood on the small farm at a time when Europeans waged their fortunes on a land that was as harsh as it was beautiful. For a young girl, it was a time of adventure and freedom, and Huxley paints an unforgettable portrait of growing up among the Masai and Kikuyu people, discovering both the beauty and the terrors of the jungle, and enduring the rugged realities of the pioneer life.
lay in the rack, together with a small native drum, a Kikuyu sword in its vermilion scabbard, a Dorobo bow and arrows, and my favourite hippo-hide riding-whip. It was not until all our hand packages lay around us in the confined space of a railway carriage that Tilly quite realized their number and variety. ‘Do you think’, she inquired, ‘that you will really need all those weapons, as well as a drum?’ ‘Sammy said I was to kill Germans with the spear, and cut off their heads with the sword.’
ONCE kindled, the notion of a quarry quickly gathered strength; soon, in Robin’s mind, houses had sprung up all along our ridge, cut stone was being sold in large quantities and he, with Hereward Palmer as a sleeping partner, was a stone magnate of no mean degree. He returned from his first visit to the Palmers’ camp only temporarily discouraged. Captain Palmer intended to employ a building contractor in Nairobi to put up his house. ‘He must be very rich indeed,’ Robin said wistfully. ‘Not for
‘And the point was he died of poisoning.’ ‘He was over seventy,’ Tilly said. ‘Well, cousin Margaret thought she’d killed him, anyway, and was so much encouraged she started on his factor, but the man went to Canada and she never heard whether it worked.’ It was remarkable how quickly Njombo recovered, considering that he had been, as Tilly said, as near a goner as made no difference, and looked as bony as a barbel when he first emerged from the hut. He never spoke of his experience to any of
their disappearance to Tilly. A week or two later, we heard their fate. Tilly had received a note from the matron of the hospital, thanking her warmly for her handsome gift of a dozen young hens. ‘The patients have enjoyed them, such a welcome change….’ Poor Speckled Sussex, it was sad for them to travel five thousand miles, so much cosseted and cherished, and destined to found a new colony of hens, only to be confused with a basket of vegetables and end up in the roasting-pan. A few days after
looked in vain for a herd of buffaloes. ‘I see nothing.’ He loped forward again. When we halted on the edge of the bare patch, I could observe hoof-marks and cattle-droppings; the hint of a rank odour, faintly bovine, hung about the place. It was a salt-lick, tramped by the feet of many buffaloes. ‘They come every night,’ the Dorobo said. ‘If the bwana brings a gun early in the morning, he will see many, many, just like cattle.’ ‘Where are they now?’ He pointed with his chin to the slopes