The time is the nineteenth century. The place, the Serengeti Plain, where one Charlie Smithers – faithful manservant to the arrogant bone-head, Lord Brampton (with five lines in Debrett, and a hopeless shot to boot) – becomes separated from his master during an unfortunate episode with an angry rhinoceros, thereby launching Charlie on an odyssey into Deepest Darkest Africa, and subsequently into the arms of the beautiful Loiyan…and that’s where the trouble really begins.
Maasai warriors, xenophobic locals, or evil Arab slavers, the two forbidden lovers encounter everything that the unforgiving jungle can throw at them.
Lord Brampton held his hand out expectantly; arm rigid,
fingertips twiddling with impatience; all the while never taking his
eyes off the fearsome black rhino grazing placidly in the distance.
I carefully handed him the heavy elephant gun, making
sure the muzzle was pointing well away from either his lordship
or myself. Two great bullets were loaded in those chambers. The
hammers were at half-cock, but I’d learned the hard way it was
always best to be safe…insofar as that was possible. I regret to
say, however, that when in the company of my master, when he
was in the company of his guns, that possibility didn’t always
But, so far so good; Lord Brampton’s fingers curled
around the polished walnut of the stock. There was a momentary
unease when one digit slid unerringly past the trigger guard, but
then it was out again without any harm being done.
That part of my duty successfully completed, I pulled the
small brass telescope from my belt and leveled it at the beast. A
moment later the head of the bull wobbled into view. He was big
to the naked eye at a hundred yards, but massive in the lens, his
great horns jutting up and down while he grazed. We were
downwind of him and, so far, unsighted.
Lord Brampton leveled the great rifle at the brute and
sited down the shiny blue steel of the twin barrels.
“Head will look good in the gunroom, what?” His
lordship rumbled confidently in a voice too loud to be a whisper.
The rhino’s ears twitched, and I felt my grip on the telescope
tighten, but he was only flicking away some flies.
My own voice was a hoarse whistle as I cautioned His
Grace to silence.
“Nonsense,” he scoffed, “Trouble with you, Smithers,
you worry too much.”
I knew better, of course, but I also knew better than to
remonstrate further. My master was in one of his more
quarrelsome moods. It was always this way when his old wound
was bothering him.
To accent the point, an angry growl erupted from his
abdomen – the medical legacy of having so much of his
intestines removed at Balaclava.
The rhino’s ears twitched again, then centered; his great
head rising while he peered short-sightedly in our direction. I
found myself softly keening, willing Lord Brampton to pull the
At last there was a deafening report as the gun
discharged. A few yards beyond and to the left of the beast a
large spurt of dust heralded the usual complete miss. With a
sinking heart, I focused back on him. When I did so, I saw that
he, in turn, was now focusing on me, his eyes wide with surprise.
Then angrily, they narrowed.