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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And so did my poor little kittens


Four

camels of the combined caravans had been taken ill with fever and had to be left behind. Their cries from pain were pitiful. Owing to the abundant dinner we got here, with lavish supplies of meat, fruit--most delicious figs, pomegranates and water melons--of which we partook more copiously than wisely, all the men got attacks of indigestion, and so did my poor little kittens, who had stuffed themselves to their hearts' content with milk and the insides of chickens; so that when night came, everybody being ill, we were unable to make a start.

At sunset, with the sudden change in the temperature, and the revulsion from intense dryness to the sudden moisture of the dew, a peculiar feeling took possession of me, and I could feel that I was fast inhaling the miasma of fever. The natives shut themselves up inside their houses--for sunset, they say, and sunrise are the times when fever is contracted,--but we were out in the open and had no protection against it. It seems to seize one violently from the very beginning and sends up one's temperature extremely high, which produces a fearful exhaustion, with pains in the ribs, arms and spinal column.

[Illustration: Wolves in Camp.]

The altitude of Lawah is 4,420 ft. and therefore the nights are terribly cold in contrast to the stifling heat of the day. I had wrapped myself up in my blankets, shivering with the fever that had seized me

quite violently, and the kittens were playing about near my bed. My men were all sound asleep and only the occasional hoarse roar of the squatted camels all round our camp broke the silence of the night. I eventually fell asleep with my hat over my face screening it from the heavy fall of dew.

Suddenly I woke up, startled by the kittens dashing under my blankets and sticking their claws into me and making a fearful racket, and also by some other animals sniffing my face. I jumped up, rifle in hand, for indeed there were some wolves visiting our camp. One--a most impudent rascal--was standing on one of my boxes, and another had evidently made a dash for the white cat; hence the commotion.

The wolves bolted when I got up--I could not fire owing to the camels and people being all round--but the kittens did not stir from their hiding place until the next morning, when in broad day-light they cautiously peeped out to see that the danger had passed.

With the coming day the gruesome reality had to be faced, that one and all of my party had contracted fever of the desert in more or less violent form, even the kittens, who sneezed and trembled the whole day. Some of the camels, too, were unwell and lay with their long necks resting upon the ground and refused to eat. The prospects of crossing the most difficult part of the desert with such a sorry party were not very bright, but we made everything ready, and at ten o'clock in the evening we were to make a start.

I purchased here a third and most beautiful cat--a weird animal, and so wild that when let out of the bag in which it had been brought to me, he covered us all over with scratches. He was three months old, and had quite a will of his own. When introduced to Master Kerman and Miss Zeris, there were reciprocal growls and arched backs, and when asked to share their travelling home for the night there was evident objection and some exchange of spitting. But as there were four corners in the wooden box and only three cats, they eventually settled down, one in each, watching the new comer with wide expanded eyes and fully outstretched claws, merely for defensive emergencies, but otherwise quite peacefully inclined.


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