Out of Africa

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

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Authors: Isak Dinesen
my book was proceeding. They would come in, and stand for a long time watching the progress of it, and in the panelled room their heads were so much the colour of the panels, that at night it looked as if they were white robes only, keeping me company with their backs to the wall.
    My dining-room looked West, and had three long windows that opened out to the paved terrace, the lawn and the forest. The land here sloped down to the river that formed the boundary between me and the Masai. You could not see the river itself from the house, but you could follow itswinding course by the design of the dark-green big Acacias which grew along it. To the other side of it the wood-clad land rose again, and over the woods were the green plains that reached to the foot of the Ngong Hills.
    “And were my faith so strong that it could move mountains, that is the mountain that I would make come to me.”
    The wind blew from the East: the doors of my dining-room, to lee, were always open, and for this reason the West side of the house was popular with the Natives; they laid their way round it, to keep in touch with what was going on inside. From the same motive the little Native herdboys brought their goats round and made them graze on the lawn.
    These little boys, who wandered about on the farm in the company of their fathers’ herds of goats and sheep, looking up grazing for them, did in a way form a link between the life of my civilized house and the life of the wild. My house-boys distrusted them and did not like them to come into the rooms, but the children had a real love and enthusiasm for civilization; to them it held no dangers at all, for they could leave it again whenever they liked. The central symbol of it to them, was an old German cuckoo-clock that hung in the dining-room. A clock was entirely an object of luxury in the African Highlands. All the year round you could tell, from the position of the sun, what the time was, and as you had no dealings with railways, and could arrange your life on the farm according to your own wishes, it became a matter of no importance. But this was a very fine clock. In the midst of a cluster of pink roses, at every full hour, a cuckoo here flung up its little door and threw itself forward to announce the hour in a clear insolent voice. Its apparition was every time a fresh delight to the young people of the farm. From the position of the sun, they judged accurately when the moment for the midday call was due,and by a quarter to twelve I could see them approaching the house from all sides, at the tail of their goats, which they dared not leave behind. The heads of the children and of the goats swam through the bush and long grass of the forest like heads of frogs in a pond.
    They left their flocks on the lawn and came in noiselessly on their bare feet; the bigger ones were about ten years and the youngest two years. They behaved very well, and kept up a sort of self-made ceremonial for their visits, which came to this: that they could move about freely in the house so long as they did not touch anything, nor sit down, nor speak unless spoken to. As the cuckoo rushed out on them, a great movement of ecstasy and suppressed laughter ran through the group. It also sometimes happened that a very small herdboy, who did not feel any responsibility about the goats, would come back in the early morning all by himself, stand for a long time in front of the clock, now shut up and silent, and address it in Kikuyu in a slow sing-song declaration of love, then gravely walk out again. My houseboys laughed at the herdboys, and confided to me that the children were so ignorant that they believed the cuckoo to be alive.
    Now my houseboys came in themselves to watch the work of the typewriter. Kamante sometimes stood by the wall for an hour in the evening, his eyes ran to and fro like dark drops under the eyelashes, as if he meant to learn enough about the machine to take it to pieces and put it together

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