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Off to the Wilds Being the Adventures of Two Brothers   By: (1831-1909)

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Off to the Wilds, Being the Adventures of Two Brothers, by George Manville Fenn.

The setting is the northern part of what is now South Africa, in the middle of the nineteenth century. Mr Rogers is a British settler in South Africa, a "cottage farmer". The earlier Dutch farmers and settlers are called Boers. The two teenage sons, Jack and Dick, have often asked if they could all go out on a trek to visit the northern parts of the country, for a natural history collecting expedition. They had come out to South Africa for the health of Mrs Rogers, but she had died, and of the two boys, Dick was not very strong, while Jack was very robust.

Off they go, together with two Zulu boys who live on their land, the Zulu boys' father, who is a Chieftain whom they nickname "The General", and an Irish cook, who is always getting into trouble in every situation, in a most infuriating manner. There is also Peter the driver, and Dirk who is a foreloper, the man who walks ahead of the oxen to guide them into the best way.

They expect to pay for the trip with ivory from elephants, feathers from ostriches, animal skins, etc.

The various adventures include encounters with snakes, rhino, hippo, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, cataracts, tsetse fly, marauding native tribes, a bush fire, hundreds of miles of dreary grinding effort taking many months just to cover the ground, scorching heat, and sometimes cold. And more besides.

As usual with this author there is sustained tension throughout the book. An interesting and instructive book.




"Just look at him, Dick. Be quiet; don't speak."

"Oh, the dirty sunburnt little varmint! I'd like the job o' washing him."

"If you say another word, Dinny, I'll give you a crack with your own stick."

"An' is it meself would belave you'd hurt your own man Dinny wid a shtick, Masther Jack? Why ye wouldn't knock a fly off me."

"Then be quiet. I want to see what he's going to do."

"Shure an' it's one of the masther's owld boots I threw away wid me own hands this morning, because it hadn't a bit more wear in it. An' look at the dirty unclane monkey now."

"He'll hear you directly, Dinny, and I want to see what he's going to do. Hold your tongue."

"Shure an' ye ask me so politely, Masther Jack, that it's obliged to be silent I am."

"Pa was quite right when he said you had got too long a tongue."

"Who said so, Masther Jack?"

"Pa papa!"

"Shure the masther said and it's meself heard him that you was to lave your papa at home in owld England, and that when ye came into these savage parts of the wide world, it was to be father."

"Well, father, then. Now hold your tongue. Just look at him, Dick."

"It's meself won't spake again for an hour, and not then if they don't ax me to," said Dennis Riley, generally known as "Dinny," and nothing more. And he, too, joined in watching the "unclane little savage," as he called him, to wit, a handsome, well grown Zulu lad, whose skin was of a rich brown, and who, like his companion, seemed to be a model of savage health and grace.

For there were two of these lads, exceedingly lightly clad, in a necklace, and a strip of skin round the loins, one of whom was lying on his chest with his chin resting upon his hands, kicking up his feet, and clapping them together as he watched the other, who was evidently in a high state of delight over an old boot.

This boot he had found thrown out in the fenced in yard at the back of the cottage, and he was now seated upon a bank trying it on.

First, he drew it on with a most serious aspect, held out his leg and gave it a shake, when, finding the boot too loose, he took it off and filled the toe with sand; but as the sand ran out of a gap between the upper leather and the sole close to the toe and as fast as he put it in, he had to look out for something else, which he found in the shape of some coarse dry grass... Continue reading book >>

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