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.
rich, royal blue. The air was steel-keen, a film of dew lay over everything and a breath of frost passed over the glade, leaving no traces. A rain-bird called; its haunting downward cadence was like a little waterfall, melodious and melancholy. The gun shot could not now be long delayed. Night was fading so fast that we could see tree-shapes thirty or forty paces distant. Something moved just down the furrow; I watched it fiercely: a leopard on the prowl, a homing forest pig? No, only a
encircling continent where cities, friends, and civilized ways were not to be found, not for thousands and thousands of miles across plain and bush and forest. At such times, when all the furtive noises of the night beyond that speck of firelight crept unasked like maggots into your ears, you could feel very isolated and lonely. At such times, I think, Robin and Tilly, although they did not say so, wondered why they had come, and what they were doing, and whether they had set their hands to a
self-confident air, picking her way like a queen. The Kikuyu said that she was very fat, and we ought to eat her. I knew that she was safe from being eaten by the Kikuyu, but not from being tortured and killed. When I had cut my hand on a broken bottle, Tilly had sealed over the gash with some stuff that glistened like transparent silk called Newskin. That evening, the world looked to me like a smooth coat of Newskin painted over a deep, throbbing wound. The surface shone like healthy flesh, but
disagreement on the definition of a crime. ‘The boomklop has a nest,’ I said firmly. ‘A what?’ Tilly asked, as if she could not believe her ears. ‘Well, Mr Roos said so. Of course he didn’t have time…’ ‘Whatever happens, you are not to ride over there alone again. And if Mr Roos ever offers to show you a boomklop you are to refuse at once, do you understand?’ ‘Perhaps it would be a good thing to give her a whistle, and if she finds herself in trouble she could blow for help,’ Lettice
flesh of the earth. Our elder pointed across the river and spoke in Kikuyu, and Njombo translated. ‘He says that two buck come every evening to the river there.’ ‘But why does he say that one of them is Twinkle?’ ‘The owners of the shambas have set traps, and these duikers walk round them. A man threw a spear, he was as close to it as that tree, and the spear turned aside.’ This was just as I had feared: the enmity and wit of the Kikuyu were turned against Twinkle, no charm could be strong