The Kikuyu are adjusted

for   the unforeseen and accustomed to

the unexpected. Here they differ from the

white men, of whom the majority strive to

 insure themselves against the unknown

and the assaults of fate. The Negro is on

friendly terms with destiny, having been

in her hands all his time; she is to him, in

a way, his home, the familiar darkness of

the hut, deep mould for his roots. He

faces any change in life with great calm.

Amongst the qualities that he will be looking for in a master or a doctor or in God, imagination, I believe, comes high up in the list. It may be on the strength of such a taste, that the Caliph Haroun al Raschid maintains, to the hearts of  Africa and Arabia, his position as an ideal ruler; with him nobody knew what to expect next, and you did not know where you had him. When the Africans speak of the personality of God they speak like the Arabian Nights or like the last chapters of the book of Job; it is the same quality, the infinite power of imagination, with which they are impressed.

To this characteristic in my people I myself owed my popularity, or my fame, as a doctor. When I first came out to Africa I travelled on the boat with a great German Scientist, who was going out, for the twenty third time, to experiment with cures for sleeping sickness, and who had over a hundred rats and guinea pigs on the boat with him. He told me that his difficulty with the Native patients had never been any lack of courage in them,–in the face  of pain or of a great operation they generally showed little fear,–but it was their deep dislike of regularity, of any repeated treatment or the systematization of the whole; and this the great German doctor could not understand.

 But when I myself got to know the Natives, this quality in them was one of the things that I liked best. They had real courage: the unadulterated liking of danger,–the true answer of creation to the announcement of their lot,–the echo from the earth when heaven had spoken. I sometimes thought that what, at the bottom of their hearts, they feared from us was pedantry. In the hands of a pedant they die of grief.

Rarely, rarely, have I met such a wild creature, a human being who was so utterly isolated from the world, and, by a sort of firm deadly resignation, completely closed to all surrounding life. I could make him answer when I questioned him, but he never volunteered a word and never looked at me. He had no pity whatever in him, and
kept a little scornful laughter of contempt, and of knowing better, for the tears of the other sick children, when they were washed and bandaged, but he never looked at them either. He had no wish for any sort of contact with the world round him, the contacts that he had known of had been too cruel for that. His fortitude of soul in the face of pain was the fortitude of an old warrior. A thing could never be so bad as to surprise him, he was, by his career and his philosophy, prepared for the worst. All this was in the grand manner, and recalled the declaration of faith of Prometheus: “Pain is my element as hate  is thine. Ye rend me now: I care not.” And, “Ay, do thy worst. Thou art omnipotent.” But in a person of his size  it was uncomfortable, a thing to make you lose heart. And what will God think,–I thought,–confronted with this attitude in a small human being?

I had the Church of Scotland Mission as a neighbour twelve miles to the North West, five hundred feet higher than the farm; and the French Roman Catholic Mission ten miles to the East, on the flatter land, and five hundred feet lower. I did not sympathize with the Missions, but personally I was on friendly terms with them both, and regretted that between themselves they should live in a state of hostility.

The French Fathers were my best friends. I used to ride over with Farah, to hear Mass with them on Sunday  morning, partly in order to speak French again, and partly because it was a lovely ride to the Mission. For a long  way the road ran through the Forest Department’s old wattle plantation, and the virile fresh pinaceous scent of
the wattletrees was sweet and cheering in the mornings.

The Scotch Mission I did not know so well. There was a splendid view, from up there, over all the surrounding Kikuyu country, but all the same the Mission station gave me an impression of blindness, as if it could see nothing itself.

Kamante always carried himself with much collected or restrained dignity, but this time he shone with repressed triumph as well.

All Natives have a strong sense for dramatic effects. Kamante had carefully tied old bandages round his legs all
the way up to the knee, to arrange a surprise for me. It was clear that he saw the vital importance of the moment,
not in his own good luck, but, unselfishly, in the pleasure that he was to give me. He probably remembered the
times when he had seen me all upset by the continual failure of my cures with him, and he knew that the result of
the hospital’s treatment was an astounding thing. As slowly, slowly, he unwound the bandages from his knee to
his heel there appeared, underneath them, a pair of whole smooth legs, only slightly marked by grey scars.When Kamante had thoroughly, and in his calm grand manner, enjoyed my astonishment and pleasure, he again
renewed the impression by stating that he was now a Christian. “I am like you,” he said. He added that he
thought that I might give him a Rupee because Christ had risen on this same day.

I had an Evening School for the people of the farm, with a Native schoolmaster to teach them. I got my
schoolmasters from one of the Missions, and in my time I have had all three,–Roman Catholic, Church of
England, and Church of Scotland schoolmasters. For the Native education of the country is run rigorously on
religious lines; so far as I know, there are no other books translated into Swaheli than the Bible and the hymn
books. I myself, during all my time in Africa, was planning to translate Aesop’s fables, for the benefit of the
Natives, but I never found time to carry my plan through. Still, such as it was, my school was to me a favourite
place on the farm, the centre of our spiritual life, and I spent my pleasant evening hours in the long old
storehouse of corrugated iron in which it was kept.

Kamante would then come with me, but he would not join the children on the school benches, he would stand a
little away from them, as if consciously closing his ears to the learning, and exulting in the simplicity of those
who consented to be taken in, and to listen. But in the privacy of my kitchen, I have seen him copying from
memory, very slowly and preposterously, those same letters and figures that he had observed on the blackboard
in the school. I do not think that he could have come in with other people if he had wanted to; early in his life
something in him had been twisted or locked, and now it was, so to say, to him the normal thing to be out of the
normal. He was aware of this separateness of his, himself, with the arrogant greatness of soul of the real dwarf,
who, when he finds himself at a difference with the whole world, holds the world to be crooked.

Kamante was shrewd in money matters, he spent little, and did a number of wise deals with the other Kikuyu in
goats, he married at an early age, and marriage in the Kikuyu world is an expensive undertaking. At the same
time

I have heard him philosophising, soundly and originally, upon the worthlessness of money. He stood in a  peculiar relation to existence on the whole; he mastered it, but he had no high opinion of it.

All Natives have in them a strong strain of malice, a shrill delight in things going
wrong, which in itself is hurting and revolting to Europeans. Kamante brought this characteristic to a rare
perfection, even to a special self irony, that made him take pleasure in his own disappointments and disasters,
nearly exactly as in those of other people.

I have met with the same kind of mentality in the old Native women who have been roasted over many fires,who have mixed blood with Fate, and recognize her irony, wherever they meet it, with sympathy, as if it were
that of a sister.