King Solomon's Cistern



It was all very well for Ventvögel to say that he smelt water, but we
could see no signs of it, look which way we would. So far as the eye
might reach there was nothing but arid sweltering sand and karoo
scrub. We walked round the hillock and gazed about anxiously on the
other side, but it was the same story, not a drop of water could be
found; there was no indication of a pan, a pool, or a spring.

"You are a fool," I said angrily to Ventvögel; "there is no water."

But still he lifted his ugly snub nose sniffed.

"I smell it, Baas," he answered; "it is somewhere in the air."

"Yes," I said, "no doubt it is in the clouds, and about two months
hence it will fall and wash our bones."

Sir Henry stroked his yellow beard thoughtfully. "Perhaps it is on the
top of the hill," he suggested.

"Rot," said Good; "whoever heard of water being found at the top of a
hill!"

"Let us go and look," I put in, and hopelessly enough we scrambled up
the sandy sides of the hillock, Umbopa leading. Presently he stopped
as though he was petrified.

"Nanzia manzie!" that is, "Here is water!" he cried with a loud
voice.

We rushed up to him, and there, sure enough, in a deep cut or
indentation on the very top of the sand koppie, was an undoubted pool
of water. How it came to be in such a strange place we did not stop to
inquire, nor did we hesitate at its black and unpleasant appearance.
It was water, or a good imitation of it, and that was enough for us.
We gave a bound and a rush, and in another second we were all down on
our stomachs sucking up the uninviting fluid as though it were nectar
fit for the gods. Heavens, how we did drink! Then when we had done
drinking we tore off our clothes and sat down in the pool, absorbing
the moisture through our parched skins. You, Harry, my boy, who have
only to turn on a couple of taps to summon "hot" and "cold" from an
unseen, vasty cistern, can have little idea of the luxury of that
muddy wallow in brackish tepid water.

(Text from King Solomon's Mines, 1886. Image made from an InkBlot Kaos fractal, India Inked (Bayer) and Mirror-Mirrored.)

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