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Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen


Book Two, A Shooting Accident on the Farm: "The Shooting Accident" to "Riding in the Reserve"

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The Shooting Accident

The narrator stands watching the stars and moon on the night of December 19th, when she hears a gunshot. The sound alarms her as she cannot imagine why it took place. A few minutes later, the mill-manager of the farm, an American named Belknap, drives up on his motorcycle. He looks distressed. Farah, the narrator's main servant, appears from the house. Belknap tells the narrator and Farah that his seven-year old house boy, Kabero, had a small party in the kitchen, since the cook had the night off. To amuse his friends, Kabero let them all handle Belknap's shotgun. Then Kabero pointed it at the other boys and pulled the trigger. The gun had been loaded and two of the boys were hurt.

The narrator gathers medical supplies and heads to Belknap's house. Its kitchen is a mess, with gunpowder in the air, and two screaming boys on the floor. One young boy, Wamai, is groaning and appears close to death. The jaw of another boy, Wanyangerri, has been almost entirely shot off. Kabero, the boy who fired the gun, has disappeared. The narrator wraps a hasty bandage on Wanyangerri's face, gets the two boys in the car, and heads to the native hospital in Nairobi.

By the time they reach the hospital, Wamai is dead, although Wanyangerri still is alive and crying miserably. They leave Wanyangerri to be treated and proceed to the Police Station. They file a report with a police officer who seems only moderately interested in the shooting.

The next morning, the narrator awakes and senses that many people are surrounding her house. She knows who they are, the old men of the Kikuyu tribe who will want to start a Kyama. A Kyama is a gathering of the elders, authorized by the colonial government to resolve difficulties in the native community. The Kyama will determine who is responsible for the shooting and how the suffering should be repaid. The narrator does not want to yet discuss it. She gets out of bed, sends for her horse, gets on it and rides away, despite the old Kikuyu men who follow, begging her to stop.

Riding in the Reserve

The narrator rides into the Masai Reserve that abuts the farm to the South. She feels great joy in being completely alone with nature and being able to ride wherever she likes on the undulating land. Despite her joy, she grieves over the shooting. As the owner of the farm, she has long been involved in the legal settlements between those who live on it. However, she does not agree with the native system of justice, since it focuses on the way that those injured can be repaid for their suffering.

The narrator has already seen several versions of native justice on the farm. Once Farah's little brother broke another boy's teeth by throwing a stone. The two families handled the issue seriously. Eventually Farah's family agreed to pay the other family fifty camels. Farah thought that they had gotten off easily, since the other boy's injured appearance might mar his future chances of marriage.

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