Young Knights of the Empire

by Sir Robert Baden-Powell



The native boys of the Zulu and Swazi tribes learn to be Scouts before they are allowed to be considered men, and they do it in this way:

When a boy is about fifteen or sixteen, he is taken by the men of his village, stripped of all clothes, and painted white from head to foot, and he is given a shield and one assegai or small spear, and he is turned out of the village and told that he will be killed if anyone catches him while he is still painted white.

So the boy has to go off into the jungle and mountains and hide himself from other men until the white paint wears off, and this generally takes about a month; so that all this time he has to look after himself and stalk game with his one assegai, and kill it and cut it up; he has to light his fire by means of rubbing sticks together in order to cook his meat; he has to make the skin of the animal into a covering for himself; and he has to know what kinds of wild roots, berries, and leaves are good for food as vegetables.

If he is not able to do these things he dies of starvation, or is killed by wild animals.

If he succeeds in keeping himself alive, and is able to find his way back to his village, he returns when the white paint has worn off, and is then received with great rejoicings by his friends and relatives, and is allowed to become a soldier of the tribe, since he has shown that he is able to look after himself.

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General Dodge, of the American Army, describes how he once had to pursue a party of Red Indians who had been murdering some people.

The murderers had nearly a week's start, and had gone away on horseback. Rut General Dodge got a splendid tracking-scout named Espinosa to help him. The Indians were all riding unshod horses except one, and after Espinosa had been tracking them for many miles he suddenly got off his horse and pulled four horseshoes out of a hidden crevice in the rocks. The Indian had evidently pulled them off so that they should not leave a track.

For six days they pursued the band, and for a great part of the time there was no sign visible to an ordinary eye, and after going for 150 miles they eventually overtook and captured the whole party. But it was all entirely due to Espinosa's good tracking.

On another occasion some American troops were following up a number of Indians, who had been raiding and murdering whites, and they had some other Red Indian scouts to assist them in tracking.

In order to make a successful attack, they marched by night, and the trackers found the way in the darkness by feeling the tracks of the enemy with their hands, and they went at a fairly good pace for many miles, merely touching the track with their fingers; but suddenly they halted and reported that the track they had been following had been crossed by a fresh track, and on the commanding officer going up, he found the Indians still holding the track with their hands, so that there should be no mistake.

A light was brought, and it was found that the new track was that of a bear which had walked across the trail of the enemy! So the march continued without further incident, and the enemy were surprised, and caught in the early hours of the morning.

I myself led a column through an intricate part of the Matopo Mountains in Rhodesia by night to attack the enemy's stronghold, which I had reconnoitred the previous day. I found the way by feeling my own tracks, sometimes with my hands and sometimes through the soles of my shoes, which had worn very thin; and I never had any difficulty in finding the line.

Tracking, or following up tracks, is called by different names in different countries. Thus, in South Africa you would talk only of "spooring," that is, following up the "spoor"; in India it would be following the "pugs," or "pugging"; in America it is "trailing."

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In India I have seen a certain tribe of gipsies who eat jackals. Now, a jackal is one of the most suspicious animals that lives, and is very difficult to catch in a trap, but these gipsies catch them by calling them in this way: Several men with dogs hide themselves in the grass and bushes round a small field. In the middle of this open place one gipsy imitates the call of the jackals calling to each other; he gets louder and louder till they seem to come together; then they begin to growl and finally tackle each other with violent snapping, snarling, and yelling, and at the same time he shakes a bundle of dried leaves, which sounds like the animals dashing about among grass and reeds.

Then he flings himself down on the ground, and throws up dust in the air, so that he is completely hidden in it, still growling and fighting.

If any jackal is within sound of this, he comes tearing out of the jungle, and dashes into the dust to join in the fight. When he finds a man there, he comes out again in a hurry, but meantime the dogs have been loosed from all sides, and they quickly catch him and kill him.

Mr. William Long, in his very interesting book called _Beasts of the Field_, describes how he once called a moose. The moose is a very huge kind of stag, with an ugly, bulging kind of nose. He lives in the forests of North America and Canada, and is very hard to get near; and is pretty dangerous when he is angry.

Mr. Long was in a canoe fishing when he heard a moose bull calling in the forest--so just for fun he went ashore and cut a strip of bark off a birch tree and rolled it up so as to make a kind of megaphone, With this he proceeded to imitate the roaring grunt of the bull moose. The effect was tremendous; the old moose came tearing down, and even came into the water and tried to get at him--and it was only by hard paddling that in the end he got away.


Well, good-bye, my reader. I hope you will have got half the enjoyment out of reading these yarns that I have had in spinning them to you.

Will you try to remember some of the ideas which they bring to your mind-most especially those ten "Scout Laws" with which I began the book.

I repeat them as a reminder for you. Learn them by heart-each one to a finger.


1. A Scout's Honour is to be Trusted.
2. A Scout is Loyal.
3. A Scout is Useful to Others.
4. A Scout is a Friend to all.
5. A Scout is Courteous.
6. A Scout is a Friend to Animals
7. A Scout Obeys Orders.
8. A Scout Smiles and Whistles when in Trouble.
9. A Scout is Thrifty.
10. A Scout is Clean in Thought, Word, and Deed.

Will you try to remember these and carry them out in your daily life? By doing so you will be a true Young Knight of the Empire.

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