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´╗┐Title: The Bush Boys - History and Adventures of a Cape Farmer and his Family
Author: Reid, Mayne, 1818-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bush Boys - History and Adventures of a Cape Farmer and his Family" ***

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The Bush Boys
History and Adventures of a Cape Farmer and his Family

By Captain Mayne Reid
________________________________________________________________________
This is not quite your usual style of book by Mayne Reid.  We are used
to books about the Mexican War, and similar topics, books where there
are plenty of words and expressions in Mexican-Spanish.  In this book
there are equally plenty of words and expressions in Africaans, the
variety of Dutch spoken originally by the Boers (Boors in this book),
the Dutch farmers.

The book is a very good introduction to the animals, both mammals and
birds, of South Africa.  The snakes get a mention, too.  Several very
tense moments are built up, and you will be wondering right up to the
very last moment how whoever is involved in the story, is going to get
out of the situation.  Recommended as perhaps one of the best books by
this prolific author. NH
________________________________________________________________________

THE BUSH BOYS
HISTORY AND ADVENTURES OF A CAPE FARMER AND HIS FAMILY

BY CAPTAIN MAYNE REID



CHAPTER ONE.

THE BOORS.

Hendrik Von Bloom was a _boor_.

My young English reader, do not suppose that I mean any disrespect to
Mynheer Von Bloom, by calling him a "boor."  In our good Cape colony a
"boor" is a farmer.  It is no reproach to be called a farmer.  Von Bloom
was one--a Dutch farmer of the Cape--a boor.

The boors of the Cape colony have figured very considerably in modern
history.  Although naturally a people inclined to peace, they have been
forced into various wars, both with native Africans and Europeans; and
in these wars they have acquitted themselves admirably, and given proofs
that a pacific people when need be can fight just as well as those who
are continually exulting in the ruffian glory of the soldier.

But the boors have been accused of cruelty in their wars--especially
those carried on against the native races.  In an abstract point of view
the accusation might appear just.  But when we come to consider the
provocation, received at the hands of these savage enemies, we learn to
look more leniently upon the conduct of the Cape Dutch.  It is true they
reduced the yellow Hottentots to a state of slavery; but at that same
time, we, the English, were transporting ship-loads of black Guineamen
across the Atlantic, while the Spaniards and Portuguese were binding the
Red men of America in fetters as tight and hard.

Another point to be considered is the character of the natives with whom
the Dutch boors had to deal.  The keenest cruelty inflicted upon them by
the colonists was mercy, compared with the treatment which these savages
had to bear at the hands of their own despots.

This does not justify the Dutch for having reduced the Hottentots to a
state of slavery; but, all circumstances considered, there is no one of
the maritime nations who can gracefully accuse them of cruelty.  In
their dealings with the aborigines of the Cape, they have had to do with
savages of a most wicked and degraded stamp; and the history of
colonisation, under such circumstances, could not be otherwise then full
of unpleasant episodes.

Young reader, I could easily defend the conduct of the boors of Cape
colony, but I have not space here.  I can only give you my opinion; and
that is, that they are a brave, strong, healthy, moral, peace-loving,
industrious race--lovers of truth, and friends to republican freedom--in
short, a noble race of men.

Is it likely, then, when I called Hendrik Von Bloom a boor, that I meant
him any disrespect?  Quite the contrary.

But Mynheer Hendrik had not always been a boor.  He could boast of a
somewhat higher condition--that is, he could boast of a better education
than the mere Cape farmer usually possesses, as well as some experience
in wielding the sword.  He was not a native of the colony, but of the
mother country; and he had found his way to the Cape not as a poor
adventurer seeking his fortune, but as an officer in a Dutch regiment
then stationed there.

His soldier-service in the colony was not of long duration.  A certain
cherry-cheeked, flaxen-haired Gertrude--the daughter of a rich boor--had
taken a liking to the young lieutenant; and he in his turn became vastly
fond of her.  The consequence was, that they got married.  Gertrude's
father dying shortly after, the large farm, with its full stock of
horses, and Hottentots, broad-tailed sheep, and long-horned oxen, became
hers.  This was an inducement for her soldier-husband to lay down the
sword and turn "vee-boor," or stock farmer, which he consequently did.

These incidents occurred many years previous to the English becoming
masters of the Cape colony.  When that event came to pass, Hendrik Von
Bloom was already a man of influence in the colony and "field-cornet" of
his district, which lay in the beautiful county of Graaf Reinet.  He was
then a widower, the father of a small family.  The wife whom he had
fondly loved,--the cherry-cheeked, flaxen-haired Gertrude--no longer
lived.

History will tell you how the Dutch colonists, discontented with English
rule, rebelled against it.  The ex-lieutenant and field-cornet was one
of the most prominent among these rebels.  History will also tell you
how the rebellion was put down; and how several of those compromised
were brought to execution.  Von Bloom escaped by flight; but his fine
property in the Graaf Reinet was confiscated and given to another.

Many years after we find him living in a remote district beyond the
great Orange River, leading the life of a "trek-boor,"--that is, a
nomade farmer, who has no fixed or permanent abode, but moves with his
flocks from place to place, wherever good pastures and water may tempt
him.

From about this time dates my knowledge of the field-cornet and his
family.  Of his history previous to this I have stated all I know, but
for a period of many years after I am more minutely acquainted with it.
Most of its details I received from the lips of his own son, I was
greatly interested, and indeed instructed, by them.  They were my first
lessons in _African zoology_.

Believing, boy reader, that they might also instruct and interest you, I
here lay them before you.  You are not to regard them as merely
fanciful.  The descriptions of the wild creatures that play their parts
in this little history, as well as the acts, habits, and instincts
assigned to them, you may regard as true to Nature.  Young Von Bloom was
a student of Nature, and you may depend upon the fidelity of his
descriptions.

Disgusted with politics, the field-cornet now dwelt on the remote
frontier--in fact, beyond the frontier, for the nearest settlement was
an hundred miles off.  His "kraal" was in a district bordering the great
Kalihari desert--the Saara of Southern Africa.  The region around, for
hundreds of miles, was uninhabited, for the thinly-scattered, half-human
Bushmen who dwelt within its limits, hardly deserved the name of
inhabitants any more than the wild beasts that howled around them.

I have said that Von Bloom now followed the occupation of a "trek-boor."
Farming in the Cape colony consists principally in the rearing of
horses, cattle, sheep, and goats; and these animals form the wealth of
the boor.  But the stock of our field-cornet was now a very small one.
The proscription had swept away all his wealth, and he had not been
fortunate in his first essays as a nomade grazier.  The emancipation
law, passed by the British Government, extended not only to the Negroes
of the West India Islands, but also to the Hottentots of the Cape; and
the result of it was that the servants of Mynheer Von Bloom had deserted
him.  His cattle, no longer properly cared for, had strayed off.  Some
of them fell a prey to wild beasts--some died of the _murrain_.  His
horses, too, were decimated by that mysterious disease of Southern
Africa, the "horse-sickness;" while his sheep and goats were continually
being attacked and diminished in numbers by the earth-wolf, the wild
hound, and the hyena.  A series of losses had he suffered until his
horses, oxen, sheep, and goats, scarce counted altogether an hundred
head.  A very small stock for a vee-boor, or South African grazier.

Withal our field-cornet was not unhappy.  He looked around upon his
three brave sons--Hans, Hendrik, and Jan.  He looked upon his
cherry-cheeked, flaxen-haired daughter, Gertrude, the very type and
image of what her mother had been.  From these he drew the hope of a
happier future.

His two eldest boys were already helps to him in his daily occupations;
the youngest would soon be so likewise.  In Gertrude,--or "Truey," as
she was endearingly styled,--he would soon have a capital housekeeper.
He was not unhappy therefore; and if an occasional sigh escaped him, it
was when the face of little Truey recalled the memory of that Gertrude
who was now in heaven.

But Hendrik Von Bloom was not the man to despair.  Disappointments had
not succeeded in causing his spirits to droop.  He only applied himself
more ardently to the task of once more building up his fortune.

For himself he had no ambition to be rich.  He would have been contented
with the simple life he was leading, and would have cared but little to
increase his wealth.  But other considerations weighed upon his mind--
the future of his little family.  He could not suffer his children to
grow up in the midst of the wild plains without education.

No; they must one day return to the abodes of men, to act their part in
the drama of social and civilised life.  This was his design.

But how was this design to be accomplished?  Though his so-called act of
_treason_ had been pardoned, and he was now free to return within the
limits of the colony, he was ill prepared for such a purpose.  His poor
wasted stock would not suffice to set him up within the settlements.  It
would scarce keep him a month.  To return would be to return a beggar!

Reflections of this kind sometimes gave him anxiety.  But they also
added energy to his disposition, and rendered him more eager to overcome
the obstacles before him.

During the present year he had been very industrious.  In order that his
cattle should be provided for in the season of winter he had planted a
large quantity of maize and buckwheat, and now the crops of both were in
the most prosperous condition.  His garden, too, smiled, and promised a
profusion of fruits, and melons, and kitchen vegetables.  In short, the
little homestead where he had fixed himself for a time, was a miniature
oasis; and he rejoiced day after day, as his eyes rested upon the
ripening aspect around him.  Once more he began to dream of prosperity--
once more to hope that his evil fortunes had come to an end.

Alas!  It was a false hope.  A series of trials yet awaited him--a
series of misfortunes that deprived him of almost everything he
possessed, and completely changed his mode of existence.

Perhaps these occurrences could hardly be termed _misfortunes_, since in
the end they led to a happy result.

But you may judge for yourself, boy reader, after you have heard the
"history and adventures" of the "trek-boor" and his family.



CHAPTER TWO.

THE "KRAAL."

The ex-field-cornet was seated in front of his _kraal_--for such is the
name of a South African homestead.  From his lips protruded a large
pipe, with its huge bowl of _meerschaum_.  Every boor is a smoker.

Notwithstanding the many losses and crosses of his past life, there was
contentment in his eye.  He was gratified by the prosperous appearance
of his crops.  The maize was now "in the milk," and the ears, folded
within the papyrus-like husks, looked full and large.  It was delightful
to hear the rustling of the long green blades, and see the bright golden
tassels waving in the breeze.  The heart of the farmer was glad as his
eye glanced over his promising crop of "mealies."  But there was another
promising crop that still more gladdened his heart--his fine children.
There they are--all around him.

Hans--the oldest--steady, sober Hans, at work in the well-stocked
garden; while the diminutive but sprightly imp Jan, the youngest, is
looking on, and occasionally helping his brother.  Hendrik--the dashing
Hendrik, with bright face and light curling hair--is busy among the
horses, in the "horse-kraal;" and Truey--the beautiful, cherry-cheeked,
flaxen-haired Truey--is engaged with her pet--a fawn of the springbok
gazelle--whose bright eyes rival her own in their expression of
innocence and loveliness.

Yes, the heart of the field-cornet is glad as he glances from one to the
other of these his children--and with reason.  They are all fair to look
upon,--all give promise of goodness.  If their father feels an
occasional pang, it is, as we have already said, when his eye rests upon
the cherry-cheeked, flaxen-haired Gertrude.

But time has long since subdued that grief to a gentle melancholy.  Its
pang is short-lived, and the face of the field-cornet soon lightens up
again as he looks around upon his dear children, so full of hope and
promise.

Hans and Hendrik are already strong enough to assist him in his
occupations,--in fact, with the exception of "Swartboy," they are the
only help he has.

Who is Swartboy?

Look into the horse-kraal, and you will there see Swartboy engaged,
along with his young master Hendrik, in saddling a pair of horses.  You
may notice that Swartboy appears to be about thirty years old, and he is
full that; but if you were to apply a measuring rule to him, you would
find him not much over four feet in height!  He is stoutly built
however, and would measure better in a horizontal direction.  You may
notice that he is of a yellow complexion, although his name might lead
you to fancy he was black--for "Swartboy" means "black-boy."  You may
observe that his nose is flat and sunk below the level of his cheeks;
that his cheeks are prominent, his lips very thick, his nostrils wide,
his face beardless, and his head almost hairless--for the small kinky
wool-knots thinly-scattered over his skull can scarcely be designated
hair.  You may notice, moreover, that his head is monstrously large,
with ears in proportion, and that the eyes are set obliquely, and have a
Chinese expression.  You may notice about Swartboy all those
characteristics that distinguish the "Hottentots" of South Africa.

Yet Swartboy is _not_ a Hottentot--though he is of the same race.  He is
a _Bushman_.

How came this wild Bushman into the service of the ex-field-cornet Von
Bloom?  About that there is a little romantic history.  Thus:--

Among the savage tribes of Southern Africa there exists a very cruel
custom,--that of abandoning their aged or infirm, and often their sick
or wounded, to die in the desert.  Children leave their parents behind
them, and the wounded are often forsaken by their comrades with no other
provision made for them beyond a day's food and a cup of water!

The Bushman Swartboy had been the victim of this custom.  He had been
upon a hunting excursion with some of his own kindred, and had been
sadly mangled by a lion.  His comrades, not expecting him to live, left
him on the plain to die; and most certainly would he have perished had
it not been for our field-cornet.  The latter, as he was "trekking" over
the plains, found the wounded Bushman, lifted him into his wagon,
carried him on to his camp, dressed his wounds, and nursed him till he
became well.  That is how Swartboy came to be in the service of the
field-cornet.

Though gratitude is not a characteristic of his race, Swartboy was not
ungrateful.  When all the other servants ran away, he remained faithful
to his master; and since that time had been a most efficient and useful
hand.  In fact, he was now the only one left, with the exception of the
girl, Totty--who was, of course, a Hottentot; and much about the same
height, size, and colour, as Swartboy himself.

We have said that Swartboy and the young Hendrik were saddling a pair of
horses.  As soon as they had finished that job, they mounted them, and
riding out of the kraal, took their way straight across the plain.  They
were followed by a couple of strong, rough-looking dogs.

Their purpose was to drive home the oxen and the other horses that were
feeding a good distance off.  This they were in the habit of doing every
evening at the same hour,--for in South Africa it is necessary to shut
up all kinds of live-stock at night, to protect them from beasts of
prey.  For this purpose are built several enclosures with high
walls,--"kraals," as they are called,--a word of the same signification
as the Spanish "corral," and I fancy introduced into Africa by the
Portuguese--since it is not a native term.

These kraals are important structures about the homestead of a boor,
almost as much so as his own dwelling-house, which of itself also bears
the name of "kraal."

As young Hendrik and Swartboy rode off for the horses and cattle, Hans,
leaving his work in the garden, proceeded to collect the sheep and drive
them home.  These browsed in a different direction; but, as they were
near, he went afoot, taking little Jan along with him.

Truey having tied her pet to a post, had gone inside the house to help
Totty in preparing the supper.  Thus the field-cornet was left to
himself and his pipe, which he still continued to smoke.

He sat in perfect silence, though he could scarce restrain from giving
expression to the satisfaction he felt at seeing his family thus
industriously employed.  Though pleased with all his children, it must
be confessed he had some little partiality for the dashing Hendrik, who
bore his own name, and who reminded him more of his own youth than any
of the others.  He was proud of Hendrik's gallant horsemanship, and his
eyes followed him over the plain until the riders were nearly a mile
off, and already mixing among the cattle.

At this moment an object came under the eyes of Von Bloom, that at once
arrested his attention.  It was a curious appearance along the lower
part of the sky, in the direction in which Hendrik and Swartboy had
gone, but apparently beyond them.  It resembled a dun-coloured mist or
smoke, as if the plain at a great distance was on fire!

Could that be so?  Had some one fired the _karoo_ bushes?  Or was it a
cloud of dust?

The wind was hardly strong enough to raise such a dust, and yet it had
that appearance.  Was it caused by animals?  Might it not be the dust
raised by a great herd of antelopes,--a migration of the springboks, for
instance?  It extended for miles along the horizon, but Von Bloom knew
that these creatures often travel in flocks of greater extent than
miles.  Still he could not think it was that.

He continued to gaze at the strange phenomenon, endeavouring to account
for it in various ways.  It seemed to be rising higher against the blue
sky--now resembling dust, now like the smoke of a widely-spread
conflagration, and now like a reddish cloud.  It was in the west, and
already the setting sun was obscured by it.  It had passed over the
sun's disc like a screen, and his light no longer fell upon the plain.
Was it the forerunner of some terrible storm?--of an earthquake?

Such a thought crossed the mind of the field-cornet.  It was not like an
ordinary cloud,--it was not like a cloud of dust,--it was not like
smoke.  It was like nothing he had ever witnessed before.  No wonder
that he became anxious and apprehensive.

All at once the dark-red mass seemed to envelope the cattle upon the
plain, and these could be seen running to and fro as if affrighted.
Then the two riders disappeared under its dun shadow!

Von Bloom rose to his feet, now seriously alarmed.  What could it mean?

The exclamation to which he gave utterance brought little Truey and
Totty from the house; and Hans with Jan had now got back with the sheep
and goats.  All saw the singular phenomenon, but none of them could tell
what it was.  All were in a state of alarm.

As they stood gazing, with hearts full of fear, the two riders appeared
coming out of the cloud, and then they were seen to gallop forward over
the plain in the direction of the house.  They came on at full speed,
but long before they had got near, the voice of Swartboy could be heard
crying out,--

"Baas Von Bloom! _da springhaans are comin_!--_da springhaan_!--_da
springhaan_!"



CHAPTER THREE.

THE "SPRINGHAAN."

"Ah! the _springhaan_!" cried Von Bloom, recognising the Dutch name for
the far-famed migratory locust.

The mystery was explained.  The singular cloud that was spreading itself
over the plain was neither more nor less than a flight of locusts!

It was a sight that none of them, except Swartboy, had ever witnessed
before.  His master had often seen locusts in small quantities, and of
several species,--for there are many kinds of these singular insects in
South Africa.  But that which now appeared was a true migratory locust
(_Gryllus devastatorius_); and upon one of its great migrations--an
event of rarer occurrence than travellers would have you believe.

Swartboy knew them well; and, although he announced their approach in a
state of great excitement, it was not the excitement of terror.

Quite the contrary.  His great thick lips were compressed athwart his
face in a grotesque expression of joy.  The instincts of his wild race
were busy within him.  To them a flight of locusts is not an object of
dread, but a source of rejoicing--their coming as welcome as a _take_ of
shrimps to a Leigh fisherman, or harvest to the husbandman.

The dogs, too, barked and howled with joy, and frisked about as if they
were going out upon a hunt.  On perceiving the cloud, their instinct
enabled them easily to recognise the locusts.  They regarded them with
feelings similar to those that stirred Swartboy--for both dogs and
Bushmen eat the insects with avidity!

At the announcement that it was only locusts, all at once recovered from
their alarm.  Little Truey and Jan laughed, clapped their hands, and
waited with curiosity until they should come nearer.  All had heard
enough of locusts to know that they were only grasshoppers that neither
bit nor stung any one, and therefore no one was afraid of them.

Even Von Bloom himself was at first very little concerned about them.
After his feelings of apprehension, the announcement that it was a
flight of locusts was a relief, and for a while he did not dwell upon
the nature of such a phenomenon, but only regarded it with feelings of
curiosity.

Of a sudden his thoughts took a new direction.  His eye rested upon his
fields of maize and buckwheat, upon his garden of melons, and fruits,
and vegetables: a new alarm seized upon him; the memory of many stories
which he had heard in relation to these destructive creatures rushed
into his mind, and as the whole truth developed itself, he turned pale,
and uttered new exclamations of alarm.

The children changed countenance as well.  They saw that their father
suffered; though they knew not why.  They gathered inquiringly around
him.

"Alas! alas!  Lost! lost!" exclaimed he; "yes, all our crop--our labour
of the year--gone, gone!  O my dear children!"

"How lost, father?--how gone?" exclaimed several of them in a breath.

"See the springhaan! they will eat up our crop--all--all!"

"'Tis true, indeed," said Hans, who being a great student had often read
accounts of the devastations committed by the locusts.

The joyous countenances of all once more wore a sad expression, and it
was no longer with curiosity that they gazed upon the distant cloud,
that so suddenly had clouded their joy.

Von Bloom had good cause for dread.  Should the swarm come on, and
settle upon his fields, farewell to his prospects of a harvest.  They
would strip the verdure from his whole farm in a twinkling.  They would
leave neither seed, nor leaf, nor stalk, behind them.

All stood watching the flight with painful emotions.  The swarm was
still a full half-mile distant.  They appeared to be coming no nearer,--
good!

A ray of hope entered the mind of the field-cornet.  He took off his
broad felt hat, and held it up to the full stretch of his arm.  The wind
was blowing _from the north_, and the swarm was directly _to the west_
of the kraal.  The cloud of locusts had approached from the north, as
they almost invariably do in the southern parts of Africa.

"Yes," said Hendrik, who having been in their midst could tell what way
they were drifting, "they came down upon us from a northerly direction.
When we headed our horses homewards, we soon galloped out from them, and
they did not appear to fly after us; I am sure they were passing
southwards."

Von Bloom entertained hopes that as none appeared due north of the
kraal, the swarm might pass on without extending to the borders of his
farm.  He knew that they usually followed the direction of the wind.
Unless the wind changed they would not swerve from their course.

He continued to observe them anxiously.  He saw that the selvedge of the
cloud came no nearer.  His hopes rose.  His countenance grew brighter.
The children noticed this and were glad, but said nothing.  All stood
silently watching.

An odd sight it was.  There was not only the misty swarm of the insects
to gaze upon.  The air above them was filled with birds--strange birds
and of many kinds.  On slow, silent wing soared the brown "oricou," the
largest of Africa's vultures; and along with him the yellow "chasse
fiente," the vulture of Kolbe.  There swept the bearded "lamvanger," on
broad extended wings.  There shrieked the great "Caffre eagle," and side
by side with him the short-tailed and singular "bateleur."  There, too,
were hawks of different sizes and colours, and kites cutting through the
air, and crows and ravens, and many species of _insectivora_.  But far
more numerous than all the rest could be seen the little
_springhaan-vogel_, a speckled bird of nearly the size and form of a
swallow.  Myriads of these darkened the air above--hundreds of them
continually shooting down among the insects, and soaring up again, each
with a victim in its beak.  "Locust-vultures" are these creatures named,
though not vultures in kind.  They feed exclusively on these insects,
and are never seen where the locusts are not.  They follow them through
all their migrations, building their nests, and rearing their young, in
the midst of their prey!

It was, indeed, a curious sight to look upon, that swarm of winged
insects, and their numerous and varied enemies; and all stood gazing
upon it with feelings of wonder.  Still the living cloud approached no
nearer, and the hopes of Von Bloom continued to rise.

The swarm kept extending to the south--in fact, it now stretched along
the whole western horizon; and all noticed that it was gradually getting
lower down--that is, its top edge was sinking in the heavens.  Were the
locusts passing off to the west?  No.

"Da am goin' roost for da nacht--now we'll get 'em in bagfull," said
Swartboy, with a pleased look; for Swartboy was a regular locust-eater,
as fond of them as either eagle or kite,--ay, as the "springhaan-vogel"
itself.

It was as Swartboy had stated.  The swarm was actually settling down on
the plain.

"Can't fly without sun," continued the Bushman.  "Too cold now.  Dey go
dead till da mornin."

And so it was.  The sun had set.  The cool breeze weakened the wings of
the insect travellers, and they were compelled to make halt for the
night upon the trees, bushes, and grass.

In a few minutes the dark mist that had hid the blue rim of the sky, was
seen no more; but the distant plain looked as if a fire had swept over
it.  It was thickly covered with the bodies of the insects, that gave it
a blackened appearance, as far as the eye could reach.

The attendant birds, perceiving the approach of night, screamed for
awhile, and then scattered away through the heavens.  Some perched upon
the rocks, while others went to roost among the low thickets of mimosa;
and now for a short interval both earth and air were silent.

Von Bloom now bethought him of his cattle.  Their forms were seen afar
off in the midst of the locust-covered plain.

"Let 'em feed um little while, baas," suggested Swartboy.

"On what?" inquired his master.  "Don't you see the grass is covered!"

"On de springhaan demself, baas," replied the Bushman; "good for fatten
big ox--better dan grass--ya, better dan _mealies_."

But it was too late to leave the cattle longer out upon the plain.  The
lions would soon be abroad--the sooner because of the locusts, for the
king of the beasts does not disdain to fill his royal stomach with these
insects--when he can find them.

Von Bloom saw the necessity of bringing his cattle at once to their
kraal.

A third horse was saddled, which the field-cornet himself mounted, and
rode off, followed by Hendrik and Swartboy.

On approaching the locusts they beheld a singular sight.  The ground was
covered with these reddish-brown creatures, in some spots to the depth
of several inches.  What bushes there were were clustered with them,--
all over the leaves and branches, as if swarms of bees had settled upon
them.  Not a leaf or blade of grass that was not covered with their
bodies!

They moved not, but remained silent, as if torpid or asleep.  The cold
of the evening had deprived them of the power of flight.

What was strangest of all to the eyes of Von Bloom and Hendrik, was the
conduct of their own horses and cattle.  These were some distance out in
the midst of the sleeping host; but instead of being alarmed at their
odd situation, they were greedily gathering up the insects in mouthfuls,
and crunching them as though they had been corn!

It was with some difficulty that they could be driven off; but the roar
of a lion, that was just then heard over the plain, and the repeated
application of Swartboy's _jambok_, rendered them more tractable, and at
length they suffered themselves to be driven home, and lodged within
their kraals.

Swartboy had provided himself with a bag, which he carried back full of
locusts.

It was observed that in collecting the insects into the bag, he acted
with some caution, handling them very gingerly, as if he was afraid of
them.  It was not _them_ he feared, but snakes, which upon such
occasions are very plenteous, and very much to be dreaded--as the
Bushman from experience well knew.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A TALK ABOUT LOCUSTS.

It was a night of anxiety in the kraal of the field-cornet.  Should the
wind veer round to the west, to a certainty the locusts would cover his
land in the morning, and the result would be the total destruction of
his crops.  Perhaps worse than that.  Perhaps the whole vegetation
around--for fifty miles or more--might be destroyed; and then how would
his cattle be fed?  It would be no easy matter even to save their lives.
They might perish before he could drive them to any other pasturage!

Such a thing was by no means uncommon or improbable.  In the history of
the Cape colony many a boor had lost his flocks in this very way.  No
wonder there was anxiety that night in the kraal of the field-cornet.

At intervals Von Bloom went out to ascertain whether there was any
change in the wind.  Up to a late hour he could perceive none.  A gentle
breeze still blew from the north--from the great Kalihari desert--
whence, no doubt, the locusts had come.  The moon was bright, and her
light gleamed over the host of insects that darkly covered the plain.
The roar of the lion could be heard mingling with the shrill scream of
the jackal and the maniac laugh of the hyena.  All these beasts, and
many more, were enjoying a plenteous repast.

Perceiving no change in the wind, Von Bloom became less uneasy, and they
all conversed freely about the locusts.  Swartboy took a leading part in
this conversation, as he was better acquainted with the subject than any
of them.  It was far from being the first flight of locusts Swartboy had
seen, and many a bushel of them had he eaten.  It was natural to
suppose, therefore, that he knew a good deal about them.

He knew not whence they came.  That was a point about which Swartboy had
never troubled himself.  The learned Hans offered an explanation of
their origin.

"They come from the desert," said he.  "The eggs from which they are
produced, are deposited in the sands or dust; where they lie until rain
falls, and causes the herbage to spring up.  Then the locusts are
hatched, and in their first stage are supported upon this herbage.  When
it becomes exhausted, they are compelled to go in search of food.  Hence
these `migrations,' as they are called."

This explanation seemed clear enough.

"Now I have heard," said Hendrik, "of farmers kindling fires around
their crops to keep off the locusts.  I can't see how fires would keep
them off--not even if a regular fence of fire were made all round a
field.  These creatures have wings, and could easily fly over the
fires."

"The fires," replied Hans, "are kindled, in order that the smoke may
prevent them from alighting; but the locusts to which these accounts
usually refer are without wings, called _voetgangers_ (foot-goers).
They are, in fact, the _larvae_ of these locusts, before they have
obtained their wings.  These have also their migrations, that are often
more destructive than those of the perfect insects, such as we see here.
They proceed over the ground by crawling and leaping like grasshoppers;
for, indeed, they are grasshoppers--a species of them.  They keep on in
one direction, as if they were guided by instinct to follow a particular
course.  Nothing can interrupt them in their onward march unless the sea
or some broad and rapid river.  Small streams they can swim across; and
large ones, too, where they run sluggishly; walls and houses they can
climb--even the chimneys--going straight over them; and the moment they
have reached the other side of any obstacle, they continue straight
onward in the old direction.

"In attempting to cross broad rapid rivers, they are drowned in
countless myriads, and swept off to the sea.  When it is only a small
migration, the farmers sometimes keep them off by means of fires, as you
have heard.  On the contrary, when large numbers appear, even the fires
are of no avail."

"But how is that, brother?" inquired Hendrik.  "I can understand how
fires would stop the kind you speak of, since you say they are without
wings.  But since they are so, how do they get through the fires?  Jump
them?"

"No, not so," replied Hans.  "The fires are built too wide and large for
that."

"How then, brother?" asked Hendrik.  "I'm puzzled."

"So am I," said little Jan.

"And I," added Truey.

"Well, then," continued Hans, "millions of the insects crawl into the
fires and put them out!"

"Ho!" cried all in astonishment.  "How?  Are they not burned?"

"Of course," replied Hans.  "They are scorched and killed--myriads of
them quite burned up.  But their bodies crowded thickly on the fires
choke them out.  The foremost ranks of the great host thus become
victims, and the others pass safely across upon the holocaust thus made.
So you see, even fires cannot stop the course of the locusts when they
are in great numbers.

"In many parts of Africa, where the natives cultivate the soil, as soon
as they discover a migration of these insects, and perceive that they
are heading in the direction of their fields and gardens, quite a panic
is produced among them.  They know that they will lose their crops to a
certainty, and hence dread a visitation of locusts as they would an
earthquake, or some other great calamity."

"We can well understand their feelings upon such an occasion," remarked
Hendrik, with a significant look.

"The flying locusts," continued Hans, "seem less to follow a particular
direction than their larvae.  The former seem to be guided by the wind.
Frequently this carries them all into the sea, where they perish in vast
numbers.  On some parts of the coast their dead bodies have been found
washed back to land in quantities incredible.  At one place the sea
threw them upon the beach, until they lay piled up in a ridge four feet
in height, and fifty miles in length!  It has been asserted by several
well-known travellers that the effluvium from this mass tainted the air
to such an extent that it was perceived one hundred and fifty miles
inland!"

"Heigh!" exclaimed little Jan.  "I didn't think anybody had so good a
nose."

At little Jan's remark there was a general laugh.  Von Bloom did not
join in their merriment.  He was in too serious a mood just then.

"Papa," inquired little Truey, perceiving that her father did not laugh,
and thinking to draw him into the conversation,--"Papa! were these the
kind of locusts eaten by John the Baptist when in the desert?  His food,
the Bible says, was `locusts and wild honey.'"

"I believe these are the same," replied the father.

"I think, papa," modestly rejoined Hans, "they are not exactly the same,
but a kindred species.  The locust of Scripture was the true _Gryllus
migratorius_, and different from those of South Africa, though very
similar in its habits.  But," continued he, "some writers dispute that
point altogether.  The Abyssinians say it was beans of the locust-tree,
and not insects, that were the food of Saint John."

"What is your own opinion, Hans?" inquired Hendrik, who had a great
belief in his brother's book-knowledge.

"Why, I think," replied Hans, "there need be no question about it.  It
is only torturing the meaning of a word to suppose that Saint John ate
the locust fruit, and not the insect.  I am decidedly of opinion that
the latter is meant in Scripture; and what makes me think so is, that
these two kinds of food, `locusts and wild honey,' are often coupled
together, as forming at the present time the subsistence of many tribes
who are denizens of the desert.  Besides, we have good evidence that
both were used as food by desert-dwelling people in the days of
Scripture.  It is, therefore, but natural to suppose that Saint John,
when in the desert, was forced to partake of this food; just as many a
traveller of modern times has eaten of it when crossing the deserts that
surround us here in South Africa.

"I have read a great many books about locusts," continued Hans; "and now
that the Bible has been mentioned, I must say for my part, I know no
account given of these insects so truthful and beautiful as that in the
Bible itself.  Shall I read it, papa?"

"By all means, my boy," said the field-cornet, rather pleased at the
request which his son had made, and at the tenor of the conversation.

Little Truey ran into the inner room and brought out an immense volume
bound in gemsbok skin, with a couple of strong brass clasps upon it to
keep it closed.  This was the family Bible; and here let me observe,
that a similar book may be found in the house of nearly every boor, for
these Dutch colonists are a Protestant and Bible-loving people--so much
so, that they think nothing of going a hundred miles, _four times in the
year_, to attend the _nacht-maal_, or sacramental supper!  What do you
think of that?

Hans opened the volume, and turned at once to the book of the prophet
Joel.  From the readiness with which he found the passage, it was
evident he was well acquainted with the book he held in his hands.

He read as follows:--

"A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick
darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains; a great people and a
strong: there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more
after it, even to the years of many generations.  A fire devoureth
before them, and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden
of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and
nothing shall escape them.  The appearance of them is as the appearance
of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.  Like the noise of
chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a
flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in
battle array."

"The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble; the sun
and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining."

"How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because
they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate."

Even the rude Swartboy could perceive the poetic beauty of this
description.

But Swartboy had much to say about the locusts, as well as the inspired
Joel.

Thus spoke Swartboy:--

"Bushman no fear da springhaan.  Bushman hab no garden--no maize--no
buckwheat--no nothing for da springhaan to eat.  Bushman eat locust
himself--he grow fat on da locust.  Ebery thing eat dem dar springhaan.
Ebery thing grow fat in da locust season.  Ho! den for dem springhaan!"

These remarks of Swartboy were true enough.  The locusts are eaten by
almost every species of animal known in South Africa.  Not only do the
_carnivora_ greedily devour them, but also animals and birds of the game
kind--such as antelopes, partridges, guinea-fowls, bustards, and,
strange to say, the giant of all--the huge elephant--will travel for
miles to overtake a migration of locusts!  Domestic fowls, sheep,
horses, and dogs, devour them with equal greediness.  Still another
strange fact--the locusts eat one another!  If any one of them gets
hurt, so as to impede his progress, the others immediately turn upon him
and eat him up!

The Bushmen and other native races of Africa submit the locusts to a
process of cookery before eating them; and during the whole evening
Swartboy had been engaged in preparing the bagful which he had
collected.  He "cooked" them thus:--

He first boiled, or rather _steamed_ them, for only a small quantity of
water was put into the pot.  This process lasted two hours.  They were
then taken out, and allowed to dry; and after that shaken about in a
pan, until all the legs and wings were broken off from the bodies.  A
winnowing process--Swartboy's thick lips acting as a fan--was next gone
through; and the legs and wings were thus got rid of.  The locusts were
then ready for eating.

A little salt only was required to render them more palatable, when all
present made trial of, and some of the children even liked them.  By
many, locusts prepared in this way are considered quite equal to
shrimps!

Sometimes they are pounded when quite dry into a sort of meal, and with
water added to them, are made into a kind of stir-about.

When well dried, they will keep for a long time; and they frequently
form the only store of food, which the poorer natives have to depend
upon for a whole season.

Among many tribes--particularly among those who are not agricultural--
the coming of the locusts is a source of rejoicing.  These people turn
out with sacks, and often with pack-oxen to collect and bring them to
their villages; and on such occasions vast heaps of them are accumulated
and stored, in the same way as grain!

Conversing of these things the night passed on until it was time for
going to bed.  The field-cornet went out once again to observe the wind;
and then the door of the little kraal was closed and the family retired
to rest.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE LOCUST-FLIGHT.

The field-cornet slept but little.  Anxiety kept him awake.  He turned
and tossed, and thought of the locusts.  He napped at intervals, and
dreamt about locusts, and crickets, and grasshoppers, and all manner of
great long-legged, goggle-eyed insects.  He was glad when the first ray
of light penetrated through the little window of his chamber.

He sprang to his feet; and, scarce staying to dress himself, rushed out
into the open air.  It was still dark, but he did not require to see the
wind.  He did not need to toss a feather or hold up his hat.  The truth
was too plain.  A strong breeze was blowing--it was blowing _from the
west_!

Half distracted, he ran farther out to assure himself.  He ran until
clear of the walls that enclosed the kraals and garden.

He halted and felt the air.  Alas! his first impression was correct.
The breeze blew directly from the west--directly from the locusts.  He
could perceive the effluvium borne from the hateful insects: there was
no longer cause to doubt.

Groaning in spirit, Von Bloom returned to his house.  He had no longer
any hope of escaping the terrible visitation.

His first directions were to collect all the loose pieces of linen or
clothing in the house, and pack them within the family chests.  What!
would the locusts be likely to eat them?

Indeed, yes--for these voracious creatures are not fastidious.  No
particular vegetable seems to be chosen by them.  The leaves of the
bitter tobacco plant appear to be as much to their liking as the sweet
and succulent blades of maize!  Pieces of linen, cotton, and even
flannel, are devoured by them, as though they were the tender shoots of
plants.  Stones, iron, and hard wood, are about the only objects that
escape their fierce masticators.

Von Bloom had heard this.  Hans had read of it, and Swartboy confirmed
it from his own experience.

Consequently, everything that was at all destructible was carefully
stowed away; and then breakfast was cooked and eaten in silence.

There was a gloom over the faces of all, because he who was the head of
all was silent and dejected.  What a change within a few hours!  But the
evening before the field-cornet and his little family were in the full
enjoyment of happiness.

There was still one hope, though a slight one.  Might it yet rain?  Or
might the day turn out cold?

In either case Swartboy said the locusts could not take wing--for they
cannot fly in cold or rainy weather.  In the event of a cold or wet day
they would have to remain as they were, and perhaps the wind might
change round again before they resumed their flight.  Oh, for a torrent
of rain, or a cold cloudy day!

Vain wish! vain hope!  In half-an-hour after the sun rose up in African
splendour, and his hot rays, slanting down upon the sleeping host,
warmed them into life and activity.  They commenced to crawl, to hop
about, and then, as if by one impulse, myriads rose into the air.  The
breeze impelled them in the direction in which it was blowing,--in the
direction of the devoted maize-fields.

In less than five minutes, from the time they had taken wing, they were
over the kraal, and dropping in tens of thousands upon the surrounding
fields.  Slow was their flight, and gentle their descent, and to the
eyes of those beneath they presented the appearance of a shower of
_black_ snow, falling in large feathery flakes.  In a few moments the
ground was completely covered, until every stalk of maize, every plant
and bush, carried its hundreds.  On the outer plains too, as far as eye
could see, the pasture was strewed thickly; and as the great flight had
now passed to the eastward of the house, the sun's disk was again hidden
by them as if by an eclipse!

They seemed to move in a kind of _echellon_, the bands in the rear
constantly flying to the front, and then halting to feed, until in turn
these were headed by others that had advanced over them in a similar
manner.

The noise produced by their wings was not the least curious phenomenon;
and resembled a steady breeze playing among the leaves of the forest, or
the sound of a water-wheel.

For two hours this passage continued.  During most of that time, Von
Bloom and his people had remained within the house, with closed doors
and windows.  This they did to avoid the unpleasant shower, as the
creatures impelled by the breeze, often strike the cheek so forcibly as
to cause a feeling of pain.  Moreover, they did not like treading upon
the unwelcome intruders, and crushing them under their feet, which they
must have done, had they moved about outside where the ground was
thickly covered.

Many of the insects even crawled inside, through the chinks of the door
and windows, and greedily devoured any vegetable substance which
happened to be lying about the floor.

At the end of two hours Von Bloom looked forth.  The thickest of the
flight had passed.  The sun was again shining; but upon what was he
shining?  No longer upon green fields and a flowery garden.  No.  Around
the house, on every side, north, south, east, and west, the eye rested
only on black desolation.  Not a blade of grass, not a leaf could be
seen--even the very bark was stripped from the trees, that now stood as
if withered by the hand of God!  Had fire swept the surface, it could
not have left it more naked and desolate.  There was no garden, there
were no fields of maize or buckwheat, there was no longer a farm--the
kraal stood in the midst of a desert!

Words cannot depict the emotions of the field-cornet at that moment.
The pen cannot describe his painful feelings.

Such a change in two hours!  He could scarce credit his senses--he could
scarce believe in its reality.  He knew that the locusts would eat up
his maize, and his wheat, and the vegetables of his garden; but his
fancy had fallen far short of the extreme desolation that had actually
been produced.  The whole landscape was metamorphosed--grass was out of
the question--trees, whose delicate foliage had played in the soft
breeze but two short hours before, now stood leafless, scathed by worse
than winter.  The very ground seemed altered in shape!  He would not
have known it as his own farm.  Most certainly had the owner been absent
during the period of the locust-flight, and approached without any
information of what had been passing, he would not have recognised the
place of his own habitation!

With the phlegm peculiar to his race, the field-cornet sat down, and
remained for a long time without speech or movement.

His children gathered near, and looked on--their young hearts painfully
throbbing.  They could not fully appreciate the difficult circumstances
in which this occurrence had placed them; nor did their father himself
at first.  He thought only of the loss he had sustained, in the
destruction of his fine crops; and this of itself, when we consider his
isolated situation, and the hopelessness of restoring them, was enough
to cause him very great chagrin.

"Gone! all gone!" he exclaimed, in a sorrowing voice.  "Oh!  Fortune--
Fortune--again art thou cruel!"

"Papa! do not grieve," said a soft voice; "we are all alive yet, we are
here by your side;" and with the words a little white hand was laid upon
his shoulder.  It was the hand of the beautiful Truey.

It seemed as if an angel had smiled upon him.  He lifted the child in
his arms, and in a paroxysm of fondness pressed her to his heart.  That
heart felt relieved.

"Bring me the Book," said he, addressing one of the boys.

The Bible was brought--its massive covers were opened--a verse was
chosen--and the song of praise rose up in the midst of the desert.

The Book was closed; and for some minutes all knelt in prayer.

When Von Bloom again stood upon his feet, and looked around him, the
desert seemed once more to "rejoice and blossom as the rose."

Upon the human heart such is the magic influence of resignation and
humility.



CHAPTER SIX.

"INSPANN AND TREK!"

With all his confidence in the protection of a Supreme Being, Von Bloom
knew that he was not to leave everything to the Divine hand.  That was
not the religion he had been taught; and he at once set about taking
measures to extricate himself from the unpleasant position in which he
was placed.

_Unpleasant_ position!  Ha!  It was more than unpleasant, as the
field-cornet began to perceive.  It was a position of _peril_!

The more Von Bloom reflected, the more was he convinced of this.  There
they were, in the middle of a black naked plain, that without a green
spot extended beyond the limits of vision.  How much farther he could
not guess; but he knew that the devastations of the migratory locust
sometimes cover an area of thousands of miles!  It was certain that the
one that had just swept past was on a very extensive scale.

It was evident he could no longer remain by his kraal.  His horses, and
cattle, and sheep, could not live without food; and should these perish,
upon what were he and his family to subsist?  He must leave the kraal.
He must go in search of pasture, without loss of time,--at once.
Already the animals, shut up beyond their usual hour, were uttering
their varied cries, impatient to be let out.  They would soon hunger;
and it was hard to say when food could be procured for them.

There was no time to be lost.  Every hour was of great importance,--even
minutes must not be wasted in dubious hesitation.

The field-cornet spent but a few minutes in consideration.  Whether
should he mount one of his best horses, and ride off alone in search of
pasture? or whether would it not be better to "inspann" his wagon, and
take everything along with him at once?

He soon decided in favour of the latter course.  In any case he would
have been compelled to move from his present location,--to leave the
kraal altogether.

He might as well take everything at once.  Should he go out alone, it
might cost him a long time to find grass and water--for both would be
necessary--and, meantime, his stock would be suffering.

These and other considerations decided him at once to "inspann" and
"trek" away, with his wagon, his horses, his cattle, his sheep, his
"household gods," and his whole family circle.

"Inspann and trek!" was the command: and Swartboy, who was proud of the
reputation he had earned as a wagon-driver, was now seen waving his
bamboo whip like a great fishing-rod.

"Inspann and trek!" echoed Swartboy, tying upon his twenty-feet lash a
new cracker, which he had twisted out of the skin of the hartebeest
antelope.

"Inspann and trek!" he repeated, making his vast whip crack like a
pistol; "yes, baas, I'll inspann;" and, having satisfied himself that
his "voorslag" was properly adjusted, Swartboy rested the bamboo handle
against the side of the house, and proceeded to the kraal to collect the
yoke-oxen.

A large wagon, of a sort that is the pride and property of every Cape
farmer, stood to one side of the house.  It was a vehicle of the first
class,--a regular "cap-tent" wagon,--that had been made for the
field-cornet in his better days, and in which he had been used to drive
his wife and children to the "nacht-maal" and upon _vrolykheids_
(parties of pleasure.)  In those days a team of eight fine horses used
to draw it along at a rattling rate.  Alas! oxen had now to take their
place; for Von Bloom had but five horses in his whole stud, and these
were required for the saddle.

But the wagon was almost as good as ever it had been,--almost as good as
when it used to be the envy of the field-cornet's neighbours, the boors
of Graaf Reinet.  Nothing was broken.  Everything was in its
place,--"voor-kist," and "achter-kist," and side-chests.  There was the
snow-white cap, with its "fore-clap" and "after-clap," and its inside
pockets, all complete; and the wheels neatly carved, and the well planed
boxing and "disselboom" and the strong "trektow" of buffalo-hide.
Nothing was wanting that ought to be found about a wagon.  It was, in
fact, the best part of the field-cornet's property that remained to
him,--for it was equal in value to all the oxen, cattle, and sheep, upon
his establishment.

While Swartboy, assisted by Hendrik, was catching up the twelve
yoke-oxen, and attaching them to the disselboom and trektow of the
wagon, the "baas" himself, aided by Hans, Totty, and also by Truey and
little Jan, was loading up the furniture and implements.  This was not a
difficult task.  The _Penates_ of the little kraal were not numerous,
and were all soon packed either inside or around the roomy vehicle.

In about an hour's time the wagon was loaded up, the oxen were
inspanned, the horses saddled, and everything was ready for "trekking."

And now arose the question, _whither_?

Up to this time Von Bloom had only thought of getting away from the
spot--of escaping beyond the naked waste that surrounded him.

It now became necessary to determine the direction in which they were to
travel--a most important consideration.

Important, indeed, as a little reflection showed.  They might go in the
direction in which the locusts had gone, or that in which they had
_come_?  On either route they might travel for scores of miles without
meeting with a mouthful of grass for the hungry animals; and in such a
case these would break down and perish.

Or the travellers might move in some other direction, and find grass,
but not water.  Without water, not only would they have to fear for the
cattle, but for themselves--for their own lives.  How important then it
was, which way they turned their faces!

At first the field-cornet bethought him of heading towards the
settlements.  The nearest water in that direction was almost fifty miles
off.  It lay to the eastward of the kraal.  The locusts had just gone
that way.  They would by this time have laid waste the whole country--
perhaps to the water or beyond it!

It would be a great risk going in that direction.

Northward lay the Kalihari desert.  It would be hopeless to steer north.
Von Bloom knew of no oasis in the desert.  Besides the locusts had come
from the north.  They were drifting southward when first seen; and from
the time they had been observed passing in this last direction, they had
no doubt ere this wasted the plains far to the south.

The thoughts of the field-cornet were now turned to the west.  It is
true the swarm had last approached from the west; but Von Bloom fancied
that they had first come down from the north, and that the sudden
veering round of the wind had caused them to change direction.  He
thought that by trekking westward he would soon get beyond the ground
they had laid bare.

He knew something of the plains to the west--not much indeed, but he
knew that at about forty miles distance there was a spring with good
pasturage around it, upon whose water he could depend.  He had once
visited it, while on a search for some of his cattle, that had wandered
thus far.  Indeed, it then appeared to him a better situation for cattle
than the one he held, and he had often thought of moving to it.  Its
great distance from any civilised settlement was the reason why he had
not done so.  Although he was already far beyond the frontier, he still
kept up a sort of communication with the settlements, whereas at the
more distant point such a communication would be extremely difficult.

Now that other considerations weighed with him, his thoughts once more
returned to this spring; and after spending a few minutes more in
earnest deliberation, he decided upon "trekking" westward.

Swartboy was ordered to head round, and strike to the west.  The Bushman
promptly leaped to his seat upon the voor-kist, cracked his mighty whip,
straightened out his long team, and moved off over the plain.

Hans and Hendrik were already in their saddles; and having cleared the
kraals of all their live-stock, with the assistance of the dogs, drove
the lowing and bleating animals before them.

Truey and little Jan sat beside Swartboy on the fore-chest of the wagon;
and the round full eyes of the pretty springbok could be seen peeping
curiously out from under the cap-tent.

Casting a last look upon his desolate kraal, the field-cornet turned his
horse's head, and rode after the wagon.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

"WATER!  WATER!"

On moved the little caravan, but not in silence.  Swartboy's voice and
whip made an almost continual noise.  The latter could be plainly heard
more than a mile over the plain, like repeated discharges of a musket.
Hendrik, too, did a good deal in the way of shouting; and even the
usually quiet Hans was under the necessity of using his voice to urge
the flock forward in the right direction.

Occasionally both the boys were called upon to give Swartboy a help with
the leading oxen when these became obstinate or restive, and would turn
out of the track.  At such times either Hans or Hendrik would gallop up,
set the heads of the animals right again, and ply the "jamboks" upon
their sides.

This "jambok" is a severe chastener to an obstinate ox.  It is an
elastic whip made of rhinoceros or hippopotamus skin,--hippopotamus is
the best,--near six feet long, and tapering regularly from butt to tip.

Whenever the led oxen misbehaved, and Swartboy could not reach them with
his long "voorslag," Hendrik was ever ready to tickle them with his
tough jambok; and, by this means, frighten them into good behaviour.
Indeed, one of the boys was obliged to be at their head nearly all the
time.

A "leader" is used to accompany most teams of oxen in South Africa.  But
those of the field-cornet had been accustomed to draw the wagon without
one, ever since the Hottentot servants fan away; and Swartboy had driven
many miles with no other help than his long whip.  But the strange look
of everything, since the locusts passed, had made the oxen shy and wild;
besides the insects had obliterated every track or path which oxen would
have followed.  The whole surface was alike,--there was neither trace
nor mark.  Even Von Bloom himself could with difficulty recognise the
features of the country, and had to guide himself by the sun in the sky.

Hendrik stayed mostly by the head of the leading oxen.  Hans had no
difficulty in driving the flock when once fairly started.  A sense of
fear kept all together, and as there was no herbage upon any side to
tempt them to stray, they moved regularly on.

Von Bloom rode in front to guide the caravan.  Neither he nor any of
them had made any change in their costume, but travelled in their
everyday dress.  The field-cornet himself was habited after the manner
of most boors,--in wide leathern trousers, termed in that country
"crackers;" a large roomy jacket of green cloth, with ample outside
pockets; a fawn-skin waistcoat; a huge white felt hat, with the broadest
of brims; and upon his feet a pair of brogans of African unstained
leather, known among the boors as "feldt-schoenen" (country shoes).
Over his saddle lay a "kaross," or robe of leopard-skins, and upon his
shoulder he carried his "roer"--a large smoothbore gun, about six feet
in length, with an old-fashioned flint-lock,--quite a load of itself.
This is the gun in which the boor puts all his trust; and although an
American backwoodsman would at first sight be disposed to laugh at such
a weapon, a little knowledge of the boor's country would change his
opinion of the "roer."  His own weapon--the small-bore rifle, with a
bullet less than a pea--would be almost useless among the large game
that inhabits the country of the boor.  Upon the "karoos" of Africa
there are crack shots and sterling hunters, as well as in the backwoods
or on the prairies of America.

Curving round under the field-cornet's left arm, and resting against his
side, was an immense powder-horn--of such size as could only be produced
upon the head of an African ox.  It was from the country of the
Bechuanas, though nearly all Cape oxen grow horns of vast dimensions.
Of course it was used to carry the field-cornet's powder, and, if full,
it must have contained half-a-dozen pounds at least!  A leopard-skin
pouch hanging under his right arm, a hunting-knife stuck in his
waist-belt, and a large meerschaum pipe through the band of his hat,
completed the equipments of the trek-boor, Von Bloom.

Hans and Hendrik were very similarly attired, armed, and equipped.  Of
course their trousers were of dressed sheep-skin, wide--like the
trousers of all young boors--and they also wore jackets and
"feldt-schoenen," and broad-brimmed white hats.  Hans carried a light
fowling-piece, while Hendrik's gun was a stout rifle of the kind known
as a "yager"--an excellent gun for large game.  In this piece Hendrik
had great pride, and had learnt to drive a nail with it at nearly a
hundred paces.  Hendrik was _par excellence_ the marksman of the party.
Each of the boys also carried a large crescent-shaped powder-horn, with
a pouch for bullets; and over the saddle of each was strapped the robe
or kaross, differing only from their father's in that his was of the
rarer leopard-skin, while theirs were a commoner sort, one of antelope,
and the other of jackal-skin.  Little Jan also wore wide trousers,
jacket, "feldt-schoenen," and broad-brimmed beaver,--in fact, Jan,
although scarce a yard high, was, in point of costume, a type of his
father,--a diminutive type of the boor.  Truey was habited in a skirt of
blue woollen stuff, with a neat bodice elaborately stitched and
embroidered after the Dutch fashion, and over her fair locks she wore a
light sun-hat of straw with a ribbon and strings.  Totty was very
plainly attired in strong homespun, without any head-dress.  As for
Swartboy, a pair of old leathern "crackers" and a striped shirt were all
the clothing he carried, beside his sheep-skin kaross.  Such were the
costumes of our travellers.

For full twenty miles the plain was wasted bare.  Not a bite could the
beasts obtain, and water there was none.  The sun during the day shone
brightly,--too brightly, for his beams were as hot as within the
tropics.  The travellers could scarce have borne them had it not been
that a stiff breeze was blowing all day long.  But this unfortunately
blew directly in their faces, and the dry karoos are never without dust.
The constant hopping of the locusts with their millions of tiny feet
had loosened the crust of earth; and now the dust rose freely upon the
wind.  Clouds of it enveloped the little caravan, and rendered their
forward movement both difficult and disagreeable.  Long before night
their clothes were covered, their mouths filled, and their eyes sore.

But all that was nothing.  Long before night a far greater grievance was
felt,--the want of water.

In their hurry to escape from the desolate scene at the kraal, Von Bloom
had not thought of bringing a supply in the wagon--a sad oversight, in a
country like South Africa, where springs are so rare, and running
streams so uncertain.  A sad oversight indeed, as they now learnt--for
long before night they were all crying out for water--all were equally
suffering from the pangs of thirst.

Von Bloom thirsted, but he did not think of himself, except that he
suffered from self-accusation.  He blamed himself for neglecting to
bring a needful supply of water.  He was the cause of the sufferings of
all the rest.  He felt sad and humbled on account of his thoughtless
negligence.

He could promise them no relief--at least none until they should reach
the spring.  He knew of no water nearer.

It would be impossible to reach the spring that night.  It was late when
they started.  Oxen travel slowly.  Half the distance would be as much
as they could make by sundown.

To reach the water they would have to travel all night; but they could
not do that for many reasons.  The oxen would require to rest--the more
so that they were hungered; and now Von Bloom thought, when too late, of
another neglect he had committed--that was, in not collecting, during
the flight of the locusts, a sufficient quantity of them to have given
his cattle a feed.

This plan is often adopted under similar circumstances; but the
field-cornet had not thought of it: and as but few locusts fell in the
kraals where the animals had been confined, they had therefore been
without food since the previous day.  The oxen in particular showed
symptoms of weakness, and drew the wagon sluggishly; so that Swartboy's
voice and long whip were kept in constant action.

But there were other reasons why they would have to halt when night came
on.  The field-cornet was not so sure of the direction.  He would not be
able to follow it by night, as there was not the semblance of a track to
guide him.  Besides it would be dangerous to travel by night, for then
the nocturnal robber of Africa--the fierce lion--is abroad.

They would be under the necessity, therefore, of halting for the night,
water or no water.

It wanted yet half-an-hour of sundown when Von Bloom had arrived at this
decision.  He only kept on a little farther in hopes of reaching a spot
where there was grass.  They were now more than twenty miles from their
starting-point, and still the black "spoor" of the locusts covered the
plain.  Still no grass to be seen, still the bushes bare of their
leaves, and barked!

The field-cornet began to think that he was trekking right in the way
the locusts had come.  Westward he was heading for certain; he knew
that.  But he was not yet certain that the flight had not advanced from
the west instead of the north.  If so, they might go for days before
coming upon a patch of grass!

These thoughts troubled him, and with anxious eyes he swept the plain in
front, as well as to the right and left.

A shout from the keen-eyed Bushman produced a joyful effect.  He saw
grass in front.  He saw some bushes with leaves!  They were still a mile
off, but the oxen, as if the announcement had been understood by them,
moved more briskly forward.

Another mile passed over, and they came upon grass, sure enough.  It was
a very scanty pasture, though--a few scattered blades growing ever the
reddish surface, but in no place a mouthful for an ox.  There was just
enough to tantalise the poor brutes without filling their stomachs.  It
assured Von Bloom, however, that they had now got beyond the track of
the locusts; and he kept on a little farther in hopes that the pasture
might get better.

It did not, however.  The country through which they advanced was a
wild, sterile plain--almost as destitute of vegetation as that over
which they had hitherto been travelling.  It no longer owed its
nakedness to the locusts, but to the absence of water.

They had no more time to search for pasture.  The sun was already below
the horizon when they halted to "outspann."

A "kraal" should have been built for the cattle, and another for the
sheep and goats.  There were bushes enough to have constructed them, but
who of that tired party had the heart to cut them down and drag them to
the spot?

It was labour enough--the slaughtering a sheep for supper, and
collecting sufficient wood to cook it.  No kraal was made.  The horses
were tied around the wagon.  The oxen, cattle, and sheep and goats, were
left free to go where they pleased.  As there was no pasture near to
tempt them, it was hoped that, after the fatigue of their long journey,
they would not stray far from the camp-fire, which was kept burning
throughout the night.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE FATE OF THE HERO.

But they _did_ stray.

When day broke, and the travellers looked around them, not a head of the
oxen or cattle was to be seen.  Yes, there was one, and one only--the
milch-cow.  Totty, after milking her on the previous night, had left her
tied to a bush where she still remained.  All the rest were gone, and
the sheep and goats as well.

Whither had they strayed?

The horses were mounted, and search was made.  The sheep and goats were
found among some bushes not far off; but it soon appeared that the other
animals had gone clean away.

Their spoor was traced for a mile or two.  It led back on the very track
they had come; and no doubt any longer existed that they had returned to
the kraal.

To overtake them before reaching that point, would be difficult, if at
all possible.  Their tracks showed that they had gone off early in the
night, and had travelled at a rapid rate--so that by this time they had
most likely arrived at their old home.

This was a sad discovery.  To have followed them on the thirsting and
hungry horses would have been a useless work; yet without the yoke-oxen
how was the wagon to be taken forward to the spring?

It appeared to be a sad dilemma they were in; but after a short
consultation the thoughtful Hans suggested a solution of it.

"Can we not attach the horses to the wagon?" inquired he.  "The five
could surely draw it on to the spring?"

"What! and leave the cattle behind?" said Hendrik.  "If we do not go
after them, they will be all lost, and then--"

"We could go for them afterwards," replied Hans; "but is it not better
first to push forward to the spring; and, after resting the horses a
while, return then for the oxen?  They will have reached the kraal by
this time.  There they will be sure of water anyhow, and that will keep
them alive till we get there."

The course suggested by Hans seemed feasible enough.  At all events, it
was the best plan they could pursue; so they at once set about putting
it in execution.  The horses were attached to the wagon in the best way
they could think of.  Fortunately some old horse-harness formed part of
the contents of the vehicle, and these were brought out and fitted on,
as well as could be done.

Two horses were made fast to the disselboom as "wheelers;" two others to
the trektow cut to the proper length; and the fifth horse was placed in
front as a leader.

When all was ready, Swartboy again mounted the voor-kist, gathered up
his reins, cracked his whip, and set his team in motion.  To the delight
of every one, the huge heavy-laden wagon moved off as freely as if a
full team had been inspanned.

Von Bloom, Hendrik, and Hans, cheered as it passed them; and setting the
milch-cow and the flock of sheep and goats in motion, moved briskly
after.  Little Jan and Truey still rode in the wagon; but the others now
travelled afoot, partly because they had the flock to drive, and partly
that they might not increase the load upon the horses.

They all suffered greatly from thirst, but they would have suffered
still more had it not been for that valuable creature that trotted along
behind the wagon--the cow--"old Graaf," as she was called.  She had
yielded several pints of milk, both the night before and that morning;
and this well-timed supply had given considerable relief to the
travellers.

The horses behaved beautifully.  Notwithstanding that their harness was
both incomplete and ill fitted, they pulled the wagon along after them
as if not a strap or buckle had been wanting.  They appeared to know
that their kind master was in a dilemma, and were determined to draw him
out of it.  Perhaps, too, they smelt the spring-water before them.  At
all events, before they had been many hours in harness, they were
drawing the wagon through a pretty little valley covered with green,
meadow-looking sward; and in five minutes more were standing halted near
a cool crystal spring.

In a short time all had drunk heartily, and were refreshed.  The horses
were turned out upon the grass, and the other animals browsed over the
meadow.  A good fire was made near the spring, and a quarter of mutton
cooked--upon which the travellers dined--and then all sat waiting for
the horses to fill themselves.

The field-cornet, seated upon one of the wagon-chests, smoked his great
pipe.  He could have been contented, but for one thing--the absence of
his cattle.

He had arrived at a beautiful pasture-ground--a sort of oasis in the
wild plains, where there were wood, water, and grass,--everything that
the heart of a "vee-boor" could desire.  It did not appear to be a large
tract, but enough to have sustained many hundred head of cattle--enough
for a very fine "stock farm."  It would have answered his purpose
admirably; and had he succeeded in bringing on his oxen and cattle, he
would at that moment have felt happy enough.  But without them what
availed the fine pasturage?  What could he do there without them to
stock it?  They were his wealth--at least, he had hoped in time that
their increase would become wealth.  They were all of excellent breeds;
and, with the exception of his twelve yoke-oxen, and one or two
long-horned Bechuana bulls, all the others were fine young cows
calculated soon to produce a large herd.

Of course his anxiety about these animals rendered it impossible for him
to enjoy a moment's peace of mind, until he should start back in search
of them.  He had only taken out his pipe to pass the time, while the
horses were gathering a bite of grass.  As soon as their strength should
be recruited a little, it was his design to take three of the strongest
of them, and with Hendrik and Swartboy, ride back to the old kraal.

As soon, therefore, as the horses were ready for the road again, they
were caught and saddled up; and Von Bloom, Hendrik, and Swartboy,
mounted and set out, while Hans remained in charge of the camp.

They rode at a brisk rate, determined to travel all night, and, if
possible, reach the kraal before morning.  At the last point on the
route where there was grass, they off-saddled, and allowed their horses
to rest and refresh themselves.  They had brought with them some slices
of the roast mutton, and this time they had not forgotten to fill their
gourd-canteens with water--so that they should not again suffer from
thirst.  After an hour's halt they continued their journey.

It was quite night when they arrived at the spot where the oxen had
deserted them; but a clear moon was in the sky, and they were able to
follow back the wheel-tracks of the wagon, that were quite conspicuous
under the moonlight.  Now and then to be satisfied, Von Bloom requested
Swartboy to examine the spoor, and see whether the cattle had still kept
the back-track.  To answer this gave no great trouble to the Bushman.
He would drop from his horse, and bending over the ground, would reply
in an instant.  In every case the answer was in the affirmative.  The
animals had certainly gone back to their old home.

Von Bloom believed they would be sure to find them there, but should
they find them _alive_?  That was the question that rendered him
anxious.

The creatures could obtain water by the spring, but food--where?  Not a
bite would they find anywhere, and would not hunger have destroyed them
all before this?

Day was breaking when they came in sight of the old homestead.  It
presented a very odd appearance.  Not one of the three would have
recognised it.  After the invasion of the locusts it showed a very
altered look, but now there was something else that added to the
singularity of its appearance.  A row of strange objects seemed to be
placed upon the roof ridge, and along the walls of the kraals.  What
were these strange objects, for they certainly did not belong to the
buildings?  This question was put by Von Bloom, partly to himself, but
loud enough for the others to hear him.

"_Da vogels_!"  (the vultures), replied Swartboy.

Sure enough, it was a string of vultures that appeared along the walls.

The sight of these filthy birds was more than ominous.  It filled Von
Bloom with apprehension.  What could they be doing there?  There must be
carrion near?

The party rode forward.  The day was now up, and the vultures had grown
busy.  They flapped their shadowy wings, rose from the walls, and
alighted at different points around the house.

"Surely there must be carrion," muttered Von Bloom.

There _was_ carrion, and plenty of it.  As the horsemen drew near the
vultures rose into the air, and a score of half-devoured carcasses could
be seen upon the ground.  The long curving horns that appeared beside
each carcass, rendered it easy to tell to what sort of animals they
belonged.  In the torn and mutilated fragments, Von Bloom recognised the
remains of his lost herd!

Not one was left alive.  There could be seen the remains of all of them,
both cows and oxen, lying near the enclosures and on the adjacent
plain--each where it had fallen.

But how had they fallen?  That was the mystery.

Surely they could not have perished of hunger, and so suddenly?  They
could not have died of thirst, for there was the spring bubbling up just
beside where they lay?  The vultures had not killed them!  What then?

Von Bloom did not ask many questions.  He was not left long in doubt.
As he and his companions rode over the ground, the mystery was
explained.  The tracks of lions, hyenas, and jackals, made everything
clear enough.  A large troop of these animals had been upon the ground.
The scarcity of game, caused by the migration of the locusts, had no
doubt rendered them more than usually ravenous, and in consequence the
cattle became their prey.

Where were they now?  The morning light, and the sight of the house
perhaps, had driven them off.  But their spoor was quite fresh.  They
were near at hand, and would be certain to return again upon the
following night.

Von Bloom felt a strong desire to be revenged upon the hideous brutes;
and, under other circumstances, would have remained to get a shot at
them.  But just then that would have been both imprudent and
unprofitable work.  It would be as much as their horses could
accomplish, to get back to camp that night; so, without even entering
the old house, they watered their animals, refilled their calabashes at
the spring, and with heavy hearts once more rode away from the kraal.



CHAPTER NINE.

A LION "COUCHANT."

They had not proceeded an hundred steps when an object appeared before
them that caused all three to draw bridle suddenly and simultaneously.
That object was a lion!

He was couched upon the plain directly in the path they intended to
take--the very same path by which they had come!

How was it they had not seen him before?  He was under the lee of a low
bush; but, thanks to the locusts, this bush was leafless, and its thin
naked twigs formed no concealment for so large a creature as a lion.
His tawny hide shone conspicuously through them.

The truth is, he had not been there when the horsemen passed towards the
kraal.  He had just fled from among the carcasses, on seeing them
approach; and had skulked around the walls, and then run to their rear.
He had executed this manoeuvre to avoid an encounter--for a lion reasons
as a man does, though not to the same extent.  Seeing the horsemen come
that way, his reasoning powers were strong enough to tell him that they
were not likely to return by the same path.  It was more natural they
should continue on.  A man, ignorant of all the preceding events
connected with their journey would have reasoned much in the same way.
If you have been at all observant, you have seen other animals--such as
dogs, deer, hares, or even birds--act just as the lion did on this
occasion.

Beyond a doubt the intellectual process described passed through the
mind of this lion; and he had skulked round to shun an encounter with
the three travellers.

Now a lion will not always act so--though he will in five cases out of
six, or oftener.  Hence very erroneous views are held in relation to the
courage of this animal.  Some naturalists, led away by what appears to
be a feeling of envy or anger, accuse the lion of downright _cowardice_,
denying him a single noble quality of all those that have from earliest
times been ascribed to him!  Others, on the contrary, assert that he
knows no fear, either of man or beast; and these endow him with many
virtues besides courage.  Both parties back up their views, not by mere
assertions, but by an ample narration of well-attested facts!

How is this?  There is a dilemma here.  Both cannot be right in their
opinions?  And yet, odd as it may appear to say so, both _are_ right in
a certain sense.

The fact is, _some lions are cowardly, while others are brave_.

The truth of this might be shown by whole pages of facts, but in this
little volume we have not room.  I think, however, boy reader, I can
satisfy you with an analogy.

Answer me--Do you know any species of animal, the individuals of which
are exactly alike in character?  Think over the dogs _of your
acquaintance_!  Are they alike, or anything near it?  Are not some of
them noble, generous, faithful, brave to the death?  Are not others
mean, sneaking, cowardly curs?  So is it with lions.

Now, you are satisfied that my statement about the lions may be true.

There are many causes to affect the courage and ferocity of the lion.
His age--the state of his stomach--the season of the year--the hour of
the day--but, above all, the _sort of hunters that belong to the
district he inhabits_.

This last fact appears quite natural to those who believe in the
_intellect_ of animals, which of course _I_ do.  It is perfectly natural
that the lion, as well as other animals, should soon learn the character
of his enemy, and fear him or not, as the case may be.  Is this not an
old story with us?  If I remember aright, we had a talk upon this
subject when speaking of the crocodiles of America.  We remarked that
the alligator of the Mississippi rarely attacks man in modern times; but
it has not been always so.  The rifle of the alligator-leather hunter
has tamed its ferocity.  The very _same species_ in South America eats
Indians by scores every year; and the crocodile of Africa is dreaded in
some parts even more than the lion!

It is asserted that the lions of the Cape are more cowardly in some
districts than in others.  They are less brave in those districts where
they have been "jaged" by the courageous and stalwart boor with his long
loud-cracking "roer."

Beyond the frontier, where they have no enemy but the tiny arrow of the
Bushman (who does not desire to kill them!) and the slender "assegai" of
the Bechuana, the lion has little or no fear of man.

Whether the one, before the eyes of our party, was naturally a brave
one, could not yet be told.  He was one with a huge black mane, or
"schwart-fore life," as the boors term it; and these are esteemed the
fiercest and most dangerous.  The "yellow-maned,"--for there is
considerable variety in the colour of the Cape lions--is regarded as
possessing less courage; but there is some doubt about the truth of
this.  The young "black-manes" may often be mistaken for the true yellow
variety, and their character ascribed to him to his prejudice,--for the
swarthy colour of the mane only comes after the lion is many years of
age.

Whether the "schwart-fore life" was a fierce and brave one, Von Bloom
did not stay to think about.  It was evident that the edge had been
taken off the animal's appetite.  It was evident he did not meditate an
attack; and that had the horsemen chosen to make a detour, and ride
peacefully away, they might have continued their journey without ever
seeing or hearing of him again.

But the field-cornet had no such intention.  He had lost his precious
oxen and cattle.  _That_ lion had pulled down some of them, at least.
The Dutch blood was up, and if the beast had been the strongest and
fiercest of his tribe, he was bound to be brought out of that bush.

Ordering the others to remain where they were, Von Bloom advanced on
horseback until within about fifty paces of where the lion lay.  Here he
drew up, coolly dismounted, passed the bridle over his arm, stuck his
loading-rod into the ground, and knelt down behind it.

You will fancy he would have been safer to have kept his saddle, as the
lion cannot overtake a horse.  True; but the lion would have been safer
too.  It is no easy matter to fire correctly from any horse, but when
the mark happens to be a grim lion, he is a well-trained steed that will
stand sufficiently firm to admit of a true aim.  A shot from the saddle
under such circumstances is a mere chance shot; and the field-cornet was
not in the mood to be satisfied with a chance shot.  Laying his roer
athwart the loading-rod, and holding the long barrel steady against it,
he took deliberate aim through the ivory sights.

During all this time the lion had not stirred.  The bush was between him
and the hunter; but he could hardly have believed that it sufficed to
conceal him.  Far from it.  His yellow flanks were distinctly visible
through the thorny twigs, and his head could be seen with his muzzle and
whiskers stained red with the blood of the oxen.

No--he did not believe himself hid.  A slight growl, with one or two
shakes of his tail, proved the contrary.  He lay still however, as lions
usually do, until more nearly approached.  The hunter, as already
stated, was full fifty yards from him.

Excepting the motion of his tail, he made no other till Von Bloom pulled
trigger; and then with a scream he sprang several feet into the air.
The hunter had been afraid of the twigs causing his bullet to glance
off; but it was plain it had told truly, for he saw the fur fly from the
side of that lion where it struck him.

It was but a wound; and not deadly, as soon appeared.

With long bounds the angry brute came on--lashing his tail, and showing
his fearful teeth.  His mane, now on end, seemed to have doubled his
size.  He looked as large as a bull!

In a _few_ seconds time he had crossed the distance that separated him
from the hunter, but the latter was gone far from that spot.  The moment
he had delivered his fire, he leaped upon his well-trained horse, and
rode off towards the others.

All three were for a short while together--Hendrik holding his yager
cocked and ready, while Swartboy grasped his bow and arrows.  But the
lion dashed forward before either could fire; and they were obliged to
spur and gallop out of his way.

Swartboy had ridden to one side, while Von Bloom and Hendrik took the
other; and the game was now between the two parties--both of which had
pulled up at some distance off.

The lion, after the failure of his charge, halted, and looked first at
one, then at the other--as if uncertain which to pursue.

His appearance at this moment was terrible beyond expression.  His whole
fierce nature was roused.  His mane stood erect--his tail lasher his
flanks--his mouth, widely open, showed the firm-set trenchant teeth--
their white spikes contrasting with the red blood that clotted his
cheeks and snout, while his angry roaring added horror to his
appearance.

But none of the three were terrified out of their senses.  Hendrik at
this moment covered him with his rifle, took cool aim, and fired; while
at the same instant Swartboy sent an arrow whistling through the air.

Both had aimed truly.  Both bullet and arrow struck; and the shaft of
the latter could be seen sticking in the lion's thigh.

The fierce brute that up to this time had exhibited the most determined
courage, now seemed overcome with a sudden fear.  Either the arrow or
one of the bullets must have sickened him with the combat; for, dropping
his mop-like tail to a level with the line of his back, he broke away;
and, trotting sulkily forward, sprang in at the door of the kraal!



CHAPTER TEN.

A LION IN THE TRAP.

There was something singular in the lion seeking shelter in so unusual a
place; but it showed his sagacity.  There was no other cover within
convenient distance, and to have reached any bush that would have
afforded him concealment, since the passage of the locusts, would have
been difficult.  The mounted hunters could easily have overtaken him,
had he attempted to run off.  He was aware that the house was
uninhabited.  He had been prowling around it all the night--perhaps
within it--and therefore knew what sort of place it was.

The brute's instinct was correct.  The walls of the house would protect
him from the guns of his enemies at a distance; and for these to
approach near would be his advantage and their danger.

An odd incident occurred as the lion entered the kraal.  There was a
large window in one end of the house.  Of course it was not glazed--it
never had been.  A glass window is a rarity in these parts.  A strong
wooden shutter alone closed it.  This was still hanging on its hinges,
but in the hurried "flitting," the window had been left open.  The door
also had been standing ajar.  As the lion sprang in at the latter, a
string of small foxy wolf-like creatures came pouring out through the
former, and ran with all their might across the plain.  They were
jackals!

As it afterwards appeared, one of the oxen had been chased into the
house either by lions or hyenas, and killed there.  His carcass had been
overlooked by the larger carnivora, and the cunning jackals had been
making a quiet breakfast upon it, when so unceremoniously disturbed.

The entrance of their terrible king in such angry mood, by the door,
caused the fox-wolves to beat a quick retreat by the window; and the
appearance of the horsemen without had still further frightened these
cowardly brutes, so that they ran away from the kraal at top speed, and
never halted until they were out of sight.

The three hunters could not restrain a laugh; but their tone was
suddenly changed by another incident that happened almost at the same
moment.

Von Bloom had brought with him his two fine dogs, to assist in driving
back the cattle.

During the short halt the party had made by the spring, these had
fastened upon a half-eaten carcass behind the walls; and, being
extremely hungry, had stuck to it, even after the horsemen, had ridden
off.  Neither of the dogs had seen the lion, until the moment when the
savage brute charged forward, and was making for the kraal.  The shots,
the growling of the lion, and the loud wings of the vultures as they
flew off affrighted, told the dogs that something was going on in front,
at which they ought to be present; and, forsaking their pleasant meal,
both came bounding over the walls.

They reached the open space in front, just as the lion leaped into the
door; and without hesitation the brave noble animals rushed on, and
followed him inside the house.

For some moments there was heard a confused chorus of noises--the
barking and worrying of the dogs, the growling and roaring of the lion.
Then a dull sound followed as of some heavy object dashed against the
wall.  Then came a mournful howl--another, another--a noise like the
cracking of bones--the "purr" of the great brute with its loud rough
bass--and then a deep silence.  The struggle was over.  This was
evident, as the dogs no longer gave tongue.  Most likely they were
killed.

The hunters remained watching the door with feelings of intense anxiety.
The laugh had died upon their lips, as they listened to those hideous
sounds, the signs of the fearful combat.  They called their dogs by
name.  They hoped to see them issue forth, even if wounded.  But no.
The dogs came not forth--they never came forth--they were dead!

A long-continued silence followed the noise of the conflict.  Von Bloom
could no longer doubt that his favourite and only dogs had been killed.

Excited by this new misfortune he almost lost prudence.  He was about to
rush forward to the door, where he might deliver his fire close to the
hated enemy, when a bright idea came into the brain of Swartboy; and the
Bushman was heard calling out,--

"Baas! baas! we shut him up! we close da skellum up."

There was good sense in this suggestion--there was plausibility in it.
Von Bloom saw this; and, desisting from his previous intention, he
determined to adopt Swartboy's plan.

But how was it to be executed?  The door still hung upon its hinges, as
also the window-shutter.  If they could only get hold of these, and shut
them fast, they would have the lion secure, and might destroy him at
their leisure.

But how to shut either door or window in safety?  That was the
difficulty that now presented itself.

Should they approach either, the lion would be certain to see them from
within; and, enraged as he now was, would be sure to spring upon them.
Even if they approached on horseback to effect their purpose, they would
not be much safer.  The horses would not stand quiet while they
stretched out to lay hold of latch or handle.  All three of the animals
were already dancing with excitement.  They knew the lion was inside, an
occasional growl announced his presence there--they would not approach
either door or window with sufficient coolness; and their stamping and
snorting would have the effect of bringing the angry beast out upon
them.

It was clear, then, that to shut either door or window would be an
operation of great danger.  So long as the horsemen were in open ground,
and at some distance from the lion, they had no cause to fear; but
should they approach near and get entangled among the walls, some one of
them would be most likely to fall a victim to the ferocious brute.

Low as may be the standard of a Bushman's intellect, there is a species
of it peculiar to him in which he appears to excel.  In all matters of
hunter-craft, his intelligence, or instinct you might almost call it, is
quite a match for the more highly--developed mind of the Caucasian.
This arises, no doubt, from the keen and frequent exercise of those
particular faculties,--keen and frequent, because his very existence
often depends on their successful employment.

Huge ill-shapen head as Swartboy carried on his shoulders, there was an
ample stock of brains in it; and a life of keen endeavour to keep his
stomach supplied had taught him their exercise.  At that moment
Swartboy's brains came to the relief of the party.

"Baas!" he said, endeavouring to restrain the impatience of his master,
"vyacht um bige, mein baas!  Leave it to da ole Bushy to close da door.
He do it."

"How?" inquired Von Bloom.

"Vyacht um bige, mein baas! no long to wait,--you see."

All three had ridden up together within less than an hundred yards of
the kraal.  Von Bloom and Hendrik sat silent, and watched the
proceedings of the Bushman.

The latter drew from his pocket a clew of small cord, and, having
carefully uncoiled it, attached one end to an arrow.  He then rode up to
within thirty yards of the house, and dismounted--not directly opposite
the entrance, but a little to the one side--so that the face of the
wooden door, which was fortunately but three-quarters open, was thus
fair before him.  Keeping the bridle over his arm, he now bent his bow,
and sent the arrow into the woodwork of the door.  There it was,
sticking near the edge, and just under the latch!

As soon as Swartboy delivered the shaft, he had leaped back into his
saddle--to be ready for retreat in case the lion should spring out.  He
still, however, kept hold of the string, one end of which was attached
to the arrow.

The "thud" of the arrow, as it struck the door, had drawn the attention
of the lion.  Of course, none of them saw him, but his angry growl told
them that it was so.  He did not show himself, however, and was again
silent.

Swartboy now drew the string taut,--first felt it with a steady pull;
and then, satisfied of its strength, gave it a stronger jerk, and
brought the door to.  The latch acted beautifully, and the door remained
shut even after the strain was taken off the cord.

To have opened the door now the lion must have had the sagacity to lift
the latch, or else must have broken through the thick, strong planks--
neither of which was to be feared.

But the window still remained open, and through it the lion could easily
leap out.  Swartboy, of course, designed closing it in the same manner
as he had done the door.

But now arose a particular danger.  He had only one piece of cord.  That
was attached to the arrow that still stuck fast.  How was he to detach
and get possession of it?

There appeared to be no other way but by going up to the door and
cutting it from the shaft.  In this lay the danger; for, should the lion
perceive him and rush out by the window, it would be all over with the
Bushman.

Like most of his race, Swartboy was more cunning than brave--though he
was far from being a coward.  Still he was by no means inclined at that
moment to go up to the door of the kraal.

The angry growls from within would have made a stouter heart than
Swartboy's quail with fear.

In this dilemma Hendrik came to his relief.  Hendrik had conceived a way
of getting possession of the string, without going near the door!

Calling to Swartboy to be on his guard, he rode within thirty yards of
the entrance--but on the other side from where Swartboy was--and there
halted.  At the place there stood a post with several forks upon it,
that had been used as a bridle-post.

Hendrik dismounted, hooked his rein over one of these forks; rested his
yager across another; and then, sighting the shaft of the arrow, pulled
trigger.  The rifle cracked, the broken stick was seen to fly out from
the door, and the string was set free!

All were ready to gallop off; but the lion, although he growled fiercely
on hearing the shot, still lay close.

Swartboy now drew in the string; and, having adjusted it to a fresh
arrow, moved round so as to command a view of the window.  In a few
minutes the shaft had cut through the air and stuck deep into the
yielding wood, and then the shutter swung round on its hinges and was
drawn close.

All three now dismounted ran silently and rapidly up, and secured both
door and shutter with strong reins of raw-hide.

Hurrah! the lion was caged!



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE DEATH OF THE LION.

Yes, the fierce brute was fairly in the trap.  The three hunters
breathed freely.

But how was the affair to end?  Both door and window-shutter fitted
strongly and closely; and, although it was possible to glance through
the chinks, nothing could be seen inside--since, both being shut, it was
quite dark within.

Even could the lion have been seen, there was no hole through which to
thrust the muzzle of a gun and fire at him.  He was just as safe as his
captors; and, so long as the door remained closed, they could do him no
more harm than he could them!

They might leave him shut up, and let him starve.  He could live for a
while upon what the jackals had left, with the carcasses of the two
dogs, but that would not sustain him long, and in the end he would have
to give up and miserably perish.  After all, this did not seem so
certain to Von Bloom and his companions.  Finding that he was caged in
earnest, the brute might attack the door, and with his sharp claws and
teeth manage to cut his way through.

But the angry field-cornet had not the slightest intention of leaving
the lion such a chance.  He was determined to destroy the beast before
leaving the ground; and he now set to thinking how this could be
accomplished in the speediest and most effectual manner.

At first he thought of cutting a hole in the door with his knife, large
enough to see through and admit the barrel of his roer.  Should he not
succeed in getting a view of the beast through that one, he would make
another in the window-shutter.  The two being on adjacent sides of the
house, would give him the command of the whole interior--for the former
dwelling of the field-cornet comprised only a single apartment.  During
his residence there, there had been two, thanks to a partition of
zebra-skins; but these had been removed, and all was now in one room.

At first Von Bloom could think of no other plan to get at the enemy, and
yet this one did not quite please him.  It was safe enough, and, if
carried out, could only end in the death of the lion.

A hole in both door and window-shutter would enable them to fire at the
brute as many bullets as they pleased, while they would be quite secure
from his attack.  But the _time_ that would be required to cut these
holes--that was why the plan did not please the field-cornet.  He and
his party had no time to spare: their horses were weak with hunger, and
a long journey lay before them ere a morsel could be obtained.  No,--the
time could not be spared for making a breach.  Some more expeditious
mode of attack must be devised.

"Father," said Hendrik, "suppose we set the house on fire?"

Good.  The suggestion was a good one.  Von Bloom cast his eyes up to the
roof--a sloping structure with long eaves.  It consisted of heavy beams
of dry wood with rafters and laths, and all covered over with a thatch
of rushes, a foot in thickness.  It would make a tremendous blaze, and
the smoke would be likely enough to suffocate the lion even before the
blaze could get at him.  The suggestion of Hendrik was adopted.  They
prepared to fire the house.

There was still a large quantity of rubbish,--the collected firewood
which the locusts had not devoured.  This would enable them to carry out
their purpose; and all three immediately set about hauling it up, and
piling it against the door.

One might almost have fancied that the lion had fathomed their design;
for, although he had been for a long while quite silent, he now
commenced a fresh spell of roaring.  Perhaps the noise of the logs,
striking against the door outside, had set him at it; and, finding
himself thus shut up and baited, he had grown impatient.  What he had
sought as a _shelter_ had been turned into a _trap_, and he was now
anxious to get out of it.  This was evident by the demonstrations he
began to make.  They could hear him rushing about--passing from door to
window--striking both with his huge paws, and causing them to shake upon
their hinges--all the while uttering the most fiendish roars.

Though not without some apprehensions, the three continued their work.
They had their horses at hand, ready to be mounted in case the lion
might make his way through the fire.  In fact, they intended to take to
their saddles--as soon as the fire should be fairly under way--and watch
the conflagration from a safe distance.

They had dragged up all the bush and dry wood, and had piled them in
front of the door.  Swartboy had taken out his flint and steel, and was
about to strike, when a loud scratching was heard from the inside,
unlike anything that had yet reached their ears.  It was the rattling of
the lion's claws against the wall, but it had an odd sound as if the
animal was struggling violently; at the same time his voice seemed
hoarse and smothered, and appeared to come from a distance.

What was the brute doing?

They stood for a moment, looking anxiously in each other's faces.  The
scratching continued--the hoarse growling at intervals--but this ended
at length; and then came a snort, followed by a roar so loud and clear,
that all three started in airtight.  They could not believe that trails
were between them and their dangerous enemy!

Again echoed that horrid cry.  Great Heaven!  It proceeded no longer
from the inside--it came from above them!  Was the lion upon the roof?
All three rushed backward a step or two, and looked up.  A sight was
before them that rendered them almost speechless with surprise and
terror.  Above the funnel of the chimney appeared the head of the lion;
his glaring yellow eyes and white teeth showing more fearful from
contrast with the black soot that begrimed him.  He was dragging his
body up.  One foot was already above the capstone; and with this and his
teeth he was widening the aperture around him.

It was a terrible sight to behold--at least to those below.

As already stated, they _were_ alarmed; and would have taken to their
horses, had they not perceived that the animal had _stuck fast_!

It was evident that this was the case, but it was equally evident that
in a few moments he would succeed in clearing himself from the chimney.
His teeth and claws were hard at work, and the stones and mortar were
flying in all directions.  The funnel would soon be down below his broad
chest, and then--

Von Bloom did not stay to think what then.  He and Hendrik, guns in
hand, ran up near the bottom of the wall.  The chimney was but a score
of feet in height; the long roer was pointed upward, reaching nearly
half that distance.  The yager was also aimed.  Both cracked together.
The lion's eyes suddenly closed, his head shook convulsively, his paw
dropped loose over the capstone, his jaws fell open, and blood trickled
down his tongue.  In a few moments he was dead!

This was apparent to every one.  But Swartboy was not satisfied, until
he had discharged about a score of his arrows at the head of the animal,
causing it to assume the appearance of a porcupine.

So tightly had the huge beast wedged himself, that even after death he
still remained in his singular situation.

Under other circumstances he would have been dragged down for the sake
of his skin.  But there was no time to spare for skinning him; and
without further delay, Von Bloom and his companions mounted their horses
and rode off.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

A TALK ABOUT LIONS.

As they rode back they conversed about lions, to beguile the time.  All
of them knew something about these animals; but Swartboy, who had been
born and brought up in the bush, in the very midst of their haunts as it
were, of course was well acquainted with their habits--ay, far better
than Monsieur Buffon himself.

To describe the personal appearance of a lion would be to waste words.
Every one of my readers must know the lion by sight, either from having
seen one in a zoological collection, or the stuffed skin of one in a
museum.  Every one knows the form of the animal, and his great shaggy
mane.  Every one knows, moreover, that the lioness is without this
appendage, and in shape and size differs considerably from the male.

Though there are not two _species_ of lions, there are what are termed
_varieties_, but these differ very little from each other--far less than
the varieties of most other animals.

There are seven acknowledged varieties.  The Barbary lion, the lion of
Senegal, the Indian lion, the Persian, the yellow Cape, the black Cape,
and the maneless lion.

The difference among these animals is not so great, but that at a glance
any one may tell they were all of one species and kind.  The Persian
variety is rather smaller than the others; the Barbary is of darker
brown and heavily maned; the lion of Senegal is of light shining yellow
colour, and thinly maned; while the maneless lion, as its name imports,
is without this appendage.  The existence of the last species is doubted
by some naturalists.  It is said to be found in Syria.

The two Cape lions differ principally in the colour of the mane.  In the
one it is black or dark brown--in the other of a tawny yellow, like the
rest of the body.

Of all lions, those of South Africa are perhaps the largest, and the
black variety the most fierce and dangerous.

Lions inhabit the whole continent of Africa, and the southern countries
of Asia.  They were once common in parts of Europe, where they exist no
longer.  There are no lions in America.  The animal known in
Spanish-American countries as the lion (_leon_) is the cougar or puma
(_Felis concolor_), which is not one-third the lion's size, and
resembles the king of beasts only in being of the same tawny colour.
The puma is not unlike a lion's cub six months old.

Africa is peculiarly the country of the lion.  He is found throughout
the whole extent of that continent--excepting of course a few thickly
inhabited spots, from which he has been expelled by man.

The lion has been called the "king of the forest."  This appears to be a
misnomer.  He is not properly a _forest_ animal.  He cannot climb trees,
and therefore in the forest would less easily procure his food than in
the open plain.  The panther, the leopard, and the jaguar, are all
tree-climbers.  They can follow the bird to its roost, and the monkey to
its perch.  The forest is their appropriate home.  They are forest
animals.  Not so the lion.  It is upon the open plains--where the great
ruminants love to roam, and among the low bushy thickets that skirt
them, that the lion affects to dwell.

He lives upon flesh,--the flesh of many kinds of animals, though he has
his favourites, according to the country in which he is found.  He kills
these animals for himself.  The story of the jackal being his
"provider,"--killing them for him,--is not true.  More frequently he
himself provides the skulking jackals with a meal.  Hence their being
often seen in his company--which they keep, in order to pick up his
"crumbs."

The lion "butchers" for himself, though he will not object to have it
done for him; and will take away their game from wolf, jackal, or
hyena--from the hunter if he can.

The lion is not a fast runner--none of the true _felidae_ are.  Nearly
all the ruminant animals can outrun him.  How, then, does he capture
them?

By stratagem, by the suddenness of his attack, and by the length and
velocity of his bound.  He lies in wait, or steals upon them.  He
springs from his crouching place.  His peculiar anatomical structure
enables him to spring to an immense distance--in fact, to an almost
incredible distance.  Sixteen paces have been alleged by writers, who
say they were eye-witnesses, and carefully measured the leap!

Should he fail to capture his prey at the first bound, the lion follows
it no farther, but turns and trots away in an opposite direction.

Sometimes, however, the intended victim tempts him to a second spring,
and even to a third; but failing then, he is sure to give up the
pursuit.

The lion is not gregarious, although as many as ten or a dozen are often
seen together.  They hunt in company at times, and drive the game
towards one another!

They attack and destroy all other species of animals that inhabit the
country around them--even the strong heavy rhinoceros is not feared by
them, though the latter frequently foils and conquers them.  Young
elephants sometimes become their prey.  The fierce buffalo, the giraffe,
the oryx, the huge eland, and the eccentric gnoo, all have to succumb to
their superior strength and armature.

But they are not universally victorious over these animals.  Sometimes
they are vanquished by one or other of them, and in turn become victims.
Sometimes both combatants leave their bodies upon the scene of the
struggle.

The lion is not hunted as a profession.  His spoils are worthless.  His
skin sells for but little, and he yields no other trophy of any value.
As hunting him is attended with great danger, and the hunter, as already
stated, may avoid him if he wishes, but few lions would be destroyed,
were it not for a certain offensive habit to which they are addicted--
that of robbing the vee-boor of his horses and his cattle.  This brings
a new passion into play,--the vengeance of the farmer; and with such a
motive to urge on the hunt, the lion in some parts is chased with great
zeal and assiduity.

But where there are no cattle-farms, no such motive exists; and there
but little interest is felt in the chase of this animal.  Nay, what is
still stranger: the Bushmen and other poor wandering tribes do not kill
the lion at all, or very seldom.  They do not regard him with feelings
of hostility.  The lion acts towards _them_ as a "provider!"

Hendrik, who had heard of this, asked Swartboy if it was true.

The Bushman answered at once in the affirmative.

His people, he said, were in the habit of watching the lion, or
following his spoor, until they came upon either himself, or the quarry
he had killed.  Sometimes the vultures guided them to it.  When the
"tao" chanced to be on the spot, or had not yet finished his meal, his
trackers would wait, until he had taken his departure, after which they
would steal up and appropriate what remained of the spoil.  Often this
would be the half, or perhaps three parts of some large animal, which
they might have found a difficulty in killing for themselves.

Knowing the lion will rarely attack them, the Bushmen are not much
afraid of these animals.  On the contrary, they rather rejoice at seeing
them numerous in their district, as they are then provided with hunters
able to _furnish_ them with food!



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE TRAVELLERS BENIGHTED.

Our travellers would have talked much more about lions, but for the
condition of their horses.  This made them feel uneasy.  With the
exception of a few hours grazing, the poor brutes had been without food
since the appearance of the locusts.  Horses do not travel well upon
soft grass, and of course they were now suffering severely.

It would be far in the night before the horsemen could reach the camp--
although they were pushing on as fast as the horses could travel.

It was quite dark, when they arrived at the spot where they had halted
the previous evening.  In fact, it was very dark.  Neither moon nor
stars were to be seen in the sky; and thick black clouds covered the
whole canopy of the heavens.  It looked as though a rain-storm might be
expected--still no rain had as yet fallen.

It was the intention of the travellers to halt at this place, and let
their horses graze a while.  With this view they all dismounted; but,
after trying one or two places, they could find no grass!

This appeared strange, as they had certainly observed grass at that very
spot the day before.  Now there was none!

The horses put their noses to the ground, but raised them up again,
snorting as they did so, and evidently disappointed.  They were hungry
enough to have eaten grass had there been any, for they eagerly snatched
at the leaves of the bushes as they passed along!

Had the locusts been there also?  No.  The mimosa-bushes still retained
their delicate foliage, which would not have been the case had the
locusts visited the spot.

Our travellers were astonished that there was no grass.  Surely there
was some the day before?  Had they got upon a new track?

The darkness prevented them from having a view of the ground; yet Von
Bloom could not be mistaken about the route--having travelled it four
times already.  Though he could not see the surface, every now and again
he caught a glimpse of some tree or bush, which he had marked in his
former journeys, and these assured him they were still upon the right
track.

Surprised at the absence of grass where they had so lately observed it,
they would have examined the surface more carefully; but they were
anxious to push on to the spring, and at length gave up the idea of
halting.  The water in their gourds had been used up long before this;
and both they and their horses were once more suffering from thirst.

Besides, Von Bloom was not without some anxiety about the children at
the wagon.  He had been separated from them now a full day and a half,
and many a change might take place--many a danger might arise in that
time.  In fact, he began to blame himself for having left them alone.
It would have been better to have let his cattle perish.  So thought he
now.  A presentiment that all was not right was gradually forming in his
mind; and he grew more anxious to proceed as he reflected.

They rode on in silence.  It was only on Hendrik expressing a doubt
about the way, that the conversation recommenced.  Swartboy also thought
they were taking a wrong course.

At first Von Bloom assured them they were right: but after going a
little farther, he admitted that he was in doubt; and then, after
another half-mile's travelling, he declared that he had lost the track.
He could no longer recognise any one of the marks or bearings he had
taken.

The proper thing to be done under these circumstances was to leave the
horses to themselves; and this all three well knew.  But the animals
were suffering the pangs of hunger, and when left to themselves, would
not journey forward, but rushed up to the mimosa-bushes, and eagerly
commenced devouring their leaves.

The consequence was, that their riders were obliged to keep them going
with whip and spur; and in that way there was no certainty of the horses
taking the right direction.

After several hours' advancing, all the while in a state of suspense,
and as yet no appearance of either wagon or camp-fire, the travellers
resolved upon coming to a halt.  It was of no use going forward.  They
believed they could not be far from the camp; but they were now as
likely to be riding _from_ as _towards_ it; and they concluded at
length, that it would be wiser to remain where they were until the day
broke.

They all dismounted therefore, and fastened their horses to the bushes--
so that the animals could browse upon the leaves till morning--which
could not now be very far off.  They rolled themselves up in their
karosses, and lay down upon the earth.

Hendrik and Swartboy were soon asleep.  Von Bloom would have slept too,
for he was tired enough; but the heart of the father was too full of
anxiety to allow repose to his eyes, and he lay awake watching for the
dawn.

It came at length, and at the first light his eyes swept the surface of
the surrounding country.  The party had by chance halted on an eminence
that commanded a good view for miles on each side, but the field-cornet
had not glanced half around the circle, when an object came before his
eyes that brought gladness to his heart.  It was the white tent of the
wagon!

The joyful exclamation he uttered awoke the sleepers, who immediately
sprang to their feet; and all three stood gazing at the welcome sight.

As they continued to gaze, their joy gradually gave place to feelings of
surprise.  Was it _their_ wagon, after all?

It certainly looked like theirs; but it was a full half-mile off, and at
such a distance one wagon would look just like another.  But what led
them to doubt its being theirs?  It was the _appearance of the place in
which they saw it_.  Surely it was not the same place in which they had
outspanned!

Theirs had been left in an oblong valley between two gentle ridges--in
such a valley was this one standing.  Near a small pool formed by a
spring--here, too, was the same, for they could perceive the water
shining.  But in all other respects the situation was different.  The
surface of the valley in which their wagon had been left was covered,
both sides and bottom, with a verdant carpet of grass; whereas the one
now before their eyes was brown and bare! not a blade of grass was to be
seen--the trees seeming to be the only things that had any verdure.
Even the low bushes appeared to be destitute of leaves!  The scene had
no resemblance whatever to that where they had outspanned.  It must be
the camp of some other travellers, thought they.

They had fully arrived at this conclusion, when Swartboy, whose eyes had
been rolling about everywhere, now rested upon the ground at his feet.
After a moment's observation--which the increasing light now enabled him
to make--he turned suddenly to the others, and directed their attention
to the surface of the plain.  This they saw was covered with tracks, as
if a thousand hoofs had passed over it.  In fact, it presented the
appearance of a vast sheep-pen; so vast, that as far as their sight
extended, they beheld the same tracked and trampled appearance!

What could this mean?  Hendrik did not know.  Von Bloom was in doubt.
Swartboy could tell at the first glance.  It was no new sight to him.

"All right, baas," he said, looking up in his master's face.  "Da's da
ole wagon!--da same spring an' vley--da same place--dar hab been um
_trek-boken_!"

"A trek-boken!" cried Von Bloom and Hendrik, in a breath.

"Ya, baas--a mighty big one too; das de spoor of dem antelope--See!"

Von Bloom now comprehended all.  The bareness of the country, the
absence of the leaves on the lower bushes, the millions of small
hoof-tracks, all were now explained.  A migration of the springbok
antelope, a "trek-boken," had swept over the spot.  That it was that had
caused such a mighty change.  The wagon they saw was theirs, after all.

They lost no time, but, catching their horses, bridled them, and rode
rapidly down the hill.

Though somewhat relieved at seeing the wagon, Von Bloom was still
apprehensive.

As they approached, they perceived the two horses standing beside it,
and tied to the wheels, the cow also was there--but neither goats nor
sheep were in the neighbourhood.

There was a fire burning in the rear of the hind-wheels, and a dark mass
underneath the wagon, but no human form could be observed.

The hearts of the horsemen beat loudly as they advanced.  Their eyes
were bent earnestly upon the wagon.  They felt keen anxiety.

They had got within three hundred yards, and still no one stirred--no
human form made its appearance.  Von Bloom and Hendrik now suffered
intensely.

At this moment the two horses by the wagon neighed loudly; the dark mass
under the wagon moved, rolled outward, rose up, and stood erect.  Totty
was recognised!

And now the "after-clap" of the wagon was hurriedly drawn aside, and
three young faces were seen peeping forth.

A shout of joy burst from the horsemen, and the next moment little Jan
and Truey leaped out from the cap-tent into the arms of their father--
while the mutual congratulations of Hans and Hendrik, Swartboy and
Totty, produced for some moments a scene of joyful confusion quite
indescribable.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE "TREK-BOKEN."

Those who remained by the camp had had their adventures too; and their
tale was by no means a merry one, for it disclosed the unpleasant fact,
that the sheep and goats were all lost.  The flock had been carried off,
in a most singular manner; and there was but little hope of their ever
being seen again.

Hans began his tale:--

"Nothing unusual occurred on the day you left us.  I was busy all the
afternoon in cutting `wait-a-bit' thorns for a kraal.  Totty helped me
to drag them up, while Jan and Truey looked after the flock.  The
animals did not stray out of the valley here, as the grass was good, and
they had had enough of trotting lately.

"Well--Totty and I got the kraal, as you see, all ready.  So, when night
came, we drove the flock in; and, after milking the cow and getting our
supper, we all went to bed.  We were precious tired, and all of us slept
soundly throughout the night without being disturbed.  Both jackals and
hyenas came around, but we knew they would not break into that kraal."

Hans pointed to the circular enclosure of thorn-bushes, that had been
well constructed.

He then proceeded with his narration:--

"In the morning we found everything right.  Totty again milked the cow;
and we had breakfast.  The flock was let out upon the grass, and so were
the cow and the two horses.

"Just about midday I began to think what we were to have for dinner, for
the breakfast had cleared up everything.  I did not like to kill another
sheep, if it could be helped.  So bidding Jan and Truey stay close by
the wagon, and leaving Totty to look after the flock, I took my gun and
started off in search of game.  I took no horse, for I thought I saw
springboks out on the plain; and I would stalk them better afoot.

"Sure enough, there _were_ springboks.  When I got out of the valley
here, and had a better view, I saw what astonished me, I can assure you.

"I could scarce credit my eyes.  The whole plain, towards the west,
appeared to be one vast crowd of animals; and by their bright yellow
sides, and the snow-white hair on their rumps, I knew they were
springboks.  They were all in motion, some browsing along, while
hundreds of them were constantly bounding up into the air full ten feet
high, and leaping a-top of each other.  I assure you all it was tone of
the strangest sights I ever beheld, and one of the pleasantest too; for
I knew that the creatures that covered the plain, instead of being
fierce wild beasts, were nothing but graceful and beautiful little
gazelles.

"My first thought was to get near them, and have a shot; and I was about
to start off over the plain, when I perceived that the antelopes were
coming towards me.  I saw that they were approaching with considerable
rapidity; and if I only remained where I was, they would save me the
trouble of stalking in upon them.  I lay down behind a bush and waited.

"I had not very long to wait.  In less than a quarter of an hour the
foremost of the herd drew near, and in five minutes more a score of them
were within shot.

"I did not fire for some time.  I knew they would come still nearer; and
I lay watching the motions of those pretty creatures.  I took notice of
their light handsome forms, their smooth slender limbs, their
cinnamon-coloured backs, and white bellies, with the band of chestnut
along each side.  I looked at the lyre-shaped horns of the bucks, and
above all, at the singular flaps on their croup, that unfolded each time
that they leaped up, displaying a profusion of long silky hair, as white
as snow itself.

"All these points I noticed, and at length, tired of admiring them, I
singled out a fine-looking doe--for I was thinking of my dinner, and
knew that doe-venison was the most palatable.

"After aiming carefully, I fired.  The doe fell, but, to my
astonishment, the others did not run off.  A few of the foremost only
galloped back a bit, or bounded up into the air; but they again set to
browsing quite unconcerned, and the main body advanced as before!

"I loaded as quickly as I could, and brought down another,--this time a
buck--but as before without frightening the rest!

"I proceeded to load for the third time; but before I had finished, the
front ranks had passed on both sides of me, and I found myself in the
midst of the herd!

"I saw no need for covering myself any longer behind the bush, but rose
to my knees, and, firing at the nearest, brought it down also.  Its
comrades did not pause, but ran over its body in thousands!

"I loaded again, and stood right up on my feet.

"Now for the first time it occurred to me to reflect on the strange
conduct of the springboks; for, instead of making off at my appearance,
they only bounded a little to one side, and then kept on their course.
They seemed possessed by a species of infatuation.  I remembered hearing
that such was their way when upon one of their migrations, or
`trek-bokens.'  This, then, thought I, must be a `trek-boken.'

"I was soon convinced of this, for the herd every moment grew thicker
and thicker around me, until at length they became so crowded, that I
began to feel very singularly situated.  Not that I was afraid of the
creatures, as they made no demonstration of using their horns upon me.
On the contrary, they did all they could to get out of my way.  But the
nearest only were alarmed; and, as my presence in no way terrified those
that were an hundred yards off, the latter made no attempt to give
ground.  Of course the nearest ones could only get a few paces from me,
by pushing the others closer, or springing up over their backs--so that
with the ones thus constantly bounding up into the air there was all the
time a ring around me two deep!

"I cannot describe the strange feelings I had in this unusual situation,
or how long I might have kept my place.  Perhaps I might have loaded and
fired away for some time, but just at the moment the sheep came into my
mind.

"They'll be carried away, thought I.  I had heard that such a thing was
common enough.

"I saw that the antelopes were heading towards the valley--the foremost
were already into it, and would soon be on the spot, where I had just
seen our little flock feeding!

"In hopes of yet heading the springboks, and driving the sheep into the
kraal, before the former crowded on them, I started towards the valley.
But, to my chagrin, I could get no faster than the herd was going!

"As I approached the creatures, to make my way through their mass, they
leaped about and sprang over one another, but could not for their lives
open a way for me as fast as I wanted one.  I was so near some of them
that I could have knocked them down with my gun!

"I commenced hallooing, and, brandishing the gun about, I was making a
lane more rapidly, when I perceived in front what appeared to be a large
open space.  I pushed forward for this, but the nearer I came to its
border the more densely I found the creatures packed.  I could only see
that it was an open space by leaping up.  I did not know what was
causing it.  I did not stay to reflect.  I only wished to get forward as
rapidly as possible, thinking about our flock.

"I continued to clear my way, and at length found myself in the position
I had coveted; while the lane I had made, in getting there, closed
instantaneously behind me.  I was about to rush on, and take advantage
of the bit of clear ground, when, what should I see in the centre, and
directly before me, but a great yellow lion!

"That accounted for the break in the herd.  Had I known what had been
causing it, I should have fought my way in any other direction but that;
but there was I, out in the open ground, the lion not ten paces from me,
and a fence of springboks two deep around both of us!

"I need not say I was frightened, and badly too.  I did not for some
moments know how to act.  My gun was still loaded--for, after thinking
of saving our little flock, I did not care to empty it at the antelopes.
I could get one, thought I, at any time when I had secured the sheep in
the kraal.  The piece, therefore, was loaded and with bullets.

"Should I take aim at the lion, and fire?  I asked myself this question,
and was just on the point of deciding in the affirmative, when I
reflected that it would be imprudent.  I observed that the lion, whose
back was turned to me, had either not seen, or as yet took no notice of
me.  Should I only wound him--and from the position he was in I was not
likely to do more,--how then?  I would most likely be torn to pieces.

"These were my reflections, all of which scarce occupied a second of
time.  I was about to `back out' or back in among the springboks, and
make my way in some other direction, and had even got near the edge,
when, in looking over my shoulder, I saw the lion suddenly halt and turn
round.  I halted too, knowing that to be the safest plan; and, as I did
so, I glanced back at the lion's eyes.

"To my relief, I saw they were not upon _me_.  He seemed to have taken
some fancy in his head.  His appetite, perhaps, had returned; for the
next moment he ran a few yards, and then, rising with a terrific bound,
launched himself far into the herd, and came down right upon the back of
one of the antelopes!  The others sprang right and left, and a new space
was soon opened around him.

"He was now nearer than ever to where I stood, and I could see him
distinctly crouched over his victim.  His claws held its quivering body,
and his long teeth grasped the poor creature by the neck.  But, with the
exception of his tail, he was making not the slightest motion, and that
vibrated gently from side to side, just as a kitten that had caught a
tiny mouse.  I could see, too, that his eyes were close shut, as though
he were asleep!

"Now I had heard that under such circumstances the lion may be
approached without much danger.  Not that I wished to go any nearer--for
I was near enough for my gun--but it was this recollection, I believe,
that put me in the notion of firing.  At all events, something whispered
me I would succeed, and I could not resist trying.

"The broad blind jaw of the brute was fair before me.  I took aim, and
pulled trigger; but, instead of waiting to see the effect of my shot, I
ran right off in an opposite direction.

"I did not halt till I had put several _acres_ of antelopes between
myself and the place where I had last stood; and then I made the best of
my way to the wagon.

"Long before I had reached it, I could see that Jan, and Truey, and
Totty, were safe under the tent.  That gave me pleasure, but I also saw
that the sheep and goats had got mixed up with the springboks, and were
moving off with them as if they belonged to the same species!  I fear
they are all lost."

"And the lion?" inquired Hendrik.

"Yonder he lies!" answered Hans, modestly pointing to a yellow mass out
upon the plain, over which the vultures were already beginning to hover.
"Yonder he lies, you could hardly have done it better yourself, brother
Hendrik."

As Hans said this, he smiled in such a manner as to show, that he had no
idea of making a boast of his achievements.

Hendrik was loud in acknowledging that it was a most splendid feat, and
also in regretting that he had not been on the ground to witness the
wonderful migration of the springboks.

But there was no time for much idle talk.  Von Bloom and his party were
in a very unpleasant situation.  His flocks were all gone.  The cow and
horses alone remained; and for these not a blade of grass had been left
by the antelopes.  Upon what were they to be fed?

To follow the spoor of the migratory springboks with the hope of
recovering their flock would be quite useless.  Swartboy assured them of
this.  The poor animals might be carried hundreds of miles before they
could separate themselves from the great herd, or bring their
involuntary journey to an end!

The horses could travel but little farther.  There was nought to feed
them on but the leaves of the mimosas, and this was but poor food for
hungry horses.  It would be fortunate if they could be kept alive until
they should reach some pasture; and where now was pasture to be found?
Locusts and antelopes between them seemed to have turned all Africa into
a desert!

The field-cornet soon formed his resolution.  He would remain there for
the night, and early on the morrow set out in search of some other
spring.

Fortunately Hans had not neglected to secure a brace of the springboks;
and their fat venison now came into general use.  A roast of that, and a
drink of cool water from the spring, soon refreshed the three wearied
travellers.

The horses were let loose among the mimosa-trees, and allowed to shift
for themselves; and although under ordinary circumstances they would
have "turned up their noses" at such food as mimosa-leaves, they now
turned them up in a different sense, and cleared the thorny branches
like so many giraffes.

Some naturalist of the "Buffon" school has stated that neither wolf,
fox, hyena, nor jackal, will eat the carcass of a lion,--that their fear
of the royal despot continues even after his death.

The field-cornet and his family had proof of the want of truth in this
assertion.  Before many hours both jackals and hyenas attacked the
carcass of the king of beasts, and in a very short while there was not a
morsel of him there but his bones.  Even his tawny skin was swallowed by
these ravenous creatures, and many of the bones broken by the strong
jaws of the hyenas.  The respect which these brutes entertain for the
lion ends with his life.  When dead, he is eaten by them with as much
audacity as if he were the meanest of animals.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

SPOORING FOR A SPRING.

Von Bloom was in the saddle at an early hour.  Swartboy accompanied him,
while all the others remained by the wagon to await his return.  They
took with them the two horses that had remained by the wagon, as these
were fresher than the others.

They rode nearly due westward.  They were induced to take this direction
by observing that the springboks had come from the north.  By heading
westward they believed they would sooner get beyond the wasted
territory.

To their great satisfaction an hour's travelling carried them clear of
the track of the antelope migration; and although they found no water,
there was excellent grass.

The field-cornet now sent Swartboy back for the other horses and the
cow, pointing out a place where he should bring them to graze, while he
himself continued on in search of water.

After travelling some miles farther, Von Bloom perceived to the north of
him a long line of cliff rising directly up from the plain, and running
westward as far as he could see.  Thinking that water would be more
likely to be found near these cliffs, he turned his horse's head towards
them.  As he approached nearer to their base, he was charmed with the
beautiful scenery that began to open before his eyes.  He passed through
grassy plains of different sizes, separated from each other by copses of
the delicate-leaved mimosa; some of these forming large thickets, while
others consisted of only a few low bushes.  Towering high over the
mimosas, grew many trees of gigantic size, and of a species Von Bloom
had never seen before.  They stood thinly upon the ground; but each,
with its vast leafy head, seemed a little forest of itself.

The whole country around had a soft park-like appearance, which
contrasted well with the dark cliff that rose beyond--the latter
stepping up from the plain by a precipice of several hundred feet in
height, and seemingly as vertical as the walls of a house.

The fine landscape was gratifying to the eyes of the traveller--such a
fine country in the midst of so much barrenness; for he knew that most
of the surrounding region was little better than a wild karoo.  The
whole of it to the north for hundreds of miles was a famous desert--the
desert of Kalihari--and these cliffs were a part of its southern border.
The "vee-boor" would have been rejoiced at such a sight under other
circumstances.  But what to him now were all these fine pastures--now
that he was no longer able to stock them?

Notwithstanding the beauty of the scene, his reflections were painful.

But he did not give way to despair.  His present troubles were
sufficiently grievous to prevent him from dwelling much on the future.
His first care was to find a place where his horses might be recruited;
for without them he could no longer move anywhere--without them he would
be helpless indeed.

Water was the desired object.  If water could not be found, all this
beautiful park through which he was passing would be as valueless to him
as the brown desert.

Surely so lovely a landscape could not exist without that most essential
element!

So thought the field-cornet; and at the turning of every new grove his
eyes wandered over the ground in search of it.

"_Ho_!" he joyfully exclaimed as a covey of large Namaqua partridges
whirred up from his path.  "A good sign that: _they_ are seldom far from
water."

Shortly after, he saw a flock of beautiful pintados, or guinea-hens,
running into a copse.  This was a still further proof that water was
nigh.  But surest of all, on the top of a tall _cameel-doorn_ tree, he
next observed the brilliant plumage of a parrot.

"Now," muttered he to himself, "I must be very near to some spring or
pool."

He rode cheerfully forward: and after a little while arrived upon the
crest of an elevated ridge.  Here he halted to observe the flight of the
birds.  Presently he noticed a covey of partridges flying in a westerly
direction, and shortly after, another covey going the same way.  Both
appeared to alight near a gigantic tree that grew in the plain about
five hundred yards from the bottom of the cliffs.  This tree stood apart
from any of the others, and was by far the largest Von Bloom had yet
seen.

As he remained gazing at its wonderful dimensions, he observed several
pairs of parrots alighting upon it.  These, after chattering a while
among its branches, flew down upon the plain not far from its base.

"Surely," thought Von Bloom, "there must be water there.  I shall ride
forward and see."

But his horse had scarcely waited for him to form this design.  The
animal had been already dragging upon the bridle; and as soon as his
head was turned in the direction of the tree, he started forward with
outstretched neck, snorting as he rushed along.

The rider, trusting to the instinct of his horse, surrendered up the
bridle; and in less than five minutes both horse and rider were drinking
from the sweet water of a crystal fountain that gushed out within a
dozen yards of the tree.

The field-cornet would now have hastened back to the wagon: but he
thought that by allowing his horse to browse an hour or so upon the
grass, he would make the return-journey with more spirit, and in quite
as good time.  He, therefore, took off the bridle, gave the animal his
liberty, while he stretched himself under the shade of the great tree.

As he lay, he could not help admiring the wonderful production of nature
that towered majestically above him.  It was one of the largest trees he
had ever beheld.  It was of the kind known as the "nwana" tree, a
species of _ficus_, with large sycamore-shaped leaves that grew thickly
over its magnificent head.  Its trunk was full twenty-feet in diameter,
rising to more than that height without a branch, and then spreading off
into numerous limbs that stretched far out in a horizontal direction.
Through the thick foliage Von Bloom could perceive shining egg-shaped
fruits as large as cocoa-nuts; and upon these the parrots and several
other kinds of birds appeared to be feeding.

Other trees of the same species stood out upon the plain at long
distances apart; and though they were all taller than the surrounding
timber, none were so large or conspicuous as the one that grew by the
spring.

The field-cornet, as he enjoyed the cool shade which its umbrageous
frondage afforded, could not help thinking what an admirable spot it
would be to build a kraal.  The inmates of a dwelling placed beneath its
friendly shelter, need never dread the fierce rays of the African sun;
even the rain could scarce penetrate its leafy canopy.  In fact, its
dense foliage almost constituted a roof of itself.

Had his cattle still remained to him, no doubt the vee-boor would have
resolved at once to make this spot his future home.  But, tempting as it
was, what now could he do in such a place?  To him it would be only a
wilderness.  There was no species of industry he could follow in such a
remote quarter.  True, he might sustain himself and his family by
hunting.  He saw that game was plenteous all around.  But that would be
but a sorry existence, with no promise for the future.  What would his
children do hereafter?  Were they to grow up with no other end than to
become poor hunters--no better than the wild Bushmen?  No! no! no!  To
make a home there would be out of the question.  A few days to recruit
his wearied horses, and then he would make a struggle and trek back to
the settlements.

But what after he had got back?  He knew not what then.  His future was
gloomy and uncertain.

After indulging in such reflections for an hour or more, he bethought
him that it was time to return to the camp; and having caught and
bridled his horse, he mounted and set forth.

The animal, refreshed by the sweet grass and cool water, carried him
briskly along; and in less than two hours he came up with Swartboy and
Hendrik where they were pasturing the horses.

These were taken back to the wagon and harnessed in; and then the great
vehicle once more "trekked" across the plains.

Before the sun had set, the long white cap-tent was gleaming under the
leafy screen of the gigantic "nwana."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE TERRIBLE "TSETSE."

The verdant carpet that stretched away around them--the green leaves
upon the trees--the flowers by the fountain--the crystal water in its
bed--the black bold rocks towering up at a distance--all combined to
make a lovely picture.  The eyes of the wayfarers were glad as they
beheld it; and while the wagon was outspanning, every one gave utterance
to their delightful emotions.

The place seemed to please every one.  Hans loved its quiet and sylvan
beauty.  It was just such a place as he would choose to ramble in, book
in hand, and dream away many a pleasant hour.  Hendrik liked it much,
because he had already observed what he termed "extensive spoor" about
the spot: in other words, he had noticed the tracks of many of Africa's
largest wild animals.

Little Truey was delighted to see so many beautiful flowers.  There were
bright scarlet geraniums, and starlike sweet-scented jessamines, and the
gorgeous belladonna lily, with its large blossoms of rose-colour and
white; and there were not only plants in flower, but bushes, and even
trees, covered with gaudy and sweetly-perfumed blossoms.  There was the
"sugar-bush" (_Protea mellifera_), the most beautiful of its family,
with its large cup-shaped corollas of pink, white, and green; and there,
too, was the "silver-tree" (_Leucodendron argenteum_), whose soft
silvery leaves playing in the breeze, looked like a huge mass of silken
flowers; and there were the mimosas covered with blossoms of golden
yellow that filled the air with their strong and agreeable perfume.

Rare forms of vegetation were around or near at hand: the arborescent
aloes, with their tall flower-spikes of coral red, and euphorbias of
many shapes; and _zamia_, with its palm-like fronds; and the soft-leaved
_Strelitzia reginae_.  All these were observed in the neighbourhood of
this new-discovered fountain.

But what received little Truey's admiration more than any other was the
beautiful blue waterlily (_Nympha caerulea_), which is certainly one of
the loveliest of Africa's flowers.  Close by the spring, but a little
farther in the direction of the plain, was a vley, or pool--in fact, it
might have been termed a small lake--and upon the quiet bosom of its
water the sky-blue corollas lay sleeping in all their gorgeous beauty.

Truey, leading her little pet in a string, had gone down on the bank to
look at them.  She thought she could never cease gazing at such pretty
things.

"I hope papa will stay here a long time," she said to her companion,
little Jan.

"And I hope so too.  Oh!  Truey, what a fine tree yon is!  Look! nuts as
big as my head, I declare.  Bless me, sis! how are we to knock some, of
them down?"

And so the children conversed, both delighted with the new scenes around
them.

Although all the young people were inclined to be happy, yet they were
checked in their expression of it, by observing that there was a cloud
on the brow of their father.  He had seated himself under the great
tree, but his eyes were upon the ground, as though he were busy with
painful reflections.  All of them noticed this.

His reflections were, indeed, painful--they could not well have been
otherwise.  There was but one course left for him--to return to the
settlements, and begin life anew.  But how to begin it?  What could he
do?  His property all gone, he could only serve some of his richer
neighbours; and for one accustomed all his life to independence, this
would be hard indeed.

He looked towards his five horses, now eagerly cropping the luxuriant
grass that grew under the shadow of the cliffs.  When would they be
ready to trek back again?  In three or four days he might start.  Fine
animals, most of them were--they would carry the wagon lightly enough.

So ran the reflections of the field-cornet.  He little thought at the
moment that those horses would never draw wagon more, nor any other
vehicle.  He little thought that those five noble brutes were doomed!

Yet so it was.  In less than a week from that time, the jackals and
hyenas were quarrelling over their bones.  Even at that very moment,
whilst he watched them browsing, the poison was entering their veins,
and their death-wounds were being inflicted.  Alas! alas! another blow
awaited Von Bloom.

The field-cornet had noticed, now and again, that the horses seemed
uneasy as they fed.  At times they started suddenly, whisked their long
tails, and rubbed their heads against the bushes.

"Some fly is troubling them," thought he, and had no more uneasiness
about the matter.

It was just that--just a fly that was troubling them.  Had Von Bloom
known what that fly was, he would have felt a very different concern
about his horses.  Had he known the nature of that little fly, he would
have rushed up with all his boys, caught the horses in the greatest
hurry, and led them far away from those dark cliffs.  But he knew not
the "tsetse" fly.

It still wanted some minutes of sunset, and the horses were permitted to
browse freely, but Von Bloom observed that they were every moment
getting more excited--now striking their hoofs upon the turf,--now
running a length or two--and at intervals snorting angrily.  At the
distance they were off--a quarter of a mile or so--Von Bloom could see
nothing of what was disturbing them; but their odd behaviour at length
induced him to walk up to where they were.  Hans and Hendrik went along
with him.  When they arrived near the spot, they were astonished at what
they then beheld.  Each horse seemed to be encompassed by a swarm of
bees!

They saw, however, they were not bees, but insects somewhat smaller, of
a brown colour, resembling gad-flies, and exceedingly active in their
flight.  Thousands of them hovered above each horse, and hundreds could
be seen lighting upon the heads, necks, bodies, and legs of the
animals,--in fact, all over them.  They were evidently either biting or
stinging them.  No wonder the poor brutes were annoyed.

Von Bloom suggested that they should drive the horses farther out into
the plain, where these flies did not seem to haunt.  He was only
concerned about the _annoyance_ which the horses received from them.
Hendrik also pitied their sufferings; but Hans, alone of all the three,
guessed at the truth.  He had read of a fatal insect that frequented
some districts in the interior of South Africa, and the first sight of
these flies aroused his suspicions that it might be they.

He communicated his thoughts to the others, who at once shared his
alarm.

"Call Swartboy hither!" said Von Bloom.

The Bushman was called, and soon made his appearance, coming up from the
spring.  He had for the last hour been engaged in unpacking the wagon,
and had taken no notice of the horses or the interest they were
exciting.

As soon, however, as he got near, and saw the winged swarm whirring
around the horses, his small eyes opened to their widest extent, his
thick lips fell, and his whole face yielded itself to an expression of
amazement and alarm.

"What is it, Swart?" inquired his master.

"Mein baas! mein baas! der duyvel um da--dar skellum is da `tsetse!'"

"And what if it be the tsetse?"

"Mein baas!--all dead--dead--ebery horse!"

Swartboy then proceeded to explain, with a loud and continuous
"clicking," that the fly which they saw was fatal in its bite, that the
horses would surely die--sooner or later, according to the number of
stings they had already received; but, from the swarm of insects around
them, the Bushman had no doubt they had been badly stung and a single
week would see all five of the horses dead.

"Wait, mein baas--morrow show."  And to-morrow _did_ show; for before
twelve o'clock on the next day, the horses were swollen all over their
bodies and about their heads.  Their eyes were quite closed up; they
refused any longer to eat, but staggered blindly among the luxuriant
grass, every now and then expressing the pain they felt by a low
melancholy whimpering.  It was plain to every one they were going to
die.

Von Bloom tried bleeding, and various other remedies; but to no purpose.
There is no cure for the bite of the tsetse fly!



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

THE LONG-HORNED RHINOCEROS.

Great, indeed, was now the affliction of the field-cornet.  Fortune
seemed to be adverse in everything.  Step by step he had been sinking
for years, every year becoming poorer in worldly wealth.  He had now
reached the lowest point--poverty itself.  He owned nothing whatever.
His horses might be regarded as dead.  The cow had escaped from the
tsetse by avoiding the cliffs, and keeping out upon the plain; and this
animal now constituted his whole live-stock,--his whole property!  True,
he still had his fine wagon; but of what use would that be without
either oxen or horses? a wagon without a team!  Better a team without a
wagon.

What could he do?  How was he to escape from the position he was placed
in?  To say the least, it was an awkward one--nearly two hundred miles
from any civilised settlement, and no means of getting there,--no means
except by walking; and how were his children to walk two hundred miles?
Impossible!

Across desert tracts, exposed not only to terrible fatigue, but to
hunger, thirst, and fierce carnivorous animals.  It appeared impossible
that they could accomplish such a task.

And what else was there to be done? asked the field-cornet of himself.
Were they to remain there all their lives, subsisting precariously on
game and roots?  Were his children to become "Bush-boys,"--himself a
Bushman?

With these reflections passing through his mind, no wonder that Von
Bloom felt deeply afflicted.

"Merciful Heaven!" he exclaimed, as he sat with his head between his
hands, "what will become of me and mine?"

Poor Von Bloom! he had reached the lowest point of his fortunes.

He had, in reality, reached the _lowest_ point; for on that very day,--
even within that very hour--an incident occurred, that not only gave
relief to his afflicted spirit, but that promised to lay the foundation
of future wealth and prosperity.  In one hour from that time the
prospects of the field-cornet had undergone a complete change,--in one
hour from that time he was a happy man, and all around him were as happy
as he!

You are impatient to hear how this change was effected?  What little
fairy had sprung out of the spring, or come down from the cliffs, to
befriend the good field-cornet in his hour of misery?  You are impatient
to hear!  Then you _shall_ hear.

The sun was just going down.  They were all seated under the great tree,
and near a fire, upon which they had cooked their supper.  There was no
talking, no cheerful conversation,--for the children saw that their
father was in trouble, and that kept them silent.  Not a word passed
between them, or only an occasional whisper.

It was at this moment that Von Bloom gave utterance to his sad thoughts
in words as above.

As if seeking for an answer, his eyes were raised to heaven, and then
wandered around the plain.  All at once they became fixed upon a
singular object, that appeared at some distance off, and was just
emerging from the bushes.

It was an animal of some kind, and from its vast size Von Bloom and the
others at first took it to be an elephant.  None of them, except
Swartboy, were accustomed to elephants in their wild state,--for,
although these animals once inhabited the most southerly portion of
Africa, they have long since deserted the settled districts, and are now
only to be found far beyond the frontier of the colony.  But they knew
that there were elephants in these parts--as they had already observed
their tracks--and all now supposed the huge creature that was
approaching must be one.

Not all, Swartboy was an exception.  As soon as his eyes fell upon the
animal he cried out,--

"Chukuroo--a chukuroo!"

"A rhinoster, is it?" said Von Bloom, knowing that "chukuroo" was the
native name for the rhinoceros, or "rhinoster," as he called it in
Dutch.

"Ya, baas," replied Swartboy; "and one o' da big karles--da `kobaoba,'
da long-horn white rhinoster."

What Swartboy meant by this was that the animal in question was a large
species of rhinoceros, known among the natives as the "kobaoba."

Now I dare say, young reader, you have been all your life under the
impression that there was but one species of rhinoceros in the world--
that is _the_ rhinoceros.  Is it not so?  Yes.

Well, permit me to inform you, that you have been under a wrong
impression.  There is quite a number of distinct species of this very
singular animal.  At least eight distinct kinds I know of; and I do not
hesitate to say that when the central parts of Africa have been fully
explored, as well as South Asia and the Asiatic islands, nearly half as
many more will be found to exist.

In South Africa four distinct species are well-known; one in North
Africa differs from all these; while the large Indian rhinoceros bears
but slight resemblance to any of them.  A distinct species from any is
the rhinoceros of Sumatra, an inhabitant of that island; and still
another is the Java rhinoceros, found in the island of Java.  Thus we
have no less than eight kinds, all specifically differing from one
another.

The best known in museums, zoological collections, and pictures, is
perhaps the Indian animal.  It is the one marked by the singular
foldings of its skin, thickly embellished with protuberances or knobs,
that give it a shield-like appearance.  This distinguishes it from the
African species, all of which are without these knobs, though the hides
of some are knotty or warty.  The Abyssinian rhinoceros has also
foldings of the skin, which approach it somewhat to the character of the
Indian species.  Both the Sumatra and Java kinds are small compared with
their huge cousin, the Indian rhinoceros, which inhabits only
continental India, Siam, and Cochin China.

The Javan species more resembles the Indian, in having scutellae over
the skin and being one-horned.  It is, however, without the singular
folds which characterise the latter.  That of Sumatra has neither folds
nor scutellae.  Its skin has a slight covering of hair, and a pair of
horns gives it some resemblance to the two-horned species of Africa.

The natives of South Africa are acquainted with four distinct species of
rhinoceros, to which they give distinct names; and it may be remarked
that this observation of species by native hunters is far more to be
depended upon than the speculations of mere closet-naturalists, who draw
their deductions from a tubercle, or the tooth, or a stuffed skin.  If
there be any value in a knowledge of animated nature, it is not to these
we are indebted for that knowledge, but far oftener to the "rude
hunters," whom they affect to despise, and who, after all, have taught
us pretty much all we know of the habits of animals.  Such a "rude
hunter" as Gordon Cumming, for example, has done more to increase the
knowledge of African zoology than a whole college full of "speculating"
_savans_.

This same Gordon Cumming, who has been accused of exaggeration (but in
my opinion very wrongfully accused), has written a very modest and
truthful book, which tells you that there are four kinds of rhinoceroses
in Southern Africa; and no man is likely to know better than he.

These four kinds are known among the natives as the "borele," the
"keitloa," the "muchocho," and "kobaoba."  The two first are "black
rhinoceroses,"--that is, the general colour of their skin is dark--while
the "muchocho" and "kobaoba" are white varieties, having the skin of a
dingy whitish hue.  The black rhinoceroses are much smaller--scarce half
the size of the others, and they differ from them in the length and set
of their horns, as _well_ as in other particulars.

The horns of the "borele" are placed--as in all rhinoceroses,--upon a
bony mass over the nostrils,--hence the word "rhinoceros" (_rhis_, the
nose, _chiras_, a horn.)

In the "borele" they stand erect, curving slightly backwards, and one
behind the other.  The anterior horn is the longer--rarely above
eighteen inches in length--but it is often broken or rubbed shorter, and
in no two individuals is there equality in this respect.  The posterior
horn in this species is only a sort of knob; whereas in the "keitloa,"
or two-horned black rhinoceros, both horns are developed to a nearly
equal length.

In the "muchocho" and "kobaoba," the after horns can hardly be said to
exist, but the anterior one in both species far exceeds in length those
of the borele and keitloa.  In the muchocho it is frequently three feet
in length, while the kobaoba is often seen with a horn four feet long,
jutting out from the end of its ugly snout--a fearful weapon!

The horns of the two last do not curve back, but point forward; and as
both these carry their heads low down the long sharp spike is often
borne horizontally.  In the form and length of their neck, the set of
their ears, and other respects, the black rhinoceroses differ materially
from the white ones.  In fact, their habits are quite unlike.  The
former feed chiefly on the leaves and twigs of thorns, such as the
_Acacia horrida_, or "wait-a-bits," while the latter live upon grass.
The former are of fiercer disposition--will attack man or any other
animal on sight; and even sometimes seem to grow angry with the bushes,
charging upon them and breaking them to pieces!

The white rhinoceroses, although fierce enough when wounded or provoked,
are usually of pacific disposition, and will permit the hunter to pass
without molestation.

These become very fat, and make excellent eating.  The flesh of no
African animal is esteemed superior to the calf of the white rhinoceros,
whereas the black varieties never grow fat, and their flesh is tough and
unpalatable.

The horns of all four are used by the natives for many purposes, being
solid, of fine texture, and susceptible of a high polish.  Out of the
longer horns the natives manufacture "knobkerries" (clubs), and
loading-rods for their guns.  The shorter ones afford material for
mallets, drinking-cups, handles for small tools, and the like.  In
Abyssinia, and other parts of Northern Africa, where swords are in use,
sword-hilts are made from the horns of the rhinoceros.

The hide is also used for different purposes, among others for making
the whips known as "jamboks," though hippopotamus-hide is superior.

The skin of the African rhinoceros, as already stated, is without the
plaits, folds, and scutellae, that characterise its Asiatic congener,
yet it is far from being a soft one.  It is so thick and difficult to
pierce, that a bullet of ordinary lead will sometimes flatten upon it.
To ensure its penetrating, the lead must be hardened with solder.

The rhinoceros, though not a water animal, like the hippopotamus, is
nevertheless fond of that element, and is rarely found at a great
distance from it.  All four kinds love to lie and wallow in mud, just as
hogs in a summer's day; and they are usually seen coated all over with
this substance.  During the day they may be observed lying down or
standing under the shade of some thick mimosa-tree, either asleep or in
a state of easy indolence; and it is during the night that they wander
about in search of food and water.  If approached from the lee side they
can easily be got at, as their small sparkling eyes do not serve them
well.  On the contrary, if the hunter go to windward, they will scent
him at a great distance, as their sense of smell is most acute.  If
their eyes were only as keen as their nostrils, it would be a dangerous
game to attack them, for they can run with sufficient rapidity to
overtake a horse in the first charge.

In charging and running, the black variety far excels the white.  They
are easily avoided, however, by the hunter springing quickly to one
side, and letting them rush blindly on.

The black rhinoceros is about six feet high at the shoulder, and full
thirteen in length; while the white kinds are far larger.  The "kobaoba"
is full seven feet high, and fourteen in length!

No wonder that an animal of these extraordinary dimensions was at first
sight taken for the elephant.  In fact, the kobaoba rhinoceros is the
quadruped next to the elephant in size; and with his great muzzle--full
eighteen inches broad--his long clumsy head, his vast ponderous body,
this animal impresses one with an idea of strength and massive grandeur
as great, and some say greater than the elephant himself.  He looks,
indeed, like a caricature of the elephant.  It was not such a bad
mistake, then, when our people by the wagon took the "kobaoba" for the
"mighty elephant."

Swartboy, however, set them all right by declaring that the animal they
saw was the white rhinoceros.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A HEAVY COMBAT.

When they first saw the kobaoba, he was, as stated, just coming out of
the thicket.  Without halting, he headed in the direction of the vley
already mentioned; and kept on towards it, his object evidently being to
reach the water.

This little lake, of course, owed its existence to the spring--though it
was full two hundred yards from the latter--and about the same from the
great tree.  It was nearly circular in shape, and about one hundred
yards in diameter, so that its superficial area would thus be a little
over two English acres.  It merited, then, the name of "lake;" and by
that name the young people already called it.

On its upper side--that in the direction of the spring--its shore was
high, and in one or two places rocky, and these rocks ran back to the
spring along the channel of a little rivulet.  On the west or outer side
of the lake the land lay lower, and the water at one or two points
lipped up nearly to the level of the plain.  For this reason it was,
that upon that side, the bank was paddled all over with tracks of
animals that had been to drink.  Hendrik the hunter had observed among
them the footprints of many kinds he knew nothing about.

It was for the lower end of the lake the kobaoba was making--no doubt
with him an old and favourite drinking-place.

There was a point where the water was easier of access than elsewhere--a
little to one side of where the wash or waste-stream of the lake ran
out.  It was a sort of cove with bright sandy beach, and approachable
from the plain by a miniature gorge, hollowed out, no doubt, by the long
usage of those animals who came to drink at the vley.  By entering this
cove, the tallest animals might get deep water and good bottom, so that
they could drink without much straining or stooping.  The kobaoba came
on in a direct line for the lake; and as he drew near, they could see
him heading for the gorge that led into the little cove.  It proved he
had been there before.

Next moment he passed through the gap, and stood knee-deep in the water.

After swallowing several copious draughts--now sneezing, and then
wheezing--he plunged his broad snout, horn and all, into the water,
tossed it till it foamed, and then lying down in it, commenced wallowing
like a hog.

The place was shallow, and most of his huge body was above the surface--
though there was deep enough water in the lake to have given him a bath
had he desired it.

The first thought of Von Bloom, as well as of Hendrik, was how to
"circumvent" the rhinoceros, and of course destroy him.  Not that they
simply wished his destruction; but Swartboy had already represented what
fine food the species was, and there was no stock of provision in camp.
Hendrik had another object in wishing the death of the creature.  He
wanted a new loading-rod for his rifle; and he had gazed covetously at
the kobaoba's long horn.

But it was easier to desire the death of the rhinoceros than to
accomplish it.  They had no horses--at least none that could be
mounted--and to attack the animal on foot would be a game as dangerous
as idle.  He would be like enough to impale one of them on his great
spike, or else trample them brutally under his huge feet.  If he did not
do one or the other, he would easily make his escape--as any kind of
rhinoceros can outrun a man.

How were they to manage him then?

Perhaps they might get near--fire at him from an ambush, and with a
lucky shot stretch him out.  A single bullet sometimes kills the
rhinoceros--but only when correctly placed, so as to penetrate the
heart, or some other of the "vitals."

This was, probably, the best plan.  They might easily get near enough.
There was some bush cover close to the spot.  It was probable the old
kobaoba would not perceive them, if they approached from leeward,
particularly as he seemed in the full tide of enjoyment at that moment.

They were about to attempt the approach, and had got to their feet for
that purpose, when a sudden fit seemed to have attacked Swartboy.  The
latter commenced jumping over the ground, at the same time muttering in
a low voice,--

"Da klow! da klow!"

A stranger would have fancied Swartboy in a fit, but Von Bloom knew that
by "Da klow! da klow!" the Bushman meant "The elephant! the elephant!"
and therefore looked in the direction in which Swartboy was pointing.

Sure enough, upon the western plain, looming up against the yellow sky,
was a dark mass, that upon examination presented the outlines of an
elephant.  Its rounded back was easily distinguished over the low
bushes; and its broad hanging ears were moving as it marched.  All saw
at a glance that it was coming towards the lake, and almost in the same
track that the rhinoceros had taken.

Of course this new apparition quite disarranged the plans of the
hunters.  At sight of the mighty elephant, they scarce any longer gave a
thought to the kobaoba.  Not that they had formed any very great hopes
of being able to kill the gigantic animal, yet some such thought was
running through their minds.  They had determined to try, at all events.

Before they could agree upon any plan, however, the elephant had got up
to the edge of the lake.  Though moving only at a slow walk, with his
immense strides he soon measured off a large quantity of ground, and
advanced much more rapidly than one would have supposed.  The hunters
had scarce time to exchange thoughts, before the huge creature was up
within a few yards of the water.

Here he halted, pointed his proboscis in different directions, stood
quite silent, and seemed to listen.

There was no noise to disturb him--even the kobaoba for the moment was
quiet.

After standing a minute or so, the huge creature moved forward again,
and entered the gorge already described.

They at the camp had now a full view of him, at less than three hundred
yards distance.  An immense mass he seemed.  His body quite filled the
gorge from side to side, and his long yellow tusks projecting more than
two yards from his jaws, curved gracefully upward.  He was an "old
bull," as Swartboy whispered.

Up to this time the rhinoceros had not had the slightest intimation of
the elephant's approach; for the tread of the latter--big beast as he
is--is as silent as a cat's.  It is true that a loud rumbling noise like
distant thunder proceeded from his inside as he moved along; but the
kobaoba was in too high a caper just then to have heard or noticed any
sound that was not very near and distinct.

The huge body of the elephant coming suddenly into "his sunshine," and
flinging its dark shadow over the vley, was distinct enough, and caused
the kobaoba to get to his feet with an agility quite surprising for a
creature of his build.

At the same time a noise, something between a grunt and a whistle
escaped him, as the water was ejected from his nostrils.

The elephant also uttered his peculiar salute in a trumpet note, that
echoed from the cliffs and halted in his tracks as soon as he saw the
rhinoceros.

No doubt both were surprised at the rencontre as both stood for some
seconds eyeing each other with apparent astonishment.

This, however, soon gave place to a different feeling.  Symptoms of
anger began to show themselves.  It was evident that bad blood was
brewing between them.

There was, in fact, a little dilemma.  The elephant could not get
comfortably at the water unless the rhinoceros left the cove; and the
rhinoceros could not well get out of the cove, so long as the elephant
blocked up the gorge with his immense thick limbs.

It is true, the kobaoba might have sneaked through among the other's
legs, or he might have swum off and landed at some other point, and in
either way have left the coast clear.

But of all animals in the world a rhinoceros is, perhaps, the most
unaccommodating.  He is, also, one of the most fearless, dreading
neither man nor beast--not even the boasted lion, whom he often chases
like a cat.  Hence the old kobaoba had no intention of yielding ground
to the elephant; and from his attitude, it was plain that he neither
intended to sneak off under the other's belly, nor swim a single stroke
for him.  No--not a stroke.

It remained to be seen how the point of honour was to be decided.  The
attitude of affairs had become so interesting, that every one by the
camp was gazing with fixed eyes upon the two great bulls--for the
rhinoceros was also a "bull" and of the largest size known of his kind.

For several minutes they stood eyeing each other.  The elephant,
although much the larger, knew his antagonist well.  He had met his
"sort" before, and knew better than to despise his powers.  Perhaps, ere
now, he had had a touch of that long spit-like excrescence that stood
out from the kobaoba's snout.

At all events, he did not rush upon his adversary at once--as he would
have done on some poor antelope that might have crossed him in the same
way.

His patience, however, became exhausted.  His ancient dignity was
insulted--his rule disputed--he wished to have his bath and his drink--
he could bear the insolence of the rhinoceros no longer.

With a bellow that made the rocks ring again, he charged forward; placed
his tusks firmly under the shoulder of his adversary,--gave a mighty
"lift," and turned the rhinoceros over in the water!

For a moment the latter plunged, and blowed, and snorted, his head half
under water; but in a second's time he was on his feet again, and
charging in turn.  The spectators could see that he aimed right at the
elephant's ribs with his horn, and that the latter did all he could to
keep head towards him.

Again the elephant flung the kobaoba, and again the latter rose and
charged madly upon his huge antagonist; and so both fought until the
water around them was white with foam.

The contest was carried on _in_ the water, until the elephant, seeming
to think his adversary had an advantage there, backed himself into the
gorge, and stood waiting with his head towards the lake.  In this
position the sides of the gorge did not protect him, as perhaps he
fancied.  They were too low, and his broad flanks rose far above them.
They only kept him from turning round, and this interfered with the
freedom of his movements.

It could scarce have been design in the rhinoceros to act as he now did,
though it appeared so to those who were watching.  As the elephant took
up his position in the gorge, the kobaoba clambered out upon the bank;
and then, wheeling suddenly, with head to the ground and long horn
projected horizontally, the latter rushed upon his antagonist and struck
him right among the ribs.  The spectators saw that the horn penetrated,
and the loud scream that came from the elephant, with the quick motions
of his trunk and tail, told plainly that he had received a severe wound.
Instead of standing any longer in the gorge he rushed forward, and did
not stop until he was knee-deep in the lake.  Drawing the water up into
his trunk, he raised it on high, and pointing it backwards, he
discharged large volumes over his body, and upon the spot where he had
received the thrust of the kobaoba's horn.

He then ran out of the lake, and charged about in search of the
rhinoceros; but long-horn was nowhere to be found!

Having escaped from the cove without compromising his dignity, and
perhaps believing that he had gained the victory, the rhinoceros, as
soon as he delivered the thrust, had galloped off and disappeared among
the bushes.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

THE DEATH OF THE ELEPHANT.

The battle between these two large quadrupeds did not continue for more
than ten minutes.  During that time the hunters made no advance towards
attacking either of them--so much absorbed were they in watching the
novel contest.  It was only after the rhinoceros had retreated, and the
elephant returned to the water, that they once more began to deliberate
on some plan of assaulting this mightiest of African animals.  Hans now
laid hold of his gun and joined them.

The elephant, after looking about for his enemy had got back, and was
standing knee-deep in the lake.  He appeared restless and highly
excited.  His tail was continually in motion, and at intervals he
uttered a piercing melancholy scream--far different to the usual
trumpet-like bellow of his voice.  He lifted his huge limbs, and then
plunged them back again to the bottom, until the foam gathered upon the
water with his continued churning.

But the oddest of his actions was the manner in which he employed his
long tubular trunk.  With this he sucked up vast volumes of water, and
then pointing it backwards ejected the fluid over his back and
shoulders, as if from an immense syringe.  This shower-bath he kept
repeating time after time, though it was evident he was not at his ease.

They all knew he was angry.  Swartboy said it would be exceedingly
dangerous to be seen by him at that moment, without having a horse to
gallop out of his way.  On this account every one of them had concealed
themselves behind the trunk of the nwana-tree, Von Bloom peeping past
one side, and Hendrik the other, in order to watch his movements.

Notwithstanding the danger, they at length resolved to attack him.  They
believed that if they did not do so soon, he would walk off, and leave
them supperless--for they had hoped to sup upon a slice of his trunk.
Time, therefore, had grown precious, and they resolved to attack him
without further ado.

They intended to creep as near as was safe.  All three would fire
together, and then lie close in the bushes until they saw the effect of
their shots.

Without further parley, Von Bloom, Hans, and Hendrik, leaving the tree,
crept through the bushes towards the western end of the lake.  It was
not a continuous thicket, but only an assemblage of copses and clumps,
so that they required to steal very cautiously from one to the other.
Von Bloom led the way, while the boys kept in his tracks, following him
closely.

After some five minutes spent in this way they got under cover of a
little clump near the water's edge, and near enough to the gigantic
game.  Upon their hands and knees they now approached the verge of the
underwood; and having parted the leaves, looked through.  The mighty
quadruped was right under their eyes, within twenty yards of them!

He was still busy plunging about, and blowing volumes of water over his
body.  He gave no sign that he had any suspicion of their presence.
They could take time, therefore, in choosing a part of his huge body at
which to aim their pieces.

When first seen from their new position, he was standing stern towards
them.  Von Bloom did not think it a good time to fire, as they could not
give him a deadly wound in that situation.  They waited, therefore,
until he might turn his side, before they should deliver their volley.
They kept their eyes all the while steadily fixed on him.

He ceased at length to "churn" with his feet, and no longer raised water
in his trunk; and now the hunters perceived that the lake was red for a
space around him!  It was his blood that had reddened it.

They no longer doubted that he had been wounded by the rhinoceros; but
whether the wound was a bad one they could not tell.  It was in his
side, and as yet they could only see his broad stern from the position
in which he still continued to stand.  But they waited with confidence--
as they knew that in turning to get out of the water, he would have to
present his side towards them.

For several minutes he kept the same position, but they noticed that his
tail no longer switched about, and that his attitude was loose and
drooping.  Now and then he turned his proboscis to the spot where he had
received the thrust of the kobaoba's horn.  It was evident that the
wound was distressing him, and this became more apparent by the loud
painful breathing the creature uttered through his trunk.

The three began to grow impatient.  Hendrik asked leave to creep round
to another point, and give him a shot that would turn him round.

Just at that moment the elephant made a motion, as though he was about
to come out of the water.

He had got fairly round--his head and forepart were over dry land--the
three guns were pointed--the eyes of the three hunters were about to
glance through the sights of their pieces, when all at once he was seen
to rock and stagger,--and then roll over!  With a loud plash, his vast
body subsided into the water, sending great waves to every corner of the
lake.

The hunters uncocked their guns, and, springing from their ambush,
rushed forward to the bank.  They saw at a glance that the elephant was
dead.  They saw the wound upon his side,--the hole made by the horn of
the rhinoceros.  It was not very large, but the terrible weapon had
penetrated far into his body, into his very vitals.  No wonder, then, at
the result it had produced--the death of the mightiest of quadrupeds.

As soon as it became known that the elephant was dead, everybody was
seen rushing forward to the spot.  Little Truey and Jan were called from
their hiding-place--for they had both been hidden in the wagon--and
Totty, too, went down with the rest.  Swartboy was one of the first upon
the spot, carrying an axe and a large knife--for Swartboy had designs
upon the carcass--while Hans and Hendrik both threw off their jackets to
assist in the butchering operations.

And what during this time was Von Bloom about?  Ha!  That is a more
important question than you think for.  That was an important hour--the
hour of a great crisis in the life of the field-cornet.

He was standing with folded arms on the bank of the lake, directly over
the spot where the elephant had fallen.  He appeared to be wrapt in
silent meditation, his eyes bent upon the huge carcass of the animal.
No, not on the carcass.  A close observer would have perceived that his
eyes did not wander over that mountain of thick skin and flesh, but were
resting upon a particular spot.

Was it the wound in the animal's side?  And was Von Bloom meditating how
the thrust had caused the death of such a huge creature?

Neither one nor the other.  His thoughts were upon a very different
theme from either.

The elephant had fallen so that his head was clear of the water, and
rested upon a little bank of sand; along which, his soft and limber
trunk lay extended to its full length.  Curving like a pair of gigantic
scimitars from its base, were the yellow enamelled tusks; those ivory
arms that for years,--ay centuries, perhaps,--had served him to root up
the trees of the forest, and rout his antagonists in many a dread
encounter.  Precious and beautiful trophies were they, but alas! their
world-wide fame had cost no less than life to many thousands of his
race.

Shining in all their magnificence lay these mated crescents, gently
curved and softly rounded.  It was upon _these_ that the eyes of the
field-cornet were bent.

Ay, and bent too with an eagerness unusual in his glance.  His lips were
compressed, his chest was visibly heaving.  Oh! there was a world of
thoughts passing through the mind of Von Bloom at that moment.

Were they painful thoughts?  The expression of his face told the
contrary.  The cloud that all that day sat perched upon his brow had
vanished.  Not a trace of it remained, but in its place could be seen
the lines of hope and joy, and these feelings at length found expression
in words.

"It is the hand of Heaven!" he exclaimed aloud.  "A fortune--a fortune!"

"What is it, papa?" inquired little Truey, who was near him; "what were
you speaking about, dear papa?"

And then all the others gathered around him, noticing his excited
manner, and pleased at seeing him look so happy.

"What is it, papa?" asked all together, while Swartboy and Totty stood
eager as the rest to hear the answer.

In the pleasant excitement of his thoughts, the fond father could no
longer conceal from his children the secret of his new-born happiness.
He would gratify them by disclosing it.

Pointing to the long crescents he said,--

"You see those beautiful tusks?"

Yes, of course, they all did.

"Well, do you know their value?"

No.  They knew they were worth something.  They knew that it was from
elephants' tusks that ivory was obtained, or, more properly, that
elephants' tusks were ivory itself; and that it was used in the
manufacture of hundreds of articles.  In fact, little Truey had a
beautiful fan made out of it, which had been her mother's; and Jan had a
knife with an ivory handle.  Ivory was a very beautiful material and
cost very dear, they knew.  All this they knew, but the value of the two
tusks they could not guess at.  They said so.

"Well, my children," said Von Bloom, "as near as I can estimate them,
they are worth twenty pounds each of English money."

"Oh! oh!  Such a grand sum!" cried all in a breath.

"Yes," continued the field-cornet; "I should think each tusk is one
hundred pounds in weight, and as ivory at present sells for four
shillings and sixpence the pound weight, these two would yield between
forty and fifty pounds of sterling money."

"Why, it would buy a full span of best oxen!" cried Hans.

"Four good horses!" said Hendrik.

"A whole flock of sheep!" added little Jan.

"But whom can we sell them to?" asked Hendrik, after a pause.  "We are
away from the settlements.  Who is to give us either oxen, or horses, or
sheep, for them?  It would not be worth while to carry two tusks all the
way--"

"Not _two_, Hendrik," said his father, interrupting him; "but _twenty_
it might,--ay, twice twenty, or three times that number.  Now, do you
understand what makes me so gay?"

"Oh!" exclaimed Hendrik, as well as the others, who now began to
perceive what their father was so joyed about, "you think we can obtain
more tusks in these parts?"

"Precisely so.  I think there are many elephants here.  I feel certain
of it from the quantity of their spoor I have already noticed.  We have
our guns, and fortunately, plenty of ammunition.  We are all pretty fair
shots--why can we not obtain more of these valuable trophies?

"But we shall," continued Von Bloom.  "I know we shall, because I
recognise the hand of God in sending us this wealth in the midst of our
misery--after we had lost everything.  More will come by the guiding of
the same hand.  So be of good cheer, my children!  We shall not want--we
shall yet have plenty--we may be _rich_!"

It was not that any of those young creatures cared much about being
rich, but because they saw their father so happy, that they broke out
into something more than a murmur of applause.  It was, in fact, a
cheer, in which both Totty and Swartboy joined.  It rang over the little
lake, and caused the birds about settling to roost to wonder what was
going on.  There was no happier group in all Africa than stood at that
moment upon the shore of that lonely little vley.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

TURNED HUNTERS.

The field-cornet, then, had resolved upon turning hunter by profession--
a hunter of elephants; and it was a pleasant reflection to think, that
this occupation promised, not only exciting sport, but great profit.  He
knew that it was not so easy a matter to succeed in killing such large
and valuable game as elephants.  He did not suppose that in a few weeks
or months he would obtain any great quantities of their ivory spoils;
but he had made up his mind to spend even years in the pursuit.  For
years he should lead the life of a Bushman--for years his sons would be
"Bush-boys," and he hoped that in time his patience and toil would be
amply rewarded.

That night around the camp-fire all were very happy and very merry.  The
elephant had been left where he lay, to be cut up on the morrow.  Only
his trunk had been taken off--part of which was cooked for supper.

Although all the flesh of the elephant is eatable, the trunk is esteemed
one of the delicate bits.  It tastes not unlike ox-tongue; and all of
them liked it exceedingly.  To Swartboy, who had made many a meal upon
"de ole klow," it was a highly-relished feast.

They had plenty of fine milk, too.  The cow, now upon the best of
pasture, doubled her yield; and the quantity of this, the most delicious
of all drinks, was sufficient to give every one a large allowance.

While enjoying their new-fashioned dish of roast elephant-trunk, the
conversation naturally turned upon these animals.

Everybody knows the appearance of the elephant, therefore a description
of him is quite superfluous.  But everybody does not know that there are
two distinct kinds of this gigantic quadruped--the _African_ and
_Asiatic_.

Until a late period they were thought to be of the same species.  Now
they are acknowledged to be, not only distinct, but very different in
many respects.  The Asiatic, or, as it is more frequently called, the
"Indian" elephant is the larger of the two; but it is possible that
domestication may have produced a larger kind, as is the rule with many
animals.  The African species exists only in a wild state; and it would
appear that individuals of this kind have been measured having the
dimensions of the largest of the _wild_ Asiatic elephants.

The most remarkable points of difference between the two are found in
the ears and tusks.  The ears of the African elephant are of enormous
proportions, meeting each other above the shoulders, and hanging down
below the breast.  Those of the Indian elephant are scarce one-third the
size.  In his grand tusks the former has far the advantage--these in
some individuals weighing nearly two hundred pounds each--while the
tusks of the latter rarely reach the weight of one hundred.  To this,
however, there are some exceptions.  Of course a two hundred pound tusk
is one of the very largest, and far above the average even of African
elephants.  In this species the females are also provided with tusks--
though not of such size as in the males--whereas the female of the
Indian elephant has either no tusks at all, or they are so small as to
be scarcely perceptible outside the skin of the lips.  The other chief
points of difference between the two are that the front of the Asiatic
elephant is concave, while that of the African is convex; and the former
has four horny toes or _sabots_ on the hind-foot, where only three
appear upon that of the latter.  The enamel of the teeth presents still
another proof of these animals being different in species.

Nor are all Asiatic elephants alike.  In this species there are
varieties which present very distinct features; and, indeed, these
"varieties," as they are called, appear to differ from each other,
nearly as much as any one of them does from the African kind.

One variety known among Orientals by the name of "mooknah," has straight
tusks that _point downward_, whereas the usual habit of these singular
appendages is to _curve upward_.

Asiatics recognise two main _castes_, or perhaps species, among their
elephants.  One known as "coomareah," is a deep-bodied, compact, and
strong animal, with large trunk and short legs.  The other called
"merghee," is a taller kind, but neither so compact nor strong as the
coomareah, nor has he so large a trunk.  His long legs enable him to
travel faster than the coomareah; but the latter having a larger trunk
(a point of beauty among elephant-owners) and being capable of enduring
more fatigue, is the favourite, and fetches a larger price in the
Oriental market.

Occasionally a _white_ elephant is met with.  This is simply an
"albino," but such are greatly prized in many countries of Asia, and
large sums are given for them.  They are even held in superstitious
veneration in some parts.

The Indian elephant at the present time inhabits most of the southern
countries of Asia, including the large islands, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra,
Borneo, etcetera.  Of course every one knows that in these countries the
elephant has been trained long ago to the use of man, and is one of the
"domestic animals."  But he also exists in a wild state, both upon the
continent of Asia and in its islands; and hunting the elephant is one of
the grand sport of the East.

In Africa the elephant exists _only_ in a state of nature.  None of the
nations upon this little-known continent tame or train him to any
purpose.  He is only prized among them for his precious tusks, and his
flesh as well.  Some have asserted that this species is more fierce than
its Indian congener, and could not be domesticated.  This is altogether
a mistake.  The reason why the African elephant is not trained, is
simply that none of the modern nations of Africa have yet reached a high
enough point of civilisation to avail themselves of the services of this
valuable animal.

The African elephant may be domesticated and trained to the "howdah," or
castle, as easily as his Indian cousin.  The trial has been made; but
that it can be done no better proof is required than that at one period
it was done, and upon a large scale.  The elephants of the Carthaginian
army were of this species.

The African elephant at present inhabits the central and southern parts
of Africa.  Abyssinia on the east, and Senegal on the west, are his
northern limits, and but a few years ago he roamed southward to the very
Cape of Good Hope.  The activity of the Dutch ivory-hunters, with their
enormous long guns, has driven him from that quarter; and he is no
longer to be found to the south of the Orange River.

Some naturalists (Cuvier among others) believed the Abyssinian elephant
to be of the Indian species.  That idea is now exploded, and there is no
reason to think that the latter inhabits any part of Africa.  It is very
likely there are varieties of the African species in different parts of
the continent.  It is well-known that those of the tropical regions are
larger than the others; and a _reddish and very fierce_ kind is said to
be met with in the mountains of Africa, upon the river Niger.  It is
probable, however, that these _red_ elephants seen have been some whose
bodies were coated with red dust, as it is a habit of elephants to
powder themselves with dust on many occasions, using their trunks as
"dredgers."

Swartboy spoke of a variety well-known among the Hottentot hunters as
the "koes-cops."  This kind, he said, differed from the ordinary ones by
its altogether wanting the tusks, and being of a far more vicious
disposition.  Its encounter is more dreaded; but as it possesses no
trophies to make it worth the trouble and danger of killing, the hunters
usually give it a wide berth.

Such was the conversation that night around the camp-fire.  Much of the
information here given was furnished by Hans, who of course had gathered
it from books; but the Bushman contributed his quota--perhaps of a far
more reliable character.  All were destined ere long to make practical
acquaintance with the haunts and habits of this huge quadruped, that to
them had now become the most interesting of all the animal creation.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

"JERKING" AN ELEPHANT.

Next day was one of severe, but joyful labour.  It was spent in "curing"
the elephant, not in a _medical_ sense, but in the language of the
provision-store.

Although not equal to either beef or mutton, or even pork, the flesh of
the elephant is sufficiently palatable to be eaten.  There is no reason
why it should not be, for the animal is a clean feeder, and lives
altogether on vegetable substances--the leaves and tender shoots of
trees, with several species of bulbous roots, which he well knows how to
extract from the ground with his tusks and trunk.  It does not follow
from this that his _beef_ should be well tasted--since we see that the
hog, one of the most unclean of feeders, yields most delicious "pork;"
while another of the same family (_pachydermatii_) that subsists only on
sweet succulent roots, produces a flesh both insipid and bitter.  I
allude to the South American tapir.  The quality of the food, therefore,
is no criterion of the quality of the flesh.

It is true that the beef of the elephant was not what Von Bloom and most
of his family would have chosen for their regular diet.  Had they been
sure of procuring a supply of antelope venison, the great carcass might
have gone, not to the "dogs," but to their kindred the hyenas.  But they
were not sure of getting even a single antelope, and therefore decided
upon "curing" the elephant.  It would be a safe stock to have on hand,
and need not interfere with their eating venison, or any other dainty
that might turn up.

The first thing done was to cut out the tusks.  This proved a tough job,
and occupied full two hours.  Fortunately there was a good axe on hand.
But for this and Swartboy's knowledge, double the time might have been
wasted in the operation.

The ivory having been extracted and put away in a safe place, the
"cutting up" then commenced in earnest.  Von Bloom and Swartboy were the
"baas-butchers," while Hans and Hendrik played the part of "swabs."  As
the carcass lay half under water, they would have had some difficulty in
dealing with the under part.  But this they did not design to touch.
The upper half would be amply sufficient to provision them a long while;
and so they set about removing the skin from that side that was
uppermost.

The rough thick outer coat they removed in broad sheets cut into
sections; and then they peeled off several coats of an under-skin, of
tough and pliant nature.  Had they needed water-vessels, Swartboy would
have saved this for making them--as it is used for such purposes by the
Bushmen and other natives.  But they had vessels enough in the wagon,
and this skin was thrown away.

They had now reached the pure flesh, which they separated in large
sheets from the ribs; and then the ribs were cut out, one by one, with
the axe.  This trouble they would not have taken--as they did not want
the ribs--but they cut them away for another reason, namely, to enable
them to get at the valuable fat, which lies in enormous quantities
around the intestines.  Of course for all cooking purposes, the fat
would be to them invaluable, and indeed almost necessary to render the
flesh itself eatable.

It is no easy matter to get at the fat in the inside of an elephant, as
the whole of the intestines have first to be removed.  But Swartboy was
not to be deterred by a little trouble; so _climbing into the interior_
of the huge carcass, he commenced cutting and delving, and every now and
then passing a multitude of "inwards" out to the others, who carried
them off out of the way.

After a long spell of this work, the fat was secured, and carefully
packed in a piece of clean under-skin; and then the "butchering" was
finished.

Of course the four feet, which along with the trunk are considered the
"tit-bits," had already been separated at the fetlock joint; and stood
out upon the bank, for the future consideration of Swartboy.

The next thing to be done was to "cure" the meat.  They had a stock of
suit--that precious, though, as lately discovered, _not_ indispensable
article.  But the quantity--stowed away in a dry corner of the wagon--
was small, and would have gone but a short way in curing an elephant.

They had no idea of using it for such a purpose.  Flesh can be preserved
without salt; and not only Swartboy, but Von Bloom himself, knew how to
preserve it.  In all countries where salt is scarce, the process of
"jerking" meat is well understood, and consists simply in cutting it
into thin strips and hanging it out in the sun.  A few days of bright
warm sunshine will "jerk" it sufficiently; and meat thus dried will keep
good for months.  A slow fire will answer the purpose nearly as well;
and in the absence of sunshine, the fire is often resorted to.

Sun-dried meat in South Africa is called "biltongue."  The Spaniards of
Mexico name it "tasajo," while those of Peru style it "charqui."  In
English it is "jerked" meat.

Several hours were spent in cutting the elephant-beef into strips, and
then a number of forked poles were set up, others were laid horizontally
over the forks, and upon these the meat was suspended, and hung down in
numberless festoons.

Before the sun went down, the neighbourhood of the camp presented a rare
appearance.  It looked somewhat like the enclosure of a yarn-bleacher,
except that the hanging strips, instead of being white, were of a
beautiful clear ruby colour.

But the work was not yet completed.  The feet remained to be
"preserved," and the mode of curing these was entirely different.  That
was a secret known only to Swartboy, and in the execution of it the
Bushman played first fiddle, with the important air of a _chef de
cuisine_.  He proceeded as follows:--

He first dug a hole in the ground, about two feet deep, and a little
more in diameter--just large enough to admit one of the feet, which was
nearly two feet diameter at the base.  The earth which came out of this
hole Swartboy placed in the form of a loose embankment around the edge.

By his direction the boys had already collected upon the spot a large
quantity of dried branches and logs.  These Swartboy now built over the
hole, into a pyramid of ten feet high, and then set the pile on fire.
He next proceeded to make three other pits precisely similar, and built
over each a fire like the first, until four large fires were burning
upon the ground.

The fires being now fairly under way, he could only wait until each had
burned down.  This would carry the process into the night, and so it
turned out; but Swartboy had a foresight of this.  He knew he would get
through with the more important portion of his work before bedtime.

When the first fire had burned quite to red cinders, Swartboy's hardest
turn of duty began.  With a shovel he lifted the cinders out of the
hole, until it was empty; but he was more than an hour in performing
this apparently simple labour.  The difficulty arose from the intense
heat he had to encounter, which drove him back after every few moments'
work; so that he was compelled to retreat at intervals in order to cool
himself.

The "baas," as well as Hendrik and Hans, took turns with him, until all
four were perspiring as if they had been shut up for half-an-hour in a
baker's oven.

When the hole was thoroughly scooped clean of coals, Swartboy, assisted
by Von Bloom, lifted one of the huge feet; and, carrying it as near as
they dare go on account of the scorching heat, they dropped it in upon
its base.

The sandy earth which had been originally removed, and which was now as
hot as molten lead, was pushed over, and around the foot; and then the
cinders were raked on top, and over that another huge fire was kindled.

The same process was gone through with the other three feet, and all
four were to be left in the "oven" until the fires should be burned
down, when they would be found sufficiently baked.

Swartboy would then rake off the cinders, take out the feet with a sharp
wooden spit, beat them well to get rid of the dust, scrape the sand
clear, then pare off the outside skin, when they would be ready either
to be eaten or would keep for a long time.

Swartboy would do all this as soon as the four huge bonfires should burn
down.

But that would not be before the morning; so all of them, fatigued by
the extraordinary exertions of the day, finished their suppers of
broiled trunk, and went to rest under the protecting shadow of the
nwana.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

THE HIDEOUS HYENA.

Fatigued as they were, they would soon have fallen asleep.  But they
were not permitted to do so.  As they lay with closed eyes in that
half-dreamy state that precedes sleep, they were suddenly startled by
strange voices near the camp.

These voices were uttered in peals of loud laughter; and no one,
unacquainted with them, would have pronounced them to be anything else
than the voices of human beings.  They exactly resembled the strong
treble produced by the laugh of a maniac negro.  It seemed as if some
Bedlam of negroes had been let loose, and were approaching the spot.

I say approaching, because each moment the sounds grew clearer and
louder; and it was evident that whatever gave utterance to them was
coming nearer to the camp.

That there was more than one creature was evident--ay, and it was
equally evident that there was more than one _kind_ of creature; for so
varied were the voices, it would have puzzled a ventriloquist to have
given imitations of them all.  There was howling, and whining, and
grunting, and growling, and low melancholy moaning as of some one in
pain, and hissing, and chattering, and short sharp intonations, as if it
were the barking of dogs, and then a moment or two of deep silence, and
again that chorus of human-like laughter, that in point of horror and
hideous suggestions surpassed all the other sounds.

You will suppose that such a wild concert must have put the camp in a
state of great alarm.  Not a bit of it.  Nobody was frightened the
least--not even innocent little Truey, nor the diminutive Jan.

Had they been strangers to these sounds, no doubt they would have been
more than frightened.  They would have been terrified by them; for they
were calculated to produce such an effect upon any one to whose ears
they were new.

But Von Bloom and his family had lived too long upon the wild karoo to
be ignorant of those voices.  In the howling, and chattering, and
yelping, they heard but the cries of the jackal; and they well knew the
maniac laugh of the hideous hyena.

Instead of being alarmed, and springing from their beds, they lay still
and listened--not dreading any attack from the noisy creatures.

Von Bloom and the children slept in the wagon; Swartboy and Totty upon
the ground--but these lay close to the fires, and therefore did not fear
wild beasts of any kind.

But the hyenas and jackals upon this occasion appeared to be both
numerous and bold.  In a few minutes after they were first heard, their
cries rose around the camp on all sides, so near and so loud as to be
positively disagreeable--even without considering the nature of the
brutes that uttered them.

At last they came so close, that it was impossible to look in any
direction without seeing a pair of green or red eyes gleaming under the
light of the fires!  White teeth, too, could be observed, as the hyenas
opened their jaws, to give utterance to their harsh laughter-like cries.

With such a sight before their eyes, and such sounds ringing in their
ears, neither Von Bloom nor any of his people--tired as they were--could
go to sleep.  Indeed, not only was sleep out of the question, but, worse
than that, all--the field-cornet himself not excepted--began to
experience some feelings of apprehension, if not actual alarm.

They had never beheld a troop of hyenas so numerous and fierce.  There
could not be less than two dozen of them around the camp, with twice
that number of jackals.

Von Bloom knew that although, under ordinary circumstances, the hyena is
not a dangerous animal, yet there are places and times when he will
attack human beings.  Swartboy knew this well, and Hans, too, from
having read of it.  No wonder, then, that some apprehension was felt by
all of them.

The hyenas now behaved with such boldness, and appeared so ravenous,
that sleep was out of the question.  Some demonstration must be made to
drive the brutes away from the camp.

Von Bloom, Hans, and Hendrik, laid hold of their guns, and got out of
the wagon, while Swartboy armed himself with his bow and arrows.  All
four stood close by the trunk of the nwana, on the other side from that
where the fires were.  In this place they were in the shadow, where they
could best observe anything that should come under the light of the
fires without being themselves seen.  Their position was well chosen.

They had scarcely fixed themselves in it, when they perceived a great
piece of neglect they had been guilty of.  Now, for the first time it
occurred to them what had brought the hyenas around them in such
numbers.  Beyond a doubt it was the flesh of the elephant,--the
_biltongue_.

That was what the beasts were after; and all now saw that a mistake had
been committed in hanging the meat too low.  The hyenas might easily get
at it.

This was soon made manifest; for, even at the moment while they stood
watching the red festoons, plainly visible under the light of Swartboy's
fires, a shaggy spotted brute rushed forward, reared up on his
hind-legs, seized one of the pieces, dragged it down from the pole, and
then ran off with it into the darkness.

A rushing sound could be heard as the others joined him to get share of
his plunder; and, no doubt, in less than half a minute the morsel was
consumed; for, at the end of that time, glancing eyes and gleaming teeth
showed that the whole troop was back again and ready to make a fresh
seizure.

None of the hunters had fired, as the nimbleness with which the brutes
moved about rendered it difficult to take aim at any one of them; and
all knew that powder and lead were too precious to be wasted on a
"flying shot."

Emboldened by their success, the hyenas had now drawn nearer, and in a
moment more would have made a general charge upon the scaffolds of
flesh, and, no doubt, would have succeeded in carrying off a large
quantity of it.  But just then it occurred to Von Bloom that it would be
best to lay aside their guns and remedy the mistake they had made, by
putting the biltongue out of reach.  If they did not do so, they would
either have to remain awake all night and guard it, or else lose every
string of it.

How was it to be put out of reach?

At first they thought of collecting it into a heap and stowing it away
in the wagon.  That would not only be an unpleasant job, but it would
interfere with their sleeping-quarters.

An alternative, however, presented itself.  They saw that if the
scaffolds were only high enough, the meat might be easily hung so as to
be out of reach of the hyenas.  The only question was, how to place the
cross-poles a little higher.  In the darkness they could not obtain a
new set of uprights, and therein lay the difficulty.  How were they to
get over it?

Hans had the credit of suggesting a way: and that was, to take out some
of the uprights, splice them to the others, with the forked ends
uppermost, and then rest the horizontal poles on the upper forks.  That
would give a scaffold tall enough to hang the meat beyond the reach of
either jackals or hyenas.

Hans's suggestion was at once adopted.  Half of the uprights were taken
up and spliced against the others so as to raise their forks full twelve
feet in the air; and then the cross-poles were rested over their tops.
By standing upon one of the wagon-chests, Von Bloom was able to fling
the strips of meat over the horizontal poles, and in such a manner that
it hung only a few inches down, and was now quite beyond the reach of
the ravenous brutes.

When the business was finished, the party resumed their station under
the shadow of the tree, intending to watch for a while, and see how the
wolfish intruders would act.

They had not long to watch.  In less than five minutes the troop
approached the biltongue, howling, and gibbering, and laughing, as
before; only this time uttering peculiar cries, as if to express
disappointment.  They saw at a glance that the tempting festoons were no
longer within their reach!

They were not going to leave the ground, however, without assuring
themselves of this fact; and several of the largest approached boldly
under the scaffolds, and commenced leaping up to try the height.

After several attempts, springing each time as high as they were able,
they appeared to grow discouraged; and no doubt would in time have
imitated the fox with the grapes, and gone quietly away.  But Von Bloom,
indignant at being roused after such a fashion, from his pleasant rest,
was determined to take some revenge upon his tormenters; so he whispered
the word to the others, and a volley was delivered from behind the tree.

The unexpected discharge caused a quick scattering of both hyenas and
jackals, and the pattering of their numerous feet could be heard as they
ran off.  When the ground under the scaffold was examined, two of the
larger of these ravenous quadrupeds, and one of the smaller, were found
to have bitten the dust.

Swartboy had discharged his arrow along with the guns, and it was he
that had slain the jackal, for the poisoned shaft was seen sticking
between the animal's ribs.

The guns were again loaded, the party took their stations as before;
but, although they waited another half-hour, neither hyena nor jackal
made their appearance.

They had not gone far away, however, as their wild music testified; but
the reason they did not return was, that they had now discovered the
half carcass of the elephant that lay in the lake, and upon that they
were making their supper.  Their plunging in the water could be
distinctly heard from the camp, and during the whole night they
quarrelled and growled, and laughed and yelled, as they gorged
themselves on their ample prey.

Of course Von Bloom and his people did not sit up all night to listen to
this medley of noises.  As soon as they perceived that the brutes were
not likely to come any more near the camp, they laid aside their
weapons, returned to their respective sleeping-places, and were all soon
buried in the sweet slumber that follows a day of healthy exercise.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

STALKING THE OUREBI.

Next morning the hyenas and jackals had disappeared from the scene, and,
to the surprise of all, not a particle of flesh was left upon the bones
of the elephant.  There lay the huge skeleton picked clean, the bones
even polished white by the rough tongues of the hyenas.  Nay, still
stranger to relate, two of the horses--these poor brutes had been long
since left to themselves,--had been pulled down during the night, and
their skeletons lay at a short distance from the camp as cleanly picked
as that of the elephant!

All this was evidence of the great number of ravenous creatures that
must have their home in that quarter,--evidence, too, that game animals
abounded, for where these are not numerous the beasts of prey cannot
exist.  Indeed, from the quantity of tracks that were seen upon the
shores of the vley, it was evident that animals of various kinds had
drunk there during the night.  There was the round solid hoof of the
quagga, and his near congener the dauw; and there was the neat
hoof-print of the gemsbok, and the larger track of the eland; and among
these Von Bloom did not fail to notice the spoor of the dreaded lion.
Although they had not heard his roaring that night, they had no doubt
but there were plenty of his kind in that part of the country.  The
presence of his favourite prey,--the quaggas, the gemsboks, and the
elands,--were sure indications that the king of beasts was not far off.

Not much work was done that day.  The heavy labour of curing the
biltongue, that had occupied them the whole of the preceding day, and
their disturbed rest, had rendered them all listless; and neither Von
Bloom nor the others had any inclination for work.  So they moved around
the camp and did very little.

Swartboy took his elephant's feet from the oven, and cleaned them; and
also let down the biltongue and arranged it so as to be better exposed
to the sun.  Von Bloom himself shot the three remaining horses, having
driven them to a good distance from the camp.  He did this to put an end
to the suffering of the poor brutes,--for it was plain to every one that
they could survive but a day or two longer; and to send a bullet through
the heart of each was an act of mercy to them.

Out of all the live-stock of the field-cornet, the cow alone remained,
and she was now tended with the greatest care.  Without the precious
milk, which she yielded in such quantity, their diet would have been
savage enough; and they fully appreciated the service she rendered them.
Each day she was driven out to the best pasture, and at night shut up
in a safe kraal of wait-a-bit thorns, that had been built for her at a
little distance from the tree.  These thorns had been placed in such a
manner that their shanks all radiated inward, while the bushy tops were
turned out, forming a _chevaux-de-frise_, that scarce any animal would
have attempted to get through.  Such a fence will turn even the lion,
unless when he has been rendered fierce and reckless by provocation.

Of course a gap had been left for the cow to pass in and out, and this
was closed by one immense bush, which served all the purpose of a gate.
Such was the kraal of "old Graaf."  Besides the cow, the only living
thing that remained in camp was Truey's little pet, the fawn of the
gazelle.

But on that very day another pet was added, a dear little creature, not
less beautiful than the springbok, and of still more diminutive
proportions.  That was the fawn of an "ourebi,"--one of the elegant
little antelopes that are found in such variety over the plains and in
the "bush" of Southern Africa.

It was to Hendrik they were indebted not only for this pet, but for a
dinner of delicate venison, which they had that day eaten, and which all
of them, except Swartboy, preferred to elephant-beef.  Hendrik had
procured the venison by a shot from his rifle, and in the following
manner.  About midday he went out--having fancied that upon a large
grassy meadow near the camp he saw some animal.  After walking about
half a mile, and keeping among bushes, around the edge of the meadow, he
got near enough to be sure that it _was_ an animal he had observed, for
he now saw _two_ in the place he had marked.

They were of a kind he had not met with before.  They were very small
creatures,--smaller even than springboks,--but, from their general form
and appearance, Hendrik knew they were either antelopes or deer; and, as
Hans had told him there were _no deer in Southern Africa_, he concluded
they must be some species of antelope.  They were a buck and doe,--this
he knew because one of them only carried horns.  The buck was _under two
feet_ in height, of slender make, and pale tawny colour.  He was
white-bellied, with white arches above the eyes, and some long white
hair under the throat.  Below his knees were yellowish tufts of long
hair, and his horns--instead of being lyrate, like those of the
springbok--rose nearly vertical to the height of four inches.  They were
black in colour, round-shaped, and slightly ringed.  The doe was without
horns, and was a much smaller animal than her mate.

From all these marks Hendrik thought the little antelopes were
"ourebis;" and such they were.

He continued to stalk in upon them, until he was as close as he could
get.  But he was still more than two hundred yards from them, and of
course far from being within shooting distance with his small rifle.

A thick _jong dora_ bush concealed him, but he dared not go farther else
the game would have taken the alarm.  He could perceive that they were
shy creatures.

Every now and gain the buck would raise his graceful neck to its full
stretch, utter a slight blearing call, and look suspiciously around him.
From these symptoms Hendrik drew the inference that it was shy game,
and would not be easily approached.

He lay for a moment, thinking what he should do.  He was to leeward of
the game, as he had purposely gone there; but after a while, to his
chagrin, he saw that they were _feeding up the wind_, and of course
widening the distance between them and himself.

It occurred to Hendrik that it might be their habit to browse up the
wind, as springboks and some other species do.  If so, he might as well
give it up, or else make a long circuit and _head_ them.  To do this
would be a work of labour and of time, and a very uncertain stalk it
would be in the end.  After all his long tramping, and creeping, and
crouching, the game would be like enough to scent him before they came
within shot--for it is for this very reason that their instinct teaches
them to browse _against_, and not _with_ the wind.

As the plain was large, and the cover very distant, Hendrik was
discouraged and gave up the design he had half formed of trying to head
them.

He was about to rise to his feet, and return home, when it occurred to
him that perhaps he might find a decoy available.  He knew there were
several species of antelopes, with whom curiosity was stronger than
fear.  He had often lured the springbok within reach.  Why would not
these obey the same impulse?

He determined to make trial.  At the worst he could only fail, and he
had no chance of getting a shot otherwise.

Without losing a moment he thrust his hand into his pocket.  He should
have found there a large red handkerchief which he had more than once
used for a similar purpose.  To his chagrin it was not there!

He dived into both pockets of his jacket, then into his wide trousers,
then under the breast of his waistcoat.  No.  The handkerchief was not
to be found.  Alas! it had been left in the wagon!  It was very
annoying.

What else could he make use of?  Take off his jacket and hold it up?  It
was not gay enough in colour.  It would not do.

Should he raise his hat upon the end of his gun?  That might be better,
but still it would look too much like the human form, and Hendrik knew
that all animals feared that.

A happy thought at length occurred to him.  He had heard, that with the
curious antelopes, strange forms or movements attract almost as much as
glaring colours.  He remembered a trick that was said to be practised
with success by the hunters.  It was easy enough, and consisted merely
in the hunter standing upon his hands and head, and kicking his heels in
the air!

Now Hendrik happened to be one of those very boys who had often
practised this little bit of gymnastics for amusement; and he could
stand upon his head like an acrobat.

Without losing a moment he placed his rifle upon the ground, between his
hands, and hoisting his feet into the air, commenced kicking them about,
clinking them together, and crossing them in the most fantastic manner.

He had placed himself so that his face was turned towards the animals,
while he stood upon his head.  Of course he could not see them while in
this position, as the grass was a foot high; but, at intervals, he
permitted his feet to descend to the earth; and then, by looking between
his legs, he could tell how the ruse was succeeding.

It _did_ succeed.  The buck, on first perceiving the strange object,
uttered a sharp whistle, and darted off with the swiftness of a bird--
for the "ourebi" is one of the swiftest of African antelopes.  The doe
followed, though not so fast, and soon fell into the rear.

The buck, perceiving this, suddenly halted--as if ashamed of his want of
gallantry--wheeled round, and galloped back, until he was once more
between the doe and the odd thing that had alarmed him.

What could this odd thing be? he now seemed to inquire of himself.  It
was not a lion, nor a leopard, nor a hyena, nor yet a jackal.  It was
neither fox, nor fennec, nor earth-wolf, nor wild hound, nor any of his
well-known enemies.  It was not a Bushman neither, for they are not
double-headed as it appeared.  What _could_ it be?  It had kept its
place--it had not pursued him.  Perhaps it was not at all dangerous.  No
doubt it was harmless enough.

So reasoned the ourebi.  His curiosity overcame his fear.  He would go a
little nearer.  He would have a better view of the thing before he took
to flight.  No matter what it was, it could do no hurt at that distance;
and as to _overtaking him_, pah! there wasn't a creature, biped or
quadruped, in all Africa that he could not fling dust in the face of.

So he went a little nearer, and then a little nearer still, and
continued to advance by successive runs, now this way and now that way,
zigzagging over the plain, until he was within less than a hundred paces
of the odd object that at first light had so terrified him.

His companion, the doe, kept close after him; and seemed quite as
curious as himself--her large shining eyes opened to their full extent,
as she stopped to gaze at intervals.

Sometimes the two met each other in their course; and halted a moment,
as though they held consultation in whispers; and asked each other if
they had yet made out the character of the stranger.

It was evident, however, that neither had done so--as they still
continued to approach it with looks and gestures of inquiry and wonder.

At length the odd object disappeared for a moment under the grass; and
then reappeared,--but this time in an altered form.  Something about it
glanced brightly under the sun, and this glancing quite fascinated the
buck, so that he could not stir from the spot, but stood eyeing it
steadily.

Fatal fascination!  It was his last gaze.  A bright flash shot up--
something struck him through the heart, and he saw the shining object no
more!

The doe bounded forward to where her mate had fallen, and stood bleating
over him.  She knew not the cause of his sudden death, but she saw that
he was dead.  The wound in his side--the stream of red blood--were under
her eyes.  She had never witnessed death in that form before, but she
knew her lover was dead.  His silence--his form stretched along the
grass motionless and limber--his glassy eyes--all told her he had ceased
to live.

She would have fled, but she could not leave him--she could not bear to
part even from his lifeless form.  She would remain a while, and mourn
over him.

Her widowhood was a short one.  Again flashed the priming,--again
cracked the shining tube--and the sorrowing doe fell over upon the body
of her mate.

The young hunter rose to his feet, and ran forward.  He did not,
according to usual custom, stop to load before approaching his quarry.
The plain was perfectly level, and he saw no other animal upon it.  What
was his surprise on reaching the antelopes, to perceive that there was a
_third_ one of the party still alive!

Yes, a little fawn, not taller than a rabbit, was bounding about through
the grass, running around the prostrate body of its mother, and uttering
its tiny bleat.

Hendrik was surprised, because he had not observed this creature before;
but, indeed, he had not seen much of the antelopes until the moment of
taking aim, and the grass had concealed the tiny young one.

Hunter as Hendrik was, he could not help feeling strongly as he regarded
the _tableau_ before him.  But he felt that he had not wantonly
destroyed these creatures for mere amusement, and that satisfied his
conscience.

The little fawn would make a famous pet for Jan, who had often wished
for one, to be equal with his sister.  It could be fed upon the cow's
milk, and, though it had lost both father and mother, Hendrik resolved
that it should be carefully brought up.  He had no difficulty in
capturing it, as it refused to leave the spot where its mother lay, and
Hendrik soon held the gentle creature in his arms.

He then tied the buck and doe together; and, having fastened a strong
cord round the horns of the latter, he set off dragging the two
antelopes behind him.

As these lay upon the ground, heads foremost, they were drawn _with the
grain of the hair_, which made it much easier; and as there was nothing
but grass sward to be passed over, the young hunter succeeded in taking
the whole of his game to camp without any great difficulty.

The joy of all was great, at seeing such a fine lot of venison, but
Jan's rejoicing was greater than all; and he no longer envied Truey the
possession of her little gazelle.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

LITTLE JAN'S ADVENTURE.

It would have been better that Jan had never seen the little "ourebi,"--
better both for Jan and the antelope, for that night the innocent
creature was the cause of a terrible panic in the camp.

They had all gone to sleep as on the previous night,--Von Bloom and the
four children in the wagon, while the Bushman and Totty slept upon the
grass.  The latter lay under the wagon; but Swartboy had kindled a large
fire at a little distance from it, and beside this had stretched
himself, rolled up in his sheep-skin kaross.

They had all gone to sleep without being disturbed by the hyenas.  This
was easily accounted for.  The three horses that had been shot that day
occupied the attention of these gentry, for their hideous voices could
be heard off in the direction where the carcasses lay.  Having enough to
give them a supper, they found no occasion to risk themselves in the
neighbourhood of the camp, where they had experienced such a hostile
reception on the previous night.  So reasoned Von Bloom, as he turned
over and fell asleep.

He did not reason correctly, however.  It was true that the hyenas were
just then making a meal upon the horses; but it was a mistake to suppose
that that would satisfy these ravenous brutes, who never seem to have
enough.  Long before morning, had Von Bloom been awake he would have
heard the maniac laugh closer to the camp, and might have seen the green
eyes of the hyena glancing under the expiring blaze of Swartboy's
camp-fire.

Indeed, he had heard the beasts once that he awoke; but, knowing that
the biltongue had been this night placed out of their reach, and
thinking that there was nothing to which they could do any harm, he gave
no heed to their noisy demonstrations, and went to sleep again.

He was awakened, however, by a shrill squeak, as of some animal in the
agonies of death; and then there was a second squeak, that seemed to be
suddenly interrupted by the stifling of the creature's utterance!

In these cries Von Bloom, as well as the others--who were now also
awake--recognised the bleat of the ourebi, for they had heard it several
times during the afternoon.

"The hyenas are killing it!" thought they.  But they had not time to say
so, before another and far different cry reached their ears, and caused
them all to start as if a bomb-shell had burst under the wagon.  That
cry was the voice of Jan, and sounded in the same direction whence came
the scream of the stifled antelope!

"O heaven! what could it mean?"

The child's voice first reached them in a sudden screech--then there was
a confused noise resembling a scuffle--and Jan was again heard crying
aloud for help, while at the same time his voice was interrupted, and
each call appeared to come from a greater distance!  _Something or
somebody was carrying him off_!

This idea occurred to Von Bloom, Hans, and Hendrik, at the same instant.
Of course it filled them with consternation; and, as they were scarce
yet awake, they knew not what to do.

The cries of Jan, however, soon brought them to their senses; and to run
towards the direction whence these came was the first thought of all.

To grope for their guns would waste time, and all three leaped out of
the wagon without them.

Totty was upon her feet and jabbering, but she knew no more than they
what had happened.

They did not stop long to question her.  The voice of Swartboy, uttered
in loud barks and clicks, summoned them elsewhere; and they now beheld a
red flaming brand rushing through the darkness, which no doubt was
carried in the hands of that worthy.

They started off in the direction of the blazing torch, and ran as fast
as they could.  They still heard the Bushman's voice, and to their
dismay _beyond it_ the screams of little Jan!

Of course they could not tell what was causing all this.  They only
pressed on with fearful apprehensions.

When they had got within some fifty paces of the torch, they perceived
it suddenly descend, then raised again, and again brought down, in a
rapid and violent manner!  They could hear the voice of the Bushman
barking and clicking louder than ever, as though he was engaged in
chastising some creature.

But Jan's voice they no longer heard--he was screaming no more--was he
dead?

With terrible forebodings they rushed on.

When they arrived upon the spot, a singular picture presented itself to
their eyes.  Jan lay upon the ground, close in by the roots of some
bushes which he was holding tightly in his grasp.  From one of his
wrists extended a stout thong, or _rheim_, which passed through among
the bushes to the distance of several feet; and, fast to its other end,
was the ourebi fawn, dead, and terribly mangled!  Over the spot stood
Swartboy with his burning tree, which blazed all the brighter that he
had just been using it over the back of a ravenous hyena.  The latter
was not in sight.  It had long since skulked off, but no one thought of
pursuit, as all were too anxious about Jan.

No time was lost in lifting the child to his feet.  The eyes of all ran
eagerly over him to see where he was wounded; and an exclamation of joy
soon broke forth when they saw that, except the scratches of the thorns,
and the deep track of a cord upon his wrist, nothing in the shape of a
wound could be discovered upon his diminutive body.  He had now come to
himself, and assured them all that he was not hurt a bit.  Hurrah!  Jan
was safe!

It now fell to Jan's lot to explain all this mysterious business.

He had been lying in the wagon along with the rest, but not like them
asleep.  No.  He could not sleep a wink for thinking on his new pet,
which, for want of room in the wagon, had been left below tied to one of
the wheels.

Jan had taken it into his head that he would like to have another look
at the ourebi before going to sleep.  So, without saying a word to any
one, he crept out of the cap-tent, and descended to where the antelope
was tied.  He unloosed it gently, and then led it forward to the light
of the fire, where he sat down to admire the creature.

After gazing upon it for some time with delight, he thought that
Swartboy could not do otherwise than share his feelings; and without
more ado, he shook the Bushman awake.

The latter had no great stomach for being roused out of sleep to look at
an animal, hundreds of which he had eaten in his time.  But Jan and
Swartboy were sworn friends, and the Bushman was not angry.  He,
therefore, indulged his young master in the fancy he had taken; and the
two sat for a while conversing about the pet.

At length Swartboy proposed sleep.  Jan would agree to this only upon
the terms that Swartboy would allow him to sleep alongside of him.  He
would bring his blanket from the wagon, and would not trouble Swartboy
by requiring part of the latter's kaross.

Swartboy objected at first; but Jan urged that he had felt cold in the
wagon, and that was partly why he had come down to the fire.  All this
was sheer cunning in the little imp.  But Swartboy could not refuse him
anything, and at length consented.  He could see no harm in it, as there
were no signs of rain.

Jan then returned to the wagon, climbed noiselessly up, drew out his own
blankets, and brought them to the fire.  He then wrapped himself up, and
lay down alongside of Swartboy, with the ourebi standing near, and in
such a situation that he could still have his eyes upon it, even when
lying.  To secure it from wandering, he had fastened a strong rheim
around its neck, the other end of which he had looped tightly upon his
own wrist.

He lay for some time contemplating his beautiful pet.  But sleep at
length overcame him, and the image of the ourebi melted before his eyes.

Beyond this Jan could tell little of what happened to him.  He was
awakened by a sudden jerking at his wrist, and hearing the antelope
scream.  But he had not quite opened his eyes, before he felt himself
dragged violently over the ground.

He thought at first it was Swartboy playing some trick upon him; but as
he passed the fire, he saw by its light that it was a huge black animal
that had seized the ourebi, and was dragging both him and it along.

Of course he then began to scream for help, and caught at everything he
could to keep himself from being carried away.  But he could lay hold of
nothing, until he found himself among thick bushes, and these he seized
and held with all his might.

He could not have held out long against the strength of the hyena; but
it was just at that moment that Swartboy came up with his firebrand, and
beat off the ravisher with a shower of blows.

When they got back to the light of the fire they found that Jan was all
right.  But the poor ourebi--it had been sadly mangled, and was now of
no more value than a dead rat.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

A CHAPTER UPON HYENAS.

Hyenas are wolves--only wolves of a particular kind.  They have the same
general habits as wolves, and much of their look.  They have heavier
heads, broader thicker muzzles, shorter and stouter necks, and
altogether a coarser and shaggier coat.  One of the most characteristic
marks of the hyena is the inequality in the development of its limbs.
The hind-legs appear weaker and shorter than the fore ones, so that the
rump is far lower than the shoulders; and the line of the back, instead
of being horizontal, as in most animals, droops obliquely towards the
tail.

The short thick neck and strong jaws are characteristics; the former so
much so, that in the days of fabulous natural history the hyena was said
to be without cervical vertebrae.  Its thick neck and powerful jaw-bones
have their uses.  It is by virtue of these that the hyena can make a
meal upon bones, which would be of no use whatever to the ordinary wolf
or other beast of prey.  It can break almost the largest and strongest
joints, and not only extract their marrow, but crush the bones
themselves, and swallow them as food.  Here, again, we have proof of
Nature's adaptation.  It is just where these large bones are found in
greatest plenty that we find the hyena.  Nature suffers nothing to be
wasted.

Hyenas are the wolves of Africa--that is, they are in Africa the
representatives of the large wolf, which does not exist there.  It is
true the jackal is a wolf in every respect, but only a small one; and
there is no true wolf in Africa of the large kind, such as the gaunt
robber of the Pyrenees, or his twin brother of America.  But the hyena
is the _wolf of Africa_.

And of all wolves he is the ugliest and most brute-like.  There is not a
graceful or beautiful bit about him.  In fact, I was about to pronounce
him the ugliest animal in creation, when the baboons came into my mind.
They of course exhibit the _ne plus ultra_ of ugliness; and, indeed, the
hyenas are not at all unlike them in general aspect, as well as in some
of their habits.  Some early writers even classed them together.

Now we have been speaking of the hyena, as if there was but one species.
For a long time but one was known--the common or "striped hyena"
(_Hyena vulgaris_), and it was about this one that so many false stories
have been told.  Perhaps no other animal has held so conspicuous a place
in the world of mystery and horror.  Neither vampire nor dragon have
surpassed him.  Our ancestors believed that he could fascinate any one
with his glance, lure them after him, and then devour them--that he
changed his sex every year--that he could transform himself into a
comely youth, and thus beguile young maidens off into the woods to be
eaten up--that he could imitate the human voice perfectly--that it was
his custom to conceal himself near a house, listen until the name of one
of the family should be mentioned, then call out as if for assistance,
pronouncing the name he had heard, and imitating the cries of one in
distress.  This would bring out the person called, who of course on
reaching the spot would find only a fierce hyena ready to devour him!

Strange as it may seem, all these absurd stories were once very
generally believed, and, strange as it may seem in me to say, not one of
them but has _some_ foundation.  Exaggerated as they are, they all owe
their origin to natural facts.  At present I shall refer to only two of
these.  There is a peculiarity about the glance of the hyena that has
given birth to the notion of his possessing the power to "charm" or
fascinate, although I never heard of his luring any one to destruction
by it; there is a peculiarity about the animal's voice that might well
gain him credit for imitating the human voice, for the simple reason
that the former bears a very near resemblance to the latter.  I do not
say that the voice of the hyena is like the ordinary human voice, but
there are some voices it does exactly resemble.  I am acquainted with
several people who have _hyena voices_.  In fact, one of the closest
imitations of a human laugh is that of the "spotted hyena."  No one can
hear it, hideous as it is, without being amused at its close
approximation to the utterance of a human being.  There is a dash of the
maniac in its tones, and it reminds me of the sharp metallic ring which
I have noticed in the voices of negroes.  I have already compared it to
what I should fancy would be the laugh of a _maniac negro_.

The striped hyena, although the best known, is in my opinion the least
interesting of his kind.  He is more widely distributed than any of his
congeners.  Found in most parts of Africa, he is also an Asiatic animal,
is common enough throughout all the southern countries of Asia, and is
even found as far north as the Caucasus and the Altai.  He is the only
species that exists in Asia.  All the others are natives of Africa,
which is the true home of the hyena.

Naturalists admit but _three_ species of hyena.  I have not the
slightest doubt that there are twice that number as distinct from each
other as these three are.  Five, at least, I know, without reckoning as
hyenas either the "wild hound" of the Cape, or the little burrowing
hyena (_Proteles_)--both of which we shall no doubt meet with in the
course of our hunting adventures.

First, then, we have the "striped" hyena already mentioned.  He is
usually of an ashy grey colour with a slight yellowish tinge, and a set
of irregular _striae_, or stripes of black or dark brown.  These are
placed transversely to the length of his body, or rather obliquely,
following nearly the direction of the ribs.  They are not equally well
defined or conspicuous in different individuals of the species.  The
hair--like that of all hyenas--is long, harsh, and shaggy, but longer
over the neck, shoulders, and back, where it forms a mane.  This becomes
erect when the animal is excited.  The same may be observed among dogs.

The common hyena is far from being either strong or brave, when compared
with the others of his kind.  He is, in fact, the weakest and least
ferocious of the family.  He is sufficiently voracious, but lives
chiefly on carrion, and will not dare attack living creatures of half
his own strength.  He preys only on the smallest quadrupeds, and with
all his voracity he is an arrant poltroon.  A child of ten years will
easily put him to flight.

A second species is the hyena which so much annoyed the celebrated Bruce
while travelling in Abyssinia, and may be appropriately named "Bruce's
hyena."  This is also a _striped_ hyena, and nearly all naturalists have
set him down as of the same species with the _Hyena vulgaris_.
Excepting the "stripes," there is no resemblance whatever between the
two species; and even these are differently arranged, while the ground
colour also differs.

Bruce's hyena is nearly twice the size of the common kind--with twice
his strength, courage, and ferocity.  The former will attack not only
large quadrupeds, but man himself,--will enter houses by night, even
villages, and carry off domestic animals and children.

Incredible as these statements may appear, about their truth there can
be no doubt; such occurrences are by no means rare.

This hyena has the reputation of entering graveyards, and disinterring
the dead bodies to feed upon them.  Some naturalists have denied this.
For what reason?  It is well-known that in many parts of Africa, the
dead are not interred, but thrown out on the plains.  It is equally
well-known that the hyenas devour the bodies so exposed.  It is known,
too, that the hyena is a "terrier"--a burrowing animal.  What is there
strange or improbable in supposing that it burrows to get at the bodies,
its natural food?  The wolf does so, the jackal, the coyote,--ay, even
the dog!  I have seen all of them at it on the battle-field.  Why not
the hyena?

A third species is very distinct from either of the two described--the
"spotted hyena" (_Hyena crocuta_).  This is also sometimes called the
"laughing" hyena, from the peculiarity we have had occasion to speak of.
This species, in general colour, is not unlike the common kind, except
that, instead of stripes, his sides are covered with spots.  He is
larger than the _Hyena vulgaris_, and in character resembles Bruce's, or
the Abyssinian hyena.  He is a native of the southern half of Africa,
where he is known among the Dutch colonists as the "tiger-wolf;" while
the common hyena is by them simply called "wolf."

A fourth species is the "brown hyena" (_Hyena villosa_).  The name
"brown" hyena is not a good one, as brown colour is by no means a
characteristic of this animal.  _Hyena villosa_, or "hairy hyena," is
better, as the long, straight hair falling down his sides gives him a
peculiar aspect, and at once distinguishes him from any of the others.
He is equally as large and fierce as any, being of the size of a Saint
Bernard mastiff, but it is difficult to imagine how any one could
mistake him for either a striped or spotted hyena.  His colour is dark
brown, or nearly black above, and dirty grey beneath.  In fact, in
general colour and the arrangement of his hair, he is not unlike a
badger or wolverine.

And yet many naturalists describe this as being of the same species as
the common hyena--the learned De Blainville among the rest.  The most
ignorant boor of South Africa--for he is a South African animal--knows
better than this.  Their very appellation of "straand-wolf" points out
his different habits and haunts--for he is a seashore animal, and not
even found in such places as are the favourite resorts of the common
hyena.

There is still another "brown hyena," which differs altogether from this
one, and is an inhabitant of the Great Desert.  He is shorter-haired and
of uniform brown colour, but like the rest in habits and general
character.  No doubt, when the central parts of Africa have been
thoroughly explored, several species of hyena will be added to the list
of those already known.

The habits of the hyenas are not unlike those of the larger wolves.
They dwell in caves, of clefts of rocks.  Some of them use the burrows
of other animals for their lair, which they can enlarge for themselves--
as they are provided with burrowing claws.

They are not tree-climbers, as their claws are not sufficiently
retractile for that.  It is in their teeth their main dependence lies,
and in the great strength of their jaws.

Hyenas are solitary animals, though often troops of them are seen
together, attracted by the common prey.  A dozen or more will meet over
a carcass, but each goes his own way on leaving it.  They are extremely
voracious; will eat up almost anything--even scraps of leather or old
shoes!  Bones they break and swallow as though these were pieces of
tender flesh.  They are bold, particularly with the poor natives, who do
not hunt them with a view to extermination.  They enter the miserable
kraals of the natives, and often carry off their children.  It is
positively true that hundreds of children have been destroyed by hyenas
in Southern Africa!

It is difficult for you to comprehend why this is permitted--why there
is not a war of extermination carried on against the hyenas, until these
brutes are driven out of the land.  You cannot comprehend such a state
of things, because you do not take into account the difference between
savage and civilised existence.  You will suppose that human life in
Africa is held of far less value than it is in England; but if you
thoroughly understood political science, you would discover that many a
law of civilised life calls for its victims in far greater numbers than
do the hyenas.  The empty review, the idle court fete, the reception of
an emperor, all require, as their natural sequence, the sacrifice of
many lives!



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

A HOUSE AMONG THE TREE-TOPS.

Von Bloom now reflected that the hyenas were likely to prove a great
pest to him.  No meat, nor anything, would be safe from them--even his
very children would be in danger, if left alone in the camp; and no
doubt he would often be compelled to leave them, as he would require the
older ones upon his hunting excursions.

There were other animals to be dreaded still more than the hyenas.  Even
during that night they had heard the roaring of lions down by the vley;
and when it was morning, the spoor showed that several of these animals
had drunk at the water.

How could he leave little Truey--his dear little Truey--or Jan, who was
not a bit bigger--how could he leave them in an open camp while such
monsters were roving about?  He could not think of doing so.

He reflected what course he should pursue.  At first he thought of
putting up a house.  That would necessarily be a work of time.  There
was no good building material convenient.  A stone house would cost a
great deal of labour--as the stones would have to be carried nearly a
mile, and in their hands too.  That would never do, as Von Bloom might
only remain a short while at that place.  He might not find many
elephants there, and of course would be under the necessity of going
elsewhere.

Why not build a log-house? you will say.  That would not be so much of a
job, as part of the country was well wooded, and they had an axe.

True, part of the country was wooded, but in a particular manner.  With
the exception of the nwana-trees, that stood at long distances apart--
and regularly, as if they had been planted--there was nothing that
deserved the name of timber.  All the rest was mere "bush,"--a thorny
jungle of mimosas, euphorbias, arborescent aloes, strelitzias, and the
horrid zamia plants, beautiful enough to the eye, but of no utility
whatever in the building of a house.  The nwanas, of course, were too
large for house-logs.  To have felled one of them would have been a task
equal almost to the building of a house; and to have made planks of them
would have required a steam saw-mill.  A log-house was not to be thought
of either.

Now a frail structure of poles and thatch would not have given
sufficient security.  An angry rhinoceros, or elephant, would level such
a house to the ground in a few moments.

Suppose, too, that there were _man-eaters_ in the neighbourhood.
Swartboy believed that there were, and that that region was notorious
for them.  As it was not far from Swartboy's native country, Von Bloom,
who had reason to believe what the Bushman told him, was inclined to
credit this.  What protection would a frail house afford against the
_man-eater_?  Not much, indeed.

Von Bloom was puzzled and perplexed.  He could not commence his hunting
excursions until this question was settled.  Some place must be
prepared, where the children would be safe during his absence.

While revolving the subject in his mind, he happened to cast his eyes
upward among the branches of the nwana-tree.  All at once his attention
became fixed upon those huge limbs, for they had awakened within him a
strange memory.  He remembered having heard that, in some parts of the
country, and perhaps not very far from where he then was, the natives
_live in trees_.  That sometimes a whole tribe, of fifty or more, make
their home in a single tree; and do so to secure themselves against
savage beasts, and sometimes equally savage men.  That they build their
houses upon platforms, which they erect upon the horizontal branches;
and that they ascend by means of ladders, which are drawn up after them
at night when they go to rest.

All this Von Bloom had heard, and all of it is positively true.  Of
course the reflection occurred to him, why could _he_ not do the same?
Why could he not build a house in the gigantic nwana?  That would give
him all the security he desired.  There they could all sleep with
perfect confidence of safety.  There, on going out to hunt, he could
leave the children, with the certainty of finding them on his return.
An admirable idea!--how about its practicability?

He began to consider this.  If he only had planks to make a staging or
platform, the rest would be easy.  Any slight roof would be sufficient
up there.  The leaves almost formed a roof.  But the flooring--this was
the difficulty.  Where were planks to be got?  Nowhere, in that
neighbourhood.

His eye, at that moment, chanced to fall upon the wagon.  Ha! there were
planks there.  But to break up his beautiful wagon?  No--no--no!  Such a
thing was not to be thought of.

But stay! there was no need to _break_ it up--no need to knock out a
single nail.  It would serve every purpose without breaking a splinter
off it.  The fine vehicle was made to take to pieces, and put up again
at will.

He could take it to pieces.  The broad bottom alone should remain whole.
That of itself would be the platform.  Hurrah!

The field-cornet, excited with the development of this fine plan, now
communicated it to the others.  All agreed that it was just the thing;
and as the day was before them, they made no more ado, but set about
carrying out the design.

A ladder thirty feet long had first to be constructed.  This occupied a
good while; but at length a stout rough article was knocked up, which
served the purpose admirably.  It gave them access to the lowermost
limb; and from this they could construct steps to all the others.

Von Bloom ascended, and after careful examination chose the site of the
platform.  This was to rest upon two strong horizontal limbs of equal
height, and diverging very gradually from each other.  The quantity of
thick branches in the great tree afforded him a choice.

The wagon was now taken to pieces--a work of only a few minutes--and the
first thing hauled up was the bottom.  This was no slight performance,
and required all the strength of the camp.  Strong "rheims" were
attached to one end, and these were passed over a limb of the tree,
still higher up than those on which the staging was to rest.  One stood
above to guide the huge piece of plank-work, while all the rest exerted
their strength upon the ropes below.  Even little Jan pulled with all
his might--though a single pound avoirdupois weight would have been
about the measure of _his_ strength.

The piece was hoisted up, until it rested beautifully upon the
supporting limbs; and then a cheer rose from below, and was answered by
Swartboy among the branches.

The heaviest part of the work was over.  The boxing of the wagon was
passed up, piece by piece, and set in its place just as before.  Some
branches were lopped off to make room for the cap-tent, and then it was
also hauled up, and mounted.

By the time the sun set, everything was in its place; and the aerial
house was ready for sleeping in.  In fact, that very night they slept in
it, or, as Hans jocularly termed it, they all went to "roost."

But they did not consider their new habitation quite complete as yet.
Next day they continued to labour upon it.  By means of long poles they
extended their platform from the wagon quite up to the trunk of the
tree, so as to give them a broad terrace to move about upon.

The poles were fast wattled together by rods of the beautiful
weeping-willow (_Salix Babylonica_), which is a native of these parts,
and several trees of which grew by the side of the vley.  Upon the top
of all, they laid a thick coating of clay, obtained from the edge of the
lake; so that, if need be, they could actually kindle a fire, and took
their suppers in the tree.

To make a still finer flooring, they procured a quantity of the material
of which the ant-hills are composed; which, being of a glutinous nature,
makes a mortar almost as binding as Roman cement.

After the main building had been finished off, Swartboy erected a
platform for himself, and one for Totty in another part of the ample
nwana.  Above each of these platforms he had constructed a roof or
screen, to shelter their occupants from rain or dew.

There was something odd in the appearance of these two screens, each of
which was about the size of an ordinary umbrella.  Their oddity
consisted in the fact that they were _ears of the elephant_!



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

THE BATTLE OF THE WILD PEACOCKS.

There was no longer anything to hinder the field-cornet from commencing
the real business of his new life, viz. the hunting of the elephant.  He
resolved, therefore, to begin at once; for until he should succeed in
"bagging" a few of these giant animals, he was not easy in his mind.  He
might not be able to kill a single one; and then what would become of
all his grand hopes and calculations?  They would end in disappointment,
and he should find himself in as bad a condition as ever.  Indeed worse:
for to fail in any undertaking is not only to lose time, but energy of
mind.  Success begets genius, courage, and self-reliance--all of which
contribute to new successes; while failure intimidates and leads to
despair.  In a psychological point of view it is a dangerous thing to
fail in any undertaking; and, therefore, before undertaking anything,
one should be well assured of its being possible and practicable.

Now Von Bloom was not sure that the great design he had formed was
practicable.  But in this case, he had no choice.  No other means of
livelihood was open to him just then; and he had resolved to make trial
of this.  He had faith in his calculations, and he had also good reason
to hope he would succeed; but the thing was yet untried.  No wonder he
was in haste to begin the business--in haste to know what were his
chances of success.

By early day, therefore, he was up and out.  Hendrik and Swartboy only
accompanied him, for he could not yet bring himself to leave the
children with no other protection than Totty--almost as much a child as
themselves.  Hans, therefore, remained by the camp.

At first the hunters followed the little rivulet that ran from the
spring and vley.  They did so, because in this direction there was more
"bush;" and they knew that elephants would be more likely to be found in
woods than in open places.  Indeed, it was only near the banks of the
stream that any great quantity of wood was to be seen.  A broad belt of
jungle extended upon each side of it.  After that, there were straggling
groves and clumps; and then came the open plains, almost treeless,
though covered with a rich carpet of grass for some distance farther.
To this succeeded the wild karoo, stretching eastward and westward
beyond the reach of vision.  Along the north, as already mentioned,
trended the line of "bluffs;" and beyond these there was nothing but the
parched and waterless desert.  To the south there lay the only thing
that could be called "woods;" and although such a low jungle could lay
no claim to the title of "forest," it was, nevertheless, a likely enough
haunt for elephants.

The trees consisted chiefly of mimosas--of several species; upon the
leaves, roots, and tender shoots of which the great ruminant loves to
browse.  There were some "cameel-doorn" trees, with their shady
umbrella-like tops.  But above all rose the massive heads of the nwanas,
giving a peculiar character to the landscape.

The hunters noticed, as they went on, that the channel of the rivulet
became wider and larger and that at times--no doubt after great rains--a
large quantity of water must have run in its bed, forming a considerable
river.  But as the channel grew larger, the reverse was the case with
the quantity of running water.  The farther down they proceeded this
became less and less; until, at the distance of a mile from camp, the
current ceased altogether.

For half-a-mile farther on they found water in stagnant pools, but none
running.  The wide, dry channel, however, continued on as before; and
the "bush" extended on both sides without interruption, so thick that
they could only make way by keeping in the channel itself.

As they walked along, several kinds of small game were started.  Hendrik
would gladly have taken a shot at some of these, but his father would
not permit him to fire just then.  It might frighten away the great
"game" they were in search of, and which they might fall in with at any
moment.  On their return Hendrik might do his best; and then the
field-cornet intended to assist him in procuring an antelope, as there
was no fresh venison in the camp.  This, however, was a consideration of
secondary importance, and the first thing to be done was to try and get
a pair of tusks.

There was no objection to Swartboy using his bow, as that silent weapon
would cause no alarm.  Swartboy had been taken along to carry the axe
and other implements, as well as to assist in the hunt.  Of course he
had brought his bow and quiver with him; and he was constantly on the
watch for something at which to let fly on of his little poisoned
arrows.

He found a mark at length worthy of his attention.  On crossing the
plain to avoid a large bend in the channel, they came upon a glade or
opening of considerable size, and in the middle of this glade a huge
bird appeared standing erect.  "An ostrich!" exclaimed Hendrik.  "No,"
replied Swartboy; "um ar da pauw."

"Yes," said Von Bloom, confirming Swartboy's statement, "it is the
pauw."

Now a "pauw" in the Dutch language is a "peacock."  But there are no
peacocks in Africa.  The peacock in its wild state inhabits only
Southern Asia and the islands of the Indian Archipelago.  The bird they
saw, then, could not be a peacock.

Neither was it one.  And yet it bore some resemblance to a peacock, with
its long heavy tail and wings speckled and ocellated in a very striking
manner, and something like the "marbled" feathers that adorn the
peacock's back.  It had none of the brilliant colours, however, of that
proudest of birds, though it was quite as stately, and much larger and
taller.  In fact, its great height and erect attitude was why Hendrik at
first glance had taken it for an ostrich.  It was neither peacock nor
ostrich, but belonging to a different genus from either--to the genus
_Otis_ or bustard.  It was the great bustard of South Africa--the _Otis
kori_--called "pauw" by the Dutch colonists, on account of its ocellated
plumage and other points of resemblance to the Indian peacock.

Now Swartboy, as well as Von Bloom, knew that the pauw was one of the
most delicious of fowls for the table.  But they knew at the same time
that it was one of the shyest of birds,--so shy that it is very
difficult to get even a long shot at one.  How, then, was it to be
approached within range of the Bushman's arrow?  That was the point to
be considered.

Where it stood, it was full two hundred yards from them; and had it
perceived them, it would soon have widened that distance, by running off
two hundred more.  I say _running_ off, for birds of the bustard family
rarely take to wing, but use their long legs to escape from an enemy.
On this account they are often hunted by dogs, and caught after a severe
chase.  Although but poor flyers, they are splendid runners,--swift
almost as the ostrich itself.

The pauw, however, had not observed the hunters as yet.  They had caught
a glimpse of it, before appearing out of the bushes, and had halted as
soon as they saw it.

How was Swartboy to approach it?  It was two hundred yards from any
cover, and the ground was as clean as a new-raked meadow.  True, the
plain was not a large one.  Indeed, Swartboy was rather surprised to see
a pauw upon so small a one, for these birds frequent only the wide open
karoos, where they can sight their enemy at a great distance.  The glade
was not large, but, after watching the bustard for some minutes, the
hunters saw that it was resolved to keep near the centre, and showed no
disposition to feed in the direction of the thicket on either side.

Any one but a Bushman would have despaired of getting a shot at this
kori; but Swartboy did not despair.

Begging the others to remain quiet, he crept forward to the edge of the
jungle, and placed himself behind a thick leafy bush.  He then commenced
uttering a call, exactly similar to that made by the male of the kori
when challenging an adversary to combat.

Like the grouse, the bustard is polygamous, and of course terribly
jealous and pugnacious, at certain seasons of the year.  Swartboy knew
that it was just then the "fighting season" among the pauws, and hoped
by imitating their challenge to draw the bird--a cock he saw it was--
within reach of his arrow.

As soon as the kori heard the call, he raised himself to his full
height, spread his immense tail, dropped his wings until the primary
feathers trailed along the grass, and replied to the challenge.

But what now astonished Swartboy was, that instead of one answer to his
call, he fancied he heard _two_, simultaneously uttered!

It proved to be no fancy, for before he could repeat the decoy the bird
again gave out its note of defiance, and was answered by a similar call
from another quarter.

Swartboy looked in the direction whence came the latter; and there, sure
enough, was a second kori, that seemed to have dropped from the region
of the clouds, or, more likely, had run out from the shelter of the
bushes.  At all events, it was a good way towards the centre of the
plain, before the hunter had observed it.

The two were now in full view of each other; and by their movements any
one might see that a combat was certain to come off.

Sure of this, Swartboy did not call again; but remained silent behind
his bush.

After a good while spent in strutting, and wheeling round and round, and
putting themselves in the most threatening attitudes, and uttering the
most insulting expressions, the two koris became sufficiently provoked
to begin the battle.  They "clinched" in gallant style, using all three
weapons,--wings, beak, and feet.  Now they struck each other with their
wings, now pecked with their bills; and at intervals, when a good
opportunity offered, gave each other a smart kick--which, with their
long muscular legs, they were enabled to deliver with considerable
force.

Swartboy knew that when they were well into the fight, he might stalk in
upon them unobserved; so he waited patiently, till the proper moment
should arrive.

In a few seconds it became evident, he would not have to move from his
ambush; for the birds were fighting towards him.  He adjusted his arrow
to the string, and waited.

In five minutes the birds were fighting within thirty yards of the spot
where the Bushman lay.  The twang of a bowstring might have been heard
by one of the koris, had he been listening.  The other could not
possibly have heard it; for before the sound could have reached him, a
poisoned arrow was sticking through his ears.  The barb had passed
through, and the shaft remained in his head, piercing it crosswise!

Of course the bird dropped dead upon the grass, less astonished than his
antagonist.

The latter at first imagined _he_ had done it, and began to strut very
triumphantly around his fallen foe.

But his eye now fell upon the arrow sticking through the head of the
latter.  He knew nothing about that.  _He_ had not done _that_!  What
the deuce--

Perhaps if he had been allowed another moment's reflection, he would
have taken to his heels; but before he could make up his mind about the
matter, there was another "twang" of the bowstring, another arrow
whistled through the air, and another kori lay stretched upon the grass.

Swartboy now rushed forward, and took possession of the game; which
proved to be a pair of young cocks, in prime condition for roasting.

Having hung the birds over a high branch, so as to secure them from
jackals and hyenas, the hunters continued on; and shortly after, having
re-entered the channel of the stream, continued to follow it downward.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

UPON THE "SPOOR."

They had not gone above an hundred yards farther, when they came to one
of the pools, already spoken of.  It was a tolerably large one; and the
mud around its edges bore the hoof-prints of numerous animals.  This the
hunters saw from a distance, but on reaching the spot, Swartboy a little
in the advance, turned suddenly round, and, with rolling orbs and
quivering lips, clicked out the words,--

"Mein baas! mein baas! da klow! spoor ob da groot olifant!"

There was no danger of mistaking the spoor of the elephant for that of
any other creature.  There, sure enough, were the great round tracks--
full twenty-four inches in length, and nearly as wide--deeply imprinted
in the mud by the enormous weight of the animal's body.  Each formed an
immense hole, large enough to have set a gatepost in.

The hunters contemplated the spoor with emotions of pleasure--the more
so that the tracks had been recently made.  This was evident.  The
displaced mud had not yet crusted, but looked damp and fresh.  It had
been stirred within the hour.

Only one elephant had visited the pool that night.  There were many old
tracks, but only one fresh spoor,--and that of an old and very large
bull.

Of course the tracks told this much.  To make a spoor twenty-four inches
long, requires the animal to be a very large one; and to be very large,
he should be a bull, and an old one too.

Well, the older and larger the better, provided his tusks have not been
broken by some accident.  When that happens they are never recovered
again.  The elephant _does_ cast his tusks, but only in the juvenile
state, when they are not bigger than lobster's claws; and the pair that
succeeds these is permanent, and has to last him for life--perhaps _for
centuries_--for no one can tell how long the mighty elephant roams over
this sublunary planet.  When the tusks get broken--a not uncommon
thing--he must remain toothless or "tuskless" for the rest of his life.
Although the elephant may consider the loss of his huge tusks a great
calamity, were he only a little wiser, he would break them off against
the first tree.  It would, in all probability, be the means of
prolonging his life; for the hunter would not then consider him worth
the ammunition it usually takes to kill him.

After a short consultation among the hunters, Swartboy started off upon
the spoor, followed by Von Bloom and Hendrik.  It led straight out from
the channel, and across the jungle.

Usually the bushes mark the course of an elephant, where these are of
the sort he feeds upon.  In this case he had not fed; but the Bushman,
who could follow spoor with a hound, had no difficulty in keeping on the
track, as fast as the three were able to travel.

They emerged into open glades; and, after passing through several of
these, came upon a large ant-hill that stood in the middle of one of the
openings.  The elephant had passed close to the ant-hill--he had stopped
there a while--stay, he must have lain down!

Von Bloom did not know that elephants were in the habit of lying down.
He had always heard it said that they slept standing.  Swartboy knew
better than that.  He said that they sometimes slept standing, but
oftener lay down, especially in districts where they were not much
hunted.  Swartboy considered it a good sign that this one had lain down.
He reasoned from it that the elephants had not been disturbed in that
neighbourhood, and would be the more easily approached and killed.  They
would be less likely to make off from that part of the country, until
they--the hunters--had had a "good pull" out of them.

This last consideration was one of great importance.  In a district
where elephants have been much hunted, and have learnt what the crack of
a gun signifies, a single day's chase will often set them travelling;
and they will not bring up again, until they have gone far beyond the
reach of the hunters.  Not only the particular individuals that have
been chased act in this way; but all the others,--as though warned by
their companions,--until not an elephant remains in the district.  This
migratory habit is one of the chief difficulties which the
elephant-hunter must needs encounter; and, when it occurs, he has no
other resource but to change _his_ "sphere of action."

On the other hand, where elephants have remained for a long time
undisturbed, the report of a gun does not terrify them; and they will
bear a good deal of hunting before "showing their heels" and leaving the
place.

Swartboy, therefore, rejoiced on perceiving that the old bull had lain
down.  The Bushman drew a world of conclusions from that circumstance.

That the elephant had been lying was clear enough.  The abrasion upon
the stiff mud of the ant-heap showed where his back had rested,--the
mark of his body was visible in the dust, and a groove-like furrow in
the turf had been made by his huge tusk.  A huge one it must have been,
as the impression of it testified to the keen eyes of the Bushman.

Swartboy stated some curious facts about the great quadruped,--at least,
what he alleged to be facts.  They were,--that the elephant never
attempts to lie down without having something to lean his shoulders
against,--a rock, an ant-hill, or a tree; that he does this to prevent
himself from rolling over on his back,--that when he does by accident
get into that position he has great difficulty in rising again, and is
almost as helpless as a turtle; and, lastly, that he often sleeps
standing beside a tree with the whole weight of his body leaning against
the trunk!

Swartboy did not think that he leans against the trunk when first taking
up his position; but that he seeks the tree for the shade it affords,
and as sleep overcomes him he inclines towards it, finding that it
steadies and rests him!

The Bushman stated, moreover, that some elephants have their favourite
trees, to which they return again and again to take a nap during the hot
midday hours,--for that is their time of repose.  At night they do not
sleep.  On the contrary, the hours of night are spent in ranging about,
on journeys to the distant watering-places, and in feeding; though in
remote and quiet districts they also feed by day--so that it is probable
that most of their nocturnal activity is the result of their dread of
their watchful enemy, man.

Swartboy communicated these facts, as the hunters all together followed
upon the spoor.

The traces of the elephant were now of a different character, from what
they had been before arriving at the ant-hill.  He had been browsing as
he went.  His nap had brought a return of appetite; and the wait-a-bit
thorns showed the marks of his prehensile trunk.  Here and there
branches were broken off, stripped clean of their leaves, and the
ligneous parts left upon the ground.  In several places whole trees were
torn up by their roots, and those, too, of considerable size.  This the
elephant sometimes does to get at their foliage, which upon such trees
grows beyond the reach of his proboscis.  By prostrating them of course
he gets their whole frondage within easy distance of his elastic nose,
and can strip it off at pleasure.  At times, however, he tears up a tree
to make a meal of its roots--as there are several species with sweet
juicy roots, of which the elephant is extremely fond.  These he drags
out of the ground with his trunk, having first loosened them with his
tusks, used as crowbars.  At times he fails to effect his purpose; and
it is only when the ground is loose or wet, as after great rains, that
he can uproot the larger kinds of mimosas.  Sometimes he is capricious;
and, after drawing a tree from the ground, he carries it many yards
along with him, flings it to the ground, root upwards, and then leaves
it, after taking a single mouthful.  Destructive to the forest is the
passage of a troop of elephants!

Small trees he can tear up with his trunk alone, but to the larger ones
he applies the more powerful leverage of his tusks.  These he inserts
under the roots, imbedded as they usually are in loose sandy earth, and
then, with a quick jerk, he tosses roots, trunk, and branches, high into
the air,--a wonderful exhibition of gigantic power.

The hunters saw all these proof's of it, as they followed the spoor.
The traces of the elephant's strength were visible all along the route.

It was enough to beget fear and awe, and none of them were free from
such feelings.  With so much disposition to commit havoc and ruin in his
moments of quietude, what would such a creature be in the hour of
excitement and anger?  No wonder there was fear in the hearts of the
hunters, unpractised as some of them were.

Still another consideration had its effect upon their minds,
particularly on that of the Bushman.  There was every reason to believe
that the animal was a "rover" (_rodeur_),--what among Indian hunters is
termed a "rogue."  Elephants of this kind are far more dangerous to
approach than their fellows.  In fact, under ordinary circumstances,
there is no more danger in passing through a herd of elephants than
there would be in going among a drove of tame oxen.  It is only when the
elephant has been attacked or wounded, that he becomes a dangerous
enemy.

With regard to the "rover" or "rogue," the case is quite different.  He
is habitually vicious; and will assail either man or any other animal in
sight, and without the slightest provocation.  He seems to take a
pleasure in destruction, and woe to the creature who crosses his path
and is not of lighter heels than himself!

The rover leads a solitary life, rambling alone through, the forest, and
never associating with others of his kind.  He appears to be a sort of
outlaw from his tribe, banished for bad temper or some other fault, to
become more fierce and wicked in his outlawry.

There were good reasons for fearing that the elephant they were spooring
was a "rover."  His being alone was of itself a suspicious circumstance,
as elephants usually go, from two to twenty, or even fifty, in a herd.
The traces of ruin he had left behind him, his immense spoor, all seemed
to mark him out as one of these fierce creatures.  That such existed in
that district they already had evidence.  Swartboy alleged that the one
killed by the rhinoceros was of this class, else he would not have
attacked the latter as he had done.  There was a good deal of
probability in this belief of the Bushman.

Under these impressions, then, it is less to be wondered, that our
hunters felt some apprehensions of danger from the game they were
pursuing.

The spoor grew fresher and fresher.  The hunters saw trees turned bottom
upward, the roots exhibiting the marks of the elephant's teeth, and
still wet with the saliva from his vast mouth.  They saw broken branches
of the mimosas giving out their odour, that had not had time to waste
itself.  They concluded the game could not be distant.

They rounded a point of timber--the Bushman being a little in the
advance.

Suddenly Swartboy stopped and fell back a pace.  He turned his face upon
his companions.  His eyes rolled faster than ever; but, although his
lips appeared to move, and his tongue to wag, he was too excited to give
utterance to a word.  A volley of clicks and hisses came forth, but
nothing articulate!

The others, however, did not require any words to tell them what was
meant.  They knew that Swartboy intended to whisper that he had seen "da
oliphant;" so both peeped silently around the bush, and with their own
eyes looked upon the mighty quadruped.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

A ROGUE ELEPHANT.

The elephant was standing in a grove of _mokhala_ trees.  These, unlike
the humbler mimosas, have tall naked stems, with heads of thick foliage,
in form resembling an umbrella or parasol.  Their pinnate leaves of
delicate green are the favourite food of the giraffe, hence their
botanical appellation of _Acacia giraffae_; and hence also their common
name among the Dutch hunters of "cameel-doorns" (camel-thorns).

The tall giraffe, with his prehensile lip, raised nearly twenty-feet in
the air, can browse upon these trees without difficulty.  Not so the
elephant, whose trunk cannot reach so high; and the latter would often
have to imitate the fox in the fable, were he not possessed of a means
whereby he can bring the tempting morsel within reach--that is, simply
by breaking down the tree.  This his vast strength enables him to do,
unless when the trunk happens to be one of the largest of its kind.

When the eyes of our hunters first rested upon the elephant, he was
standing by the head of a prostrate mokhala, which he had just broken
off near the root.  He was tearing away at the leaves, and filling his
capacious stomach.

As soon as Swartboy recovered the control over his tongue, he ejaculated
in a hurried whisper:--

"Pas op!  (take care!) baas Bloom,--hab good care--don't go near um--he
da skellum ole klow.  My footy! he wicked!--I know de ole bull duyvel."

By this volley of queer phrases, Swartboy meant to caution his master
against rashly approaching the elephant, as he knew him to be one of the
wicked sort--in short, a "rogue."

How Swartboy knew this would appear a mystery, as there were no
particular marks about the animal to distinguish him from others of his
kind.  But the Bushman, with his practised eye, saw something in the
general physiognomy of the elephant--just as one may distinguish a
fierce and dangerous bull from those of milder disposition, or a bad
from a virtuous man, by some expression that one cannot define.

Von Bloom himself, and even Hendrik, saw that the elephant had a fierce
and ruffian look.

They did not stand in need of Swartboy's advice to act with caution.

They remained for some minutes, gazing through the bushes at the huge
quadruped.  The more they gazed, the more they became resolved to make
an attack upon him.  The sight of his long tusks was too tempting to Von
Bloom, to admit for a moment the thought of letting him escape without a
fight.  A couple of bullets he should have into him, at all events; and
if opportunity offered, a good many more, should these not be
sufficient.  Von Bloom would not relinquish those fine tusks without a
struggle.

He at once set about considering the safest mode of attack; but was not
allowed time to mature any plan.  The elephant appeared to be restless,
and was evidently about to move forward.  He might be off in a moment,
and carry them after him for miles, or, perhaps, in the thick cover of
wait-a-bits get lost to them altogether.

These conjectures caused Von Bloom to decide at once upon beginning the
attack, and without any other plan than to stalk in as near as would be
safe, and deliver his fire.  He had heard that a single bullet in the
forehead would kill any elephant; and if he could only get in such a
position as to have a fair shot at the animal's front, he believed he
was marksman enough to plant his bullet in the right place.

He was mistaken as to killing an elephant with a shot in the forehead.
That is a notion of gentlemen who have hunted the elephant in their
closets, though other closet gentlemen the anatomists--to whom give all
due credit--have shown the thing to be impossible, from the peculiar
structure of the elephant's skull and the position of his brain.

Von Bloom at the time was under this wrong impression, and therefore
committed a grand mistake.  Instead of seeking a side shot, which he
could have obtained with far less trouble--he decided on creeping round
in front of the elephant, and firing right in the animal's face.

Leaving Hendrik and Swartboy to attack him from behind, he took a
circuit under cover of the bushes; and at length arrived in the path the
elephant was most likely to take.

He had scarcely gained his position, when he saw the huge animal coming
towards him with silent and majestic tread; and although the elephant
only walked, half-a-dozen of his gigantic strides brought him close up
to the ambushed hunter.  As yet the creature uttered no cry; but as he
moved, Von Bloom could hear a rumbling gurgling sound, as of water
dashing to and fro in his capacious stomach!

Von Bloom had taken up his position behind the trunk of a large tree.
The elephant had not yet seen him, and, perhaps, would have passed on
without knowing that he was there, had the hunter permitted him.  The
latter even thought of such a thing, for although a man of courage, the
sight of the great forest giant caused him for a moment to quail.

But, again, the curving ivory gleamed in his eyes--again he remembered
the object that had brought him into that situation; he thought of his
fallen fortunes--of his resolve to retrieve them--of his children's
welfare.

These thoughts resolved him.  His long roer was laid over a knot in the
trunk--its muzzle pointed at the forehead of the advancing elephant--his
eye gleamed through the sights--the loud detonation followed--and a
cloud of smoke for a moment hid everything from his view.

He could hear a hoarse bellowing trumpet-like sound--he could hear the
crashing of branches and the gurgling of water; and, when the smoke
cleared away, to his chagrin he saw that the elephant was still upon his
feet, and evidently not injured in the least!

The shot had struck the animal exactly where the hunter had aimed it;
but, instead of inflicting a mortal wound, it had only excited the
creature to extreme rage.  He was now charging about, striking the trees
with his tusks, tearing branches off, and tossing them aloft with his
trunk--though all the while evidently in ignorance of what had tickled
him so impertinently upon the forehead!

Fortunately for Von Bloom, a good thick tree sheltered him from the view
of the elephant.  Had the enraged animal caught sight of him at that
moment, it would have been all up with him; but the hunter knew this,
and had the coolness to remain close and quiet.

Not so with Swartboy.  When the elephant moved forward, he and Hendrik
had crept after through the grove of mokhalas.  They had even followed
him across the open ground into the bush, where Von Bloom awaited him.
On hearing the shot, and seeing that the elephant was still unhurt,
Swartboy's courage gave way; and leaving Hendrik, he ran back towards
the mokhala grove, shouting as he went.

His cries reached the ears of the elephant, that at once rushed off in
the direction in which he heard them.  In a moment he emerged from the
bush, and, seeing Swartboy upon the open ground, charged furiously after
the flying Bushman.  Hendrik--who had stood his ground, and in the
shelter of the bushes was not perceived--delivered his shot as the
animal passed him.  His ball told upon the shoulder, but it only served
to increase the elephant's fury.  Without stopping, he rushed on after
Swartboy, believing, no doubt, that the poor Bushman was the cause of
the hurts he was receiving, and the nature of which he but ill
understood.

It was but a few moments, from the firing of the first shot, until
things took this turn.  Swart boy was hardly clear of the bushes before
the elephant emerged also; and as the former struck out for the mokhala
trees, he was scarce six steps ahead of his pursuer.

Swartboy's object was to get to the grove, in the midst of which were
several trees of large size.  One of these he proposed climbing--as that
seemed his only chance for safety.

He had not got half over the open ground, when he perceived he would be
too late.  He heard the heavy rush of the huge monster behind him--he
heard his loud and vengeful bellowing--he fancied he felt his hot
breath.  There was still a good distance to be run.  The climbing of the
tree, beyond the reach of the elephant's trunk, would occupy time.
There was no hope of escaping to the tree.

These reflections occurred almost instantaneously.  In ten seconds
Swartboy arrived at the conclusion, that running to the tree would not
save him; and all at once he stopped in his career, wheeled round, and
faced the elephant!

Not that he had formed any plan of saving himself in that way.  It was
not bravery, but only despair, that caused him to turn upon his pursuer.
He knew that, by running on, he would surely be overtaken.  It could be
no worse if he faced round; and, perhaps, he might avoid the fatal
charge by some dexterous manoeuvre.

The Bushman was now right in the middle of the open ground; the elephant
rushing straight towards him.

The former had no weapon to oppose to his gigantic pursuer.  He had
thrown away his bow--his axe too--to run the more nimbly.  But neither
would have been of any avail against such an antagonist.  He carried
nothing but his sheep-skin kaross.  That had encumbered him in his
flight; but he had held on to it for a purpose.

His purpose was soon displayed.

He stood until the extended trunk was within three feet of his face; and
then, flinging his kaross so that it should fall over the long cylinder,
he sprang nimbly to one side, and started to run back.

He would, no doubt, have succeeded in passing to the elephant's rear,
and thus have escaped; but as the kaross fell upon the great trunk it
was seized in the latter, and swept suddenly around.  Unfortunately
Swartboy's legs had not yet cleared the circle--the kaross lapped around
them--and the Bushman was thrown sprawling upon the plain.

In a moment the active Swartboy recovered his feet, and was about to
make off in a new direction.  But the elephant, having discovered the
deception of the kaross, had dropped it, and turned suddenly after him.
Swartboy had hardly made three steps, when the long ivory curve was
inserted between his legs from behind; and the next moment his body was
pitched high into the air.

Von Bloom and Hendrik, who had just then reached the edge of the glade,
saw him go up; but to their astonishment he did not come to the ground
again!  Had he fallen back upon the elephant's tusks? and was he held
there by the trunk?  No.  They saw the animal's head.  The Bushman was
not there, nor upon his back, nor anywhere to be seen.  In fact, the
elephant seemed as much astonished as they at the sudden disappearance
of his victim!  The huge beast was turning his eyes in every direction,
as if searching for the object of his fury!

Where could Swartboy have gone?  Where?  At this moment the elephant
uttered a loud roar, and was seen rushing to a tree, which he now caught
in his trunk, and shook violently.  Von Bloom and Hendrik looked up
towards its top, expecting to see Swartboy there.

Sure enough he was there, perched among the leaves and branches where he
had been projected!  Terror was depicted in his countenance, for he felt
that he was not safe in his position.  But he had scarce time to give
utterance to his fears; for the next moment the tree gave way with a
crash, and fell to the ground, bringing the Bushman down among its
branches.

It happened that the tree, dragged down by the elephant's trunk, fell
towards the animal.  Swartboy even touched the elephant's body in his
descent, and slipped down over his hind-quarters.  The branches had
broken the fall, and the Bushman was still unhurt, but he felt that he
was now quite at the mercy of his antagonist.  He saw no chance of
escape by flight.  He was lost!

Just at that moment an idea entered his mind--a sort of despairing
instinct--and springing at one of the hind-legs of the quadruped, he
slung his arms around it, and held fast!  He at the same time planted
his naked feet upon the sabots of those of the animal: so that, by means
of this support, he was enabled to keep his hold, let the animal move as
it would!

The huge mammoth, unable to shake him off, unable to get at him with his
trunk--and, above all, surprised and terrified by this novel mode of
attack--uttered a shrill scream, and with tail erect and trunk high in
air, dashed off into the jungle!

Swartboy held on to the leg until fairly within the bushes; and then,
watching his opportunity, he slipped gently off.  As soon as he touched
_terra firma_ again, he rose to his feet, and ran with all his might in
an opposite direction.

He need not have run a single step; for the elephant, as much frightened
as he, kept on through the jungle, laying waste the trees and branches
in his onward course.  The huge quadruped did not stop, till he had put
many miles between himself and the scene of his disagreeable adventure!

Von Bloom and Hendrik had by this time reloaded, and were advancing to
Swartboy's rescue; but they were met right in the teeth by the
swift-flying Bushman, as he returned from his miraculous escape.

The hunters, who were now warmed to their work, proposed to follow up
the spoor; but Swartboy, who had had enough of that "old rogue,"
declared that there would be not the slightest chance of again coming up
with him without horses or dogs; and as they had neither, spooring him
any farther would be quite useless.

Von Bloom saw that there was truth in the remark, and now more than ever
did he regret the loss of his horses.  The elephant, though easily
overtaken on horseback, or with dogs to bring him to bay, can as easily
escape from a hunter on foot; and once he has made up his mind to
flight, it is quite a lost labour to follow him farther.

It was now too late in the day to seek for other elephants; and with a
feeling of disappointment, the hunters gave up the chase, and turned
their steps in the direction of the camp.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

THE MISSING HUNTER, AND THE WILDEBEESTS.

A well-known proverb says that "misfortunes seldom come single."

On nearing the camp, the hunters could perceive that all was not right
there.  They saw Totty with Truey and Jan standing by the head of the
ladder; but there was something in their manner that told that all was
not right.  Where was Hans?

As soon as the hunters came in sight, Jan and Truey ran down the rounds,
and out to meet them.  There was that in their glances that bespoke ill
tidings, and their words soon confirmed this conjecture.

Hans was not there--he had gone away hours ago--they knew not where,
they feared something had happened to him,--they feared he was lost!

"But what took him away from the camp?" asked Von Bloom, surprised and
troubled at the news.

That, and only that, could they answer.  A number of odd-looking
animals--very odd-looking, the children said,--had come to the vley to
drink.  Hans had taken his gun and followed them in a great hurry,
telling Truey and Jan to keep in the tree, and not come down until he
returned.  He would be gone only a very little while, and they needn't
fear.

This was all they knew.  They could not even tell what direction he had
taken.  He went by the lower end of the vley; but soon the bushes hid
him from their view, and they saw no more of him.

"At what time was it?"

It was many hours ago,--in the morning in fact,--not long after the
hunters themselves had started.  When he did not return the children
grew uneasy; but they thought he had fallen in with papa and Hendrik,
and was helping them to hunt; and that was the reason why he stayed so
long.

"Had they heard any report of a gun?"  No--they had listened for that,
but heard none.  The animals had gone away before Hans could get his gun
ready; and they supposed he had to follow some distance before he could
overtake them--that might be the reason they had heard no shot.

"What sort of animals were they?"  They had all seen them plain enough,
as they drank.  They had never seen any of the kind before.  They were
large animals of a yellow brown colour, with shaggy manes, and long
tufts of hair growing out of their breasts, and hanging down between
their fore-legs.  They were as big as ponies, said Jan, and very like
ponies.  They curvetted and capered about just as ponies do sometimes.
Truey thought that they looked more like lions!

"Lions!" ejaculated her father and Hendrik, with an accent that
betokened alarm.

Indeed, they reminded her of lions, Truey again affirmed, and Totty said
the same.  "How many were there of them?"

"Oh! a great drove, not less than fifty."  They could not have counted
them, as they were constantly in motion, galloping from place to place,
and butting each other with their horns.

"Ha! they had horns then?" interrogated Von Bloom, relieved by this
announcement.

Certainly they had horns, replied all three.

They had seen the horns, sharp-pointed ones, which first came down, and
then turned upwards in front of the animals' faces.  They had manes too,
Jan affirmed; and thick necks that curved like that of a beautiful
horse; and tufts of hair like brushes upon their noses; and nice round
bodies like ponies, and long white tails that reached near the ground,
just like the tails of ponies, and finely-shaped limbs as ponies have.

"I tell you," continued Jan, with emphasis, "if it hadn't been for their
horns and the brushes of long hair upon their breasts and noses, I'd
have taken them for ponies before anything.  They galloped about just
like ponies when playing, and ran with their heads down, curving their
necks and tossing their manes,--ay, and snorting too, as I've heard
ponies; but sometimes they bellowed more like bulls; and, I confess,
they looked a good deal like bulls about the head; besides I noticed
they had hoofs split like cattle.  Oh!  I had a good look at them while
Hans was loading his gun.  They stayed by the water till he was nearly
ready; and when they galloped off, they went in a long string one behind
the other with the largest one in front, and another large one in the
rear."

"Wildebeests!" exclaimed Hendrik.

"Gnoos!" cried Swartboy.

"Yes, they must have been wildebeests," said Von Bloom; "Jan's
description corresponds exactly to them."

This was quite true.  Jan had correctly given many of the characteristic
points of that, perhaps, the most singular of all ruminant animals, the
wildebeest or gnoo (_Catoblepas gnoo_).  The brushlike tuft over the
muzzle, the long hair between the fore-legs, the horns curving down over
the face, and then sweeping abruptly upward, the thick curving neck, the
rounded, compact, horse-shaped body, the long whitish tail, and full
flowing mane--all were descriptive of the gnoo.

Even Truey had not made such an unpardonable mistake.  The gnoos, and
particularly the old bulls, bear a very striking resemblance to the
lion, so much so that the sharpest hunters at a distance can scarce tell
one from the other.

Jan, however, had observed them better than Truey; and had they been
nearer, he might have further noticed that the creatures had red fiery
eyes and a fierce look; that their heads and horns were not unlike those
of the African buffalo; that their limbs resembled those of the stag,
while the rest corresponded well enough to his "pony."  He might have
observed, moreover, that the males were larger than the females, and of
a deeper brown.  Had there been any "calves" with the herd, he would
have seen that these were still lighter-coloured--in fact, of a white or
cream colour.

The gnoos that had been seen were the common kind called by the Dutch
colonists "wildebeests" or wild-oxen, and by the Hottentots "gnoo" or
"gnu," from a hollow moaning sound to which these creatures sometimes
give utterance, and which is represented by the word "gnoo-o-oo."

They roam in vast flocks upon the wild karoos of South Africa; are
inoffensive animals, except when wounded; and then the old bulls are
exceedingly dangerous, and will attack the hunter both with horns and
hoot.  They can run with great swiftness, though they scarce ever go
clear off, but, keeping at a wary distance, circle around the hunter,
curvetting in all directions, menacing with their heads lowered to the
ground, kicking up the dust with their heels, and bellowing like bulls,
or indeed like lions--for their "rout" bears a resemblance to the lion's
roar.

The old bulls stand sentry while the herd is feeding, and protect it
both in front and rear.  When running off they usually go in single
file, as Jan had represented.

Old bulls hang between the rear of the herd and the hunter; and these
caper back and forward, butting each other with their horns, and often
fighting apparently in serious earnest!  Before the hunter comes within
range, however, they drop their conflict and gallop out of his way.
Nothing can exceed the capricious antics which these animals indulge in,
while trooping over the plain.

There is a second species of the same genus common in South Africa, and
a third inhabits still farther to the north; but of the last very little
is known.  Both species are larger than the wildebeest, individuals of
either being nearly five feet in height, while the common gnoo is scarce
four.

The three kinds are quite distinct, and never herd together, though each
of them is often found in company with other animals.  All three are
peculiar to the continent of Africa, and are not found elsewhere.

The "brindled gnoo" (_Catoblepas gorgon_) is the other species that
inhabits the South of Africa.  It is known among the hunters and
colonists as "blauw wildebeest" (blue wild-ox).  It is of a bluish
colour--hence the name, and "brindled," or striped along the sides.  Its
habits are very similar to those of the common gnoo, but it is
altogether a heavier and duller animal, and still more eccentric and
ungainly in its form.

The third species (_Catoblepas taurina_) is the "ko-koon" of the
natives.  It approaches nearer to the brindled gnoo in form and habits;
but as it is not found except in the more central and less-travelled
portions of Africa, less is known about it than either of the others.
It is, however, of the same kind; and the three species, differing
widely from any other animals known, are entitled to form a distinct and
separate genus.

They have hitherto generally been classed with the antelopes, though for
what reason it is hard to tell.  They have far less affinity with the
antelope than with the ox; and the everyday observations of the hunter
and frontier boor have guided them to a similar conclusion--as their
name for these animals (wild-oxen) would imply.  Observation of this
class is usually worth far more than the "speculations" of the
closet-naturalist.

The gnoo has long been the favourite food of the frontier farmer and
hunter.  Its beef is well flavoured, and the veal of a gnoo-calf is
quite a delicacy.  The hide is manufactured into harness and straps of
different sorts; and the long silky tail is an article of commerce.
Around every frontier farm-house large piles of gnoo and springbok horns
may be seen--the remains of animals that have been captured in the
chase.

"Jaging de wildebeest" (hunting the gnoo) is a favourite pastime of the
young boors.  Large herds of these animals are sometimes driven into
valleys, where they are hemmed in, and shot down at will.  They can also
be lured within range, by exhibiting a red handkerchief or any piece of
red cloth--to which colour they have a strong aversion.  They may be
tamed and domesticated easily enough; but they are not favourite pets
with the farmer, who dreads their communicating to his cattle a fatal
skin-disease to which the gnoos are subject, and which carries off
thousands of them every year.

Of course Von Bloom and his companions did not stay to talk over these
points.  They were too anxious about the fate of the missing Hans, to
think of anything else.

They were about to start out in search of him, when just at that moment
my gentleman was seen coming around the end of the lake, trudging very
slowly along, under the weight of some large and heavy object, that he
carried upon his shoulders.

A shout of joy was raised, and in a few moments Hans stood in their
midst.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

THE ANT-EATER OF AFRICA.

Hans was saluted by a volley of questions, "Where have you been?  What
detained you?  What has happened to you?  You're all safe and sound?
Not hurt, I hope?"  These and a few others were asked in a breath.

"I'm sound as a bell," said Hans; "and for the rest of your inquiries
I'll answer them all as soon as Swartboy has skinned this `aard-vark,'
and Totty has cooked a piece of it for supper; but I'm too hungry to
talk now, so pray excuse me."

As Hans gave this reply, he cast from his shoulders an animal nearly as
big as a sheep, covered with long bristly hair of a reddish-grey colour,
and having a huge tail, thick at the root, and tapering like a carrot; a
snout nearly a foot long, but quite slender and naked; a very small
mouth; erect pointed ears resembling a pair of horns; a low flattish
body; short muscular legs; and claws of immense length, especially on
the fore-feet, where, instead of spreading out, they were doubled back
like shut fists, or the fore hands of a monkey.  Altogether a very odd
animal was that which Hans had styled an "aard-vark," and which he
desired should be cooked for supper.

"Well, my boy," replied Von Bloom, "we'll excuse you, the more so that
we are all of us about as hungry as yourself, I fancy.  But I think we
may as well leave the `aard-vark' for to-morrow's dinner.  We've a
couple of peacocks here, and Totty will get one of them ready sooner
than the aard-vark."

"As for that," rejoined Hans, "I don't care which.  I'm just in the
condition to eat anything--even a steak of tough old quagga, if I had
it; but I think it would be no harm if Swartboy--that is, if you're not
too tired, old Swart--would just peel the skin off this gentleman."

Hans pointed to the "aard-vark."  "And dress him so that he don't
spoil," he continued; "for _you_ know, Swartboy, that he's a tit-bit--a
regular _bonne bouche_--and it would be a pity to let him go to waste in
this hot weather.  An aard-vark's not to be bagged every day."

"You spreichen true, Mynheer Hans,--Swartboy know all dat.  Him skin an'
dress da goup."

And, so saying, Swartboy out knife, and set to work upon the carcass.

Now this singular-looking animal which Hans called an "aard-vark," and
Swartboy a "goup," was neither more nor less than the African ant-eater
(_Orycteropus Capensis_).

Although the colonists term it "aard-vark," which is the Dutch for
"ground-hog," the animal has but little in common with the hog kind.  It
certainly bears some resemblance to a pig about the snout and cheeks;
and that, with its bristly hair and burrowing habits, has no doubt given
rise to the mistaken name.  The "ground" part of the title is from the
fact that it is a burrowing animal,--indeed, one of the best "terriers"
in the world.  It can make its way under ground faster than the spade
can follow it, and faster than any badger.  In size, habits, and the
form of many parts of its body, it bears a striking resemblance to its
South American cousin the "tamanoir" (_Myrmecophaga jubata_), which of
late years has become so famous as almost to usurp the title of
"ant-eater."  But the "aard-vark" is just as good an ant-eater as he,--
can "crack" as thick-walled a house, can rake up and devour as many
termites as any "ant-bear" in the length and breadth of the Amazon
Valley.  He has got, moreover, as "tall" a tail as the tamanoir, very
nearly as long a snout, a mouth equally small, and a tongue as extensive
and extensile.  In claws he can compare with his American cousin any
day, and can walk just as awkwardly upon the sides of his fore-paws with
"toes turned in."  Why, then, may I ask, do we hear so much talk of the
"tamanoir," while not a word is said of the "aard-vark?"  Every museum
and menagerie is bragging about having a specimen of the former, while
not one cares to acknowledge their possession of the latter!  Why this
envious distinction?  I say it's all Barnum.  It's because the
"aard-vark" is a Dutchman--a Cape boor--and the boors have been much
bullied of late.  That's the reason why zoologists and showmen have
treated my thick-tailed boy so shabbily.  But it shan't be so any
longer; I stand up for the aard-vark; and, although the tamanoir has
been specially called _Myrmecophaga_, or ant-eater, I say that the
_Orycteropus_ is as good an ant-eater as he.  He can break through
ant-hills quite as big and bigger--some of them twenty-feet high--he can
project as long and as gluey a tongue--twenty inches long--he can play
it as nimbly and "lick up" as many white ants, as any tamanoir.  He can
grow as fat too, and weigh as heavy, and, what is greatly to his credit,
he can provide you with a most delicate roast when you choose to kill
and eat him.  It is true he tastes slightly of formic acid, but that is
just the flavour that epicures admire.  And when you come to speak of
"hams,"--ah! try _his_!  Cure them well and properly, and eat one, and
you will never again talk of "Spanish" or "Westphalian."

Hans knew the taste of those hams--well he did, and so too Swartboy; and
it was not against his inclination, but _con amore_, that the latter set
about butchering the "goup."  Swartboy knew how precious a morsel he
held between his fingers,--precious, not only on account of its
intrinsic goodness, but from its rarity; for although the aard-vark is a
common animal in South Africa, and in some districts even numerous, it
is not every day the hunter can lay his hands upon one.  On the
contrary, the creature is most difficult to capture; though not to kill,
for a blow on the snout will do that.

But just as he is easily killed when you catch him, in the same
proportion is he hard to catch.  He is shy and wary, scarce ever comes
out of his burrow but at night; and even then skulks so silently along,
and watches around him so sharply, that no enemy can approach without
his knowing it.  His eyes are very small, and, like most nocturnal
animals, he sees but indifferently; but in the two senses of smell and
hearing he is one of the sharpest.  His long erect ears enable him to
catch every sound that may be made in his neighbourhood, however slight.

The "aard-vark" is not the only ant-eating quadruped of South Africa.
There is another four-footed creature as fond of white ants as he; but
this is an animal of very different appearance.  It is a creature
without hair; but, instead its body is covered all over with a regular
coat of scales, each as large as a half-crown piece.  These scales
slightly overlie each other, and can be raised on end at the will of the
animal.  In form it resembles a large lizard, or a small crocodile, more
than an ordinary quadruped, but its habits are almost exactly like those
of the aard-vark.  It burrows, digs open the ant-hills by night,
projects a long viscous tongue among the insects, and devours them with
avidity.

When suddenly overtaken, and out of reach of its underground retreat, it
"clews" up like the hedgehog, and some species of the South American
armadillos--to which last animal it bears a considerable resemblance on
account of its scaly coat of mail.

This ant-eater is known as the "pangolin," or "manis," but there are
several species of "pangolin" not African.  Some are met with in
Southern Asia and the Indian islands.  That which is found in South
Africa is known among naturalists as the "long-tailed" or "Temminck"
pangolin (_Manis Temminckii_).

Totty soon produced a roasted "peacock," or rather a hastily-broiled
bustard.  But, although, perhaps, not cooked "to a turn," it was
sufficiently well done to satisfy the stomachs for which it was
intended.  They were all too hungry to be fastidious, and, without a
word of criticism, they got through their dinner.

Hans then commenced relating the history of his day's adventure.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

HANS CHASED BY THE WILDEBEEST.

"Well," began Hans, "you had not been gone more than an hour, when a
herd of wildebeests was seen approaching the vley.  They came on in
single file; but they had broken rank, and were splashing about in the
water, before I thought of molesting them in any way.

"Of course I knew what they were, and that they were proper game; but I
was so interested in watching their ludicrous gambols, that I did not
think about my gun, until the whole herd had nearly finished drinking.
Then I remembered that we were living on dry biltongue, and would be
nothing the worse of a change.  I noticed, moreover, that in the herd of
gnoos there were some young ones--which I was able to tell from their
being smaller than the rest, and also by their lighter colour.  I knew
that the flesh of these is most excellent eating, and therefore made up
my mind we should all dine upon it.

"I rushed up the ladder for my gun; and then discovered how imprudent I
had been in not loading it at the time you all went away.  I had not
thought of any sudden emergency,--but that was very foolish, for how
knew I what might happen in a single hour or minute even?

"I loaded the piece in a grand hurry, for I saw the wildebeests leaving
the water; and, as soon as the bullet was rammed home, I ran down the
ladder.  Before I had reached the bottom, I saw that I had forgotten to
bring either powder-horn or pouch.  I was in too hot a haste to go back
for them, for I saw the last of the wildebeests moving off, and I
fancied I might be too late.  But I had no intention of going any great
distance in pursuit.  A single shot at them was all I wanted, and that
in the gun would do.

"I hastened after the game, keeping as well as I could under cover.  I
found, after a little time, that I need not have been so cautious.  The
wildebeests, instead of being shy--as I had seen them in our old
neighbourhood--appeared to have very little fear of me.  This was
especially the case with the old bulls, who capered and careered about
within an hundred yards' distance, and sometimes permitted me to
approach even nearer.  It was plain they had never been hunted.

"Once or twice I was within range of a pair of old bulls, who seemed to
act as a rearguard.  But I did not want to shoot one of them.  I knew
their flesh would turn out tough.  I wished to get something more
tender.  I wished to send a bullet into a heifer, or one of the young
bulls whose horns had not yet begun to curve.  Of these I saw several in
the herd.

"Tame as the animals were, I could not manage to get near enough to any
of these.  The old bulls at the head always led them beyond my range;
and the two, that brought up the rear, seemed to drive them forward as I
advanced upon them.

"Well, in this way they beguiled me along for more than a mile; and the
excitement of the chase made me quite forget how wrong it was of me to
go so far from the camp.  But thinking about the meat, and still hopeful
of getting a shot, I kept on.

"At length the hunt led me into ground where there was no longer any
bush; but there was good cover, notwithstanding, in the ant-hills, that,
like great tents, stood at equal distances from each other scattered
over the plain.  These were very large--some of them more than twelve
feet high--and differing from the dome-shaped kind so common everywhere.
They were of the shape of large cones, or rounded pyramids, with a
number of smaller cones rising around their bases, and clustering like
turrets along their sides.  I knew they were the hills of a species of
white ant called by entomologists _Termes bellicosus_.

"There were other hills, of cylinder shape and rounded tops, that stood
only about a yard high; looking like rolls of unbleached linen set
upright--each with an inverted basin upon its end.  These were the homes
of a very different species, the _Termes mordax_ of the entomologists;
though still another species of _Termes_ (_Termes atrox_) build their
nests in the same form.

"I did not stop then to examine these curious structures.  I only speak
of them now, to give you an idea of the sort of place it was, so that
you may understand what followed.

"What with the cone-shaped hills and the cylinders, the plain was pretty
well covered.  One or the other was met with every two hundred yards;
and I fancied with these for a shelter I should have but little
difficulty in getting within shot of the gnoos.

"I made a circuit to head them, and crept up behind a large cone-shaped
hill, near which the thick of the drove was feeding.  When I peeped
through the turrets, to my chagrin, I saw that the cows and younger ones
had been drawn off beyond reach, and the two old bulls were, as before,
capering between me and the herd.

"I repeated the manoeuvre, and stalked in behind another large cone,
close to which the beasts were feeding.  When I raised myself for a
shot, I was again disappointed.  The herd had moved off as before, and
the brace of bulls still kept guard in the rear.

"I began to feel provoked.  The conduct of the bulls annoyed me
exceedingly, and I really fancied that they knew it.  Their manoeuvres
were of the oddest kind, and some of them appeared to be made for the
purpose of mocking me.  At times they would charge up very close--their
heads set in a menacing attitude; and I must confess that with their
black shaggy fronts, their sharp horns, and glaring red eyes, they
looked anything but pleasant neighbours.

"I got so provoked with them at last, that I resolved they should bother
me no longer.  If they would not permit me to shoot one of the others, I
was determined they themselves should not escape scot-free, but should
pay dearly for their temerity and insolence.  I resolved to put a bullet
through one of them, at least.

"Just as I was about raising my gun to fire, I perceived that they had
placed themselves in attitude for a new fight.  This they did by
dropping on their knees, and sliding forward until their heads came in
contact.  They would then spring up, make a sudden bound forward, as if
to get uppermost, and trample one another with their hoofs.  Failing in
this, both would rush past, until they were several yards apart; then
wheel round, drop once more to their knees; and advance as before.

"Hitherto I had looked upon these conflicts as merely playful; and so I
fancy most of them were.  But this time the bulls seemed to be in
earnest.  The loud cracking of their helmet-covered foreheads against
each other, their fierce snorting and bellowing, and, above all, their
angry manner, convinced me that they had really quarrelled, and were
serious about it.

"One of them, at length, seemed to be getting knocked over repeatedly.
Every time he had partially risen to his feet, and before he could quite
recover them, his antagonist rushed upon him, and butted him back upon
his side.

"Seeing them so earnestly engaged, I thought I might as well make a sure
shot of it, by going a little nearer; so I stepped from behind the
ant-hill, and walked towards the combatants.  Neither took any notice of
my approach--the one because he had enough to do to guard himself from
the terrible blows, and the other because he was so occupied in
delivering them.

"When within twenty paces I levelled my gun.  I chose the bull who
appeared victor, partly as a punishment for his want of feeling in
striking a fallen antagonist, but, perhaps, more because his broadside
was towards me, and presented a fairer mark.

"I fired.

"The smoke hid both for a moment.  When it cleared off, I saw the bull
that had been conquered still down in a kneeling attitude, but, to my
great surprise, the one at which I had aimed was upon his feet,
apparently as brisk and sound as ever!  I knew I had hit him somewhere--
as I heard the `thud' of the bullet on his fat body--but it was plain I
had not crippled him.

"I was not allowed time for reflection as to where I had wounded him.
Not an instant indeed, for the moment the smoke cleared away, instead of
the bulls clearing off also, I saw the one I had shot at fling up his
tail, lower his shaggy front, and charge right towards me!

"His fierce eyes glanced with a revengeful look, and his roar was enough
to have terrified one more courageous than I.  I assure you I was less
frightened the other day when I encountered the lion.

"I did not know what to do for some moments.  I thought of setting
myself in an attitude of defence, and involuntarily had turned my gun
which was now empty--intending to use it as a club.  But I saw at once,
that the slight blow I could deliver would not stop the onset of such a
strong fierce animal, and that he would butt me over, and gore me, to a
certainty.

"I turned my eyes to see what hope there lay in flight.  Fortunately
they fell upon an ant-hill--the one I had just emerged from.  I saw at a
glance, that by climbing it I would be out of reach of the fierce
wildebeest.  Would I have time to get to it before he could overtake me?

"I ran like a frightened fox.  You, Hendrik, can beat me running upon
ordinary occasions.  I don't think you could have got quicker to that
ant-hill than I did.

"I was not a second too soon.  As I clutched at the little turrets, and
drew myself up, I could hear the rattle of the wildebeest's hoofs behind
me, and I fancied I felt his hot breath upon my heels.

"But I reached the top cone in safety; and then turned and looked down
at my pursuer.  I saw that he could not follow me any farther.  Sharp as
his horns were, I saw that I was safe out of their reach."



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

BESIEGED BY THE BULL.

"Well," continued Hans, after a pause, "I began to congratulate myself
on my fortunate escape; for I was convinced that but for the ant-hill I
would have been trampled and gored to death.  The bull was one of the
largest and fiercest of his kind, and a _very_ old one too, as I could
tell by the bases of his thick black horns nearly meeting over his
forehead, as well as by his dark colour.  I had plenty of time to note
these things.  I felt that I was now safe--that the wildebeest could not
get near me; and I sat perched upon the top of the central cone,
watching his movements with perfect coolness.

"It is true he did everything to reach my position.  A dozen times he
charged up the hill, and more than once effected a lodgment among the
tops of the lower turrets, but the main one was too steep for him.  No
wonder!  It, had tried my own powers to scale it.

"At times he came so close to me in his desperate efforts, that I could
have touched his horns with the muzzle of my gun; and I had prepared to
give him a blow whenever I could get a good chance.  I never saw a
creature behave so fiercely.  The fact was, that I had hit him with my
bullet,--the wound was there along his jaw, and bleeding freely.  The
pain of it maddened him; but that was not the only cause of his fury, as
I afterwards discovered.

"Well.  After several unsuccessful attempts to scale the cone, he varied
his tactics, and commenced butting the ant-heap as though he would bring
it down.  He repeatedly backed, and then charged forward upon it with
all his might; and, to say the truth, it looked for some time as though
he would succeed.

"Several of the lesser cones were knocked over by his powerful blows;
and the hard tough clay yielded before his sharp horns, used by him as
inverted pickaxes.  In several places I could see that he had laid open
the chambers of the insects, or rather the ways and galleries that are
placed in the outer crust of the hill.

"With all this I felt no fear.  I was under the belief that he would
soon exhaust his rage and go away; and then I could descend without
danger.  But after watching him a good long spell, I was not a little
astonished to observe that, instead of cooling down, he seemed to grow
more furious than ever.  I had taken out my handkerchief to wipe the
perspiration off my face.  It was as hot as an oven where I sat.  Not a
breath of air was stirring, and the rays of the sun, glaring right down
and then reflecting up again from the white clay, brought the
perspiration out of me in streams.  Every minute I was obliged to rub my
eyes clear of it with the handkerchief.

"Now, before passing the kerchief over my face, I always shook it open;
and each time I did so, I noticed that the rage of the wildebeest seemed
to be redoubled!  In fact, at such times he would leave off goring the
heap, and make a fresh attempt to rush up at me, roaring his loudest as
he charged against the steep wall!

"I was puzzled at this, as well as astonished.  What could there be in
my wiping my face to provoke the wildebeest anew?  And yet such was
clearly the case.  Every time I did so, he appeared to swell with a
fresh burst of passion!

"The explanation came at length.  I saw that it was not the wiping off
the perspiration that provoked him.  It was the shaking out of my
handkerchief.  This was, as you know, of a bright scarlet colour.  I
thought of this, and then, for the first time, remembered having heard
that anything scarlet has a most powerful effect upon the wildebeest,
and excites him to a rage resembling madness.

"I did not wish to keep up his fury.  I crumpled up the handkerchief and
buried it in my pocket--preferring to endure the perspiration rather
than remain there any longer.  By hiding the scarlet, I conceived a hope
he would the sooner cool down, and go away.

"But I had raised a devil in him too fierce to be so easily laid.  He
showed no signs of cooling down.  On the contrary, he continued to
charge, butt, and bellow, as vengefully as ever--though the scarlet was
no longer before his eyes.

"I began to feel really annoyed.  I had no idea the gnoo was so
implacable in his rage.  The bull evidently felt pain from his wound.  I
could perceive that he moaned it.  He knew well enough it was I who had
given him this pain.

"He appeared determined not to let me escape retribution.  He showed no
signs of an intention to leave the place; but laboured away with hoof
and horns, as if he would demolish the mound.

"I was growing very tired of my situation Though not afraid that the
bull could reach me, I was troubled by the thought of being so long
absent from our camp.  I knew I should have been there.  I thought of my
little sister and brother.  Some misfortune might befall them.  I was
very sad about that, though up to that time I had little or no fears for
myself.  I was still in hopes the wildebeest would tire out and leave
me, and then I could soon run home.

"I say, up to that time I had no very serious fears for myself--
excepting the moment or two when the bull was chasing me to the hill;
but that little fright was soon over.

"But now appeared a new object of dread--another enemy, as terrible as
the enraged bull--that almost caused me to sprint down upon the horns of
the latter in my first moments of alarm!

"I have said that the wildebeest had broken down several of the lesser
turrets--the outworks of the ant-hill--and had laid open the hollow
spaces within.  He had not penetrated to the main dome, but only the
winding galleries and passages that perforate the outer walls.

"I noticed, that, as soon as these were broken open, a number of ants
had rushed out from each.  Indeed, I had observed many of the creatures
crawling outside the hill, when I first approached it, and had wondered
at this--as I knew that they usually keep under ground when going and
coming from their nests.  I had observed all this, without taking note
of it at the time--being too intent in my stalk to think of anything
else.  For the last half-hour I was too busy watching the manoeuvres of
the wildebeest bull, to take my gaze off him for a moment.

"Something in motion directly under me at length caught my eye, and I
looked down to see what it was.  The first glance caused me to jump to
my feet; and, as I have already said, very nearly impelled me to leap
down upon the horns of the bull!

"Swarming all over the hill, already clustering upon my shoes, and
crawling still higher, were the crowds of angry ants.  Every hole that
the bull had made was yielding out its throng of spiteful insects; and
all appeared moving towards _me_!

"Small as the creatures were, I fancied I saw design in their movements.
They seemed all actuated with the same feeling--the same impulse--that
of attacking me.  I could not be mistaken in their intent.  They moved
all together, as if guided and led by intelligent beings; and they
advanced towards the spot on which I stood.

"I saw, too, that they were the _soldiers_.  I knew these from the
workers, by their larger heads and long horny mandibles.  I knew they
could bite fiercely and painfully.

"The thought filled me with horror.  I confess it, I never was so
horrified before.  My late encounter with the lion was nothing to
compare with it.

"My first impression was that I would be destroyed by the termites.  I
had heard of such things--I remembered that I had.  It was that, no
doubt, that frightened me so badly.  I had heard of men in their sleep
being attacked by the white ants, and bitten to death.  Such memories
came crowding upon me at the moment, until I felt certain, that if I did
not soon escape from that spot, the ants would _sting me to death and
eat me up_!"



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

A HELPLESS BEAST.

"What was to be done?  How was I to avoid both enemies?  If I leaped
down, the wildebeest would kill me to a certainty.  He was still there,
with his fierce eye bent upon me continually.  If I remained where I
was, I would soon be covered with the swarming hideous insects, and
eaten up like an old rag.

"Already I felt their terrible teeth.  Those that had first crawled to
my feet I had endeavoured to brush off; but some had got upon my ankles,
and were biting me through my thick woollen socks!  My clothes would be
no protection.

"I had mounted to the highest part of the cone, and was standing upon
its apex.  It was so sharp I could scarcely balance myself, but the
painful stings of the insects caused me to dance upon it like a
mountebank.

"But what signified those, that had already stung my ankles, to the
numbers that were likely soon to pierce me with their venomous darts?
Already these were swarming up the last terrace.  They would soon cover
the apex of the cone upon which I was standing.  They would crawl up my
limbs in myriads--they would--

"I could reflect no longer on what they would do.  I preferred taking my
chance with the wildebeest.  I would leap down.  Perhaps some lucky
accident might aid me.  I would battle with the gnoo, using my gun.
Perhaps I might succeed in escaping to some other hill.  Perhaps--

"I was actually on the spring to leap down, when a new thought came into
my mind; and I wondered I had been so silly as not to think of it
before.  What was to hinder me from keeping off the termites?  They had
no wings--the soldiers have none--nor the workers neither, for that
matter.  They could not fly upon me.  They could only crawl up the cone.
With my jacket I could brush them back.  Certainly I could--why did I
not think of it before?

"I was not long in taking off my jacket.  I laid aside my useless gun,
dropping it upon one of the lower terraces.  I caught the jacket by the
collar; and, using it as a duster, I cleared the sides of the cone in a
few moments, having sent thousands of the termites tumbling headlong
below.

"Pshaw! how simply the thing was done! why had I not done it before?  It
cost scarcely an effort to brush the myriads away, and a slight effort
would keep them off as long as I pleased.

"The only annoyance I felt now was from the few that had got under my
trousers, and that still continued to bite me; but these I would get rid
of in time.

"Well--I remained on the apex, now bending down to beat back the
soldiers that still swarmed upward, and then occupying myself in trying
to get rid of the few that crawled upon me.  I felt no longer any
uneasiness on the score of the insects--though I was not a bit better
off as regarded the bull, who still kept guard below.  I fancied,
however, that he now showed symptoms of weariness, and would soon raise
the siege; and this prospect made me feel more cheerful.

"A sudden change came over me.  A new thrill of terror awaited me.

"While jumping about upon the top of the cone, my footing suddenly gave
way--the baked clay broke with a dead crash, and I sank through the
roof.  My feet shot down into the hollow dome--till I thought I must
have crushed the great queen in her chamber--and I stood buried to the
neck.

"I was surprised, and a little terrified, not by the shock I had
experienced in the sudden descent.  That was natural enough, and a few
moments would have restored my equanimity; but it was something else
that frightened me.  It was something that moved under my feet as they
touched bottom,--something that moved and heaved under them, and then
passed quickly away, letting me still farther down!

"What could it be?  Was it the great swarm of living ants that I pressed
upon: I did not think it was.  It did not _feel like them_.  It seemed
to be something bulky and strong, for it held up my whole weight for a
moment or two, before it slipped from under me.

"Whatever it was, it frightened me very considerably; and I did not
leave my feet in its company for five seconds time.  No: the hottest
furnace would scarce have scorched them during the time they remained
inside the dark dome.  In five seconds they were on the walls again--on
the broken edges, where I had mounted up, and where I now stood quite
speechless with surprise!

"What next?  I could keep the ants off no longer.  I gazed down the dark
cavity; they were swarming up that way in thick crowds.  I could brush
them down no more.

"My eyes at this moment chanced to wander to the bull.  He was standing
at three or four paces distance from the base of the hill.  He was
standing sideways with his head turned to it, and regarding it with a
wild look.  His attitude was entirely changed, and so, I thought, was
the expression of his eye.  He looked as if he had just run off to his
new position, and was ready to make a second start.  He looked as if
something had also terrified _him_!

"Something evidently had; for, in another moment, he uttered a sharp
rout, galloped several paces farther out, wheeled again, halted, and
stood gazing as before!

"What could it mean?  Was it the breaking through of the roof and my
sudden descent that had frightened him?

"At first I thought so, but I observed that he did not look upward to
the top.  His gaze seemed bent on some object near the base of the
hill--though from where I stood I could see nothing there to frighten
him.

"I had not time to reflect what it could be, before the bull uttered a
fresh snort; and, raising his tail high into the air, struck off at full
gallop over the plain!

"Rejoiced at seeing this, I thought no more of what had relieved me of
his company.  It must have been my curious fall, I concluded; but no
matter now that the brute was gone.  So seizing hold of my gun, I
prepared to descend from the elevated position, of which I was
thoroughly tired.

"Just as I had got half down the side, I chanced to look below; and
there was the object that terrified the old bull.  No wonder.  It might
have terrified anything,--the odd-looking creature that it was.  From
out a hole in the clay wall protruded a long naked cylindrical snout,
mounted by a pair of ears nearly as long as itself, that stood erect
like the horns of a steinbuck, and gave to the animal that bore them a
wild and vicious look.  It would have badly frightened me, had I not
known what it was; but I recognised it at once as one of the most
inoffensive creatures in the world--the `aard-vark.'

"His appearance accounted for the retreat of the bull, and also
explained why the ants had been crawling about on my first reaching
their hill.

"Without saying a word, or making the slightest noise, I clubbed my gun;
and, bending downward, struck the protruded snout a blow with the butt.
It was a most wicked blow; and, considering the service the creature had
just done me in frightening off the wildebeest, a most ungrateful
return.  But I was not master of my feelings at the moment.  I did not
reflect--only that I liked aard-vark flesh--and the blow was given.

"Poor fellow!  It did the job for him.  With scarce a kick he dropped
dead in the opening he had scraped with his own claws.

"Well--my day's adventures were not yet ended.  They seemed as though
they were never to end.  I had got the aard-vark over my shoulders, and
was about heading homeward, when, to my astonishment, I observed that
the bull-gnoo--not the one that had besieged me, but his late
antagonist--was still out upon the plain where I had last seen him!  I
observed, moreover, that he was still in a sort of half-lying
half-kneeling attitude, with his head close to the ground!

"His odd movements seemed stranger than anything else.  I fancied he had
been badly hurt by the other, and was not able to get away.

"At first I was cautious about going near him--remembering my late
narrow escape--and I thought of giving him a wide berth, and leaving him
alone.  Even though wounded, he might be strong enough to charge upon
me; and my empty gun, as I had already proved, would be but a poor
weapon with which to defend myself.

"I hesitated about going near him; but curiosity grew strong within me,
as I watched his queer manoeuvres; until at length I walked up within a
dozen yards of where he was kneeling.

"Fancy my surprise on discovering the cause of his oblique movements.
No hurt had he received of any kind--not even a scratch; but for all
that, he was as completely crippled as if he had lost his best pair of
legs.

"In a very singular manner was he rendered thus helpless.  In his
struggle with the other bull, one of his fore-legs had, somehow or
other, got passed over his horn; and there it stuck--not only depriving
him of the use of the limb itself, but holding his head so close to the
ground that he was quite unable to stir from the spot!

"At first I designed helping him out of his difficulty, and letting him
go.  On second thoughts, I remembered the story of the husbandman and
the frozen snake, which quite changed my intention.

"I next thought of killing him for venison; but having no bullet, I did
not like to beat him to death with my gun.  Besides the aard-vark was my
load to camp, and I knew that the jackals would eat the bull up before
we could go back for him.  I thought it probable he would be safer left
as he was--as these ravenous brutes, seeing him alive, might not so
readily approach him.

"So I left him with his `head under his arm,' in hopes that we may find
him there to-morrow."

So ended Hans's narrative of his day's adventures.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

THE ELEPHANT'S SLEEPING-ROOST.

The field-cornet was far from satisfied with his day's work.  His first
attempt at elephant-hunting had proved a failure.  Might it not be
always so?

Notwithstanding the interest with which he listened to Hans's narrative
of the day's adventures, he felt uneasy in his mind when he reflected
upon his own.

The elephant had escaped so easily.  Their bullets seemed to have
injured him not the least.  They had only served to render him furious,
and dangerous.  Though both had hit him in places where their wounds
should have been mortal, no such effect was produced.  The elephant
seemed to go off as unscathed, as if they had fired only boiled peas at
him!

Would it be always so?

True, they had given him but two shots.  Two, if well directed, may
bring down a cow-elephant and sometimes a bull, but oftener it requires
ten times two before a strong old bull can be made to "bite the dust."

But would _any_ elephant wait until they could load and fire a
sufficient number of shots?

That was an undecided point with our tyro elephant-hunters.  If _not_,
then they would be helpless indeed.  It would be a tedious business
spooring the game afoot, after it had once been fired upon.  In such
cases the elephant usually travels many miles before halting again; and
only mounted men can with any facility overtake him.

How Von Bloom sighed when he thought of his poor horses!  Now more than
ever did he feel the want of them--now more than ever did he regret
their loss.

But he had heard that the elephant does not _always_ make off when
attacked.  The old bull had shown no intention of retreating, after
receiving their shots.  It was the odd conduct of Swartboy that had put
him to flight.  But for that, he would no doubt have kept the ground,
until they had given him another volley, and perhaps his death-wound.

The field-cornet drew consolation from this last reflection.  Perhaps
their next encounter would have a different ending.  Perhaps a pair of
tusks would reward them.

The hope of such a result, as well as the anxiety about it, determined
Von Bloom to lose no time in making a fresh trial.  Next morning,
therefore, before the sun was up, the hunters were once more upon the
trail of their giant game.

One precaution they had taken, which they had not thought of before.
All of them had heard that an ordinary leaden bullet will not penetrate
the tough thick skin of the great "pachyderm."  Perhaps this had been
the cause of their failure on the preceding day.  If so they had
provided against the recurrence of failure from such a cause.  They had
moulded a new set of balls of harder material,--solder it should have
been, but they had none.  They chanced, however, to be in possession of
what served the purpose equally well--the old "plate" that had often
graced the field-cornet's table in his better byegone days of the Graaf
Reinet.  This consisted of candlesticks, and snuffer-trays, and
dish-covers, and cruet-stands, and a variety of articles of the real
"Dutch metal."

Some of these were condemned to the alembic of the melting-pan; and,
mixed with the common lead, produced a set of balls hard enough for the
hide of the rhinoceros itself--so that this day the hunters had no fears
of failure upon the score of soft bullets.

They went in the same direction as upon the preceding day, towards the
forest or "bush" (bosch), as they termed it.

They had not proceeded a mile when they came upon the spoor of elephants
nearly fresh.  It passed through the very thickest of the thorny
jungle--where no creature but an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a man with
an axe, could have made way.  A family must have passed, consisting of a
male, a female or two, and several young ones of different ages.  They
had marched in single file, as elephants usually do; and had made a
regular lane several feet wide, which was quite clear of bushes, and
trampled by their immense footsteps.  The old bull, Swartboy said, had
gone in advance, and had cleared the way of all obstructions, by means
of his trunk and tusks.  This had evidently been the case, for the
hunters observed huge branches broken off, or still hanging and turned
to one side, out of the way--just as if the hand of man had done it.

Swartboy further affirmed, that such elephant-roads usually led to
water; and by the very easiest and shortest routes--as if they had been
planned and laid open by the skill of an engineer--showing the rare
instinct or sagacity of these animals.

The hunters, therefore, expected soon to arrive at some watering-place;
but it was equally probable the spoor might be leading them _from_ the
water.

They had not followed it more than a quarter of a mile, when they came
upon another road of a similar kind, that crossed the one they were
spooring upon.  This had also been made by a number of elephants--a
family most likely--and the tracks upon it were as recent as those they
had been following.

They hesitated for a moment which to take; but at length concluded upon
keeping straight on; and so they moved forward as before.

To their great disappointment the trail at last led out into more open
ground, where the elephants had scattered about; and after following the
tracks of one, and then another without success, they got bewildered,
and lost the spoor altogether.

While casting about to find it in a place where the bush was thin and
straggling, Swartboy suddenly ran off to one side, calling to the others
to follow him.  Von Bloom and Hendrik went after to see what the Bushman
was about.  They thought he had seen an elephant, and both, considerably
excited, had already pulled the covers off their guns.

There was no elephant, however.  When they came up with Swartboy, he was
standing under a tree, and pointing to the ground at its bottom.

The hunters looked down.  They saw that the ground upon one side of the
tree was trampled, as though horses or some other animals had been tied
there for a long time, and had worn off the turf, and worked it into
dust with their hoofs.  The bark of the tree--a full-topped shady
acacia--for some distance up was worn smooth upon one side, just as
though cattle had used it for a rubbing-post.

"What has done it?" asked the field-cornet and Hendrik in a breath.

"Da olifant's slapen-boom," (the elephant's sleeping-tree), replied
Swartboy.

No further explanation was necessary.  The hunters remembered what they
had been told about a curious habit which the elephant has--of leaning
against a tree while asleep.  This, then, was one of the sleeping-trees
of these animals.

But of what use to them, farther than to gratify a little curiosity?
The elephant was not there.

"Da ole karl come again," said Swartboy.

"Ha! you think so, Swart?" inquired Von Bloom.

"Ya, baas, lookee da! spoor fresh--da groot olifant hab slap here
yesterday."

"What then? you think we should lie in wait, and shoot him when he
returns."

"No, baas, better dan shoot, we make him bed--den wait see um lie down."

Swartboy grinned a laugh as he gave this piece of advice.

"Make his bed! what do you mean?" inquired his master.

"I tell you, baas, we get da olifant sure, if you leave da job to ole
Swart.  I gib you de plan for take him, no waste powder, no waste
bullet."

The Bushman proceeded to communicate his plan, to which his master--
remembering their failure of yesterday--readily gave his consent.

Fortunately they had all the implements that would be necessary for
carrying it out,--a sharp axe, a strong rope or "rheim" of raw-hide, and
their knives--and they set about the business without loss of time.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

MAKING THE ELEPHANT'S BED.

To the hunters time was a consideration.  If the elephant should return
that day, it would be just before the hottest hours of noon.  They had,
therefore, scarce an hour left to prepare for him--to "make his bed," as
Swartboy had jocosely termed it.  So they went to work with alacrity,
the Bushman acting as director-general, while the other two received
their orders from him with the utmost obedience.

The first work which Swartboy assigned to them was, to cut and prepare
three stakes of hard wood.  They were to be each about three feet long,
as thick as a man's arm, and pointed at one end.  These were soon
procured.  The iron-wood (_Olca undulata_) which grew in abundance in
the neighbourhood, furnished the very material; and after three pieces
of sufficient length had been cut down with the axe, they were reduced
to the proper size, and pointed by the knives of the hunters.

Meanwhile Swartboy had not been idle.  First with his knife he had cut a
large section of bark from the elephant's tree, upon the side against
which the animal had been in the habit of leaning, and about three feet
from the ground.  Then with the axe he made a deep notch, where the bark
had been removed--in fact, such a notch as would have caused the tree to
fall had it been left to itself.  But it was not, for before advancing
so far in his work, Swartboy had taken measures to prevent that.  He had
stayed the tree by fastening the rheim to its upper branches on the
_opposite_ side, and then carrying the rope to the limbs of another tree
that stood out in that direction.

Thus adjusted, the elephant's tree was only kept from falling by the
rheim-stay; and a slight push, in the direction of the latter, would
have thrown over.

Swartboy now replaced the section of bark, which he had preserved; and
after carefully collecting the chips, no one, without close examination,
could have told that the tree had ever felt the edge of an axe.

Another operation yet remained to be performed--that was the planting of
the stakes, already prepared by Von Bloom and Hendrik.  To set these
firmly deep holes had to be made.  But Swartboy was just the man to make
a hole; and in less than ten minutes he had sunk three, each over a foot
deep, and not a half-inch wider than the thickness of the stakes!

You may be curious to know how he accomplished this.  You would have dug
a hole with a spade, and necessarily as wide as the spade itself.  But
Swartboy had no spade, and would not have used it if there had been
one--since it would have made the holes too large for his purpose.

Swartboy sunk his holes by "crowing"--which process he performed by
means of a small pointed stick.  With this he first loosened the earth
in a circle of the proper size.  He then took out the detached mould,
flung it away, and used the point of the "crowing stick" as before.
Another clearing out of mould, another application of the stick; and so
on, till the narrow hole was deemed of sufficient depth.  That was how
Swartboy "crowed" the holes.

They were sunk in a kind of triangle near the bottom of the tree, but on
the side opposite to that where the elephant would stand, should he
occupy his old ground.

In each hole Swartboy now set a stake, thick end down and point upwards;
some small pebbles, and a little mould worked in at the sides, wedged
them as firmly as if they had grown there.

The stakes were now daubed over with soft earth, to conceal the white
colour of the wood; the remaining chips were picked up, and all traces
of the work completely obliterated.  This done, the hunters withdraw
from the spot.

They did not go far; but choosing a large bushy tree to leeward, all
three climbed up into it, and sat concealed among its branches.

The field-cornet held his long "roer" in readiness, and so did Hendrik
his rifle.  In case the ingenious trap of Swartboy should fail, they
intended to use their guns, but not otherwise.

It was now quite noon, and the day had turned into one of the hottest.
But for the shade afforded by the leaves, they would have felt it very
distressing.  Swartboy prognosticated favourably from this.  The great
heat would be more likely than anything else to send the elephant to his
favourite sleeping-place under the cool shady cover of the cameel-doorn.

It was now quite noon.  He could not be long in coming, thought they.

Sure enough he came, and soon, too.

They had not been twenty minutes on their perch, when they heard a
strange, rumbling noise, which they knew proceeded from the stomach of
an elephant.  The next moment they saw one emerge from the jungle, and
walk, with sweeping step, straight up to the tree.  He seemed to have no
suspicion of any danger; but placed himself at once alongside the trunk
of the acacia--in the very position and on the side Swartboy had said he
would take.  From his spoor the Bushman knew he had been in the habit of
so standing.

His head was turned from the hunters, but not so much as to prevent them
from seeing a pair of splendid tusks,--six feet long at the least.

While gazing in admiration at these rich trophies, they saw the animal
point his proboscis upward, and discharge a vast shower of water into
the leaves, which afterwards fell dripping in bright globules over his
body!

Swartboy said that he drew the water from his stomach.  Although
closet-naturalists deny this, it must have been so; for shortly after,
he repeated the act again and again--the quantity of water at each
discharge being as great as before.  It was plain that his trunk, large
as it was, could not have contained it all.

He seemed to enjoy this "shower-bath;" and the hunters did not wonder at
it, for they themselves, suffering at the time from heat and thirst,
would have relished something of a similar kind.  As the crystal drops
fell back from the acacia leaves, the huge animal was heard to utter a
low grunt expressive of gratification.  The hunters hoped that this was
the prelude to his sleep, and watched him with intense earnestness.

It proved to be so.

As they sat gazing, they noticed that his head sunk a little, his ears
ceased their flapping, his tail hung motionless, and his trunk, now
twined around his tusks, remained at rest.

They gaze intently.  Now they see his body droop a little to one side--
now it touches the tree--there is heard a loud crack, followed by a
confused crashing of branches--and the huge dark body of the elephant
sinks upon its side.

At the same instant a terrible scream drowns all other sounds, causing
the forest to echo, and the very leaves to quake.  Then follows a
confused roaring, mingled with the noise of cracking branches, and the
struggles of the mighty brute where he lies kicking his giant limbs
along the earth, in the agonies of death!

The hunters remain in the tree.  They see that the elephant is down--
that he is impaled.  There will be no need for their puny weapons.
Their game has already received the death-wound.

The struggle is of short duration.  The painful breathing that precedes
death is heard issuing from the long proboscis; and then follows a deep
ominous silence.

The hunters leap down, and approach the prostrate body.  They see that
it still lies upon the terrible _chevaux de frise_, where it had fallen.
The stakes have done their work most effectively.  The elephant
breathes no more.  He is dead!

It was the work of an hour to cut out those splendid tusks.  But our
hunters thought nothing of that; and they were only the more pleased to
find each of them a heavy load--as much as a man could carry!

Von Bloom shouldered one, Swartboy the other while Hendrik loaded
himself with the guns and implements; and all three, leaving the carcass
of the dead elephant behind them, returned triumphantly to camp.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

THE WILD-ASSES OF AFRICA.

Notwithstanding the success of the day's hunt the mind of Von Bloom was
not at rest.  They had "bagged" their game, it was true, but in what
manner?  Their success was a mere accident, and gave them no earnest of
what might be expected in the future.  They might go long before finding
another "sleeping-tree" of the elephants, and repeating their easy
capture.

Such were the not very pleasant reflections of the field-cornet, on the
evening after returning from their successful hunt.

But still less pleasant were they, two weeks later, at the retrospect of
many an unsuccessful chase from which they had returned--when, after
twelve days spent in "jaging" the elephant, they had added only a single
pair of tusks to the collection, and these the tusks of a cow-elephant,
scarce two feet in length, and of little value!

The reflection was not the less painful, that nearly every day they had
fallen in with elephants, and had obtained a shot or two at these
animals.  That did not mend the matter a bit.  On the contrary, it
taught the hunter how easily they could run away from him, as they
invariably did.  It taught him how small his chances were of capturing
such game, so long as he could only follow it _afoot_.

The hunter on foot stands but a poor chance with the elephant.  Stalking
in upon one is easy enough, and perhaps obtaining a single shot; but
when the animal trots off through the thick jungle, it is tedious work
following him.  He may go miles before halting, and even if the hunter
should overtake him, it may be only to deliver a second shot, and see
the game once more disappear into the bushes--perhaps to be spoored no
farther.

Now the mounted hunter has this advantage.  His horse _can overtake_ the
elephant; and it is a peculiarity of this animal, that the moment he
finds that his enemy, whatever it be, _can_ do that thing, he disdains
to run any farther, but at once stands to bay; and the hunter may then
deliver as many shots as he pleases.

Herein lies the great advantage of the hunter on horseback.  Another
advantage is the security the horse affords, enabling his rider to avoid
the charges of the angry elephant.

No wonder Von Bloom sighed for a horse.  No wonder he felt grieved at
the want of this noble companion, that would have aided him so much in
the chase.

He grieved all the more, now that he had become acquainted with the
district, and had found it so _full_ of elephants.  Troops of an hundred
had been seen; and these far from being shy, or disposed to make off
after a shot or two.  Perhaps they had never heard the report of a gun
before that of his own long roer pealed in their huge ears.

_With_ a horse the field-cornet believed he could have killed many, and
obtained much valuable ivory.  _Without_ one, his chances of carrying
out his design were poor indeed.  His hopes were likely to end in
disappointment.

He felt this keenly.  The bright prospects he had so ardently indulged
in, became clouded over; and fears for the future once more harassed
him.  He would only waste his time in this wilderness.  His children
would live without books, without education, without society.  Were he
to be suddenly called away, what would become of them?  His pretty
Gertrude would be no better off than a little savage--his sons would
become not in sport, as he was wont to call them, but in reality a trio
of "Bush-boys."

Once more these thoughts filled the heart of the father with pain.  Oh!
what would he not have given at that moment for a pair of horses, of any
sort whatever?

The field-cornet, while making these reflections, was seated in the
great nwana-tree, upon the platform, that had been built on the side
towards the lake, and from which a full view could be obtained of the
water.  From this point a fine view could also be obtained of the
country which lay to the eastward of the lake.  At some distance off it
was wooded, but nearer the vley a grassy plain lay spread before the eye
like a green meadow.

The eyes of the hunter were turned outward on this plain, and just then
his glance tell upon a troop of animals crossing the open ground, and
advancing towards the vley.

They were large animals--nearly of the shape and size of small horses--
and travelling in single file; as they were, the troop at a distance
presented something of the appearance of a "cafila," or caravan.  There
were in all about fifty individuals in the line; and they marched along
with a steady sober pace, as if under the guidance and direction of some
wise leader.  How very different from the capricious and eccentric
movements of the gnoos!

Individually they bore some resemblance to these last-named animals.  In
the shape of their bodies and tails, in their general ground colour, and
in the "brindled" or tiger-like stripes that could be perceived upon
their cheeks, neck, and shoulders.  These stripes were exactly of the
same form as those upon a zebra; but far less distinct, and not
extending to the body or limbs, as is the case with the true zebra.  In
general colour, and in some other respects, the animals reminded one of
the ass; but their heads, necks, and the upper part of their bodies,
were of darker hue, slightly tinged with reddish-brown.  In fact, the
new-comers had points of resemblance to all four--horse, ass, gnoo, and
zebra--and yet they were distinct from any.  To the zebra they bore the
greatest resemblance--for they were in reality a species of zebra--they
were _quaggas_.

Modern naturalists have divided the _Equidae_, or horse family, into two
genera--the _horse (equus_) and the _ass (asinus_)--the principal points
of distinction being, that animals of the horse kind have long flowing
manes, full tails, and warty callosities on both hind and fore limbs;
while asses, on the contrary, have short, meagre, and upright manes,
tails slender and furnished only with long hairs at the extremity, and
their hind limbs wanting the callosities.  These, however, are found on
the fore-legs as upon horses.

Although there are many varieties of the horse genus--scores of them,
widely differing from each other--they can all be easily recognised by
these characteristic marks, from the "Suffolk Punch," the great London
dray-horse, down to his diminutive little cousin the "Shetland Pony."

The varieties of the ass are nearly as numerous, though this fact is not
generally known.

First, we have the common ass (_Asinus vulgaris_), the type of the
genus; and of this there are many breeds in different countries, some
nearly as elegant and as highly prized as horses.  Next there is the
"onagra," "koulan," or "wild-ass" (_Asinus onager_), supposed to be the
origin of the common kind.  This is a native of Asia, though it is also
found in the north-eastern parts of Africa.  There is also the
"dziggetai," or "great wild-ass" (_Asinus hemionus_), of Central and
Southern Asia, and another smaller species the "ghur" (_Asinus Hamar_)
found in Persia.  Again, there is the "kiang" (_Asinus kiang_) met with
in Ladakh, and the "yo-totze" (_Asinus equulus_), an inhabitant of
Chinese Tartary.

All these are Asiatic species, found in a wild state, and differing from
one another in colour, size, form, and even in habits.  Many of them are
of elegant form, and swift as the swiftest horses.

In this little book we cannot afford room for a description of each, but
must confine our remarks to what is more properly our subject--_the
wild-asses of Africa_.  Of these there are six or seven kinds--perhaps
more.

First, there is the "wild-ass" (_Asinus onager_), which, as already
stated, extends from Asia into the north-eastern parts of Africa,
contiguous to the former continent.

Next there is the "koomrah," of which very little is known, except that
it inhabits the forests of Northern Africa, and is solitary in its
habits, unlike most of the other species.  The koomrah has been
described as a "wild horse," but, most probably, it belongs to the genus
_asinus_.

Now there are four other species of "wild-asses" in Africa--wild horses
some call them--and a fifth reported by travellers, but as yet
undetermined.  These species bear such a resemblance to one another in
their form, the peculiar markings of their bodies, size, and general
habits, that they may be classed together under the title of the _zebra_
family.  First, there is the true zebra (_Equus zebra_), perhaps the
most beautiful of all quadrupeds, and of which no description need be
given.  Second, the "dauw," or "Burchell's zebra," as it is more
frequently called (_Equus Burchellii_).  Third, the "Congo dauw" (_Equus
hippotigris_), closely resembling the dauw.  Fourth, the "quagga"
(_Equus quagga_); and fifth, the undetermined species known as the
"white zebra" (_Equus Isabellinus_), so-called from its pale yellow, or
Isabella colour.

These five species evidently have a close affinity with each other--all
of them being more or less marked with the peculiar transversal bands or
"stripes," which are the well-known characteristics of the zebra.  Even
the quagga is so banded upon the head and upper parts of its body.

The zebra proper is "striped" from the tip of the nose to its very
hoofs, and the bands are of a uniform black, while the ground colour is
nearly white, or white tinged with a pale yellow.  The "dauws," on the
other hand, are not banded upon the legs; the rays are not so dark or
well defined, and the ground colour is not so pure or clean-looking.
For the rest, all these three species are much alike; and it is more
than probable that either "Burchell's" or the "congo dauw", was the
species to which the name of "zebra" was first applied; for that which
is now called the "true zebra" inhabits those parts of Africa where it
was less likely to have been the first observed of that genus.  At all
events, the "congo dauw" is the "hippotigris," or tiger-horse, of the
Romans; and this we infer from its inhabiting a more northerly part of
Africa than the others, all of which belong to the southern half of that
continent.  The habitat of the zebra is said to extend as far north as
Abyssinia; but, perhaps, the "congo dauw," which certainly inhabits
Abyssinia, has been mistaken for the true zebra.

Of the four species in South Africa, the zebra is a mountain animal, and
dwells among the cliffs, while the dauw and quagga rove over the plains
and wild karoo deserts.  In similar situations to these has the "white
zebra" been observed--though only by the traveller Le Vaillant--and
hence the doubt about its existence as a distinct species.

None of the kinds associate together, though each herds with other
animals!  The quagga keeps company with the gnoo, the "dauw" with the
"brindled gnoo," while the tall ostrich stalks in the midst of the herds
of both!

There is much difference in the nature and disposition of the different
species.  The mountain zebra is very shy and wild; the dauw is almost
untameable; while the quagga is of a timid docile nature, and may be
trained to harness with as much facility as a horse.

The reason why this has not been done, is simply because the farmers of
South Africa have horses in plenty, and do not stand in need of the
quagga, either for saddle or harness.

But though Von Bloom the _farmer_ had never thought of "breaking in" a
quagga, Von Bloom the _hunter_ now did.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

PLANNING THE CAPTURE OF THE QUAGGAS.

Up to this time the field-cornet had scarce deigned to notice the
quaggas.  He knew what they were, and had often seen a drove of them--
perhaps the same one--approach the vley and drink.  Neither he nor any
of his people had molested them, though they might have killed many.
They knew that the yellow oily flesh of these animals was not fit for
food, and is only eaten by the hungry natives--that their hides,
although sometimes used for grain-sacks and other common purposes, are
of very little value.  For these reasons, they had suffered them to come
and go quietly.  They did not wish to waste powder and lead upon them;
neither did they desire wantonly to destroy such harmless creatures.

Every evening, therefore, the quaggas had drunk at the vley and gone off
again, without exciting the slightest interest.

Not so upon this occasion.  A grand design now occupied the mind of Von
Bloom.  The troop of quaggas became suddenly invested with as much
interest as if it had been a herd of elephants; and the field-cornet had
started to his feet, and stood gazing upon them--his eyes sparkling with
pleasure and admiration.

He admired their prettily-striped heads, their plump well-turned bodies,
their light elegant limbs; in short, he admired everything about them,
size, colour, and proportions.  Never before had quaggas appeared so
beautiful in the eyes of the vee-boor.

But why this new-born admiration for the despised quaggas?--for despised
they are by the Cape farmer, who shoots them only to feed his Hottentot
servants.  Why had they so suddenly become such favourites with the
field-cornet?  That you will understand by knowing the reflections that
were just then passing through his mind.  They were as follows:--

Might not a number of these animals be caught and broken in?--Why not?
Might they not be trained to the saddle?--Why not?  Might they not serve
him for hunting the elephant just as well as horses?--Why not?

Von Bloom asked these three questions of himself.  Half a minute served
to answer them all in the affirmative.  There was neither impossibility
nor improbability in any of the three propositions.  It was clear that
the thing could be done, and without difficulty.

A new hope sprang up in the heart of the field-cornet.  Once more his
countenance became radiant with joy.

He communicated his thoughts both to the Bushman and "Bush-boys"--all of
whom highly approved of the idea, and only wondered that none of them
had thought of it before.

And now the question arose, as to how the quaggas were to be captured.
This was the first point to be settled; and the four,--Von Bloom
himself, Hans, Hendrik, and Swartboy,--sat deliberately down to concoct
some plan of effecting this object.

Of course they could do nothing just then, and the drove that had come
to drink was allowed to depart peacefully.  The hunters knew they would
return on the morrow about the same hour; and it was towards their
return that the thought of all were bent.

Hendrik advised "creasing," which means sending a bullet through the
upper part of the neck near the withers, and by this means a quagga can
be knocked over and captured.  The shot, if properly directed, does not
kill the animal.  It soon recovers, and may be easily "broken," though
its spirit is generally broken at the same time.  It is never "itself
again."  Hendrik understood the mode of "creasing."  He had seen it
practised by the boor-hunters.  He knew the spot where the bullet should
hit.  He believed he could do it easily enough.

Hans considered the "creasing" too cruel a mode.  They might kill many
quaggas before obtaining one that was hit in the proper place.  Besides
there would be a waste of powder and bullets--a thing to be considered.
Why could they not snare the animals?  He had heard of nooses being set
for animals as large as the Quaggas, and of many being caught in that
manner.

Hendrik did not think the idea of snaring a good one.  They might get
one in that way--the foremost of the drove; but all the others, seeing
the leader caught, would gallop off and return no more to the vley; and
where would they set their snare for a second?  It might be a long time
before they should find another watering-place of these animals; whereas
they might stalk and crease them upon the plains at any time.

Swartboy now put in his plan.  It was the _pit-fall_.  That was the way
by which Bushmen most generally caught large animals, and Swartboy
perfectly understood how to construct a pit for quaggas.

Hendrik saw objections to this, very similar to those he had urged
against the snare.  The foremost of the quaggas might be caught, but the
others would not be fools enough to walk into the pit--after their
leader had fallen in and laid the trap open.  They of course would
gallop off, and never come back that way again.

If it could be done at night, Hendrik admitted, the thing might be
different.  In the darkness several might rush in before catching the
alarm.  But no--the quaggas had always come to drink in day-time--one
only could be trapped, and then the others alarmed would keep away.

There would have been reason in what Hendrik said, but for a remarkable
fact which the field-cornet himself had observed when the quaggas came
to the lake to drink.  It was, that the animals had invariably entered
the water at one point, and gone out at another.  It was of course a
mere accident that they did so, and owing to the nature of the ground;
but such was the case, and Von Bloom had observed it on several
occasions.  They were accustomed to enter by the gorge, already
described; and, after drinking, wade along the shallow edge for some
yards, and then pass out by another break in the bank.

The knowledge of this fact was of the utmost importance, and all saw
that at once.  A pit-fall dug upon the path by which the animals entered
the lake, would no doubt operate as Hendrik said--one might be caught,
and all the rest frightened off.  But a similar trap placed upon the
trail that led outward, would bring about a very different result.  Once
the quaggas had finished drinking, and just at the moment they were
heading out of the water, the hunters could show themselves upon the
opposite side, set the troop in quick motion, and _gallop them into the
trap_.  By this means not only one, but a whole pit-full might be
captured at once!

All this appeared so feasible that not another suggestion was offered--
the plan of the _pit-fall_ was at once, and unanimously adopted.

It remained only to dig the pit, cover it properly, and then wait the
result.

During all the time their capture was being planned, the herd of quaggas
had remained in sight, disporting themselves upon the open plain.  It
was a tantalising sight to Hendrik, who would have liked much to have
shown his marksman skill by "creasing" one.  But the young hunter saw
that it would be imprudent to fire at them there, as it would prevent
them from returning to the vley; so he restrained himself, and along
with the others remained watching the quaggas--all regarding them with a
degree of interest which they had never before felt in looking at a
drove of these animals.

The quaggas saw nothing of them, although quite near to the great
nwana-tree.  They--the hunters--were up among the branches, where the
animals did not think of looking, and there was nothing around the
bottom of the tree to cause them alarm.  The wagon-wheels had long ago
been disposed of in the bush, partly to shelter them from the sun, and
partly because game animals frequently came within shot of the tree, and
were thus obtained without any trouble.  There were scarce any traces
upon the ground that would have betrayed the existence of a "camp" in
the tree; and a person might have passed very near without noticing the
odd aerial dwelling of the hunter family.

All this was design upon the part of the field-cornet.  As yet he knew
little of the country around.  He did not know but that it might contain
worse enemies than either hyenas or lions.

While they sat watching the manoeuvres of the quaggas, a movement was
made by one of these creatures more singular than any that had yet been
witnessed.

The animal in question was browsing quietly along, and at length
approached a small clump of bushes that stood out in the open ground.
When close to the copse it was observed to make a sudden spring forward;
and almost at the same instant, a shaggy creature leaped out of the
bushes, and ran off.  This last was no other than the ugly "striped"
hyena.  Instead of turning upon the quagga and showing fight, as one
might have supposed so strong and fierce a brute would have done, the
hyena uttered a howl of alarm, and ran off as fast as its legs would
carry it.

They did not carry it far.  It was evidently making for a larger tract
of bush that grew near: but before it had got half-way across the open
ground, the quagga came up behind, and uttering his shrill "couaag,"
reared forward, and dropped with his fore-hoofs upon the hyena's back.
At the same instant the neck of the carnivorous animal was clutched by
the teeth of the ruminant and held as fast, as if grasped by a vice.

All looked to see the hyena free itself and run off again.  They looked
in vain.  It never ran another yard.  It never came alive out of the
clutch of those terrible teeth.

The quagga still held his struggling victim with firm hold--trampling it
with his hoofs, and shaking it in his strong jaws, until in a few
minutes the screams of the hyena ceased, and his mangled carcass lay
motionless upon the plain!

One would think that this incident might have been enough to warn our
hunters to be cautious in their dealings with the quagga.  Such a sharp
biter would be no pleasant horse to "bit and bridle."

But all knew the antipathy that exists between the wild horse and the
hyena; and that the quagga, though roused to fury at the sight of one of
these animals, is very different in its behaviour towards man.  So
strong, in fact, is this antipathy, and so complete is the mastery of
the ruminant over the carnivorous animal, that the frontier farmers
often take advantage of these peculiar facts, and keep the hyenas from
their cattle by bringing up with the herd a number of quaggas, who act
as its guards and protectors.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

THE PIT-TRAP.

While they were watching the movements of the quaggas, Von Bloom rose
suddenly to his feet.  All turned their eyes upon him as he did so.
They saw by his manner that he was about to propose something.  What
could it be?

The thought had just occurred to him that they should at once set about
digging the pit.

It was near sunset--wanting only half-an-hour of it; and one would
suppose he would have done better to leave the work till next morning.
But no.  There was a good reason why they should set about it at once;
and that was, that they might not be able to complete it in time if they
did not do part of it that night.

It would be no slight undertaking to dig a pit of proper size, for they
would require one that would at least hold half-a-dozen quaggas at a
time.  Then there was the carrying away the earth that should come out
of it, the cutting the poles and branches to cover it, and the placing
of these in a proper manner.

To do all these things would take up a great deal of time; and they must
be all done against the return of the quaggas, else the whole scheme
would be a failure.  Should the animals arrive upon the ground before
the pit was covered in and all traces of the work removed, they would
make off without entering the water, and perhaps never visit that vley
again.

Such were the conjectures of the field-cornet.  Hans, Hendrik, and
Swartboy, acknowledged their justice.  All saw the necessity of going to
work at once, and to work they all went.

Fortunately among the "implements," were two good spades, a shovel, and
a pick-axe, and all of them could be busy at the same time.  There were
baskets in which the dirt could be sanded off, and thrown into the deep
channel close by, where it would not be seen.  This was also a fortunate
circumstance; for to have carried the stuff any great distance, would
have made the job still heavier, and more difficult to execute in proper
time.

Having marked the outlines of the pit, they went to work with spade,
shovel, and pick.  The ground proved tolerably loose, and the pick was
but little needed.  The field-cornet himself handled one of the spades,
Hendrik the other, while Swartboy acted as shoveller, and filled the
baskets as fast as Hans and Totty, assisted by Truey and little Jan,
could empty them.  These last carried a small basket of their own, and
contributed very materially to the progress of the work, by lightening
the labours of Hans and Totty.

And so the work went merrily on until midnight, and even after that
hour, under the light of a full moon; by which time the diggers were
buried to their necks.

But they were now fatigued.  They knew they could easily complete the
pit next day; and so they laid down their implements, and after
performing their ablutions in the crystal water of the stream, retired
to their sleeping-quarters in the tree.

By early dawn they were at it again, busy as bees; and the pit
progressed so rapidly that before they stopped to take breakfast Von
Bloom could scarce see out of it standing on his toes, and the crown of
Swartboy's woolly head was nearly two feet below the surface.  A little
more digging would do.

After breakfast they went to work at briskly as ever; and laboured away
until they considered that the hole was sunk to a sufficient depth.  It
would have taken a springbok to have leaped out of it; and no quagga
could possibly have cleared itself from such a pit.

Poles and bushes were now cut; and the pit was neatly covered with
these, and strewed over, as well as a large tract of the adjoining
ground, with rushes and grass.  The most sagacious animal would have
been deceived by the appearance; even a fox could not have discovered
the tray before tumbling into it.

They had completed the work before going to dinner,--which,
consequently, fell late on that day--so nothing more remained to be done
but to dine, and await the coming of the quaggas.

At dinner they were all very merry, notwithstanding the immense fatigue
they had gone through.  The prospect of capturing the quaggas was very
exciting, and kept the party in high spirits.

Each offered a prognostication as to the result.  Some said they would
trap three quaggas at the least; while others were more sanguine, and
believed they might take twice that number.  Jan did not see why the pit
should not be full; and Hendrik thought this probable enough--
considering the way they intended to drive the quaggas into it.

It certainly seemed so.  The pit had been made of sufficient width to
preclude the possibility of the animals leaping over it, while it was
dug lengthwise across the path, so that they could not miss it.  The lay
of the ground would guide them directly into it.

It is true that, were they to be left to themselves, and permitted to
follow their usual method of marching--that is, in single file--only
one, the leader, might be caught.  The rest, seeing him fall in, would
be sure to wheel round, and gallop off in a different direction.

But it was not the intention of the hunters to leave things thus.  They
had planned a way by which the quaggas, at a certain moment, would be
thrown into a complete panic, and thus forced pell-mell upon the pit.
In this lay their hopes of securing a large number of the animals.

Four was as many as were wanted.  One for each of the hunters.  Four
would do; but of course it mattered not how many more got into the pit.
The more the better, as a large number would give them the advantage of
"pick and choose."

Dinner over, the hunters set about preparing for the reception of their
expected visitors.  As already stated, the dinner had been later than
usual; and it was now near the hour when the quaggas might be looked
for.

In order to be in time, each took his station.  Hans, Hendrik, and
Swartboy, placed themselves in ambush around the lake--at intervals from
one another; but the lower end, where the animals usually approached and
went out, was left quite open.  Von Bloom remained on the platform in
the tree, so as to mark the approach of the quaggas, and give warning by
a signal to the other three.  The positions taken by these were such,
that they could guide the herd in the direction of the pit by merely
coming out of the bushes where they lay concealed.  In order that they
should show themselves simultaneously, and at the proper moment, they
were to wait for a signal from the tree.  This was to be the firing of
the great "roer," loaded blank.  Hans and Hendrik were also to fire
blank shots on discovering themselves, and by this means the desired
panic would be produced.

The whole scheme was well contrived, and succeeded admirably.  The herd
appeared filing over the plain, just as on the preceding days.  Von
Bloom announced their approach to the three in ambush, by repeating in a
subdued tone the words,--

"Quaggas are coming!"

The unsuspecting animals filed through the gorge, scattered about in the
water, drank their fill, and then commenced retiring by the path on
which lay the trap.

The leader having climbed the bank, and seeing the fresh grass and
rushes strewed upon the path, uttered a snorting bark, and seemed half
inclined to wheel round.  But just at that moment boomed the loud
detonation of the roer; and, then, like lesser echoes, the reports of
the smaller guns on the right and left, while Swartboy shouted at the
top pitch of his voice, from another quarter.

A look back showed the quaggas that they were well-nigh surrounded by
strange enemies.  But one course appeared open to them--the way they
were wont to go; and barking with affright, the whole drove dashed up
the bank, and crowded on towards the pit.

Then was heard a confused noise--the cracking of the poles--the
trampling of many hoofs--the dull sounds of heavy bodies falling
together, and mingling in a continuous struggle--and the wild snorting,
as the creatures hurried forward in affright.  Some were seen springing
high in the air, as if to overleap the pit.  Others poised themselves on
their hind hoofs, and wheeling round, ran back into the lake.  Some
dashed off through the bushes, and escaped in that way; but the great
body of the drove came running back, and plunging through the water,
made off by the gorge through which they had come.  In a few minutes not
one was in sight.

The boys thought they had all escaped; but Von Bloom, from his more
elevated position in the tree, could perceive the snouts of several
protruding above the edge of the pit.

On arriving at the spot, to their great satisfaction the hunters
discovered no less than eight full-grown quaggas in the trap--just twice
the number required to mount the party.

In less than two weeks from that time, four of the quaggas were broken
to the saddle, and perfectly obedient to the bit.  Of course there was a
good deal of kicking, and plunging, and flinging, and many hard gallops,
and some ugly falls, before it came to this; but both the Bushman
Swartboy and the Bush-boy Hendrik were expert in the _manege_ of horses,
and soon tamed the quaggas to a proper degree of docility.

Upon the very first occasion when these animals were used in the hunt of
the elephant, they rendered the very service expected of them.  The
elephant, as usual, bolted after receiving the first shot; but the
hunters on "quagga-back" were enabled to keep him in sight, and follow
rapidly upon his heels.  As soon as the elephant discovered that, run as
he would, his pursuers had the power of overtaking him, he disdained to
fly farther, and stood to bay; thus giving them the opportunity of
delivering shot after shot, until a mortal wound brought his huge body
to the earth.

Von Bloom was delighted.  His hopes were high, his benignant star was
once more in the ascendant.

He would yet accomplish his design.  He would yet be rich.  A few years
would enable him to build up his fortune--to construct a pyramid of
ivory!



CHAPTER FORTY.

DRIVING IN THE ELAND.

Of all the family Hendrik was the hunter _par excellence_.  It was he
who habitually stored the larder; and upon days when they were not
engaged in the chase of the elephant, Hendrik would be abroad alone in
pursuit of antelopes, and other creatures, that furnished their usual
subsistence.  Hendrik kept the table well supplied.

Antelopes are the principal game of South Africa--for Africa is the
country of the antelope above all others.  You may be surprised to hear
that there are _seventy different species of antelopes_ over all the
earth--that more than fifty of these are African, and that thirty at
least belong to South Africa--that is, the portion of the continent
lying between the Cape of Good Hope and the Tropic of Capricorn.

It would require the space of a whole book, therefore, to give a fair
account--a monograph--of the antelopes alone; and I cannot afford that
space here.  At present I can only say that Africa is the great antelope
country, although many fine species exist also in Asia--that in America
there is but one kind, the _prong-horn_, with which you are already well
acquainted--and that in Europe there are two, though one of these, the
well-known "chamois," is as much goat as antelope.

I shall farther remark, that the seventy species of animals, by
naturalists classed as antelopes, differ widely from one another in
form, size, colour, pelage, habits; in short, in so many respects, that
their classification under the name of _Antelope_ is very arbitrary
indeed.  Some approximate closely to the goat tribe; others are more
like deer; some resemble oxen; others are closely allied to the buffalo;
while a few species possess many of the characteristics of wild sheep!

As a general thing, however, they are more like to deer than any other
animals; and many species of them are, in common parlance, called deer.
Indeed, many antelopes are more like to certain species of deer than to
others of their own kind.  The chief distinction noted between them and
the deer is, that the antelopes have _horny_ horns, that are persistent
or permanent, while those of the deer are osseous or _bony_, and are
annually cast.

Like the deer the different species of antelopes possess very different
habits.  Some frequent the wide open plains; some the deep forest; some
wander by the shady banks of streams; while others love to dwell upon
the rocky steep, or the dry ravines of the mountains.  Some browse upon
the grass; while others, goat-like, prefer the leaves and tender twigs
of trees.  In fact, so different are these creatures in habits, that
whatever be the natural character of a district of country, it will be
found the favourite home of one or more species.  Even the very desert
has its antelopes, that prefer the parched and waterless plain to the
most fertile and verdant valley.

Of all antelopes the "eland," or "caana" (_Antelope oreas_) is the
largest.  It measures full seventeen hands at the shoulder--being thus
equal in height to a very large horse.  A large eland weighs one
thousand pounds.  It is a heavily formed animal, and an indifferent
runner, as a mounted hunter can gallop up to one without effort.  Its
general proportions are not unlike those of a common ox, but its horns
are straight and rise vertically from the crown, diverging only slightly
from one another.  These are two feet in length, and marked by a ridge
that passes spirally around them nearly to the tips.  The horns of the
female are longer than those of the male.

The eyes of the eland, like those of most antelopes, are large, bright,
and melting, without any expression of fierceness; and the animal,
though so very large and strong, is of the most innocuous disposition--
showing fight only when driven to desperation.

The general colour of this antelope is dun, with a rufous tinge.
Sometimes ashy grey touched with ochre is the prevailing hue.

The eland is one of those antelopes that appear to be independent of
water.  It is met with upon the desert plains, far from either spring or
stream; and it even seems to prefer such situations--perhaps from the
greater security it finds there--though it is also a denizen of the
fertile and wooded districts.  It is gregarious, the sexes herding
separately, and in groups of from ten to a hundred individuals.

The flesh of the eland is highly esteemed, and does not yield in
delicacy to that of any of the antelope, deer, or bovine tribes.  It has
been compared to tender beef with a _game flavour_; and the muscles of
the thighs when cured and dried produce a _bonne bouche_, known under
the odd appellation of "thigh-tongues."

Of course the eland affording such excellent meat, and in so large a
quantity, is zealously hunted for his spoils.  Being only a poor runner
and always very fat, the hunt is usually a short one; and ends in the
eland being shot down, skinned, and cut up.  There is no great
excitement about this chase, except that it is not every day an eland
can be started.  The ease with which they can be captured, as well as
the value of their venison, has led to the thinning off of these
antelopes; and it is only in remote districts where a herd of them can
be found.

Now since their arrival, no elands had been seen, though now and then
their spoor was observed; and Hendrik, for several reasons, was very
desirous of getting one.  He had never shot an eland in his life--that
was one reason--and another was, that he wished to procure a supply of
the fine venison which lies in such quantities over the ribs of these
animals.

It was, therefore, with great delight, that Hendrik one morning received
the report that a herd of elands had been seen upon the upper plain, and
not far off.  Swartboy, who had been upon the cliffs, brought this
report to camp.

Without losing any more time than sufficed to get the direction from
Swartboy, Hendrik mounted his quagga, shouldered his rifle, and rode off
in search of the herd.

Not far from the camp there was an easy pass, leading up the cliff to
the plain above.  It was a sort of gorge or ravine; and from the
numerous tracks of animals in its bottom, it was evidently much used as
a road from the upper plain to that in which were the spring and stream.
Certain animals, such as the zebras and quaggas, and others that
frequent the dry desert plains from preference, were in the habit of
coming by this path when they required water.

Up the gorge rode Hendrik; and no sooner had he arrived at its top, than
he discovered the herd of elands--seven old bulls--about a mile off upon
the upper plain.

There was not cover enough to have sheltered a fox.  The only growth
near the spot where the elands were, consisted of straggling
aloe-plants, euphorbias, with some stunted bushes, and tufts of dry
grass, characteristic of the desert.  There was no clump large enough to
have sheltered a hunter from the eye of his game; and Hendrik at once
came to the conclusion, that the elands could not be "stalked" in the
situation they then occupied.

Now, though Hendrik had never hunted this antelope, he was well
acquainted with its habits, and knew how it ought to be chased.  He knew
that it was a bad runner; that any old horse could bring up with it; and
that his quagga--the fastest of the four that had been tamed--could do
the same.

It was only a question of "start," therefore.  Could he get near enough
the bulls to have a fair start, he would run one of them down to a
certainty.  The result might be different should the elands take the
alarm at a long distance off, and scour away over the plain.

To get within fair starting distance, that was the point to be
attempted.

But Hendrik was a wary hunter, and soon accomplished this.  Instead of
riding direct for the elands, he made a grand circuit--until he had got
the herd between him and the cliff--and then, heading his quagga for
them, he rode quietly forward.

He did not sit erect in the saddle, but held himself bent down, until
his breast almost touched the withers of the quagga.  This he did to
deceive the elands, who would otherwise have recognised him as an enemy.
In such a fashion they could not make out what kind of creature was
coming towards them; but stood for a long while gazing at Hendrik and
his quagga with feelings of curiosity, and of course some little alarm.

They, however, permitted the hunter to get within five hundred yards
distance--near enough for him--before they broke off in their heavy
lumbering gallop.

Hendrik now rose in his saddle, put spurs to his quagga, and followed
the herd at full speed.

As he had designed, so it came to pass.  The elands ran straight in the
direction of the cliff--not where the pass was, but where there was
none--and, on reaching the precipice, were of course forced to turn into
a new direction, transverse to their former one.  This gave Hendrik the
advantage, who, heading his quagga diagonally, was soon upon the heels
of the herd.

It was Hendrik's intention to single out one of the bulls, and run him
down--leaving the others to gallop off wherever they wished.

His intention was carried out; for shortly after, the fattest of the
bulls shot to one side, as if to escape in that way, while the rest ran
on.

The bull was not so cunning as he thought himself.  Hendrik's eye was
upon him; and in a moment the quagga was turned upon his track.

Another burst carried both game and pursuer nearly a mile across the
plain.  The eland had turned from a rufous dun colour to that of a
leaden blue; the saliva fell from his lips in long streamers, foam
dappled his broad chest, the tears rolled out of his big eyes, and his
gallop became changed to a weary trot.  He was evidently "blown."

In a few minutes more the quagga was close upon his heels; and then the
huge antelope, seeing that farther running could not serve him, halted
in despair, and faced round towards his pursuer.

Now Hendrik had his loaded rifle in his hand, and you expect to hear
that he instantly raised it to his shoulder, took aim, fired, and
brought down the eland.

I must disappoint you, then, by telling you that he did no such thing.

Hendrik was a real hunter--neither rash nor wasteful of his resources.
He knew a better plan than to kill the eland upon the spot.  He knew
that the animal was now quite in his power; and that he could drive him
wherever he pleased, just like a tame ox.  To have killed the creature
on the spot would have been a waste of powder and shot.  More than that,
it would have rendered necessary all the trouble of transporting its
flesh to camp--a double journey at least--and with the risk of the
hyenas eating up most of it in his absence.  Whereas he could save all
this trouble by _driving the eland to camp_; and this was his design.

Without firing a shot, therefore, he galloped on past the blown bull,
headed him, turned him round, and then drove him before him in the
direction of the cliff.

The bull could make neither resistance nor opposition.  Now and again,
he would turn and trot off in a contrary direction; but he was easily
headed again, and at length forced forward to the top of the pass.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

A WILD RIDE ON QUAGGA-BACK.

Hendrik was congratulating himself on his success.  He anticipated some
pleasure in the surprise he was about to create at camp, when he should
march in with the eland--for he had no doubt that he would succeed in
doing so.

Indeed, there appeared no reason to doubt it.  The bull had already
entered the gorge, and was moving down it, while Hendrik and his quagga
were hurrying forward to follow.

The hunter had arrived within a few yards of the top, when a loud
trampling noise sounded in his ears, as if a band of heavy-footed
animals were coming up the gorge.

He spurred his quagga forward, in order to reach the edge, and get a
view down the ravine.  Before he was able to do so, he was surprised to
see the eland gallop up again, and try to pass him upon the plain.  It
had evidently received fresh alarm, from something in the gorge; and
preferred facing its old enemy to encountering the new.

Hendrik did not give his attention to the eland.  He could ride it down
at any time.  He was more anxious first to know what had given it the
start backward; so he continued to press forward to the head of the
ravine.

He might have thought of lions, and acted with greater prudence; but the
trampling of hoofs which still echoed up the pass told him that lions
were not the cause of the eland's alarm.

He at length reached a point where he could see down the declivity.  He
had not far to look--for already the animals that were making the noise
were close up to him; and he perceived they were nothing more than a
troop of quaggas.

He was not over-pleased at this interruption to his drive; and the less
did he like it, that the intruders were quaggas--ill-conditioned brutes
that they were!  Had they been game animals, he would have shot one; but
the only motive that would have induced him to shoot one of the quaggas
would have been a feeling of anger--for, at that moment, he was really
angry at them.

Without knowing it, poor brutes! they had likely given him cause for a
good deal of trouble; for it would cost him a good deal, before he could
head the eland again, and get it back into the pass.  No wonder, then,
he was vexed a little.

But his vexation was not so grievous as to cause him to fire upon the
approaching herd; and, turning aside, he rode after the eland.

He had hardly left the spot, when the quaggas came out of the pass,
following each other to the number of forty or fifty.  Each, as he saw
the mounted hunter, started with affright, and bolted off, until the
whole drove stretched out in a long line over the plain, snorting and
uttering their loud "coua-a-g" as they ran.

Hendrik would hardly have regarded this movement under ordinary
circumstances.  He had often seen herds of quaggas, and was in no way
curious about them.  But his attention was drawn to this herd, from his
noticing, as they passed him, that four of them had their tails docked
short; and from this circumstance, he recognised them as the four that
had been caught in the pit-trap and afterwards set free.  Swartboy, for
some purpose of his own, had cut off the hair before letting them go.

Hendrik had no doubt it was they, and that the herd was the same that
used to frequent the vley, but that on account of the ill-treatment they
had met with, had never since shown themselves in the neighbourhood.

Now these circumstances coming into Hendrik's mind at the moment, led
him to regard the quaggas with a certain feeling of curiosity.  The
sudden fright which the animals took on seeing him, and the comic
appearance of the four with the stumped tails, rather inclined Hendrik
towards merriment, and he laughed as he galloped along.

As the quaggas went off in the same direction which the eland had taken,
of course Hendrik's road and theirs lay so far together; and on galloped
he at their heels.  He was curious to try the point--much disputed in
regard to horses--how far a mounted quagga would be able to cope with an
unmounted one.  He was curious, moreover, to find out whether his own
quagga was quite equal to any of its old companions.  So on swept the
chase--the eland leading, the quaggas after, and Hendrik bringing up the
rear.

Hendrik had no need to ply the spur.  His gallant steed flew like the
wind.  He seemed to feel that his character was staked upon the race.
He gained upon the drove at every spring.

The heavy-going eland was soon overtaken, and as it trotted to one side,
was passed.  It halted, but the quaggas kept on.

Not only the drove kept on, but Hendrik's quagga following close at
their heels; and in less than five minutes they had left the eland a
full mile in their rear, and were still scouring onward over the wide
plain.

What was Hendrik about?  Was he going to forsake the eland, and let it
escape?  Had he grown so interested in the race?  Was he jealous about
his quagga's speed, and determined it should beat all the others?

So it would have appeared to any one witnessing the race from a
distance.  But one who could have had a nearer view of it, would have
given a different explanation of Hendrik's conduct.

The fact was, that as soon as the eland halted Hendrik intended to halt
also; and for that purpose pulled strongly upon his bridle.  But, to his
astonishment, he found that his quagga did not share his intention.
Instead of obeying the bit, the animal caught the steel in his teeth,
and laying his ears back, galloped straight on!

Hendrik then endeavoured to turn the quagga to one side, and for this
purpose wrenched his right rein; but with such fierceness, that the old
bit-ring gave way--the bit slipped through the animal's jaws--the
head-stall came off with the jerk--and the quagga was completely
unbridled!

Of course the animal was now free to go just as he liked; and it was
plain that he liked to go with his old comrades.  His old comrades he
well knew them to be, as his snorting and occasional neigh of
recognition testified.

At first Hendrik was disposed to look upon the breaking of his bit as
only a slight misfortune.  For a boy he was one of the best riders in
South Africa, and needed no rein to steady him.  He could keep his seat
without one.  The quagga would soon stop, and he could then repair the
bit, and re-adjust the bridle which he still held in his hands.  Such
were his reflections at first.

But their spirit began to alter, when he found that the quagga, instead
of lessening his pace kept on as hard as ever, and the herd still ran
wildly before him without showing the slightest signs of coming to a
halt.

In fact, the quaggas were running through fear.  They saw the mounted
hunter behind them in hot pursuit; and although their old comrade knew
who _they_ were, how were they to tell what _he_ was, with such a tall
hunch upon his back?  No quagga he, but some terrible monster, they
imagined, thirsting for their lives, and eager to devour one and all of
them!

No wonder they showed their heels in the best style they knew how; and
so well did they show them, that Hendrik's quagga--notwithstanding his
keen desire to get forward among them, and explain away the awkward
business upon his back--was not able to come an inch closer.

He did not lose ground, however.  His eagerness to regain his old
associates--to partake once more of their wild freedom--for he was
desperately tired of civilised society, and sick of elephant-hunting--
all these ideas crowded into his mind at the moment, and nerved him to
the utmost exertion.  Could he only get up into the body of the crowd--
for the herd now ran in a crowd--a few whimpers would suffice to
explain--they would come to a halt at once,--they would gather around
him, and assist both with hoofs and teeth to get "shed" of the ugly
two-legged thing that clung so tightly to his dorsal vertebras.

It was "no go," however.  Although he was so close to their heels, that
they flung dust in his face, and small pebbles in the face of his rider,
to the no slight inconvenience of the latter; although he "whighered"
whenever he could spare breath, and uttered his "couag,--couag!" in
reality calling them by name, it was "no go."  "They would not stay.
They would not hear."

And what did Hendrik during all this time?  Nothing--he could do
nothing.  He could not stay the impetuous flight of his steed.  He dared
not dismount.  He would have been hurled among sharp rocks, had he
attempted such a thing.  His neck would have been broken.  He could do
nothing--nothing but keep his seat.

What thought he?  At first, not much.  At first he regarded the
adventure lightly.  When he was about completing his third mile, he
began to deem it more serious; and as he entered upon the fifth, he
became convinced that he was neither more nor less than in a very
awkward scrape.

But the fifth mile was left behind, and then a sixth, and a seventh; and
still the quaggas galloped wildly on--the drove actuated by the fear of
losing their liberty, and their old comrade by the desire of regaining
his.

Hendrik now felt real uneasiness.  Where were they going?  Where was the
brute carrying him?  Perhaps off to the desert, where he might be lost
and perish of hunger or thirst!  Already he was many miles from the
cliffs, and he could no longer tell their direction.  Even had he halted
then and there, he could not tell which way to turn himself.  He would
be lost!

He grew more than anxious.  He became frightened in earnest.

What was he to do?  Leap down, and risk his neck in the fall?  He would
lose his quagga and his saddle as well--he regarded the eland as already
lost--he would have to walk back to camp, and get laughed at on his
return.

No matter for all that; his life was in danger if he kept on.  The
quaggas might gallop twenty,--ay, fifty miles before halting.  They
showed no symptoms of being blown--no signs of giving out.  He must
fling himself to the ground, and let quagga and saddle go.

He had formed this resolution, and was actually about to put it in
practice.  He was just considering how he might best escape an ugly
fall--looking for a soft spot--when, all at once, a grand idea rushed
into his mind.

He remembered that in taming this same quagga and breaking him to the
saddle, he had been vastly aided by a very simple contrivance--that was
a "blind."  The blind was nothing more than a piece of soft leather tied
over the animal's eyes; but so complete had been its effect, that it had
transformed the quagga at once from a kicking screaming creature into a
docile animal.

Hendrik now thought of the blind.

True, he had none.  Was there nothing about him that would serve as one?
His handkerchief?  No, it would be too thin.  Hurrah!  His jacket would
do!

His rifle was in the way.  It must be got rid of.  It must be dropped to
the ground, he could return for it.

It was let down as gently as possible, and soon left far behind.

In a twinkling Hendrik stripped off his jacket.  How was it to be
arranged so as to blind the quagga?  It would not do to drop it.

A moment's consideration served the ready boy to mature his plan.  After
a moment he bent down, passed a sleeve upon each side under the quagga's
throat, and then knotted them together.  The jacket thus rested over the
animal's mane, with the collar near its withers, and the peak or skirt
upon the small of its neck.

Hendrik next leaned as far forward as he could, and with his extended
arms pushed the jacket up the animal's neck, until the skirt passed over
its ears, and fell down in front of its face.

It was with some difficulty that the rider, bent down as he was, could
retain his seat; for as soon as the thick flap of cloth came down over
the eyes of the quagga, the latter halted as if he had been shot dead in
his tracks.  He did not fall, however, but only stood still, quivering
with terror.  His gallop was at an end!

Hendrik leaded to the ground.  He was no longer afraid that the quagga,
blinded as he now was, would make any attempt to get off; nor did he.

In a few minutes the broken bit-ring was replaced by a strong rheim of
raw leather; the bit inserted between the quagga's teeth, the head-stall
safely buckled, and Hendrik once more in the saddle, with his jacket
upon his back.

The quagga felt that he was conquered.  His old associates were no
longer in sight to tempt him from his allegiance; and with these
considerations, aided by a slight dose of bit and spur, he turned his
head, and moved sullenly upon the back-track.  Hendrik knew nothing
about the route he should take.  He followed back the spoor of the
quaggas to the place where he had dropped his gun, which after riding a
mile or two he recovered.

As there was no sun in the sky, nor other object to guide him, he
thought he could not do better than trace back the spoor; and although
it led him by many a devious route, and he saw nothing more of his
eland, before night he reached the pass in the cliff, and was soon after
sitting under the shadow of the nwana-tree, regaling a most interested
audience with the narrative of his day's adventures.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

THE GUN-TRAP.

It was about this time that the field-cornet and his people were very
much annoyed by beasts of prey.  The savoury smell which their camp
daily sent forth, as well as the remains of antelopes, killed for their
venison, attracted these visitors.  Hyenas and jackals were constantly
skulking in the neighbourhood, and at night came around the great
nwana-tree in scores, keeping up their horrid chorus for hours together.
It is true that nobody feared these animals, as the children at night
were safe in their aerial home, where the hyenas could not get at them.
But for all that, the presence of the brutes was very offensive, as not
a bit of meat--not a hide, nor rheim, nor any article of leather--could
be left below without their getting their teeth upon it, and chewing it
up.

Quarters of venison they had frequently stolen, and they had eaten up
the leathern part of Swartboy's saddle, and rendered it quite useless
for a while.  In short, so great a pest had the hyenas grown to be, that
it became necessary to adopt some mode of destroying them.

It was not easy to get a shot at them.  During the day they were wary,
and either hid themselves in caves of the cliff or in the burrows of the
ant-eater.  At night they were bold enough, and came into the very camp;
but then the darkness hindered a good aim, and the hunters knew too well
the value of powder and lead to waste it on a chance shot, though now
and then, when provoked by the brutes, they ventured one.

But some way must be thought of to thin the numbers of these animals, or
get rid of them altogether.  This was the opinion of everybody.

Two or three kinds of traps were tried, but without much success.  A pit
they could leap out of, and from a noose they could free themselves by
cutting the rope with their sharp teeth!

At length the field-cornet resorted to a plan--much practised by the
boors of Southern Africa for ridding their farms of these and similar
vermin.  It was the "gun-trap."

Now there are several ways of constructing a gun-trap.  Of course a gun
is the principal part of the mechanism, and the trigger pulled by a
string is the main point of the contrivance.  In some countries the bait
is tied to the string, and the animal on seizing the bait tightens the
string, draws the trigger, and shoots itself.  In this way, however,
there is always some uncertainty as to the result.  The animal may not
place its body in the proper position with regard to the muzzle, and may
either escape the shot altogether, or may be only "creased," and of
course get off.

The mode of setting the "gun-trap" in South Africa is a superior plan;
and the creature that is so unfortunate as to draw the trigger rarely
escapes, but is either killed upon the spot, or so badly wounded as to
prevent its getting away.

Von Bloom constructed his trap after the approved fashion, as follows:--
Near the camp he selected a spot where three saplings or young trees
grew, standing in a line, and about a yard between each two of them.
Had he not found three trees so disposed, stakes firmly driven into the
ground would have answered his purpose equally well.

Thorn-bushes were now cut, and a kraal built in the usual manner--that
is, with the tops of the bushes turned outwards.  The size of the kraal
was a matter of no consequence; and, of course, to save labour, a small
one was constructed.

One point, however, was observed in making the kraal.  Its door or
opening was placed so that two of the three saplings stood like posts,
one on each side of it; and an animal going into the enclosure must
needs pass between these two trees.

Now for the part the gun had to play.

The weapon was placed in a horizontal position against two of the
saplings,--that is, the stock against the one outside the kraal, and the
barrel against one of the door-posts, and there firmly lashed.  In this
position the muzzle was close to the edge of the entrance, and pointing
directly to the sapling on the opposite side.  It was at such a height
as to have ranged with the heart of a hyena standing in the opening.

The next move was to adjust the string.  Already a piece of stick,
several inches in length, had been fixed to the small of the stock, and,
of course, _behind_ the trigger.  This was fastened transversely, but
not so as to preclude all motion.  A certain looseness in its adjustment
gave it the freedom required to be worked as a lever--for that was its
design.

To each end of this little stick was fastened a string.  One of these
strings was attached to the trigger; the other, after being carried
through the thimbles of the ramrod, traversed across the entrance of the
kraal, and was knotted upon the opposite side to the sapling that stood
there.  This string followed the horizontal direction of the barrel, and
was just "taut;" so that any farther strain upon it would act upon the
little lever, and by that means pull the trigger; and then of course
"bang" would go the roer.

When this string was adjusted, and the gun loaded and cocked, the trap
was set.

Nothing remained to be done but bait it.  This was not a difficult task.
It consisted simply in placing a piece of meat or carcass within the
enclosure, and these leaving it to attract the prowling beasts to the
spot.

When the gun had been set, Swartboy carried up the bait--the offal of an
antelope killed that day--and flung it into the kraal; and then the
party went quietly to their beds, without thinking more of the matter.

They had not slept a wink, however, before they were startled by the
loud "crack" of the roer, followed by a short stifled cry that told them
the gun-trap had done its work.

A torch was procured, and the four hunters proceeded to the spot.  There
they found the dead body of a huge "tiger-wolf" lying doubled up in the
entrance, and right under the muzzle of the gun.  He had not gone a step
after receiving the shot--in fact, had hardly kicked before dying--as
the bullet, wad, and all, had gone quite through his ribs and entered
his heart, after making a large ugly hole in his side.  Of course he
must have been within a few inches of the muzzle, when his breast,
pressing against the string, caused the gun to go off.

Having again loaded the roer, the hunters returned to their beds.  One
might suppose they would have dragged the suicidal hyena away from the
spot, lest his carcass should serve as a warning to his comrades, and
keep them away from the trap.  But Swartboy knew better than that.
Instead of being scared by the dead body of one of their kind, the
hyenas only regard it as proper prey, and will devour it as they would
the remains of a tender antelope!

Knowing this, Swartboy did not take the dead hyena away, but only drew
it within the kraal to serve as a farther inducement for the others to
attempt an entrance there.

Before morning they were once more awakened by the "bang" of the great
gun.  This time they lay still; but when day broke they visited their
trap, and found that a second hyena had too rashly pressed his bosom
against the fatal string.

Night after night they continued their warfare against the hyenas,
changing the trap-kraal to different localities in the surrounding
neighbourhood.

At length these creatures were nearly exterminated, or, at all events,
became so rare and shy, that their presence by the camp was no longer an
annoyance one way or the other.

About this time, however, there appeared another set of visitors, whose
presence was far more to be dreaded, and whose destruction the hunters
were more anxious to accomplish.  That was _a family of lions_.

The spoor of these had been often seen in the neighbourhood; but it was
some time before they began to frequent the camp.  However, about the
time the hyenas had been fairly got rid of, the lions took their place,
and came every night, roaring about the camp in a most terrific manner.

Dreadful as these sounds were, the people were not so much afraid of
them as one might imagine.  They well knew that the lions could not get
at them in the tree.  Had it been leopards they might have felt less
secure, as the latter are true tree-climbers; but they had seen no
leopards in that country, and did not think of them.

They were not altogether without fear of the lions, however.  They were
annoyed, moreover, that they could not with safety descend from the tree
after nightfall, but were every night _besieged_ from sunset till
morning.  Besides, although the cow and the quaggas were shut in strong
kraals, they dreaded each night that the lions would make a seizure of
one or other of these animals; and the loss of any one of them, but
especially their valuable friend "old Graaf," would have been a very
serious misfortune.

It was resolved, therefore, to try the gun-trap upon the lions, as it
had succeeded so well with the hyenas.

There was no difference in the construction or contrivance of the trap.
The gun only had to be placed upon a higher level, so that its muzzle
might be opposite the lion's heart, and the proper range was easily
obtained.  The bait, however, was not carcass, but an animal freshly
killed; and for this purpose an antelope was procured.

The result was as desired.  On the first night the old male lion
"breasted" the fatal string and bit the dust.  Next night the lioness
was destroyed in a similar way; and shortly after a full-grown young
male.

The trap then lay idle for a while; but about a week after a half-grown
"cub" was shot near the camp by Hendrik, no doubt the last of that
family, as no lions were seen for a long time after.

A great enemy to night-plunderers was that same gun-trap.



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

THE WEAVER-BIRDS.

Now that the beasts of prey had been destroyed, or driven from about the
camp, there was no longer any danger in that quarter, and the children
could be left by themselves.  Totty of course always stayed with them;
while the four hunters went forth upon the chase of the elephant--each
mounted upon his quagga.

They had done so many a time, and as no harm had happened to the
children in their absence, such a course became habitual with them.  Jan
and Truey were cautioned not to stray far from the nwana, and always to
climb to the tree, should they perceive any animal that might be
dangerous.  Before the destruction of the hyenas and lions, they had
been used to remain altogether in the tree, while the hunters were
absent.  But this had been quite an imprisonment to them; and now that
the danger was not considered much, they were allowed to come down and
play upon the grassy plain, or wander along the shore of the little
lake.

On one occasion when the hunters were abroad, Truey had strayed down to
the edge of the water.  She was alone, if we except the company of the
gazelle, which followed at her heels wherever she went.  This pretty
creature had grown to full size, and had turned out a great beauty, with
large round eyes that had a lovely melting expression, like the eyes of
Truey herself.

Well, as I have said, Truey was alone.  Jan was busy near the bottom of
the tree, working a new rod into his bird-cage, and Totty was out upon
the plain herding "old Graaf"--so Truey and the pet springbok went
strolling along by themselves.

Now Truey had not gone down to the water without an object.  She had
one.  She had gone to give her pet a drink, and collect some blue lilies
for a bouquet.  All this she had done, and still continued to walk along
the shore.

On one side of the lake, and that the farthest from the nwana-tree, a
low spit of land projected into the water.  It had once been but a
sand-bar, but grass had grown upon it, until a green turf was formed.
There was not over a square perch of it altogether, but it was not
square in shape.  On the contrary, it was of oval form, and much
narrower nearest the land, where it formed a neck, or isthmus, not more
than three feet in width.  It was, in short, a miniature peninsula,
which by a very little work with the spade could have been converted
into a miniature island--had that been desired.

Now there is nothing very remarkable about a little peninsula projecting
into a lake.  In nearly every lake such a thing may be seen.  But about
this one there was something remarkable.

Upon its extreme end grew a tree of singular form and foliage.  It was
not a large tree, and its branches drooped downwards until their tips
almost touched the water.  The pendulous boughs, and long lanceolate
silvery leaves, rendered it easy to tell what sort of tree it was.  It
was the weeping or _Babylonian_ willow--so-called, because it was upon
trees of this species that the captive Jews hung their harps when they
"sat and wept by the streams of Babel."  This beautiful tree casts its
waving shadow over the streams of South Africa, as well as those of
Assyria; and often is the eye of the traveller gladdened by the sight of
its silvery leaves, as he beholds them,--sure indications of water--
shining afar over the parched and thirsty desert.  If a Christian, he
fails not to remember that highly poetical passage of sacred writing,
that speaks of the willow of Babylon.

Now the one which grew upon the little peninsula had all these points of
interest for little Truey--but it had others as well.  Upon its branches
that overhung the water a very singular appearance presented itself.
Upon these was suspended--one upon the end of each branch--a number of
odd-shaped objects, that hung drooping down until their lower ends
nearly rested upon the surface of the water.  These objects, as stated,
were of a peculiar shape.  At the upper ends--where they were attached
to the branches--they were globe-shaped, but the lower part consisted of
a long cylinder of much smaller diameter, and at the bottom of this
cylinder was the entrance.  They bore some resemblance to salad-oil
bottles inverted, with their necks considerably lengthened; or they
might be compared to the glass retorts seen in the laboratory of the
chemist.

They were each twelve or fifteen inches in length, and of a greenish
colour--nearly as green as the leaves of the tree itself.  Were they its
fruit?

No.  The weeping-willow bears no fruit of that size.  They were not
fruit.  They were _nests of birds_!

Yes; they were the nests of a colony of harmless finches of the genus
_Ploceus_,--better known to you under the appellation of "weaver-birds."

I am sure you have heard of weaver-birds before this; and you know that
these creatures are so-called on account of the skill which they exhibit
in the construction of their nests.  They do not _build_ nests, as other
birds, but actually _weave_ them, in a most ingenious manner.

You are not to suppose that there is but one species of weaver-bird--one
kind alone that forms these curious nests.  In Africa--which is the
principal home of these birds--there are many different kinds, forming
different genera, whose hard names I shall not trouble you with.  Each
of these different kinds builds a nest of peculiar shape, and each
chooses a material different from the others.  Some, as the _Ploceus
icterocephalus_, make their nests of a kidney-shape, with the entrance
upon the sides, and the latter not circular, but like an arched doorway.
Others of the genus _Plocepasser_ weave their nests in such a manner,
that the thick ends of the stalks stick out all around the outside,
giving them the appearance of suspended hedgehogs; while the birds of
another genus closely allied to the latter, construct their nests of
slender twigs, leaving the ends of these to project in a similar manner.
The "social gros-beak" (_Loxia socia_) fabricates a republic of nests
in one clump, and all under one roof.  The entrances are in the
under-surface of this mass, which, occupying the whole top of a tree,
has the appearance of a haystack, or a dense piece of thatch.

All these weaver-birds, though of different genera, bear a considerable
resemblance to each other in their habits.  They are usually
_granivorous_, though some are _insectivorous_; and one species, the
red-billed weaver-bird, (_Textor erythrorhynchus_), is a parasite of the
wild buffaloes.

It is a mistake to suppose that weaver-birds are only found in Africa
and the Old World, as stated in the works of many naturalists.  In
tropical America, birds of this character are found in many species of
the genera _Cassicus_ and _Icterus_, who weave pensile nests of a
similar kind upon the trees of the Amazon and Orinoco.  But the true
weaver-birds--that is to say, those which are considered the _type_ of
the class,--are those of the genus _Ploceus_; and it was a species of
this genus that had hung their pendulous habitations upon the
weeping-willow.  They were of the species known as the "pensile
weaver-bird" (_Ploceus pensilis_).

There were full twenty of their nests in all, shaped as already
described, and of green colour--for the tough "Bushman's grass," out of
which they had been woven, had not yet lost its verdant hue, nor would
it for a long time.  Being of this colour, they actually looked like
something that grew upon the tree,--like great pear-shaped fruits.  No
doubt from this source have been derived the tales of ancient
travellers, who represented that in Africa were trees with fruits upon
them, which, upon being broken open, disclosed to view either living
birds or their eggs!

Now the sight of the weaver-birds, and their nests, was nothing new to
Truey.  It was some time since the colony had established itself upon
the willow-tree, and she and they had grown well acquainted.  She had
often visited the birds, had collected seeds, and carried them down to
the tree; and there was not one of the whole colony that would not have
perched upon her wrist or her pretty white shoulders, or hopped about
over her fair locks, without fear.  It was nothing unusual to her to see
the pretty creatures playing about the branches, or entering the long
vertical tunnels that led upward to their nests--nothing unusual for
Truey to listen for hours to their sweet twittering, or watch their
love-gambols around the borders of the vley.

She was not thinking of them at the moment, but of something else,
perhaps of the blue water-lilies--perhaps of the springbok--but
certainly not of them, as she tripped gaily along the edge of the lake.

Her attention, however, was suddenly attracted to the birds.

All at once, and without any apparent cause, they commenced screaming
and fluttering around the tree, their cries and gestures betokening a
high state of excitement or alarm.



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

THE SPITTING-SNAKE.

"What can be the matter with my pretty birds?" asked Truey of herself.
"Something wrong surely!  I see no hawk.  Perhaps they are fighting
among themselves.  I shall go round and see.  I shall soon pacify them."

And so saying she mended her pace; and passing round the end of the
lake, walked out upon the peninsula until she stood under the willow.

There was no underwood.  The tree stood alone upon the very end of the
spit of land, and Truey went close in to its trunk.  Here she stopped
and looked up among the branches, to ascertain what was causing so much
excitement among the birds.

As she approached, several of the little creatures had flown towards
her, and alighted upon her arms and shoulders; but not as was their wont
when desiring to be fed.  They appeared to be in a state of alarm, and
had come to her for protection.

Some enemy certainly must be near, thought Truey, though she could see
none.

She looked around and above.  There were no hawks in the air, nor on the
neighbouring trees,--no birds of prey of any kind.  Had there been one
in the willow, she could easily have seen it, as the foliage was light
and thin; besides a hawk would not have remained in the tree with her
standing so near.  What, then, caused the trouble among the birds? what
was still causing it--for they were as noisy and terrified as ever?  Ha!
At last the enemy appears--at last Truey's eyes have fallen upon the
monster who has disturbed the peaceful colony of weavers, and roused
them to such a pitch of excitement.

Slowly gliding along a horizontal branch, grasping the limb in its many
spiral folds, appeared the body of a large serpent.  Its scales
glittered as it moved, and it was the shining of these that had caught
Truey's eyes, and directed them upon the hideous reptile.

When she first saw it, it was gliding spirally along one of the
horizontal branches of the willow, and coming, as it were, _from_ the
nests of the birds.  Her eyes, however, had scarce rested upon it,
before its long slippery body passed from the branch, and the next
moment it was crawling head-foremost down the main trunk of the tree.

Truey had scarce time to start back, before its head was opposite the
spot where she had stood.  No doubt, had she kept her place she would
have been bitten by the serpent at once; for the reptile, on reaching
that point, detached its head from the tree, spread its jaws wide open,
projected its forked tongue, and hissed horribly.  It was evidently
enraged--partly because it had failed in its plundering intentions, not
having been able to reach the nests of the birds,--and partly that the
latter had repeatedly struck it with their beaks--no doubt causing it
considerable pain.  It was further provoked by the arrival of Truey, in
whom it recognised the rescuer of its intended victims.

Whatever were its thoughts at that moment, it was evidently in a rage--
as the motion of its head and the flashing of its eyes testified; and it
would have sprung upon any creature that had unfortunately come in its
way.

Truey, however, had no intention of getting in its way if she could
avoid it.  It might be a harmless serpent for all she knew; but a snake,
nearly six feet in length, whether it be harmless or venomous, is a
terrible object to be near; and Truey had instinctively glided to one
side, and stood off from it as far as the water would allow her.

She would have run back over the narrow isthmus; but something told her
that the snake was about to take that direction, and might overtake her;
and this thought induced her to pass to one side of the peninsula, in
hopes the reptile would follow the path that led out to the mainland.

Having got close to the water's edge, she stood gazing upon the hideous
form, and trembled as she gazed.

Had Truey known the character of that reptile, she would have trembled
all the more.  She saw before her one of the most venomous of serpents,
the black naja, or "spitting-snake"--the cobra of Africa--far more
dangerous than its congener the _cobra de capello_ of India, because far
more active in its movements, and equally fatal in its bite.

Truey knew not this.  She only knew that there was a great ugly snake,
nearly twice her own length, with a large open mouth and glistening
tongue, apparently ready to eat her up.  That was fearful enough for
her, poor thing! and she gazed and trembled, and trembled and gazed
again.

Angry as the cobra appeared, it did not turn aside to attack her.
Neither did it remain by the tree.  After uttering its long loud hiss,
it descended to the ground, and glided rapidly off.

It made directly for the isthmus, as if intending to pass it, and
retreat to some bushes that grew at a distance off on the mainland.

Truey was in hopes that such was its design, and was just beginning to
feel safe again, when, all at once, the snake coiled itself upon the
narrow neck of land, as if it intended to stay there.

It had executed this manoeuvre so suddenly, and so apparently without
premeditation, that Truey looked to discover the cause.  The moment
before, it was gliding along in rapid retreat, its glistening form
stretched to its full length along the earth.  The next instant it had
assumed the appearance of a coiled cable, over the edge of which
projected its fierce head, with the scaly skin of its neck broadly
extended, into that hood-like form which characterises the cobra.

Truey, we have said, looked for the cause of this sudden change in the
tactics of the reptile.  She learnt it at the first glance.

There stretched a piece of smooth sloping ground from the edge of the
lake back into the plain.  By this the little peninsula was approached.
As she glanced outward, she saw the springbok advancing down this slope.
It was the approach of the antelope that had interrupted the retreat of
the serpent!

Truey, on first discovering the snake, had uttered a cry of alarm.  This
cry had summoned her pet--that had lingered behind browsing upon the
grass--and it was now bounding forward, with its white tail erect, and
its large brown eyes glistening with an expression of inquiry.

It saw its mistress out upon the peninsula.  Had she called it?  Why had
she uttered that strange cry?  They were not sounds of joyful import it
had heard.  Was anything amiss?  Yonder she stood.  It would gallop to
her and see what was wanted; and with such thoughts passing through its
brain, the bright little creature bounded down the bank towards the edge
of the lake.

Truey trembled for her pet.  Another spring, and it would be upon the
lurking serpent--another-- "Ha! it is safe!"

These words escaped from the lips of the young girl, as she saw the
springbok rise high into the air, and leap far and clear over the coiled
reptile.  The antelope had observed the snake in time, and saved itself
by one of those tremendous bounds, such as only a springbok can make.
The fond creature, having passed the danger, now ran on to its mistress,
and stood with its big shining eyes bent upon her inquiringly.

But the cry that Truey had uttered had summoned another individual.  To
her horror, she now saw little Jan running down the slope, and coming
directly upon the path where the cobra lay coiled!



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

THE SERPENT-EATER.

Jan's danger was imminent.  He was rushing impetuously forward upon the
coiled serpent.  He knew not that it was before him.  No warning would
reach him in time to stay his haste.  In another moment he would be on
the narrow path, and then no power could save him from the deadly bite.
It would be impossible for him to leap aside or over the reptile, as the
antelope had done; for even then Truey had noticed that the cobra had
darted its long neck several feet upwards.  It would be certain to reach
little Jan, perhaps, coil itself around him.  Jan would be lost!

For some moments Truey was speechless.  Terror had robbed her of the
power of speech.  She could only scream, and fling her arms wildly
about.

But these demonstrations, instead of warning Jan of the danger, only
rendered it the more certain.  He connected the cries which Truey now
uttered with that which had first summoned him.  She was in some
trouble--he knew not what; but as she continued to scream, he believed
that something had attacked her.  A snake he thought it might be; but
whatever it was, his first impulse was to hurry up to her rescue.  He
could do no good until close to her; and, therefore, he did not think of
halting until he should reach the spot where she stood.

Her screams, therefore, and the wild gestures that accompanied them,
only caused him to run the faster; and as his eyes were bent anxiously
on Truey, there was not the slightest hope that he would perceive the
serpent until he had either trodden upon it, or felt its fatal bite.

Truey uttered one last cry of warning, pronouncing at the same time the
words:--

"O, brother! back!  The snake! the snake!"

The words were uttered in vain.  Jan heard them, but did not comprehend
their meaning.  He heard the word "snake."  He was expecting as much; it
had attacked Truey; and although he did not see it, it was no doubt
wound about her body.  He hurried on.

Already he was within six paces of the dread reptile, that had erected
its long spread neck to receive him.  Another moment, and its envenomed
fangs would pierce deep into his flesh.

With a despairing scream Truey rushed forward.  She hoped to attract the
monster upon herself.  She would risk her own life to save that of her
brother!

She had got within six feet of the threatening reptile.  Jan was about
the same distance from it on the opposite side.  They were equally in
peril; and one or the other--perhaps both--would have fallen a sacrifice
to the deadly cobra; but at that moment their saviour was nigh.  A dark
shadow passed under their eyes--in their ears was a rushing sound like
the "whish" of a falling body--and at the same instant a large bird
darted down between them!

It did not stay to alight.  For a moment its strong broad wings agitated
the air in their faces; but the next moment the bird made a sudden
effort, and rose vertically upwards.

Truey's eyes fell upon the ground.  The cobra was no longer there.

With an exclamation of joy she sprang forward, and, throwing her arms
around Jan, cried out,--

"We are saved, brother!--we are saved!"

Jan was somewhat bewildered.  As yet he had seen no snake.  He had seen
the bird dart down between them; but so adroitly had it seized the cobra
and carried it off, that Jan, looking only at Truey, had not perceived
the serpent in its beak.  He was bewildered and terrified, for he still
fancied that Truey was in danger.

When he heard her exclaim, "We are saved!" he was bewildered all the
more.

"But the snake!" he cried out.  "Where is the snake?"

As he put these questions, he kept examining Truey from head to foot, as
if expecting to see a reptile twined around some part of her body.

"The snake, Jan!  Did you not see it?  It was just there, at our feet;
but now--see! yonder it is.  The _secretary_ has got it.  See!  They are
fighting!  Good bird!  I hope it will punish the villain for trying to
rob my pretty weavers.  That's it, good bird!  Give it to him!  See,
Jan!  What a fight!"

"Oh, ah!" said Jan, now comprehending the situation.  "Oh, ah!  Sure
yonder _is_ a snake, and a whopper, too.  Ne'er fear, Truey!  Trust my
secretary.  He'll give the rascal a taste of his claws.  There's a lick
well put in!  Another touch like that, and there won't be much life left
in the scaly villain.  There again,--wop!"

With these and similar exclamations the two children stood watching the
fierce conflict that raged between the bird and the reptile.

Now this bird was a very peculiar one--so much so, that in all the world
there is no other of the same kind.  In form it resembled a crane,
having very long legs, and being about the height and size of a crane.
Its head and beak, however, were more like those of an eagle or vulture.
It had well-developed wings, armed with spurs, and a very long tail,
with the two middle feathers longer than the rest.  Its general colour
was bluish grey, with a white throat and breast, and a reddish tinge
upon the wing-feathers.  But, perhaps, the most remarkable thing about
the bird was its "crest."  This consisted of a number of long, blackish
plumes growing out of its occiput, and extending down the back of its
neck nearly to the shoulders.  These gave the bird a very peculiar
appearance; and the fancied resemblance to a secretary of the olden time
with his long quill behind his ear--before steel pens came into
fashion--is the reason why the bird has received the very inappropriate
name of the "Secretary-bird."

It is more properly named the "serpent-eater," and naturalists have
given it the title _Gypogeranus_, or "crane-vulture."  It is sometimes
also called "the messenger," from the staid solemn manner of its walk,
as it stalks over the plain.

Of all its names that of "serpent-eater" is the best adapted to the
character of the bird.  It is true there are other birds that kill and
eat serpents,--as the "guaco" bird of South America, and many hawks and
kites,--but the secretary is the only winged creature that makes
reptiles of this class exclusively its prey, and carries on a constant
war against them.  It is not strictly correct to say that it feeds
exclusively upon snakes.  It will also eat lizards, tortoises, and even
locusts; but snakes are certainly its favourite food, and to obtain
these it risks its life in many a deadly encounter with those of a very
large kind.  The serpent-eater is an African bird, and is not peculiar
to South Africa alone, as it is found in the Gambia country.  It is also
a native of the Philippine Isles.  There is some doubt whether the
species of the Philippine Isles is identical with that of Africa.  A
difference is noted in the plumage, though very slight.  The disposition
of the crest-plumes differs in the two, and the tail-feathers are
differently arranged.  In the African species the two middle ones are
the longest, while in the serpent-eater of the Philippines it is the two
outside feathers that project--giving the bird the appearance of having
a "fork" or "swallow" tail.  Some points of distinction have also been
observed between the South African bird and that of the Gambia.

The serpent-eater is, however, a very unique bird; and naturalists,
failing to class it with either hawks, eagles, vultures, gallinae, or
cranes, have elevated it, so as to form a distinct tribe, family, genus,
and species, of itself.

In South Africa it frequents the great plains and dry karoos, stalking
about in search of its prey.  It is not gregarious, but lives solitary
or in pairs, making its nest in trees,--usually those of a thick thorny
species,--which renders the nest most difficult of approach.  The whole
edifice is about three feet in diameter, and resembles the nests of the
tree-building eagles.  It is usually lined with feathers and down, and
two or three eggs are the number deposited for a single hatching.

The serpent-eater is an excellent runner, and spends more time on foot
than on the wing.  It is a shy wary bird, yet, notwithstanding, it is
most easily domesticated; and it is not uncommon to see them about the
houses of the Cape farmers, where they are kept as pets, on account of
their usefulness in destroying snakes, lizards, and other vermin.  They
have been long ago introduced into the French West India Islands, and
naturalised there--in order that they should make war upon the dangerous
"yellow serpent" (_Trigonocephalus lanceolatus_), the plague of the
plantations in those parts.

Now the bird which had so opportunely appeared between Jan and Truey,
and had no doubt saved one or the other, or both, from the deadly bite
of the _spuugh-slang_, was a serpent-eater,--one that had been tamed,
and that made its home among the branches of the great nwana-tree.  The
hunters had found it upon the plain, wounded by some animal,--perhaps a
very large snake,--and had brought it home as a curiosity.  In time it
quite recovered from its wounds; but the kindness it had received,
during the period when it was an invalid, was not thrown away upon it.
When it recovered the use of its wings, it refused to leave the society
of its protectors, but remained habitually in the camp--although it made
frequent excursions into the surrounding plains in search of its
favourite food.  It always, however, returned at night, and roosted
among the branches of the great nwana-tree.  Of course it was Jan's pet,
and Jan was very good to it; but it now repaid all his kindness in
saving him from the fangs of the deadly cobra.

The children, having recovered from their alarm, stood watching the
singular conflict between serpent and serpent-eater.

On first seizing the reptile the bird had caught it by the neck in its
beak.  It might not have accomplished this so readily, had not the
attention of the snake been occupied by the children, thus throwing it
off its guard.

Having succeeded in seizing the reptile, the bird rose nearly in a
vertical direction to a height of many yards, and then opening his beak
permitted the serpent to fall to the ground.  His object was to stun the
latter by the fall; and the more effectually to do this, he would have
carried the cobra still higher, had not the latter prevented it by
attempting to coil itself around his wings.

Upon letting fall his prey the serpent-eater did not remain in the air.
On the contrary, he darted after the falling reptile, and the moment the
latter touched the ground, and before it could put itself in an attitude
of defence, the bird "pounced" upon it with spread foot, striking it a
violent blow near the neck.  The snake was still but slightly damaged,
and throwing itself into a coil stood upon its defence.  Its mouth was
opened to its widest extent, its tongue protruded, its fangs were erect,
and its eyes flashing with rage and poison.  A terrible antagonist it
appeared, and for a moment the secretary seemed to think so, as he stood
on the ground confronting it.

But the bird soon began to advance upon it for a renewal of the attack,
though this advance was made in a cautious manner.  With the pinions of
one of his strong wings spread broadly out for a shield, he approached
the reptile sideways, and, when near enough, suddenly wheeled, turning
upon his leg as on a pivot, and struck sharply out with his other wing.
The blow was delivered with good effect.  It reached the head of the
snake, and seemed to stun it.  Its neck drooped, and the coils became
loosened.  Before it could recover itself it was once more in the beak
of the serpent-eater, and trailing through the air.

This time the bird rose to a much greater height than before--as he was
not hampered by the writhing of the serpent--and as before suffered the
reptile to fall, and then darted suddenly after.

When the snake came to the ground a second time it lay for a moment
stretched at full length, as if stunned or dead.  It was not dead,
however, and would once more have coiled itself; but, before it could do
so, the bird had repeatedly "pounced" upon its neck with his spread and
horny feet; and at length, watching his opportunity when the head of the
serpent lay flat, he struck a blow with his sharp beak so violent, that
it split the skull of the reptile in twain!  Life was now extinct, and
the hideous form, extended to its full length, lay lithe and motionless
upon the grass.

Jan and Truey clapped their hands, and uttered exclamations of joy.

The serpent-eater took no heed of their demonstrations, but, approaching
the dead cobra, bent over it, and coolly set about making his dinner.



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

TOTTY AND THE CHACMAS.

Von Bloom and his family had now been months without bread.  They were
not without a substitute, however, as various roots and nuts supplied
them with a change of food.  Of the latter, they had the ground or
pig-nut (_Arachis hypogea_), which grows in all parts of Southern
Africa, and which forms a staple food of the native inhabitants.  For
vegetables they had the bulbs of many species of _Ixias_ and
_Mesembryanthemums_, among others the "Hottentot fig" (_Mesembryanthemum
edule_).  They had the "Caffir bread"--the inside pith of the stems of a
species of _Zamia_; and the "Caffir chestnut," the fruit of the
_Brabeium stellatum_; and last, not least, the enormous roots of the
"elephant's foot" (_Testudinaria elephantipes_).  They had wild onions
and garlic too; and in the white flower-tops of a beautiful floating
plant (_Aponogeton distachys_), they found a substitute for asparagus.

All these roots and fruits were to be obtained in the neighbourhood, and
no man knew better how to find them, and "crow" them up when found, than
did Swartboy the Bushman.  Well might he, for in Swartboy's early days
he had often been compelled to subsist for weeks, and even months, on
roots alone!

But although they could procure a constant supply of these natural
productions, they considered them but a poor substitute for bread; and
all of them longed to eat once more what is usually termed the "staff of
life"--though in South Africa, where so many people live exclusively
upon the flesh of animals, bread is hardly entitled to that appellation.

Bread they were likely to have, and soon.  When trekking from the old
kraal, they had brought with them a small bag of maize.  It was the last
of their previous year's stock; and there was not in all over a bushel
of it.  But that was enough for seed, and would produce many bushels if
properly planted, and carefully tended.

This had been done shortly after their arrival at their present home.  A
fertile spot of ground had been selected, only a few hundred yards from
the nwana-tree.  It had been turned up with the spade, for want of a
plough, and the seeds planted at proper distances.

Many an hour had been given to the weeding and hoeing of it, and around
every plant a little hill of soft mould had been raised, to nourish the
roots, and protect them from the heat of the sun.  The plants were even
watered now and then.

Partly on account of this attention, and partly from the richness of the
virgin soil, a splendid growth was the result; and the stalks stood full
twelve feet high, with ears nearly a foot long.  They had almost
ripened; and the field-cornet intended in about a week or ten days to
gather in the crop.

Both he and all his people were anticipating pleasant feasts of
maize-bread, and "hominy," with "mash and milk" and various other
dishes, that with Totty's skill could be manufactured out of the Indian
corn.

About this time an incident occurred that nearly deprived them, not only
of their whole plot of maize-plants, but also of their valuable
housekeeper, Totty.  It was as follows.

Totty was on the platform in the great nwana-tree, which commanded a
view of the corn-patch, and also of the plain beyond, as far as the
bottom of the cliffs.  She was busied about "house" affairs, when her
attention was called off, by some singular noises that came from that
direction.  She parted the branches and looked through.  A singular
scene was before her eyes--a spectacle of no common kind.

A body of odd-looking animals, to the number of two hundred or more, was
coming from the direction of the cliffs.  They were creatures of
ungainly forms--in make and size not unlike large ill-shaped dogs--and
of a greenish brown colour.  Their faces and ears only were black, and
these were naked, while their bodies were covered with harsh coarse
hair.  They had long tails, which some of them carried high in the air,
and flourished about in a very eccentric manner.

Totty was by no means alarmed.  She knew what sort of animals they were.
She knew they were _baboons_.  They were of the species known as the
"pig-faced" baboon or "chacma" (_Cynocephalus porcarius_), which is
found in nearly every part of South Africa where there are high cliffs
with caves and crevices--the favourite dwelling-places of the baboon.

Of all the monkey tribe the baboons, or dog-headed monkeys
(_cynocephali_), are the most disgusting in form and features.  Who does
not feel disgust when regarding the hideous mandrill--the drill--the
hamadryas--or even the chacma?  And all these are baboons.

The baboons are peculiar to Africa, and there are six well-known species
of them:--the common baboon of North Africa, the "papion" of the south
and western coast, the "hamadryas" or "tartarin" of Abyssinia, the
"mandrill" and "drill" of Guinea, and the "chacma" of the Cape colony.

The habits of these animals are as disgusting as their appearance.  They
may be tamed, and made "pets" of; but dangerous pets they are, as they
will, upon the slightest provocation, bite the hand that feeds them.

Their great strength of body and jaw, and their long canine teeth, give
them a dangerous power which they often make use of.  No dog is a match
for one, and the hyena and leopard often come off second-best in an
encounter with a baboon.

They are not carnivorous, however, and only tear their enemy to pieces
without eating it.  Their food consists of fruits and bulbous roots,
which they well understand to dig out of the ground with the sharp nails
of their hands.

Although they will not attack man if left alone, they become dangerous
assailants when hunted and brought to bay.

Many odd stories are told of the chacma baboon among the settlers of
Southern Africa, such as their robbing the traveller of his food, and
then going off to some distance, and mocking him, while they devour it.
The natives also say that they sometimes use a stick in walking,
"crowing" for roots, and in self-defence.  Also, when a young one has
succeeded in finding a choice root, and is observed by an older and
stronger one, that the latter takes it away: but, should the young one
have already swallowed it, then the bully picks him up, turns him head
downward, and shakes him until he is forced to "disgorge!"  Many such
tales are current in the country of the boors, and they are not all
without foundation, for these animals most certainly possess the power
of _reflection_ in a high degree.

Totty from her perch saw enough to convince her of this, had she been
herself inclined to philosophise.  But she was not.  She was only a
little curious about the manoeuvres of the animals, and she called Truey
and little Jan up into the tree, in order that they might share the
spectacle with her.  All the others were off hunting.

Jan was delighted, and ran up the ladder at once.  So did Truey, and all
three stood watching the odd movements of the four-handed creatures.

They perceived that the troop was actually marching in order; not _in
line_, but with some understood arrangement.  There were scouts upon the
wings, and leaders in front.  These were baboons of greater age and size
than the others.  There were calls and signals, and the change of accent
and tone would have convinced any one that a regular conversation was
going on.  The females and younger ones marched in the middle for better
security.  The mothers carried their infants upon their backs, or over
their shoulders.  Now a mother would stop to suckle her little
offspring--dressing its hair at the same time--and then gallop forward
to make up for the loss.  Now one would be seen beating her child, that
had in some way given offence.  Now two young females would quarrel,
from jealousy or some other cause, and then a terrible chattering would
ensue, to be silenced by the loud threatening bark of one of the chiefs!

Thus proceeded they across the plain, chattering, and screaming, and
barking, as only monkeys can.

What were they after?

That question was answered very soon.  Truey, and Jan, and Totty, saw,
to their dismay, that the baboons were not out upon an idle errand.
They were after the maize-plants!

In a few minutes most of the troop had entered the corn-field, and were
hidden from view by the tall stems and broad leaves of the plants.  A
few only could be seen,--large old fellows, that stationed themselves
outside as sentinels, and were keeping up a constant interchange of
signals.  The main body was already stripping the plants of their
precious fruit.

But a singular appearance presented itself beyond the corn-field, where
a line of baboons, stationed at equal distance from one another,
extended away to the very bottom of the cliff.  These had been left by a
regular manoeuvre,--a deployment--as the troop traversed the plain in
coming to the field.  For what purpose?

That was soon apparent.  In less than two minutes after the crowd
disappeared under the shelter of the maize-plants, the long heads in
their husks were seen showering out towards the line, as if flung by the
hand of man!  Those placed at the near end of the line immediately took
them up, pitched them to the next, and these to the next, and so on,
until, in a very short while from the time a head was plucked from the
stalk, it was delivered to the storehouse of the baboons far off among
the cliffs!

Had this work gone on much longer the field-cornet would have had but a
poor gathering in harvest-time.  The baboons thought the corn ripe
enough, and would soon have made a crop of it, but at this moment their
operations were interrupted.

Totty knew but little of the danger she underwent, when she ran forth
with nothing but that long broom-handle to drive off a troop of chacmas.
She only thought of the loss her kind master was sustaining; and down
the ladder she hurried, and ran straight out to the corn-field.

Several sentinels met her by its edge, grinned, chattered, screamed,
barked, and showed their long canine teeth; but they only received a
blow over their ugly snouts from the broom-handle.  Their cries summoned
the others; and in a few moments the poor Hottentot was standing in the
midst of an angry circle of chacmas, that were only prevented from
springing in upon her by the expert manner in which she continued to ply
the broomstick.

But this slight weapon would not have served much longer, and Totty's
fate--that of being torn to pieces--would soon have been sealed, had not
four horsemen, or rather "quagga-men," at that moment galloped up to her
rescue.

These were the hunters returning from the chase; and a volley from their
guns at once scattered the ugly chacmas, and sent them howling back to
their caves.

After that the field-cornet looked well to his maize, until it was ready
for gathering; when it was all brought home, and deposited in safety out
of the reach of either birds, reptiles, quadrupeds or _quadrumuna_.



CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN.

THE WILD HOUNDS AND THE HARTEBEEST.

Since the taming of the quaggas the hunting had been attended with
tolerable success.  Not a week passed without adding a pair of tusks--
sometimes two or three pairs--to the collection, which now began to
assume the form of a little pyramid of ivory standing near the bottom of
the nwana.

Von Bloom, however, was not quite satisfied with his progress.  He
thought they might do far better if they only had a few dogs.

Though the quaggas were of great service to them, and with these they
were often able to overtake the elephant, yet they as often lost their
great game, and it is more easy to do so than most persons imagine.

But with dogs to join in the hunt, the result would be quite different.
It is true these animals cannot pull down an elephant, nor do him the
slightest injury; but they can follow him whithersoever he may go, and
by their barking bring him to a stand.

Another valuable service which the dogs perform, is in drawing the
attention of the elephant away from the hunters.  The huge quadruped
when enraged is, as we have already seen, exceedingly dangerous.  On
such occasions he will charge upon the noisy dogs, mistaking them for
his real assailants.  This, of course, gives the hunter a good
opportunity of delivering his fire, and avoiding the deadly encounter of
the elephant.

Now in several elephant-hunts which they had lately made, our hunters
had run some very narrow risks.  Their quaggas were neither so
manageable nor so quick in their movements as horses would have been,
and this rendered the hazard still greater.  Some of them might one day
fall a victim.  So feared Von Bloom; and he would gladly have given for
a number of dogs an elephant's tusk a-piece--even though they were the
most worthless of curs.  Indeed, their quality is but of slight
importance.  Any dogs that can trace the elephant and pester him with
their barring would do.

Von Bloom even thought of taming some hyenas, and training _them_ to the
hunt.  This idea was by no means quixotic.  The hyena is often used for
such a purpose, and performs even better than many kinds of dogs.

One day Von Bloom was pondering over this subject.  He was seated on a
little platform that had been constructed very high up--near the top of
the nwana-tree--from which a view could be had of the whole country
around.  It was a favourite resort of the field-cornet--his
smoking-room, in fact--where he went every evening to enjoy a quiet pull
out of his great meerschaum.  His face was turned upon the plain that
stretched from the border of the _bosch_ as far as the eye could reach.

While quietly puffing away, his attention was attracted by some animals
standing at a distance off upon the plain.  The brilliant colour of
their bodies had caught his eye.

They were of a lively sienna colour over the back and sides, and white
underneath, with a list of black upon the outside of the legs, and some
black stripes upon the face, as regularly defined as if laid on by the
brush of a painter.  They had horns of very irregular shape, roughly
knotted--each curved into something of the shape of a reaping-hook, and
rising directly from the top of one of the straightest and longest heads
ever carried by an animal.  These animals were far from being gracefully
formed.  They had drooping hind-quarters like the giraffe, though in a
much less degree, shoulders greatly elevated, and long narrow heads.
For the rest their forms were bony and angular.  Each stood five feet
high, from the fore-hoof to the shoulder, and full nine feet in length.

They were antelopes of course--that species known among Cape colonists
as the "hartebeest" (_Acronotus caama_).  There were in all about fifty
of them in the herd.

When first observed by Von Bloom, they were quietly browsing upon the
plain.  The next moment, however, they were seen to run to and fro, as
if suddenly alarmed by the approach of an enemy.

And an enemy there certainly was; for in a moment more the herd had
taken to flight; and Von Bloom now saw that they were followed by a
_pack of hounds_!  I say a "pack of hounds," for the creatures in the
distance exactly resembled hounds more than anything in the world.  Nay,
more than resembled, for it actually _was_ a pack of hounds--of _wild
hounds_!

Of course Von Bloom knew what they were.  He knew they were the
"wilde-honden," very absurdly named by sapient naturalists "_Hyena
venatica_," or "hunting hyena," and by others, with equal absurdity, the
"hunting dog."  I pronounce these names "absurd," first because the
animal in question bears no more resemblance to a hyena than it does to
a hedgehog; and, secondly, because "hunting dog" is a very ridiculous
appellation, since any dog may merit a similar title.

Now I would ask, why could these naturalists not let the nomenclature of
the boors alone?  If a better name than "wilde-honden" (wild hounds) can
be given to these animals, I should like to hear it.  Why, it is the
very perfection of a name, and exactly expresses the character of the
animal to which they apply it--that character, which coming under their
everyday observation, suggested the name.

It is quite a libel to call this beautiful creature a hyena.  He has
neither the ugly form, the harsh pelage, the dull colour, nor the filthy
habits of one.  Call him a "wolf," or "wild dog," if you please, but he
is at the same time the handsomest wolf or wild dog in creation.  But we
shall name him, as the boors have done, a "wild hound."  That is his
true title, let naturalists class him as they may.

His size, shape, his smooth clean coat, as well as his colour,
approximate him more to the hound than to any other animal.  In the
last--which is a ground of "tan" blotched and mottled with large spots
of black and grey--he bears a striking resemblance to the common hound;
and the superior size of his ears would seem to assimilate him still
more to this animal.  The ears however, as in all the wild species of
_Canis_, are of course not hanging, but erect.

His habits, however, crown the resemblance.  In his natural state the
wild hound never prowls alone; but boldly runs down his game, following
it in large organised packs, just as hounds do; and in his hunting he
exhibits as much skill as if he had Tom Moody riding at his heels, to
guide with whip and horn.

It was the field-cornet's good fortune to witness an exhibition of this
skill.

The hounds had come unexpectedly upon the hartebeest herd; and almost at
the first dash, one of the antelopes became separated from the rest, and
ran in an opposite direction.  This was just what the cunning dogs
wanted; and the whole pack, instead of following the herd, turned after
the single one, and ran "tail on end."

Now this hartebeest, although an ill-shaped antelope, is one of the very
swiftest of the tribe; and the wild hound does not capture it without a
severe chase.  In fact, he could not capture it at all, if speed were
the only point between the two animals.  But it is not.  The hartebeest
has a weakness in its character, opposite to which the wild hound
possesses a cunning.

The former when chased, although it runs in a straight line, does not
keep long in a direct course.  Now and then it diverges to one side or
the other, led perhaps by the form of the ground, or some other
circumstance.  In this habit lies its weakness.  The wild hound is well
aware of it, and takes advantage of it by a manoeuvre, which certainly
savours strongly of reflection on his part.

Our field-cornet had a proof of this as he watched the chase.  His
elevated position gave him a view of the whole ground, and he could note
every movement both of pursuer and pursued.

On breaking off, the hartebeest ran in a right line, and the hounds
followed straight after.  They had not gone far, however, when Von Bloom
perceived that one hound was forging ahead of the rest, and running much
faster than any of them.  He might have been a swifter dog than the
others, but the hunter did not think it was that.  He appeared rather to
be running harder than they, as if sent forward to _push_ the
hartebeest, while the rest saved their wind.

This proved to be really the case; for the dog, by a desperate effort,
having gained upon the antelope, caused the latter to turn slightly from
its original course; and the pack, perceiving this, changed their
direction at the same time, and held along a diagonal line, as if to
head the game.  By this means they avoided the detour which both the
antelope and their companion had made.

The hartebeest was now running upon a new line; and as before, one of
the hounds was soon seen to head the pack, and press forward at the top
of his speed.  The one that first led, as soon as the antelope turned
from its original course, fell back, rejoined the pack, and was now
lagging among the hindmost!  His "turn" of duty was over.

Again the hartebeest verged from its course.  Again the pack ran
obliquely, and made a second "cut" upon him--again a fresh dog took the
lead, and on swept the chase as before--the wild hounds uttering their
yelping notes as they ran.

Several times was this manoeuvre executed by the cunning dogs--until the
desired result was accomplished, and the antelope was completely
"blown."

Then, as if they felt that it was in their power, and that further
strategy was not needed, the whole pack rushed forward simultaneously,
and closed rapidly upon the game.

The hartebeest made one last despairing effort to escape, but, finding
that speed would no longer avail, the creature wheeled suddenly round,
and placed itself in an attitude of defiance--the foam falling from its
lips, while its red eyes sparkled like coals of fire.

In another moment the dogs were around it.

"What a splendid pack!" exclaimed Von Bloom.  "Oh! that I had such an
one!

"Ha!" he continued, as a new thought struck him, "and why not, just such
an one?--why not?"

Now the train of reflections that passed through the mind of the
field-cornet was as follows:--

That the wild hounds might be tamed, and trained to hunting,--easiest of
all, to the chase of the elephant.  He knew that this could be done, for
boor-hunters had often done it.  True, the dogs must be taken young, but
where were young ones to be obtained?  It is not so easy to capture the
pups of the wild hound.  Until they are able to run well, their mothers
do not permit them to stray far from the caves in which they are
littered; and these are usually crevices among rocks quite inaccessible
to man.  How could he obtain a set of them?  He had already formed such
an intention.  Where could be their breeding-place?

His reflections were interrupted at this point, by very singular
behaviour on the part of the wild hounds, and which gave him a new idea
of their intelligence that quite electrified him.

When the hartebeest stood to bay, and the hounds came up, Von Bloom very
naturally expected to see the latter run in upon their game, and at once
pull it to the ground.  This he knew was their usual habit.  What was
his astonishment at seeing the whole pack standing off to one side, as
if they intended to leave the antelope alone!  Some of them even lay
down to rest themselves, while the others stood with open jaws and
lolling tongues, but without showing any signs that they intended
further to molest the panting quarry!

The field-cornet could observe the situation well, for the antelope was
on his side--that is, towards the cliffs--while the dogs were farther
out upon the plain.  Another circumstance that astonished him was, that
the dogs, after running up and around the hartebeest, had actually drawn
off to their present position!

What could it mean?  Were they afraid of its ugly horns?  Were they
resting themselves before they should make their bloody onslaught?

The hunter kept his gaze intently fixed upon the interesting group.

After a while the antelope, having recovered its wind a little, and
seeing the pack so distant, made a fresh start.

This time it ran in a side direction, apparently with the intention of
gaining a hill that lay in that way, and up the sides of which it no
doubt calculated upon gaining some advantage.  But the creature had
hardly stretched itself, when the hounds struck out after it; and in
five hundred yards running, once more brought it to a stand.  Again the
pack took station at a distance, and the hartebeest stood upon the plain
alone!

Once more it essayed to escape, and started off with all the speed that
was left in its legs--the hounds as before trooping after.

This time the antelope headed in a new direction, making for a point in
the cliffs; and as the chase now passed very near to the nwana-tree,
everybody had a fine view of it.

The hartebeest seemed to be going faster than ever, or, at all events,
the dogs did not now appear to gain upon it; and the field-cornet, as
well as all the young people, were in hopes the poor creature would
escape from its tireless pursuers.

They watched the chase, until they could just see the bright body of the
hartebeest afar off, appearing like a yellow spot upon the face of the
rocks, but the dogs were no longer visible.  Then the yellow spot
suddenly disappeared like the going out of a candle, and they could see
it no more.

No doubt the antelope was pulled down!

A strange suspicion entered the mind of Von Bloom, and, calling upon
them to saddle the quaggas, he, with Hans and Hendrik, rode off towards
the place where the hartebeest had been last seen.

They approached the ground with caution; and under the shelter of some
bushes were enabled to get within two hundred yards of the spot without
being observed.  A singular spectacle rewarded their pains.

Within a dozen yards of the cliff lay the body of the hartebeest, where
it had been "pulled down" by the dogs.  It was already half-eaten, not
by the hounds that had hunted it, but by their puppies of all ages, that
to the number of more than threescore were now standing around the
carcass, tugging away at its flesh and snarling at one another!  Some of
the grown dogs that had taken part in the chase could be seen lying upon
the ground, still panting after their hard run; but most of them had
disappeared, no doubt into the numerous small caves and crevices that
opened along the bottom of the cliffs.

There was no room left to doubt the singular fact--that the wild hounds
had regularly driven the hartebeest up to their breeding-place to feed
their young, and that they had abstained from killing it out upon the
plain to save themselves the labour of dragging it from a distance!

Indeed these animals--unlike the _Felida_--have not the power of
transporting a large mass to any considerable distance; hence the
wonderful instinct which led them to guide the antelope to the very spot
where its flesh was wanted!

That they were in the constant practice of this singular habit was
attested, by the numerous bones and horns of large antelopes of
different kinds, that lay strewed around the place.

Von Bloom had his eye upon the young puppies, and all three made a rush
towards them.  But it was to no purpose.  Cunning as their fathers and
mothers, the little fellows forsook their meal at first sight of the
intruders, and darted off into their caves!

But they were not cunning enough to escape the snares, which were laid
for them every day for a week after; and, before the end of that time,
more than a dozen of them were safely domiciled in a little kennel built
especially for their use, under the shadow of the great nwana-tree.

In less than six months from that time, several of them were in the
field, and trained to the chase of the elephant, which duty they
performed with all the courage and skill that could have been shown by
hounds of the purest breed!



CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT.

CONCLUSION.

For several years Von Bloom led the life of an elephant-hunter.  For
several years the great nwana-tree was his home, and his only companions
his children and domestics.  But, perhaps, these were not the least
happy years of his existence, since, during all the time both he and his
family had enjoyed the most estimable of earthly blessings,--health.

He had _not_ allowed his children to grow up without instruction.  He
had _not_ permitted them to lapse into the character of mere
"Bush-boys."  He had taught them many things from the book of nature,--
many arts that can be acquired as well on the karoo as in the college.
He had taught them to love God, and to love one another.  He had planted
in their minds the seeds of the virtuous principles,--honour and
morality,--without which all education is worthless.  He had imbued them
with habits of industry and self-reliance, and had initiated them into
many of the accomplishments of civilised life--so that upon their return
to society they might be quite equal to its claims.  Upon the whole,
those years of the exile's life, spent in his wilderness home, formed no
blank in his existence.  He might look back upon them with feelings of
satisfaction and pleasure.

Man, however, is formed for society.  The human heart, properly
organised, seeks communion with the human heart; and the mind,
especially when refined and polished by education, loves the intercourse
of social life, and, when deprived of it, will always yearn to obtain
it.

So was it with the field-cornet.  He desired to return once more within
the pale of civilised society.  He desired once more to revisit the
scenes where he had so long dwelt in peaceful happiness; he desired once
more to establish himself among his friends and acquaintances of former
days, in the picturesque district of the Graaf Reinet.  Indeed, to have
remained any longer in his wilderness home could have served no purpose.
It is true he had grown very much attached to his wild hunter-life, but
it was no longer likely to be profitable.  The elephants had completely
forsaken the neighbourhood of the camp, and not one was to be found
within twenty miles of the spot.  They had become well acquainted with
the report of the long roer, and knew the dangerous character of that
weapon; they had learnt that of all their enemies man was the one to be
especially dreaded and shunned; and they had grown so shy of his
presence, that the hunters frequently passed whole weeks without setting
their eyes upon a single elephant.

But this was no longer an object of solicitude with Von Bloom.  Other
considerations now occupied his mind, and he did not care much if he
should never spoor another of these huge quadrupeds.  To return to the
Graaf Reinet, and settle there, was now the ultimatum of his wishes.

The time had at length arrived when he would be able to carry out that
design; and nothing seemed any longer to stand in the way of its full
and complete accomplishment.

The proscription against him had been long since taken off.  A general
amnesty had been passed by the government, and he had been pardoned
among the rest.

It is true his property was not restored to him; but that mattered
little now.  He had created a new property, as was testified by the vast
_pyramid of ivory_ that stood under the shadow of the great nwana-tree!

Nothing remained but to transport this shining pile to a market, and a
splendid fortune would be the result.

And Von Bloom's ingenuity found the means for bringing it to market.

About this time there was dug another huge _pit-trap_ near the pass in
the cliffs, in which many quaggas were trapped; and then there were
stirring scenes, while these wild creatures were being broken to
harness, and trained to "trek" in a wagon.

They were trained however, after a good deal of trouble--the old wheels,
still in prime condition, serving as the "break;" and then the body of
the wagon was let down from the tree, and once more renewed its
acquaintance with its old companions the wheels; and the cap-tent spread
its protecting shadow over all; and the white and yellow crescents were
stowed; and the quaggas were "inspanned;" and Swartboy, mounting the
"voor-kist," once more cracked his long bamboo whip; and the wheels,
well oiled with elephants' grease, again whirled gaily along!

How surprised were the good people of Graaf Reinet, when, one morning, a
cap-tent wagon, drawn by twelve quaggas, and followed by four riders
mounted upon animals of the same kind, pulled up in the public square of
their little town!  How astonished they were on seeing that this wagon
was "chuck" full of elephants' teeth, all except a little corner
occupied by a beautiful girl with cherry cheeks and fair flaxen hair;
and how joyed were they, in fine, on learning that the owner of both the
ivory and the beautiful girl was no other than their old friend, and
much-esteemed fellow-citizen, the field-cornet Von Bloom!

A warm welcome met the elephant-hunter in the square of Graaf Reinet,
and, what was also of some importance, a ready market for his ivory.

It chanced just at that time that ivory was selling at a very high rate.
Some article--I do not remember what--the principal part of which
required to be constructed of pure ivory, had come into fashion and
general use in European countries, and the consequence was an increased
demand for this valuable commodity.  It was a fortunate circumstance for
the returned hunter, who was at once enabled to dispose of his stock,
not only for ready money, but at such a fine price as to yield him
nearly twice the amount he had calculated on receiving!

He had not brought it all with him, as there was more than would have
loaded any one wagon.  A second load had remained, hidden near the
nwana-tree, and this required a journey to be made for it.

It was made in due time, and the remainder arrived safely at Graaf
Reinet, and was there delivered to the ivory-dealers, who had already
purchased it.

The result was a splendid fortune in ready money.  The field-cornet was
once more a rich man!  For the present we can follow his history no
farther than to say, that the proceeds of his great hunt enabled him to
buy back his old estate, and to stock it in splendid style, with the
best breeds of horses, horned cattle, and sheep; that he rose rapidly in
wealth and worldly esteem; that the government gave him its confidence;
and, having first restored him to his old office of field-cornet, soon
afterwards promoted him to that of "landdrost," or chief magistrate of
the district.

Hans returned to his college studies; while the dashing Hendrik was
enabled to enter the profession for which he was most fit, and the very
one that fitted him, by obtaining a cornetcy in the "Cape Mounted
Rifles."

Little Jan was packed off to school to study grammar and geography;
while the beautiful Truey remained at home to grace the mansion of her
honoured father, and look after his household affairs.

Totty still ruled the kitchen; and, of course, Swartboy was the
important man about the house, and for many a long year after cracked
his great whip, and flourished his jambok among the long-horned oxen of
the wealthy landdrost.

But enough for the present,--enough of adventure for one year.  Let us
hope, boy readers, that before you and I have circled once more around
the sun, we shall make a fresh trip to the land of the boors, and again
encounter the worthy Von Bloom, his Bushman, and--

"Bush-Boys."

THE END.





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