Table of Content

Chapter 2 - The Giraffe Hunters by Mayne Reid

On the Limpopo

During the first night spent upon the Limpopo our adventurers had good reason for believing that they were in the neighbourhood of several kinds of game they were anxious to fall in with.

Their repose was disturbed by a combination of sounds, in which they could distinguish the roar of the lion, the trumpet-like notes of the elephant, mingled with the voices of some creature they could not remember having previously heard.

Several hours of that day had been passed in searching for a place to cross the river,—one where the banks were low on each side, and the stream not too deep. This had not been found until the sun was low down upon the horizon.

By the time they had got safely over, twilight was fast thickening into darkness, and all but Congo were unwilling to proceed farther that night. The Kaffir suggested that they should go at least half a mile up or down the river and Groot Willem seconded the proposal, although he had no other reason for doing so than a blind belief in the opinions of his attendant, whether they were based upon wisdom or instinct. In the end Congo’s suggestion had been adopted, and the sounds that disturbed the slumbers of the camp were heard at some distance, proceeding from the place where they had crossed the river.

“Now, can you understand why Congo advised us to come here?” asked Groot Willem, as they listened to the hideous noises that were depriving them of sleep.

“No,” was the reply of his companions.

“Well, it was because the place where we crossed is the watering-place for all the animals in the neighbourhood.”

“That is so, Baas Willem,” said Congo, confirming the statement of his master.

“But we have not come a thousand miles for the sake of keeping out of the way of those animals, have we?” asked the hunter Hendrik.

“No,” answered Willem, “we came here to seek them, not to have them seek us. Our horses want rest, whether we do or not.”

Here ended further conversation for the night, for the hunters becoming accustomed to the chorus of the wild creatures, took no further notice of it, and one after another fell asleep.

Morning dawned upon a scene of surpassing beauty. They were in a broad valley, covered with magnificent trees, among which were many gigantic baobabs (Adansonia digitata). Wild date-trees were growing in little clumps; while the floral carpet, spread in brilliant pattern over the valley, was observed by Hans with an air of peculiar satisfaction.

He had reached a new field for the pursuit of his studies, and bright dreams were passing gently through his mind,—dreams that anticipated new discoveries in the botanical world, which might make his name known among the savants of Europe.

Before any of his companions were moving, Groot Willem, accompanied by Congo, stole forth to take a look at the surrounding country.

They directed their course down the river. On reaching the place where they had crossed it, they chanced upon a tableau that even a hunter, who is supposed to take delight in the destruction of animals, could not look upon without unpleasant emotions.

Within the space of a hundred yards were lying five dead antelopes, of a species Willem had never seen before. Feeding on the carcasses were several hyenas. On the approach of the hunters, they slowly moved away, each laughing like a madman who has just committed some horrible atrocity.

By the “spoors” seen upon the river-banks, it was evident that both elephants and lions had visited the place during the night. While making these and other reconnoissances, Groot Willem was joined by Hans, who had already commenced his favourite study by making an examination of the floral treasures in his immediate locality. Arriving up with Groot Willem, the attention of Hans was at once directed to an examination of the antelopes, which he pronounced to be elands, but believed them to be of a new and undescribed variety of this animal. They were elands; but each was marked with small white stripes across the body, in this respect resembling “koodoos.”

After a short examination of the spoor, Congo asserted that a troop of elands had first visited the watering-place, and that while they were there four bull elephants, also in search of water, had charged with great speed upon the antelopes. Three or four lions had also joined in the strife, in which the only victims had been the unfortunate elands.

“I think we are in a place where we had better make a regular enclosure, and stop for a few days,” suggested Groot Willem, on his return to the camp. “There is plenty of feed for the horses, and we have proof that the ‘drift’ where we crossed is a great resort for all kinds of game.”

“I’m of the same opinion,” assented Hendrik; “but I don’t wish to encamp quite so close to the crossing as this is. We had better move some distance off. Then we shall not prevent game from seeking the drift, or be ourselves hindered from getting sleep. Don’t you think we’d better move little farther up the river?”

“Yes, yes,” was the unanimous answer.

It was therefore decided that search should be made for a better camping-ground, where they could build themselves a proper enclosure, or “kraal.”

After partaking of their first breakfast upon the Limpopo, Groot Willem, Hans, and Hendrik mounted their horses and rode off up the river, accompanied by the full pack of dogs, leaving Arend, with Swartboy and Congo, to take care of the camp.

For nearly three miles, the young hunters rode along the bank of the river, without finding any spot where access to the water could be readily obtained. The banks were high and steep, and therefore but little visited by such animals as they wished to hunt. At this point the features of the landscape began to change, presenting an appearance more to their satisfaction. Light timber, such as would be required for the construction of a stockade, was growing near the river, which was no longer inaccessible, though its banks appeared but little frequented by game.

“I think this place will suit admirably,” said Groot Willem. “We are only half an hour’s ride from the drift, and probably we may find good hunting-ground farther up stream.”

“Very likely,” rejoined Hendrik; “but before taking too much trouble to build ourselves a big kraal, we had better be sure about what sort of game is to be got here.”

“You are right about that,” answered Willem; “we must take care to find out whether there are hippopotami and giraffes. We cannot go home without a pair of the latter. Our friends would be disappointed, and some I know would have a laugh at us.”

“And you for one would deserve it,” said Hans. “Remember how you ridiculed the other hunters who returned unsuccessful.”

Having selected a place for the kraal, should they decide on staying awhile in the neighbourhood, the young hunters proceeded farther up the river, for the purpose of learning something more of the hunting-ground before finally determining to construct the enclosure.

 Table of Content