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Chapter 5 - The Giraffe Hunters by Mayne Reid

Arend Lost

In the afternoon, when Groot Willem, Hans, and Hendrik returned to the camp, they found it deserted.

Several jackals reluctantly skulked off as they drew near and on riding up to the spot from which those creatures had retired, they saw the clean-picked bones of an antelope. The camp must have been deserted for several hours.

“What does this mean?” exclaimed Groot Willem. “What has become of Arend?”

“I don’t know,” answered Hendrik. “It is strange Swart and Cong are not here to tell us.”

Something unusual had certainly happened; yet, as each glanced anxiously around the place, there appeared nothing to explain the mystery.

“What shall we do?” asked Willem, in a tone that expressed much concern.

“Wait,” answered Hans; “we can do nothing more.”

Two or three objects were at this moment observed which fixed their attention. They were out on the plain, nearly a mile off. They appeared to be horses,—their own pack animals,—and Hendrik and Groot Willem started off towards them to drive them back to the camp.

They were absent nearly an hour before they succeeded in turning the horses and driving them towards the camp. As they passed near the drift on their return, they rode towards the river to water the animals they were riding.

On approaching the bank, several native dogs, that had been yelling in a clump, were seen to scatter and retreat across the plain. The horsemen thought little of this, but rode on into the river, and permitted their horses to drink.

While quietly seated in their saddles, Hendrik fancied he heard some strange sounds. “Listen!” said he. “I hear something queer. What is it?”

“One of the honden,” answered Willem.


This question neither for a moment could answer, until Groot Willem observed one of the pits from the edge of which the dogs appeared to have retreated.

“Yonder’s a pit-trap!” he exclaimed, “and I believe there’s a dog has got into it. Well, I shall give it a shot, and put the creature out of its misery.”

“Do so,” replied Hendrik. “I hate the creatures as much as any other noxious vermin, but it would be cruel to let one starve to death in that way. Kill it.”

Willem rode up to the pit and dismounted. Neither of them, as yet, spoke loud enough to be heard in the pits, and the two men down below were at this time silent, the dog alone continuing its cries of agony.

The only thing Willem saw on gazing down the hole was the wild hound still hanging on the stake; and taking aim at one of its eyes he fired.

The last spark of life was knocked out of the suffering animal; but the report of the great gun was instantly followed by two yells more hideous than were ever uttered by “wild honden.”

They were the screams of two frightened Africans,—each frightened to think that the next bullet would be for him.

“Arend!” exclaimed Willem, anxious about his brother, and thinking only of him. “Arend! is it you?”

“No, Baas Willem,” answered the Kaffir. “It is Congo.”

Through the opening, Willem reached down the butt-end of his long roer, while firmly clasping it by the barrel.

The Kaffir took hold with both hands, and, by the strong arms of Groot Willem, was instantly extricated from his subterranean prison.

Swartboy was next hauled out, and the two mud-bedaubed individuals stood gazing at one another, each highly delighted at the rueful appearance presented by his rival.

Slowly the fire of anger, that seemed to have all the while been burning in the Kaffir’s eyes, became extinguished, and broad smile broke like the light of day over his stoical countenance.

He had been released at length, and was now convinced that no one was to blame for his protracted imprisonment.

Swartboy had been punished for his ill-timed mirth, and Congo was willing to forget and forgive.

“But where is Arend?” asked Willem, who could not forget, even while amused by the ludicrous aspect of the two Africans, that his brother was missing.

“Don’t know, Baas Willem,” answered Congo. “I been long time here.”

“But when did you see him last?” inquired Hendrik.

Congo was unable to tell, for he seemed under the impression that he had been several days in the bosom of the earth.

From Swartboy they learnt that soon after their own departure Arend had started in pursuit of one of the horses seen straying over the plain. That was the last Swart had seen of him.

The sun was now low down, and, without wasting time in idle speech, Hendrik and Groot Willem again mounted their horses, and rode off towards the place where Arend was last seen.

They reached the edge of the timber nearly a mile from the camp, and then, not knowing which way to turn, or what else to do, Willem fired a shot.

The loud crack of the roer seemed to echo far-away through the forest, and anxiously they listened for some response to the sound. It came, but not in the report of a rifle, or in the voice of the missing man, but in the language of the forest denizens. The screaming of vultures, the chattering of baboons, and the roaring of lions were the responses which the signal received.

“What shall we do, Willem?” asked Hendrik.

“Go back to the halting-place and bring Congo and Spoor’em,” answered Willem, as he turned towards the camp, and rode off, followed by his cousin.

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