Chapter 8 - The Giraffe Hunters by Mayne Reid


The sun went down, the moon ascended above the tops of the surrounding trees, yet the borelé seemed no less inspired by the spirit of revenge than on first receiving the injuries it was wishing to resent.

For many hours the young hunter waited patiently for it to move away in search of food or any other object except that of revenge; but in this hope he was disappointed. The pain inflicted by the shots would not allow either hunger or thirst to interfere with the desire for retaliation, and it continued to maintain a watch so vigilant that Arend dared not leave his retreat for an instant. Whenever he made a movement, the enemy did the same.

It was a long time before he could think of any plan that would give him a chance of getting away. One at length occurred to him.

Although unable to reload the rifle with a bullet, the thought came into his mind, that the borelé might be blinded by a heavy charge of powder, or so confused by it as to give him an opportunity of stealing away. This seemed an excellent plan, yet so simple that Arend was somewhat surprised he had not thought of it before.

Without difficulty he succeeded in pouring a double quantity of powder into the barrel; and, in order to keep it there until he had an opportunity for a close shot, some dry grass was forced into the muzzle. The chance soon offered; and, taking a deliberate aim at one of the borelé’s eyes with the muzzle of the gun not more than two feet from its head, he pulled trigger.

With a loud moan of mingled rage and agony, the rhinoceros rushed towards him, and frantically, but vainly exerted all its strength in an endeavour to overturn the baobab.

“One more shot at the other eye,” thought Arend, “and I shall be free.”

He immediately proceeded to pour another dose of powder into the rifle, but while thus engaged a new danger suddenly presented itself. The dry grass projected from the gun had ignited and set fire to the dead leaves that were strewed plentifully over the ground. In an instant these were ablaze, the flame spreading rapidly on all sides, and moving towards him.

The trunk of the baobab could no longer afford protection. In another minute it, too, would be enveloped in the red fire, and to stay by its side would be to perish in the flames. There was no alternative but to get to his feet and run for his life.

Not a moment was to be lost, and, slipping from under the tree, he started off at the top of his speed. The chances were in his favour for escaping unobserved by the rhinoceros. But fortune seemed decidedly against him. Before getting twenty paces from the tree, he saw that he was pursued.

Guided either by one eye or its keen sense of hearing, the monster was following him at a pace so rapid that, if long enough continued, it must certainly overtake him.

Once more the young hunter began to feel something like despair. Death seemed hard upon his heels. A few seconds more, and he might be impaled on that terrible horn. But for that instinctive love of life which all feel, he might have surrendered himself to fate; but urged by this, he kept on.

He was upon the eve of falling to the earth through sheer exhaustion, when his ears were saluted by the deep-toned bay of a hound, and close after it a voice exclaiming—

“Look out, Baas Willem! Somebody come yonder!”

Two seconds more and Arend was safe from further pursuit. The hound Spoor’em was dancing about the borelé’s head, by his loud, angry yelps diverting its attention from everything but himself.

Two seconds more and Groot Willem and Hendrik came riding up; and, in less than half a minute after, the monster, having received a shot from the heavy roer, slowly settled down in its tracks—a dead rhinoceros.

Willem and Hendrik leaped from their horses and shook hands with Arend in a manner as cordial as if they were just meeting him after an absence of many years.

“What does it mean, Arend?” jocosely inquired Hendrik. “Has this brute been pursuing you for the last twelve hours?”


“And how much longer do you think the chase would have continued?”

“About ten seconds,” replied Arend, speaking in a very positive tone.

“Very well,” said Hendrik, who was so rejoiced at the deliverance of his friend that he felt inclined to be witty. “We know now how long you are capable of running. You can lead a borelé a chase of just twelve hours and ten seconds.”

Groot Willem was for some time unspeakably happy, and said not a word until they had returned to the place where the lion had been killed. Here they stopped for the purpose of recovering the saddle and bridle from the carcass of the horse.

Groot Willem proposed they should remain there till the morning; his reason being that, in returning through the narrow path that led out to the open plain, they might be in danger of meeting buffaloes, rhinoceroses, or elephants, and be trampled to death in the darkness.

“That’s true,” replied Arend; “and it might be better to stay here until daylight, but for two reasons. One is, that I am dying of hunger, and should like a roast rib of that antelope I shot in the morning.”

“And so should I,” said Hendrik, “but the jackals have saved us the trouble of eating that.”

Arend was now informed of the events that had occurred to his absence, and was highly amused at Hendrik’s account of the misfortune that had befallen Swartboy and Congo.

“We are making a very fair commencement in the way of adventures,” said he, after relating his own experiences of the day, “but so far our expedition has been anything but profitable.”

“We must go farther down the river,” said Willem. “We have not yet seen the spoor of either hippopotamus or giraffe. We must keep moving until we come upon them. I never want to see another lion, borelé, or elephant.”

“But what is your other reason for going back to camp?” asked Hendrik, addressing himself to Arend.

“What would it be?” replied Arend. “Do you suppose that our dear friend Hans has no feelings?”

“O, that’s what you mean, is it?”

“Of course it is. Surely Hans will by this time be half dead with anxiety on our account.”

All agreed that it would be best to go on to the camp; and, after transferring the saddle and bridle from the carcass of the horse to the shoulders of Congo, they proceeded onward, arriving in camp at a very late hour, and finding Hans, as Arend had conjectured, overwhelmed with apprehension at their long absence.