Chapter 32 - The Giraffe Hunters by Mayne Reid

Driven away.

Four days after the unsuccessful attempt to capture the young giraffes in the hopo, the spoor of others were found on the river-bank.

Another herd of camelopards had made a home in the forest of cameel-doorn. Some of the herd were young. This was evident from the spoor.

The hopes of Groot Willem, that he might succeed in accomplishing his dearest wishes, were again high and strong; and his companions were no less enthusiastic.

Another attempt to fulfil their mission might be successful.

If so, Hendrik and Arend within a few weeks would be in the society of those of whom they were hourly thinking, and Hans would be making preparations for the long-contemplated visit to Europe.

The chief Macora had not shown the least inclination to abandon them on the failure of the first attempt. He had promised his assistance until the object they desired should be obtained; and, although domestic and political duties called him home, he stated his determination to stay with them.

His promise had been given to Willem, and everything was to be sacrificed before that could be broken.

For his devoted friendship the hunters were not ungrateful. They had learnt by this that without his assistance they could do nothing.

On the evening before the day intended for the second trial of the hopo, the giraffe hunters, in high spirits, were sharing with the chief their last bottle of Schiedam, as a substantial tribute of respect to the man who had made their wishes his own.

While indulging in pleasant anticipations of the morrow, their designs were suddenly upset by a communication from Sindo.

He had but just returned from a journey to the north,—to the place where he had found a home after being banished by Macora,—to the tribe which owned for its chief him whose horses had been shot by our hunters.

Sindo’s visit had been a stolen one, for the purpose of bringing away his wife and children. In this he had been successful; but he had also succeeded in bringing away something more,—information that the Zooloo chief, that our young hunters had offended, was still thirsting for revenge for his losses and disappointments.

He had seen Moselekatse, the tyrant-king of all that part of Africa, and had informed him that the Makololo chief, Macora,—his old enemy,—had returned to his former home, and had robbed a friend of the noble chief Moselekatse of valuable property,—of horses, guns, and slaves.

A large force had immediately been sent to capture Macora and his people, or chase them, as Sindo said, “out of the world.”

The enemy might be expected in two or three hours!

Sindo’s warning was not unheeded; and scouts were at once sent out to watch for the approach of the enemy. A danger that Macora had already apprehended was now threatening them.

Early next morning the scouts returned with the report that Moselekatse’s warriors were indeed coming. They had camped during the night about five miles off, and might be upon them within an hour.

Hastily springing upon their horses, Arend and Hendrik galloped off in the direction of the enemy, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance. During their absence the others were packing up all their valuables, and making preparation for either a fight or a flight.

The two cornets returned half an hour afterwards, bringing the report, that about three hundred armed men were approaching.

“There is not the least doubt but that they mean war,” said Hendrik. “We rode up to within three hundred yards of them. Immediately on seeing us they commenced yelling, and rushing about the plain; and, as we turned to ride back, several spears were sent after us.”

“Then the sooner we get away from here the better,” suggested Hans. “There are too many of them for us to hold our own with.”

“Macora does not seem to think so,” observed Groot Willem.

All turned to the chief, who, along with his men, was observed making preparations for a pitched battle.

“Ask him, Congo,” said Willem, “if he thinks we can drive the enemy back.”

The Kaffir made the inquiry, and was told, in reply, that Moselekatse’s men were never driven back except by superior numbers, and that they certainly would not be defeated by a few.

“But what means that? Is he going to stay here for all of us to be killed?”

To this question the chief answered that he and his men were going to act according to the desire of his friend Willem.

“Then they shall be off as quick as possible,” said Willem. “None of them shall lose their lives on my account, if I can help it.”

Not a moment was lost in getting away from the ground and so sudden was the departure that the Makololo had to leave behind them the dried meat they had taken so much trouble in curing.

The retreat was not commenced one moment too soon. As Groot Willem and Hendrik remained a little behind the others, they beheld the enemy approaching the spot that had been relinquished by the Makololo, apparently eager for a conflict.

There was no longer a doubt of the real object of their visit. They had come for the purpose of taking vengeance. Their cries and angry gestures proclaimed it; and, without waiting to see or hear more, the young hunters put spurs to their steeds and joined Macora in the retreat.