Chapter 73 - The Giraffe Hunters by Mayne Reid


One evening, after a long day’s journey, our adventurers found themselves within a few miles of home. A gallop of an hour or two, would place them in the society of the relatives and friends from whom they had been so long absent. Arend and Hendrik were impatient to ride forward, in advance of their companions. But each refrained from making the proposition to the other.

Greatly to their annoyance, they saw Hans and Willem halt at the house of a boer, and commence making arrangements for passing the night.

This the two did with as little unconcern as though they were still hundreds of miles from home.

Both Willem and Hans possessed a fair share of old-fashioned Dutch philosophy, that told them no circumstances should hinder them from being merciful to the animals that had served them so long and so well.

Early next morning, as the hunters passed through Graaf Reinet, on the way to their own homes, all the inhabitants of the village turned out to bid them welcome.

By most of the people dwelling in the place, the young giraffes were looked upon with as much astonishment as the four Makololo felt while gazing upon the spire of the village church.

There was not an inhabitant of the place over ten years of age who had not heard something of the expedition on which our adventurers had set forth some months before. All knew the objects for which it had been undertaken; and course the majority had prophesied another failure in the accomplishment of what so many experienced hunters had already failed to effect.

“We are now returning home in a respectable manner,” remarked Hendrik to the others, as he observed the enthusiastic spirit in which they were welcomed by the people.

“Yes,” answered Arend, “and it is to Willem’s perseverance that we owe all this.”

“I don’t know that I’ve displayed any great perseverance as you call it,” said Willem. “I was as anxious as any of you to return home, but I did not like to come back without a couple of young giraffes. That was all the difference between us.” The others made no reply, but rode on silently, thinking of the generosity of their gigantic companion.

On former expeditions our adventurers had been absent even a longer time, but never did home seem so dear to them as now, and never did they find on their return so warm a welcome as that extended to them now.

The two young ladies, Trüey Von Bloom and Wilhelmina Van Wyk, were delighted at again meeting with their lovers, and, what is more, were honest enough to admit that such was the case.

Congo and Swartboy endeavoured to repay themselves for the hardships of the past, by assuming grand airs over the other servants, domestics belonging to their masters, as also by an unusual indulgence in eating, drinking, and sleeping.

Groot Willem had still another journey to accomplish. It was to accompany Hans to Cape Town on his intended trip to Europe, and to deliver to the Dutch consul the captured camelopards. This journey, however, was not undertaken until he had given himself, his horses, and giraffes a month’s rest.

During this time, the Makololo were treated with the greatest kindness by all the household of the two families to which their young friends belonged. Before returning to the north, each was presented with a horse, a gun, and a suit of clothes; and several useful presents were sent by Groot Willem to his generous friend and protector, Macora.

Previous to his departure for Europe, Hans desired to be present at two important ceremonies that must sooner or later take place, and in which the families of Von Bloom and Van Wyk were both more or less interested. But Hans was impatient to set out on his intended tour, and Hendrik and Arend were much pleased that such was the case. Under these circumstances, Miss Trüey and Miss Wilhelmina were prevailed upon to appoint an early day for making the two cornets the happiest of men.

The day after the double marriage, Willem and Hans started for Cape Town,—taking with them the giraffes and the ivory they had brought from the north.

The animals that had cost so much time and toil in procuring were delivered to the consul, and the bounty money handed over. The camelopards became fellow-passengers of the young philosopher in his voyage to Europe.

Willem parted with them and Hans as the ship was getting “under way,” and, on the same day, started back to his distant home in Graaf Reinet. There he still dwells, endeavouring to pass his time in peaceful pursuits; but this endeavour he finds great difficulty in carrying out,—partly through his own restless desire to seek new adventures, and partly through the solicitations of young Jan and Klaas, who, stimulated by the tales told by their elder brothers, are now keenly anxious to relinquish the pursuit of knowledge for that of game.

Hendrik and Arend have no longer a desire to go in quest of such sport. Home is now too dear to them; and both are satisfied to leave to their younger brothers the pleasure of spending a few months on the far frontier, and earning, as they so nobly did, the title of Giraffe Hunters.