Part 5 out of 6
Treated kindly, they have done good in return to the farmers by watching
their sheep, and performing other little services, and have been
rewarded with tobacco. This has given them confidence to a certain
degree. But we must expect to meet with others that are equally wild,
and who will be very mischievous; attempting to drive off our cattle,
and watching in ambush all round our caravan, ready for any pilfering
that they can successfully accomplish; and then we shall discover that
we are in their haunts without even seeing them."
"Because it will only be by their thefts that we shall find it out. But
it is time for bed, and as to-morrow is Sunday you will have a day of
rest, which I think you both require."
"I do," replied Alexander, "so good-night to you both."
As arranged, they did not travel on the Sunday. Early in the morning the
oxen and horses and sheep were turned out to pasture; all except the
horse which had been ridden by Alexander on the preceding day, and which
was found to be suffering so much that they took away a large quantity
of blood from him before he was relieved.
The Bushmen still remained with them, and were likely to do so as long
as there was any prospect of food. The four buffaloes which had been
killed, as well as the horse which had been gored to death, were found
picked clean to the bones on the following day, by the hyenas and other
animals which were heard prowling during the whole night. But as large
quantities of the buffalo-flesh had been cut off, and hung upon the
trees near the caravan, there was more than sufficient for a second
feast for the Bushmen and Hottentots, and there was nothing but frying
and roasting during the whole of the day.
The sun was intensely hot, and Alexander and the Major both felt so
fatigued from the exertions of the day before, that after breakfast they
retired to their wagons, and Swinton did not attempt to disturb them, as
they were in a sound sleep till the evening, when they were much
refreshed and very hungry. Swinton said he had thought it better that
they should not be awakened, as the heat was so overpowering, and they
could perform Divine service in the evening, if they thought proper,
when it would be cooler. This was agreed to, and, after an early supper,
they summoned all the Hottentots, who, although gorged, were still
unwilling to leave their fires; as they said the Bushmen would devour
all the flesh that was left, in their absence.
This remonstrance was not listened to, and they all assembled. The
prayers were read and the service gone through by the light of a large
fire, for it was very dark before the service was finished. The Bushmen,
as the Hottentots prophesied, had taken advantage of their absence, to
help themselves very liberally; and as Swinton read the prayers, the
eyes of the Hottentots were continually turning round to their own
fires, where the Bushmen were throwing on large pieces of buffalo-flesh,
and, before they were even heated through, were chewing them and tearing
them to pieces with their teeth.
Never perhaps was there a congregation whose attention was so divided,
and who were more anxious for the conclusion of the service. This
uneasiness shown by the Hottentots appeared at last to be communicated
to the oxen, which were tied up round the wagons. The fire required
replenishing, but none of the Hottentots moved to perform the office;
perhaps they thought that if Swinton could no longer see, the service
must conclude: but Swinton knew it by heart, and continued reading the
Commandments, which was the last portion which he read, and Alexander
and the Major repeated the responses. The Major, whose face was toward
the cattle, had observed their uneasiness, and guessed the cause, but
did not like to interrupt the service, as it was just over. Begum began
clinging to him in the way she always did when she was afraid; Swinton
had just finished, and the Major was saying, "Swinton, depend upon it,"
when a roar like thunder was heard, and a dark mass passed over their
The bellowing and struggling of the oxen was almost instantaneously
succeeded by a lion, with an ox borne on his shoulder, passing right
through the whole congregation, sweeping away the remnants of the fire
and the Hottentots right and left, and vanishing in a moment from their
sight. As may be imagined, all was confusion and alarm. Some screamed,
some shouted and ran for their guns; but it was too late. On
examination, it was found that the lion had seized the ox which had been
tied up near to where they were sitting; their fire being nearly
extinguished, and the one which should have been kept alight next to it
altogether neglected by the Hottentots, in their anxiety to keep up
those on which they had been broiling their buffalo-steaks.
The leather thongs by which the ox had been tied up were snapped like
threads, and many of the other oxen had, in their agony of fear, broken
their fastenings and escaped. As the lion bounded away through the
assembled party, it appeared as if the ox was not a feather's weight to
him. He had, however, stepped rather roughly upon two of the Hottentots,
who lay groaning, as if they had been severely hurt; but upon
examination it was found that they had only been well scratched and
covered with ashes. The Bushmen, however, had left their meal, and with
their bows and small poisoned arrows had gone in pursuit. Bremen and one
or two of the Hottentots proposed also to go, but our travelers would
not permit them. About an hour afterward the Bushmen returned, and Omrah
had communication with them; and through Bremen they learned that the
Bushmen had come up with the lion about a mile distant, and had
discharged many of their arrows at him, and, they were convinced, with
effect, as a heavy growl or an angry roar was the announcement when he
was hit; but, although he was irritated, he continued his repast. Omrah
then said, "Lion dead to-morrow,--Bushmen find him."
"Well," said Alexander, as they went to their wagons, which, in
consequence of this event, and their having to make up large fires
before they went to bed, they did not do till late, "I believe this is
the first time that Divine service was ever wound up by such intrusion."
"Perhaps so," replied Swinton; "but I think it proves that we have more
cause for prayer, surrounded as we are by such danger. The lion might
have taken one of us, and by this time we should have suffered a horrid
"I never felt the full force of the many similes and comparisons in the
Scriptures, where the lion is so often introduced, till now," observed
"It was indeed a most awful sermon after the prayers," said the Major:
"I trust never to hear such a one again: but is it not our own fault?
This is the second time that one of our oxen has been carried off by a
lion, from the circle of fires not being properly attended to. It is the
neglect of the Hottentots, certainly; but if they are so neglectful, we
should attend to them ourselves."
"It will be as well to punish them for their neglect," said Swinton, "by
stopping their tobacco for the week; for if they find that we attend to
the fires ourselves, they will not keep one in, that you may depend
upon. However, we will discuss that point to-morrow, so good-night."
Omrah came to the Major the next morning, before the oxen were yoked, to
say that the Bushmen had found the lion, and that he was not yet dead,
but nearly so; that the animal had dragged away that portion of the ox
that he did not eat, about half a mile further; that there he had lain
down, and he was so sick that he could not move.
At this intelligence they mounted their horses, and, guided by the
Bushmen, arrived at the bush where the lion lay. The Bushmen entered at
once, for they had previously reconnoitered, and were saluted with a low
snarl, very different from the roar of the preceding night. Our
travelers followed, and found the noble creature in his last agonies,
his strength paralyzed, and his eyes closed. One or two of the small
arrows of the Bushmen were still sticking in his hide, and did not
appear to have entered more than half an inch; but the poison was so
subtle, that it had rapidly circulated through his whole frame; and
while they were looking down upon the noble beast, it dropped its jaws
As our travelers turned back to join the caravan, Alexander observed:
"Those Bushmen, diminutive as they are in size, and contemptible as
their weapons appear, must be dangerous enemies, when the mere prick of
one of their small arrows is certain death. What is their poison
"Of the venom extracted from snakes, which is mixed up with the juice of
the euphorbia, and boiled down till it becomes of the consistency of
glue. They then dip the heads of the arrows into it, and let it dry on."
"Is then the venom of snakes so active after it has been taken away from
"Yes, for a considerable time after. I remember a story, which is, I
believe, well authenticated, of a man who had been bitten through his
boot by a rattlesnake in America. The man died, and shortly afterward
his two sons died one after the other, with just the same symptoms as
their father, although they had not been bitten by snakes. It was
afterward discovered that upon the father's death the sons had one after
the other taken possession of and put on his boots, and the boots being
examined, the fang of the rattlesnake was discovered to have passed
through the leather and remained there. The fang had merely grazed the
skin of the two sons when they put on the boots, and had thus caused
"Are the snakes here as deadly in their poison as the rattlesnake of
"Equally so,--that is, two or three of them; some are harmless. The most
formidable is the cobra capella (not the same as the Indian snake of the
same name). It is very large, being usually five feet long; but it has
been found six and even seven feet. This snake has been known to dart at
a man on horseback, and with such force as to overshoot his aim. His
bite is certain death, I believe, as I never heard of a man recovering
from the wound."
"Well, that is as bad as can be. What is the next?"
"The next is what they call the puff adder. It is a very heavy, sluggish
animal, and very thick in proportion to its length, and when attacked in
front, it can not make any spring. It has, however, another power,
which, if you are not prepared for it, is perhaps equally dangerous
--that of throwing itself backward in a most surprising manner. This is,
however, only when trod upon or provoked; but its bite is very deadly.
Then two of the mountain adders are among the most dangerous snakes
here. The mountain adder is small, and, from its not being so easily
seen and so easily avoided, is very dangerous, and its bite as fatal as
"I trust that is the end of your catalogue?"
"Not exactly; there is another, which I have specimens of, but whose
faculties I have never seen put to the test, which is called the
spirting snake. It is about three feet long, and its bite, although
poisonous, is not fatal. But it has a faculty, from which its name is
derived, of spirting its venom into the face of its assailant, and if
the venom enters the eye, at which the animal darts it, immediate
blindness ensues. There are a great many other varieties, some of which
we have obtained possession of during our journey. Many of them are
venomous, but not so fatal as the first three I have mentioned.
"Indeed, it is a great blessing that the Almighty has not made the
varieties of snakes aggressive or fierce,--which they are not. Provided,
as they are, with such dreadful powers, if they were so, they would
indeed be formidable; but they only act in self-defense, or when
provoked. I may as well here observe, that the Hottentots, when they
kill any of the dangerous snakes, invariably cut off the head and bury
it; and this they do, that no one may by chance tread upon it, as they
assert that the poison of the fangs is as potent as ever, not only for
weeks but months afterward."
"That certainly is a corroboration of the story that you told us of the
rattlesnake's fang in the boot."
"It is so; but although there are so many venomous snakes in this
country, it is remarkable how very few accidents or deaths occur from
them. I made an inquiry at the Moravian Mission, where these venomous
snakes are very plentiful, how many people they had lost by their bites,
and the missionaries told me, that out of 800 Hottentots belonging to
the Mission, they had only lost two men by the bites of snakes during a
space of seven years; and in other places where I made the same inquiry,
the casualties were much less in proportion to the numbers."
"Is the boa constrictor found in this part of Africa?"
"Not so far south as we now are, but it is a few degrees more to the
northward. I have never seen it, but I believe there is no doubt of its
"The South American Indians have a very subtle poison with which they
kill their game. Are you aware, Swinton, of its nature? Is it like the
"I know the poison well; it was brought over by Mr. Waterton, whose
amusing works you may have read. It is called the wourali poison, and is
said to be extracted from a sort of creeping vine, which grows in the
country. The natives, however, add the poison of snakes to the extract;
and the preparation is certainly very fatal, as I can bear witness to."
"Have you ever seen it tried?"
"Yes, I have tried it myself. When I was in Italy I became acquainted
with Mr. W., and he gave two or three of us, who were living together, a
small quantity, not much more than two grains of mustard-seed in size.
We purchased a young mule to make the experiment upon; an incision was
made in its shoulder, and the poison inserted under the skin. I think in
about six or seven minutes the animal was dead. Mr. W. said that the
effects would have been instantaneous, if the virtue of the poison had
not somewhat deteriorated from its having been kept so long."
"The wourali poison only acts upon the nerves, I believe?" said the
"Only upon the nerves; and although so fatal, if immediate means are
resorted to, a person who is apparently dead from it may be brought to
life again by the same process as is usual in the recovery of drowned or
suffocated people. A donkey upon which the poison had acted was restored
in this manner, and for the remainder of his days permitted to run in
Sir Joseph Banks's park. But the poison of snakes acts upon the blood,
and therefore occasions death without remedy."
"But there are remedies, I believe, for even the most fatal poisons?"
"Yes, in His provident mercy God has been pleased to furnish remedies
at hand, and where the snake exists the remedy is to be found. The
rattlesnake root is a cure, if taken and applied immediately; and it is
well known that the ichneumon when bitten by the cobra capella, in his
attack upon it, will hasten to a particular herb and eat it immediately,
to prevent the fatal effect of the animal's bite."
"I once saw a native of India," said the Major, "who for a small sum
would allow himself to be bitten by a cobra capella. He was well
provided with the same plant used by the ichneumon, which he swallowed
plentifully, and also rubbed on the wound. It is impossible to say, but,
so far as I could judge, there was no deception."
"I think it very possible; if the plant will cure the ichneumon, why not
a man? I have no doubt but that there are many plants which possess
virtues of which we have no knowledge. Some few, and perhaps some of the
most valuable, we have discovered; but our knowledge of the vegetable
kingdom, as far as its medicinal properties are known, is very slight;
and perhaps many which were formerly known have, since the introduction
of mineral antidotes, been lost sight of."
"Why, yes; long before chemistry had made any advances, we do hear in
old romances of balsams of most sovereign virtues," said Alexander,
"Which, I may observe, is almost a proof that they did in reality exist;
and the more so, because you will find that the knowledge of these
sovereign remedies was chiefly in the hands of the Jews, the oldest
nation upon the earth; and from their constant communication with each
other, most likely to have transmitted their knowledge from generation
"We have also reason to believe that not only they had peculiar
_remedies_ in their times, but also--if we are to credit what has been
handed down to us--that the art of _poisoning_ was much better
understood," said the Major.
"At all events, they had not the knowledge of chemistry which now leads
to its immediate detection," replied Swinton. "But, Alexander, there are
three hippopotami lying asleep on the side of the river. Have you a
mind to try your skill?"
"No, not particularly," replied Alexander; "I have had enough of
hippopotami. By the by, the river is much wider than it was."
"Yes, by my calculation we ought to travel no more to the westward after
to-day. We must now cut across to the Yellow or Val River. We shall
certainly be two days without water or pasturage for the cattle, but
they are in such good condition that they will not much feel it. There
is a river which we shall cross near its head, but the chance of water
is very small; indeed, I believe we shall find it nowhere, except in
these great arteries, if I may so call them."
"Well; I was thinking so myself, Swinton, as I looked at the map
yesterday, when I lay in my wagon," said the Major; "so then to-morrow
for a little variety; that is, a desert."
"Which it will most certainly be," replied Swinton; "for, except on the
banks of the large rivers, there are no hopes of vegetation in this
country at this season of the year; but in another month we may expect
heavy falls of rain."
"The Bushmen have left us, I perceive," said Alexander.
"Yes, they have probably remained behind to eat the lion."
"What, will they eat it now that it has been poisoned?"
"That makes no difference to them; they merely cut out the parts
wounded, and invariably eat all the carcasses of the animals which they
kill, and apparently without any injury. There is nothing which a
Bushman will not eat. A flight of locusts is a great feast to him."
"I can not imagine them to be very palatable food."
"I have never tasted them," replied Swinton; "but I should think not.
They do not, however, eat them raw; they pull off their wings and legs,
and dry their bodies; they then beat them into a powder."
"Do you suppose that St. John's fare of locusts and wild honey was the
locust which we are now referring to?"
"I do not know, but I should rather think not, and for one reason,
which is, that although a person in the wilderness might subsist upon
these animals, if always to be procured, yet the flights of locusts are
very uncertain. Now there is a tree in the country where St. John
retired, which is called the locust-tree, and produces a large sweet
bean, shaped like the common French bean, but nearly a foot long, which
is very palatable and nutritious. It is even now given to cattle in
large quantities; and I imagine that this was the locust referred to;
and I believe many of the commentators on the holy writings have been of
the same opinion. I think we have now gone far enough for to-day; we may
as well halt there. Do you intend to hunt, Major? I see some animals
there at a distance."
"I should say not," said Alexander; "if we are to cross a desert tract
to-morrow, we had better not fatigue our horses."
"Certainly not. No, Swinton, we will remain quiet, unless game comes to
"Yes, and look after our water-kegs being filled, and the fires lighted
to-night," said Alexander; "and I trust we may have no more sermons
from lions, although Shakespeare does say, 'sermons from stones, and
good in everything.'"
They halted their caravan upon a rising ground, and having taken the
precaution to see the water-kegs filled and the wood collected, they sat
down to dinner upon fried ham and cheese; for the Hottentots had
devoured all the buffalo-flesh, and demanded a sheep to be killed for
supper. This was consented to although they did not deserve it; but as
their tobacco had been stopped for their neglect of providing fuel and
keeping up the fires, it was considered politic not to make them too
Alexander had been walking by the side of the river with the Major,
while the Hottentots were arranging the camp, and Swinton was putting
away some new specimens in natural history which he had collected, when
Omrah, who was with them, put his finger to his lips and stopped them.
As they perfectly understood what he required, they stood still and
silent. Omrah then pointed to something which was lying on the low
bank, under a tuft of rushes; but they could not distinguish it, and
Omrah asked by signs for the Major's rifle, took aim, and fired. A loud
splashing was heard in the water, and they pushed their way through the
high grass and reeds, until they arrived at the spot, where they
perceived an animal floundering in the agonies of death."
"An alligator!" exclaimed the Major; "well, I had no idea that there
were any here inland. They said that there were plenty at the mouths of
the rivers, on the coast of the Eastern Caffres, but I am astonished to
find one here."
"What did you fire at?" asked Swinton, who now joined them.
"An alligator, and he is dead. I am afraid that he won't be very good
eating," replied the Major.
"That's not an alligator, Major," said Swinton, "and it is very good
eating. It is a large lizard of the guana species, which is found about
these rivers; it is amphibious, but perfectly harmless, subsisting upon
vegetables and insects. I tell you it is a great delicacy, ugly as it
looks. It is quite dead, so let us drag it out of the water, and send it
up to Mahomed by Omrah."
The animal, which was about four feet long, was dragged out of the water
by the tail, and Omrah took it to the camp.
"Well, I really thought it was a small alligator," said the Major; "but
now I perceive my mistake. What a variety of lizards there appears to be
in this country."
"A great many from the chameleon upward," replied Swinton. "By the by,
there is one which is said to be very venomous. I have heard many
well-authenticated stories of the bite being not only very dangerous,
but in some instances fatal. I have specimens of the animal in my
collection. It is called here the geitje."
"Well, it is rather remarkable, but we have in India a small lizard,
called the gecko by the natives, which is said to be equally venomous. I
presume it must be the same animal, and it is singular that the names
should vary so little. I have never seen an instance of its poisonous
powers, but I have seen a whole company of sepoys run out of their
quarters because they have heard the animal make its usual cry in the
thatch of the building; they say that it drops down upon people from the
"Probably the same animal; and a strong corroboration that the report of
its being venomous is with good foundation."
"And yet if we were to make the assertion in England, we should in all
probability not be believed."
"Not by many, I grant--not by those who only know a little; but by those
who are well informed, you probably would be. The fact is, from a too
ready credulity, we have now turned to almost a total skepticism, unless
we have ocular demonstration. In the times of Marco Polo, Sir John
Mandeville, and others,--say in the fifteenth century, when there were
but few travelers and but little education, a traveler might assert
almost any thing, and gain credence; latterly a traveler hardly dare
assert any thing. Le Vaillant and Bruce, who traveled in the South and
North of Africa, were both stigmatized as liars, when they published
their accounts of what they had seen, and yet every tittle has since
been proved to be correct. However, as people are now better informed,
they do not reject so positively; for they have certain rules to guide
them between the possible and the impossible."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean, for instance, that if a person was to tell me that he had seen
a mermaid, with the body of a woman and the scaly tail of a fish, I
should at once say that I could not believe him. And why? because it is
contrary to the laws of nature. The two component parts of the animal
could not be combined, as the upper portion would belong to the
mammalia, and be a hot-blooded animal, the lower to a cold-blooded class
of natural history. Such a junction would, therefore, be impossible. But
there are, I have no doubt, many animals still undiscovered, or rather
still unknown to Europeans, the description of which may at first excite
suspicion, if not doubt. But as I have before observed, the account
would, in all probability, not be rejected by a naturalist, although it
might be by people without much knowledge of the animal kingdom, who
would not be able to judge by comparison whether the existence of such
an animal was credible. Even fabulous animals have had their origin from
existing ones. The unicorn is, no doubt, the gemsbok antelope; for when
you look at the animal at a distance, its two horns appear as if they
were only one, and the Bushmen have so portrayed the animal in their
caves. The dragon is also not exactly imaginary; for, the _Lacerta
volans_, or flying lizard of Northern Africa, is very like a small
dragon in miniature. So that even what has been considered as fabulous
has arisen from exaggeration or mistake."
"You think, then, Swinton, that we are bound to believe all that
travelers tell us?"
"Not so; but not to reject what they assert, merely because it does not
correspond with our own ideas on the subject. The most remarkable
instance of unbelief was relative to the aerolites or meteoric stones
formed during a thunder-storm in the air, and falling to the earth. Of
course you have heard that such have occurred?"
"I have," replied the Major, "and I have seen several in India."
"This was treated as a mere fable not a century back; and when it was
reported (and not the first time) that such a stone had fallen in
France, the _savans_ were sent in deputation to the spot. They heard the
testimony of the witnesses that a loud noise was heard in the air; that
they looked up and beheld an opaque body descending; that it fell on the
earth with a force which nearly buried it in the ground, and was so hot
at the time that it could not be touched with the hand. It afterward
became cold. Now the _savans_ heard all this, and pronounced that it
could not be; and for a long while every report of the kind was treated
with contempt. Now every one knows, and every one is fully satisfied of
the fact, and not the least surprise is expressed when they are told of
the circumstance. As Shakespeare makes Hamlet observe very truly--'There
are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your
There was no alarm during the night, and the next morning they yoked the
oxen and changed their course to the northward. The whole of the cattle
had been led down to the river to drink, and allowed two hours to feed
before they started; for they were about to pass through a sterile
country of more than sixty miles, where they did not expect to find
either pasturage or water. They had not left the river more than three
miles behind them, when the landscape changed its appearance. As far as
the eye could scan the horizon, all vestiges of trees had disappeared,
and now the ground was covered with low stunted bushes and large stones.
Here and there were to be seen small groups of animals, the most common
of which were the quaggas. As our travelers were in the advance, they
started six or seven ostriches which had been sitting, and a ball from
the Major's rifle brought one to the ground, the others running off at a
velocity that the fastest horse could scarcely have surpassed.
"That was a good shot, Major," said Alexander.
"Yes," replied Swinton; "but take care how you go too near the bird; you
have broken his thigh, and he may be dangerous. They are very fierce. As
I thought, here is the nest. Let Bremen kill the bird,--he understands
them, Major. It is the male, and those which have escaped are all
"What a quantity of eggs!" said Alexander. "Is the nest a joint
"Yes," replied Swinton. "All those which are in the center of the nest
with their points upward are the eggs for hatching. There are, let me
see, twenty-six of them, and you observe that there are as many more
round about the nest. Those are for the food of the young ostriches as
soon as they are born. However, we will save them that trouble. Bremen
must take the eggs outside the nest for us, and the others the people
may have. They are not very particular whether they are fresh or not."
"This is a noble bird," said the Major, "and has some beautiful
feathers. I suppose we may let Bremen take the feathers out and leave
"Yes; I do not want it; but Bremen will take the skin, I dare say. It is
worth something at the Cape."
As soon as the Hottentots had secured the eggs, and Bremen had skinned
the ostrich, which did not occupy many minutes, they rode on, and
Swinton then said--
"The male ostrich generally associates with from three to seven females,
which all lay in the same nest. He sits as well as the females, and
generally at night, that he may defend the eggs from the attacks of the
hyenas and other animals."
"You do not mean to say that he can fight these animals!"
"And kill them also. The ostrich has two powerful weapons; its wing,
with which it has often been known to break a hunter's leg, the blow
from it is so violent; and what is more fatal, its foot, with the toe of
which it strikes and kills both animals and men. I once myself, in
Namaqua-land, saw a Bushman who had been struck on the chest by the foot
of the ostrich, and it had torn open his chest and stomach, so that his
entrails were lying on the ground. I hardly need say that the poor
wretch was dead."
"I could hardly have credited it," observed Alexander.
"The Bushmen skin the ostrich, and spread the skin upon a frame of
wicker-work; the head and neck are supported by a skin thrust through
them. The skin they fix on one of their sides, and carry the head and
neck in one of their hands, while the other holds the bow and arrows. In
this disguise--of course with the feathered side of him presented to the
bird or beast he would get near to--he walks along, pecking with the
head at the bushes, and imitating the motions of the ostrich. By this
stratagem he very often is enabled to get within shot of the other
ostriches, or the quaggas and gnoos which consort with these birds."
"I should like to see that very much," said the Major.
"You would be surprised at the close imitation, as I have been. I ought
to have said that the Bushman whitens his legs with clay. It is,
however, a service of danger, for I have, as I told you, known a man
killed by the male ostrich; and the natives say that it is by no means
uncommon for them to receive very serious injury."
"Hold hard," said the Major, "there is a lion; what a terrible black
mane he has got! What do you say, Swinton? He is by himself."
Swinton looked at the animal, which was crossing about three hundred
yards ahead of them; he was on a low hill, with his head close to the
"I certainly say not. Let him pass, by all means; and I only hope he
will take no notice of us. I must give you the advice which an old
Namaqua chief gave me. He said--'Whenever you see a lion moving in the
middle of the day, you may be certain that he is in great want of food
and very angry. Never attack one then, for they are very dangerous and
most desperate,' If, therefore, Major, you wish a very serious affair,
and one or two lives lost you will attack that animal. But you must
expect that what I say will happen."
"Indeed, my dear Swinton, I neither wish to lose my own life, nor to
risk those of others, and therefore we will remain here till his majesty
has had time to get out of our way; and I hope he may soon find a
By this time the caravan had come up with them, and they then proceeded.
The face of the country became even more sterile, and at last not an
animal of any description was to be seen. As there was nothing for the
oxen to feed upon they continued their route during the whole of the
day, and at night they halted and secured the cattle to the wagons. Wood
for fires they were not able to procure, and therefore they made one
half of the Hottentots watch during the night with their muskets to
scare off wild beasts. But, as Swinton observed, there was little chance
of their being disturbed by lions or other animals, as they were so
distant from water, and there was no game near them upon which the wild
beasts prey; and so it proved, for during the whole night they did not
even hear the cry of a hyena or a jackal.
At the first gleaming of light the oxen were again yoked, with the
hopes of their being able to gain the Val River by night. The relay oxen
were now put to, to relieve those which appeared to suffer most. At noon
the heat was dreadful, and the horses, which could not support the want
of water as the oxen could, were greatly distressed. They continued for
about two hours more, and then perceived a few low trees. Begum, who had
been kept without water, that she might exert herself to find it,
started off as fast as she could, followed by Omrah. After running to
the trees, they altered their course to the eastward, toward some ragged
rocks. The caravan arrived at the trees, which they found were growing
on the banks of the river Alexandria, which they knew they should pass;
but not a drop of water was to be discovered; even the pools were quite
dry. As they searched about, all of a sudden Begum came running back
screaming, and with every mark of terror, and clung, as usual, to the
Major when frightened.
"Where is the Bushboy?" said Bremen.
"Something has happened," cried Swinton; "come all of you with your
The whole party, Hottentots and all, hastened toward the rocks where
Omrah and Begum had been in search of water. As soon as they reached
within fifty paces, quite out of breath with their haste, they were
saluted with the quah, quah, of a herd of baboons, which were perched at
the edge of the rocks, and which threatened them in their usual way,
standing on their fore-legs, and making as if they would fly at them.
"Now, then, what is to be done?" said the Major. "Shall we fire? Do you
think that they have possession of the boy?"
"If they have, they will let him go. Yes, we are too numerous for them
now, and they will not show fight, depend upon it. Let us all take good
aim and fire a volley right into them."
"Well, then, I'll take that venerable old chap that appears to be the
leader, and the great-grandfather of them all," said the Major. "Are you
all ready?--then fire."
The volley had its effect; three or four of the animals were killed,
many were wounded, and the whole herd went scampering off with loud
shrieks and cries, the wounded trailing themselves after the others as
well as they could.
The whole party then ascended the crags to look after Omrah--all but
Begum, who would not venture. They had hardly gained the summit when
they heard Omrah's voice below, but could not see him. "There he is,
sir," said Swanevelt, "down below there." Swinton and the Major went
down again, and at last, guided by the shouts of the boy, they came to a
narrow cleft in the rock, about twenty feet deep, at the bottom of which
they heard, but could not see, the boy. The cleft was so narrow that
none of the men could squeeze down it. Swinton sent one of them back for
some leathern thongs or a piece of rope to let down to him.
During the delay, Bremen inquired of Omrah if he was hurt, and received
an answer in the negative. When the rope came, and was lowered down to
him, Omrah seized it, and was hauled up by the Hottentots. He appeared
to have suffered a little, as his hair was torn out in large handfuls,
and his shirt was in ribbons; but with the exception of some severe
scratches from the nails of the baboons, he had no serious injury. Omrah
explained to the Hottentots, who could talk his language, that Begum and
he had come to the cleft, and had discovered that there was water at the
bottom of it; that Begum had gone down, and that he was following, when
the baboons, which drank in the chasm, had come upon them. Begum had
sprung up and escaped, but he could not; and that the animals had
followed him down, until he was so jammed in the cleft that he could
descend no further; and that there they had pulled out his hair and torn
his shirt, as they saw. Having heard Omrah's story, and satisfied
themselves that he had received no serious injury, they then went to
where the baboons had been shot. Two were dead; but the old one, which
the Major had fired at, was alive, although severely wounded, having
received two shots, one in his arm and the other in his leg, which was
broken by the ball. All the poor old creature's fierceness appeared to
have left him. It was evidently very weak from the loss of blood, and
sat down leaning against the rock. Every now and then it would raise
itself, and look down upon the wound in its leg, examining the hole
where the bullet had passed through; then it would hold up its wounded
arm with its other hand, and look them in the face inquiringly, as much
as to say, "What have you done this for?"
"Poor creature," said Alexander; "how much its motions are those of a
human being. Its mute expostulation is quite painful to witness."
"Very true," said the Major; "but still, if it had not those wounds, it
would tear you to pieces if it could."
"That it certainly would," said Swinton; "but still it is an object of
pity. It can not recover, and we had better put it out of its misery."
Desiring Bremen to shoot the animal through the head, our travelers then
walked back to the caravan. As they returned by the banks of the river,
they perceived Begum very busy, scraping up the baked mud at the bottom
of a pool.
"What is the princess about?" said Alexander.
"I know," cried Omrah, who immediately ran to the assistance of the
baboon; and after a little more scraping, he pulled out a live tortoise
about a foot long.
"I have heard that when the pools dry up, the tortoises remain in the
mud till the pools are filled up again," said Swinton.
"Are they good eating, Swinton?"
"Turtle soup in the desert, that's something unexpected."
The Hottentots now set to work and discovered five or six more, which
they brought out. They then tried in vain to get at the water in the
deep cleft, but finding it impossible, the caravan continued its course.
"How much more of this desert have we to traverse," said Alexander,
"before we come to the river?"
[Illustration: THE TORTOISE DISCOVERY.]
"I fear that we shall not arrive there before to-morrow night," said
Swinton, "unless we travel on during the night, which I think will be
the best plan; for fatiguing as it will be to the animals, they will
be even more exhausted if they pass another day under the sun without
water, and at night they will bear their work better. We gain nothing by
stopping, as the longer they are on the journey, the more they will be
"I am really fearful for the horses, they suffer so much."
"At night we will wash their mouths with a sponge full of water; we can
spare so much for the poor creatures."
"In the deserts of Africa you have always one of three dangers to
encounter," said Swinton; "wild men, wild beasts, and want of water."
"And the last is the worst of the three," replied the Major. "We shall
have a moon to-night for a few hours."
"Yes, and if we had not, it would be of no consequence; the stars give
light enough, and we have little chance of wild beasts here. We now want
water; as soon as we get rid of that danger, we shall then have the
other to encounter."
The sun went down at last; the poor oxen toiled on with their tongues
hanging out of their mouths. At sunset, the relay oxen were yoked, and
they continued their course by the stars. The horses had been refreshed,
as Swinton had proposed; but they were too much exhausted to be ridden,
and our travelers, with their guns on their shoulders, and the dogs
loose, to give notice of any danger, now walked by the sides of the
wagons over the sandy ground. The stars shone out brilliantly, and even
the tired cattle felt relief, from the comparative coolness of the night
air. All was silent, except the creaking of the wheels of the wagons,
and the occasional sighs of the exhausted oxen, as they thus passed
through the desert.
"Well," observed the Major, after they had walked about an hour without
speaking, "I don't know what your thoughts may have been all this while,
but it has occurred to me that a party of pleasure may be carried to too
great lengths; and I think that I have been very selfish, in persuading
Wilmot to undergo all that we have undergone and are likely to undergo,
merely because I wished to shoot a giraffe."
"I presume that I must plead guilty also," replied Swinton, "in having
assisted to induce him; but you know a naturalist is so ardent in his
pursuit that he thinks of nothing else."
"I do not think that you have either of you much to answer for," replied
Alexander; "I was just as anxious to go as you were; and as far as I am
concerned, have not the slightest wish to turn back again, till we have
executed our proposed plans. We none of us undertook this journey with
the expectation of meeting with no difficulties or no privations; and I
fully anticipate more than we have yet encountered, or are encountering
now. If I get back on foot, and without a sole left to my shoe, I shall
be quite content; at the same time, I will not continue it if you both
wish to return."
"Indeed, my dear fellow, I have no wish but to go on; but I was afraid
that we were running you into dangers which we have no right to do."
"You have a right, allowing that I did not myself wish to proceed,"
replied Alexander. "You escorted me safe through the country to
ascertain a point in which you had not the slightest interest, and it
would indeed be rewarding you very ill, if I were now to refuse to
gratify you: but the fact is, I am gratifying myself at the same time."
"Well, I am very glad to hear you say so," replied the Major, "as it
makes my mind at ease; what time do you think it is, Swinton?"
"It is about three o'clock; we shall soon have daylight, and I hope with
daylight we shall have some sight to cheer us. We have traveled well,
and can not by my reckoning be far from the Val River. Since yesterday
morning we have made sixty miles or thereabouts; and if we have not
diverged from our course, the poor animals will soon be relieved."
They traveled on another weary hour, when Begum gave a cry, and started
off ahead of the wagons; the oxen raised their heads to the wind, and
those which were not in the yokes after a short while broke from the
keepers, and galloped off, followed by the horses, sheep, and dogs. The
oxen in the yokes also became quite unruly, trying to disengage
themselves from the traces.
"They have smelt the water; it is not far off, sir," said Bremen; "we
had better unyoke them all, and let them go."
"Yes, by all means," said Alexander.
So impatient were the poor beasts, that it was very difficult to
disengage them, and many broke loose before it could be effected; as
soon as they were freed, they followed their companions at the same
"At all events, we shall know where to find them," said the Major,
laughing: "well, I really so felt for the poor animals that I am as
happy as if I was as thirsty as they are, and was now quenching my
thirst. It's almost daylight."
As the day dawned, they continued to advance in the direction that the
animals had taken, and they then distinguished the trees that bordered
the river, which was about two miles distant. As soon as it was broad
daylight, they perceived that the whole landscape had changed in
appearance. Even where they were walking there was herbage, and near to
the river it appeared most luxuriant. Tall mimosa-trees were to be seen
in every direction, and in the distance large forests of timber. All was
verdant and green, and appeared to them as a paradise after the desert
in which they had been wandering on the evening before. As they arrived
at the river's banks, they were saluted with the lively notes of the
birds hymning forth their morning praise, and found the cattle, after
slaking their thirst, were now quietly feeding upon the luxuriant grass
which surrounded them.
"Well may the Psalmist and prophets talk of the beauty of flowing
rivers," said Alexander; "now we feel the truth and beauty of the
language; one would almost imagine that the sacred writings were indited
in these wilds."
"If not in these, they certainly were in the Eastern countries, which
assimilate strongly with them," said Swinton; "but, as you truly say, it
is only by having passed through the country that you can fully
appreciate their beauties. We never know the real value of any thing
till we have felt what it is to be deprived of it; and in a temperate
climate, with a pump in every house, people can not truly estimate the
value of 'flowing rivers.'"
The Hottentots having now arrived, the cattle were driven back to the
wagons and yoked, that they might be brought up to a spot which had been
selected for their encampment. In the mean time our travelers, who were
tired with their night's walk, lay down under a large mimosa-tree, close
to the banks of the river.
"We shall stay here a day or two, of course," said the Major.
"Yes, for the sake of the cattle; the poor creatures deserve a couple of
"Do you observe how the mimosas are torn up on the other side of the
river?" said Swinton; "the elephants have been very numerous there
"Why do they tear the trees up?" said Alexander.
"To feed upon the long roots, which are very sweet; they destroy an
immense number of the smaller trees in that manner."
"Well, we must have another elephant-hunt," said the Major.
"We may have hunts of every kind, I expect, here," replied Swinton; "we
are now in the very paradise of wild animals, and the further we go the
more we shall find."
"What a difference there is in one day's journey in this country,"
observed Alexander; "yesterday morning there was not a creature to be
seen, and all was silent as death. Now listen to the noise of the birds,
and as for beasts, I suspect we shall not have far to look for them."
"No, for there is a hippopotamus just risen; and now he's down
again--there's food for a fortnight at one glance," cried the Major.
"How the horses and sheep are enjoying themselves--they are making up
for lost time; but here come the wagons."
"Well, then, I must get up and attend to my department," said the Major.
"I presume that we must expect our friends the lions again now."
"Where there is food for lions, you must expect lions, Major," said
"Very true, and fuel to keep them off; by the by, turtle soup for
dinner, recollect; tell Mahomed."
"I'll see to it," said Alexander; "but we must have something for
breakfast, as soon as I have had a wash at the river's side. I would
have a bath, only I have such a respect for the hippopotami."
"Yes, you will not forget them in a hurry," said Swinton, laughing.
"Not as long as I have breath in my body, for they took all the breath
out of it. Come, Swinton, will you go with me, and make your toilet at
the river's banks?"
"Yes, and glad to do so; for I am covered with the sand of the desert."
Our travelers remained very quiet that day and the next. The horses had
suffered so much, that they required two days of rest, and they
themselves were not sorry to be inactive after their fatiguing journey
over the desert. The cattle enjoyed the luxuriant pasture, and although
the tracks of the lions were discovered very near to them, yet, as they
had plenty of fuel and attended themselves to the fires, they had not
any visits from them during the night. The Hottentots had been out to
reconnoiter, and found a profusion of game, in a large plain, about two
miles distant; and it was decided that they would rest where they were
for a day or two, if the game were not frightened away. The river had
been crossed by Swanevelt, who stated that there was a large herd of
elephants on the other side, and the tracks of the rhinoceros were to be
seen on both sides of the river.
On the third morning after their arrival at the Val, they set off,
accompanied by the Hottentots, to the plain which they had spoken of;
riding through magnificent groups of acacia or camelthorn trees, many
of which were covered with the enormous nests of the social grosbeaks.
As they descended to the plain they perceived large herds of brindled
gnoos, quaggas, and antelopes, covering the whole face of the country as
far as the eye could reach, moving about in masses to and fro, joining
each other and separating, so that the whole plain seemed alive with
"Is not this splendid?" cried the Major. "Such a sight is worth all the
trouble and labor which we have undergone. What would they say in
England, if they could but behold this scene?"
"There must be thousands and thousands," said Alexander. "Tell me,
Swinton, what beautiful animals are those of a purple color?"
"They are called the purple sassabys," replied Swinton; "one of the most
elegant of the antelope tribe."
"And those red and yellow out there?"
"They are the harte beests. I wish to have male and female specimens of
both, if I can."
"See!" said the Major, "there is a fine flock of ostriches. We are
puzzled where to begin. Come, we have surveyed the scene long enough;
now forward,--to change it."
They rode down, and were soon within shot of the animals, and the rifles
began their work. The Hottentots commenced firing from various points,
and, alarmed by the report of the guns, the animals now fled away in
every direction, and the whole place was one cloud of dust. Our
travelers put their horses to their speed, and soon came up with them
again, as their numbers impeded the animals in their flight. Every shot
told, for it was hardly possible to miss; and the Hottentots who
followed on foot, put those who were wounded out of their misery. At
last the horses were too fatigued and too much out of wind to continue
the pursuit, and they reined up.
"Well, Alexander, this has been sport, has it not?" said the Major.
"Yes, a grand battue, on a grand scale, indeed."
"There were three animals which you did not observe," said Swinton;
"but it was impossible to get at them, they were so far off; but we must
try for them another time."
"What were they?"
"The elands, the largest of the antelope tribe," replied Swinton, "and
the best eating of them all. Sometimes they are nineteen hands high at
the chest, and will weigh nearly 2,000 lbs. It has the head of an
antelope, but the body is more like that of an ox. It has magnificent
straight horns, but they are not dangerous. They are easily run down,
for, generally speaking, they are very fat and incapable of much
"We will look out for them to-morrow," said the Major. "See how the
vultures are hovering over us; they know there will be bones for them to
pick this night."
"More than bones," replied Alexander; "for what can we do with so many
carcasses? There is provision for a month, if it would keep. What a
prodigious variety of animals there appears to be in this country."
"Yes, they are congregated here, because the country, from want of rain,
may be considered as barren. But within eight or nine degrees of
latitude from the Cape, we find the largest and most minute of creation.
We have the ostrich and the little creeper among the birds. Among the
beasts we have the elephant, weighing 4,000 lbs., and the black specked
mouse, weighing a quarter of an ounce. We have the giraffe, seventeen
feet high, and the little viverra, a sort of weasel, of three inches. I
believe there are thirty varieties of antelopes known and described;
eighteen of them are found in this country, and there are the largest
and smallest of the species; for we have the eland, and we have the
pigmy antelope, which is not above six inches high. We see here also the
intermediate links of many genera, such as the eland and the gnoo; and
as we find the elephant, the rhinoceros, and Wilmot's friend, the
hippopotamus, we certainly have the bulkiest animals in existence."
Bremen now came up to say that they had discovered a rhinoceros close to
the river-side, concealed in the bushes underneath a clump of acacia.
The Major and Alexander having declared their intention of immediately
going in pursuit, Swinton advised them to be cautious, as the charge of
a rhinoceros was a very awkward affair, if they did not get out of the
way. They rode down to the clump of trees and bushes where the animal
was said to be hid, and, by the advice of Bremen, sent for the dogs to
worry the animal out. Bremen, who was on foot, was desired by the Major
to take the horse which Omrah rode, that he might be more expeditious,
and our travelers remained with a clear space of two hundred yards
between them and the bushes where the animal was concealed. The
Hottentots had also followed them, and were ordered on no account to
fire till they had taken their positions, and the dogs were sent in to
drive the animal out.
When Bremen was but a short distance from them with the dogs, Swinton
advised that they should dismount and take possession of a small clump
of trees which grew very close together, as they would be concealed from
the animal. They called Omrah to take the horses, but he was not to be
seen; so they gave them to one of the Hottentots, to lead them to some
distance out of harm's way.
"The vision of the rhinoceros is so limited," observed Swinton, "that it
is not difficult to get out of his way on his first charge; but at his
second he is generally prepared for your maneuver. A ball in the
shoulder is the most fatal. Look out, Bremen has turned in the dogs."
The barking of the dogs, which commenced as soon as they entered the
bushes, did not continue more than a minute, when a female rhinoceros of
the black variety burst out of the thicket in pursuit of the retreating
dogs. Several shots were fired by the Hottentots, who were concealed in
different quarters without effect; the animal rushing along and tearing
up the ground with its horns, looking out for its enemies. At last it
perceived a Hottentot, who showed himself from a bush near to where our
travelers were concealed. The animal charged immediately, and in
charging was brought down on its knees by a shot from Alexander. The
Hottentots rushed out, regardless of Swinton's calling out to them to
be careful, as the animal was not dead, and had surrounded it within a
few yards, when it rose again and fiercely charged Swanevelt, who
narrowly escaped. A shot from the Major put an end to its career, and
they then walked to where the animal lay, when a cry from Omrah, who was
standing near the river, attracted their notice, and they perceived that
the male rhinoceros, of whose presence they were not aware, had just
burst out of the same covert, and was charging toward them.
Every one immediately took to his heels; many of the Hottentots in their
fear dropping their muskets, and fortunately the distance they were from
the covert gave them time to conceal themselves in the thickets before
the animal had time to come up with them. A shot from Swinton turned the
assailant, who now tore up the earth in his rage, looking everywhere
round with its sharp flashing eye for a victim. At this moment, while it
seemed hesitating and peering about, to the astonishment of the whole
party, Omrah showed himself openly on the other side of the rhinoceros,
waving his red handkerchief, which he had taken off his head. The
rhinoceros, the moment that the boy caught his eye, rushed furiously
toward him. "The boy's lost," cried Swinton; but hardly had the words
gone from his mouth, when to their astonishment, the rhinoceros
disappeared, and Omrah stood capering and shouting with delight. The
fact was that Omrah, when he had left our travelers, had gone down
toward the river, and as he went along had with his light weight passed
over what he knew full well to be one of the deep pits dug by the
Bushmen to catch those animals. Having fully satisfied himself that it
was so, he had remained by the side of it, and when the rhinoceros
rushed at him, had kept the pit between himself and the animal. His
object was to induce the animal to charge at him, which it did, and when
within four yards of the lad, had plunged into the pit dug for him. The
success of Omrah's plan explained the whole matter at once, and our
travelers hastened up to where the rhinoceros was impounded, and found
that a large stake, fixed upright in the center of the pit, had impaled
the animal. A shot from the Major put an end to the fury and agony of
"I never was more excited in my life; I thought the boy was mad and
wanted to lose his life," said Alexander.
"And so did I," replied Swinton; "and yet I ought to have known him
better. It was admirably done; here we have an instance of the
superiority of man endowed with reasoning power over brutes. A
rhinoceros will destroy the elephant; the lion can make no impression on
him, and flies before him like a cat. He is, in fact, the most powerful
of all animals; he fears no enemy, not even man, when he is provoked or
wounded; and yet he has fallen by the cleverness of that little monkey
of a Bushboy. I think, Major, we have done enough now, and may go back
to the caravan."
"Yes, I am well satisfied with our day's sport, and am not a little
hungry. We may now let the Hottentots bring home as much game as they
can. You have taken care to give directions about your specimens,
"Yes, Bremen knows the animals I require, and is now after them. Omrah,
run and tell that fellow to bring our horses here."
"Swinton, can birds and beasts talk, or can they not?" said the Major.
"I ask that question because I am now looking at the enormous nests of
the grosbeaks. It is a regular town, with some hundreds of houses. These
birds, as well as those sagacious animals, the beaver, the ant, and the
bee, not to mention a variety of others, must have some way of
communicating their ideas."
"That there is no doubt of," replied Swinton, laughing; "but still I
believe that man only is endowed with speech."
"Well, we know that; but if not with speech, they must have some means
of communication which answers as well"
"As far as their wants require it, no doubt," replied Swinton, "but to
what extent is hidden from us. Animals have instinct and reasoning
powers, but not reason."
"Where is the difference?"
"The reasoning powers are generally limited to their necessities; but
with animals who are the companions of man, they appear to be more
"We have a grand supper to-night," said Alexander; "what shall I help
you to--harte-beest, sassaby, or rhinoceros?"
"Thank you," replied the Major, laughing; "I'll trouble you for a small
piece of that rhinoceros steak--underdone, if you please."
"How curious that would sound in Grosvenor Square."
"Not if you shot the animals in Richmond Park," said Swinton.
"Those rascally Hottentots will collect no fuel to-night if we do not
make them do it now," said the Major. "If they once begin to stuff it
will be all over with them."
"Very true; we had better set them about it before the feast begins.
Call Bremen, Omrah."
"Having given their directions, our party finished their supper, and
then Alexander asked Swinton whether he had ever known any serious
accidents resulting from the hunting of the rhinoceros.
"Yes," replied Swinton; "I once was witness to the death of a native
"Then pray tell us the story," said the Major. "By hearing how other
people have suffered, we learn how to take care of ourselves."
"Before I do so, I will mention what was told me by a Namaqua chief
about a lion; I am reminded of it by the Major's observations as to the
means animals have of communicating with each other. Once when I was
traveling in Namaqua-land, I observed a spot which was imprinted with at
least twenty spoors or marks of a lion's paw; and as I pointed them out
a Namaqua chief told me that a lion had been practicing his leap. On
demanding an explanation, he said that if a lion sprang at an animal,
and missed it by leaping short, he would always go back to where he
sprang from, and practice the leap so as to be successful on another
occasion; and he then related to me the following anecdote, stating that
he was an eye-witness to the incident:
"'I was passing near the end of a craggy hill from which jutted out a
smooth rock of from ten to twelve feet high, when I perceived a number
of zebras galloping round it, which they were obliged to do, as the rock
beyond was quite steep. A lion was creeping toward the rock to catch the
male zebra, which brought up the rear of the herd. The lion sprang and
missed his mark; he fell short, with only his head over the edge of the
rock, and the zebra galloped away, switching his tail in the air.
Although the object of his pursuit was gone, the lion tried the leap on
the rock a second and a third time, till he succeeded. During this two
more lions came up and joined the first lion. They seemed to be talking,
for they roared a great deal to each other; and then the first lion led
them round the rock again and again. Then he made another grand leap, to
show them what he and they must do another time.' The chief added, 'They
evidently were talking to each other, but I could not understand a word
of what they said, although they talked loud enough; but I thought it
was as well to be off, or they might have some talk about me.'"
"Well, they certainly do not whisper," said the Major, laughing. "Thank
you for that story, Swinton, and now for the rhinoceros hunt."
"I was once out hunting with a Griqua, of the name of Henrick, and two
or three other men; we had wounded a springbok, and were following its
track, when we came upon the footing of a rhinoceros, and shortly
afterward we saw a large black male in the bush."
"You mention a black rhinoceros. Is there any other?"
"Yes, there is a white rhinoceros, as it is called, larger than the
black, but not so dangerous. It is, in fact, a stupid sort of animal.
The black rhinoceros, as you are aware, is very fierce. Well, to
continue: Henrick slipped down behind a bush, fired, and wounded the
animal severely in the foreleg. The rhinoceros charged, we all fled, and
the animal, singling out one of our men, closely pursued him; but the
man, stopping short, while the horn of the rhinoceros plowed up the
ground at his heels, dexterously jumped on one side. The rhinoceros
missed him and passed on in full speed, and before the brute could
recover himself and change his course, the whole of us had climbed up
into trees. The rhinoceros, limping with his wound, went round and
round, trying to find us out by the scent, but he tried in vain. At
last, one of the men, who had only an assaguay, said, 'Well, how long
are we going to stay here? Why don't you shoot?'
"'Well,' said Henrick, 'if you are so anxious to shoot, you may if you
please. Here is my powder-and-shot belt, and my gun lies under the tree.
The man immediately descended from the tree, loaded the gun, and
approaching the rhinoceros he fired and wounded it severely in the jaw.
The animal was stunned, and dropped on the spot. Thinking that it was
dead, we all descended fearlessly and collected round it; and the man
who had fired was very proud, and was giving directions to the others,
when of a sudden the animal began to recover, and kicked with his hind
legs. Henrick told us all to run for our lives, and set us the example.
The rhinoceros started up again, and singling out the unfortunate man
who had got down and fired at it, roaring and snorting with rage,
thundered after him.
"The man, perceiving that he could not outrun the beast, tried the same
plan as the other hunter did when the rhinoceros charged him: stopping
short, he jumped on one side, that the animal might pass him; but the
brute was not to be balked a second time; he caught the man on his horn
under the left thigh, and cutting it open as if it had been done with an
ax, tossed him a dozen yards up in the air. The poor fellow fell facing
the rhinoceros, with his legs spread; the beast rushed at him again, and
ripped up his body from his stomach to almost his throat, and again
tossed him in the air. Again he fell heavily to the ground. The
rhinoceros watched his fall, and running up to him trod upon him and
pounded him to a mummy. After this horrible tragedy, the beast limped
off into a bush. Henrick then crept up to the bush; the animal dashed
out again, and would certainly have killed another man if a dog had not
turned it. In turning short round upon the dog, the bone of its
fore-leg, which had been half broken through by Henrick's first shot,
snapped in two, and it fell, unable to recover itself, and was then shot
"A very awkward customer, at all events," observed the Major. "I presume
a leaden bullet would not enter?"
"No, it would flatten against most parts of his body. By the by, I saw
an instance of a rhinoceros having been destroyed by that cowardly brute
"Yes, patience and perseverance on the hyena's part effected the work.
The rhinoceros takes a long while to turn round, and the hyena attacked
him behind, biting him with his powerful jaws above the joint of the
hind leg, and continued so to do, till he had severed all the muscles,
and the animal, forced from pain to lie down, was devoured as you may
say alive from behind; the hyena still tearing at the same quarter,
until he arrived at the vital parts. By the track which was marked by
the blood of the rhinoceros, the hyena must have followed the animal for
many miles, until the rhinoceros was in such pain that it could proceed
no further.--But if you are to hunt to-morrow at daybreak, it is time to
go to sleep; so good-night."
At daybreak the next morning, they took a hasty meal, and started again
for the plain. Swinton, having to prepare his specimens, did not
accompany them. There was a heavy fog on the plain when they arrived at
it, and they waited for a short time, skirting the south side of it,
with the view of drawing the animals toward the encampment. At last the
fog vanished, and discovered the whole country, as before, covered with
every variety of wild animals. But as their object was to obtain the
eland antelope, they remained stationary for some time, seeking for
those animals among the varieties which were scattered in all
directions. At last Omrah, whose eyes were far keener than even the
Hottentots', pointed out three at a distance, under a large acacia
thorn. They immediately rode at a trot in that direction, and the
various herds of quaggas, gnoos, and antelopes scoured away before them;
and so numerous were they, and such was the clattering of hoofs, that
you might have imagined that it was a heavy charge of cavalry. The
objects of their pursuit remained quiet until they were within three
hundred yards of them, and then they set off at a speed, notwithstanding
their heavy and unwieldy appearance, which for a short time completely
distanced the horses. But this speed could not be continued, and the
Major and Alexander soon found themselves rapidly coming up. The poor
animals exerted themselves in vain; their sleek coats first turned to a
blue color, and then white with foam and perspiration, and at last they
were beaten to a stand-still, and were brought down by the rifles of our
travelers, who then dismounted their horses, and walked up to the
"What magnificent animals!" exclaimed Alexander.
"They are enormous, certainly," said the Major.
"Look at the beautiful dying eye of that noble beast. Is it not
"Yes, imploring for mercy, as it were, poor creature."
"Well, these three beasts, that they say are such good eating, weigh
more than fifty antelopes."
"More than fifty springboks, I grant. Well, what shall we do now?"
"Let our horses get their wind again, and then we will see if we can
fall in with some new game."
"I saw two or three antelopes, of a very different sort from the
sassabys and harte-beests, toward that rising ground. We will go that
way as soon as the Hottentots come up and take charge of our game."
"Does Swinton want to preserve one of these creatures?"
"I believe not, they are so very bulky. He says we shall find plenty as
we go on, and that he will not encumber the wagons with a skin until we
leave the Val River, and turn homeward. Now, Bremen and Omrah, come with
The Major and Alexander then turned their horses' heads, and rode slowly
toward the hill which they had noticed, and the antelopes which the
Major had observed were now seen among the bushes which crowned the
hill. Bremen said that he did not know the animals, and the Major was
most anxious to obtain one to surprise Swinton with. As soon as they
came within two hundred yards of the bushes on the other side of which
the antelopes were seen, the Major gave his horse to Omrah and advanced
alone very cautiously, that he might bring one down with his rifle. He
gained the bushes without alarming the animals, and the party left
behind were anxiously watching his motions, expecting him every moment
to fire, when the Major suddenly turned round and came back at a hurried
"What is the matter?" said Alexander.
"Matter enough to stop my growth for all my life," replied the Major.
"If ever my heart was in my mouth, it was just now. I was advancing
softly, and step by step, toward the antelopes, and was just raising my
rifle to fire, when I heard something flapping the ground three or four
yards before me. I looked down, and it was the tail of a lioness, which
fortunately was so busy watching the antelopes with her head the other
way, that she did not perceive my being near her; whereupon I beat a
retreat, as you have witnessed."
"Well, what shall we do now?"
"Wait a little till I have recovered my nerves," said the Major, "and
then I'll be revenged upon her. Swinton is not here to preach prudence,
and have a lion-hunt I will."
"With all my heart," replied Alexander. "Bremen, we are going to attack
"Yes, sir," said Bremen; "then we had better follow Cape fashion. We
will back the horses toward her, and Omrah will hold them while we will
attack her. I think one only had better fire, so we keep two guns in
"You are right, Bremen," said Alexander. "Then you and I will reserve
our fire, and the Major shall try his rifle upon her."
With some difficulty the horses were backed toward the bush, until the
Major could again distinguish where the lioness lay, at about sixty
paces' distance. The animal appeared still occupied with the game in
front of her, watching her opportunity to spring, for her tail and
hind-quarters were toward them. The Major fired, and the animal bounded
off with a loud roar; while the antelopes flew away like the wind. The
roar of the lioness was answered by a deep growl from another part of
the bush, and immediately afterward a lion bolted out, and bounded from
the bushes across the plain, to a small mimosa grove about a quarter of
a mile off.
"What a splendid animal!" said Alexander; "look at his black mane, it
almost sweeps the ground."
"We must have him," cried the Major, jumping on his horse.
Alexander, Bremen, and Omrah did the same, and they followed the lion,
which stood at bay under the mimosas, measuring the strength of the
party, and facing them in a most noble and imposing manner. It appeared,
however, that he did not like their appearance, or was not satisfied
with his own position, for as they advanced he retreated at a slow pace,
and took up his position on the summit of a stony hill close by, the
front of which was thickly dotted with low thorn-bushes. The
thorn-bushes extended about 200 yards from where the lion stood,
disdainfully surveying the party as they approached toward him, and
appearing, with a conscious pride in his own powers, to dare them to
They dismounted from their horses as soon as they arrived at the
thorn-bushes, and the Major fired. The rifle-ball struck the rock close
to the lion, who replied with an angry growl. The Major then took the
gun from Omrah and fired, and again the ball struck close to the
animal's feet. The lion now shook his mane, gave another angry roar; and
by the glistening of his eyes, and the impatient switching of his tail,
it was evident that he would soon become the attacking party.
"Load both your guns again," said Alexander, "and then let me have a
As soon as the Major's guns were loaded, Alexander took aim and fired.
The shot broke the lion's fore-leg, which he raised up with a voice of
thunder, and made a spring from the rock toward where our party stood.
"Steady now," cried the Major to Bremen, at the same time handing his
spare rifle to Alexander.
The rush of the angry animal was heard through the bushes advancing
nearer and nearer; and they all stood prepared for the encounter. At
last out the animal sprang, his mane bristling on end, his tail straight
out, and his eyeballs flashing rage and vengeance. He came down upon the
hind-quarters of one of the horses, which immediately started off,
overthrowing and dragging Omrah to some distance. One of the lion's legs
being broken, had occasioned the animal to roll off on the side of the
horse, and he now remained on the ground ready for a second spring, when
he received a shot through the back from Bremen, who stood behind him.
The lion, with another dreadful roar, attempted to spring upon the
Major, who was ready with his rifle to receive him; but the shot from
Bremen had passed through his spine and paralyzed his hind-quarters, and
he made the attempt in vain, a second and a third time throwing his
fore-quarters up in the air, and then falling down again, when a bullet
from the Major passed through his brain. The noble beast sunk down,
gnawing the ground and tearing it with the claws of the leg which had
not been wounded, and then, in a few seconds, breathed his last.
"I am glad that is over, Alexander," said the Major; "it was almost too
exciting to be pleasant."
"It was very awful for the time, I must acknowledge," replied Alexander.
"What an enormous brute! I think I never saw such a magnificent skin.
"It is yours by the laws of war," said the Major.
"Nay," replied Alexander, "it was you that gave him his _coup de grace_"
"Yes, but if you had not broken his leg, he might have given some of us
our _coup de grace_. No, no, the skin is yours. Now the horses are off,
and we can not send for the Hottentots. They have got rid of Omrah, who
is coming back with his shirt torn into tatters."
"The men will catch the horses and bring them here, depend upon it,
sir," said Bremen, "and then they can take off the skin."
"Well, if I am to have the lion's skin, I must have that of the lioness
also, Major; so we must finish our day's hunting with forcing her to
join her mate."
"Very good, with all my heart."
"Better wait till the men come with the horses, sir," said Bremen;
"three guns are too few to attack a lion--very great danger indeed."
"Bremen is right, Alexander; we must not run such a risk again. Depend
upon it, if the animal's leg had not been broken, we should not have had
so easy a conquest. Let us sit down quietly till the men come up."
In about half an hour, as Bremen had conjectured, the Hottentots,
perceiving the horses loose, and suspecting that something had happened,
went in chase of them, and as soon as they had succeeded in catching
them, brought them in the direction to which they had seen our travelers
ride. They were not a little astonished at so small a party having
ventured to attack a lion, and gladly prepared for the attack of the
lioness. Three of the dogs having accompanied them, it was decided that
they should be put into the bushes where the lioness was lying when the
Major fired at her, so as to discover where she now was; and leaving the
lion for the present, they all set off for the first jungle.
The dogs could not find the lioness in the bushes, and it was evident
that she had retreated to some other place; and Swanevelt, who was an
old lion-hunter, gave his opinion that she would be found in the
direction near to where the lion was killed. They went therefore in that
direction, and found that she was in the clump of mimosas to which the
lion had first retreated. The previous arrangement of backing the horses
toward where she lay was attempted, but the animals had been too much
frightened in the morning by the lion's attack, to be persuaded. They
reared and plunged in such a manner as to be with difficulty prevented
from breaking loose; it was therefore necessary to abandon that plan,
and trust to themselves and their numbers. The clump of trees was
surrounded by the party, and the dogs encouraged to go in, which they
did, every now and then rushing back from the paws of the lioness. The
Hottentots now fired into the clump at random, and their volleys were
answered by the loud roars of the animal, which would not, however, show
herself, and half an hour was passed away in this manner.
At last she was perceived at one side of the jungle, by Swanevelt, who
fired with effect, for the animal gave a loud roar, and then bounded
out, not attempting to rush upon any person, but to make her escape from
her assailants. A volley was fired at her, and one shot took effect, for
she fell with her head to the ground, and tumbled right over; but
immediately after she recovered herself, and made off for the bushes
where she had been first discovered.
"She was hit hard that time, at all events," said the Major.
"Yes, sir," said Bremen, "that was her deathshot, I should think; but
she is not dead yet, and may give us a great deal of trouble."
They followed her as fast as they could on foot, and the dogs were soon
upon her again; the animal continued to roar, and always from the same
spot; so that it was evident she was severely wounded. Alexander and the
Major reserved their fire, and approached to where the dogs were baying,
not twenty yards from the jungle. Another roar was given, and suddenly
the body of the lioness rushed through the air, right in the direction
where they stood; she passed, however, between them, and when she
reached the ground, she fell on her side, quite dead. It was her last
expiring effort, and she died in the attempt. Alexander and the Major,
who were both ready to fire, lowered their rifles when they perceived
that she was dead.
"Well," said the Major, "I will say that when I first saw her tail, I
was more frightened than I was just now, when she made the spring; I was
so taken by surprise."
"I don't doubt it. She is a very large animal, and will make a handsome
companion to the lion. If we live and do well, and get home to England
again, I will have her stuffed along with him, and put them in the same
"I trust you will, and that I shall come and see them," replied the
"I am sure I do, from my heart, my good fellow. I am very much pleased
at our having killed both these beasts, without Swinton being with us,
as he would have been persuading us to leave them alone."
"And he would have done very right," replied the Major. "We are two
naughty boys, and shall be well scolded when we go back."
"Which I vote we do now. I think we have done quite enough for to-day."
"Yes, indeed," replied the Major, mounting his horse; "enough to talk of
all our lives. Now let us gallop home, and say nothing about having
killed the lions until the Hottentots bring them to the caravan."
"Well, what sport have you had?" was Swinton's first question when he
was joined by Alexander and the Major. Replied the latter--"Pretty well;
we saw an antelope quite new to us, which we tried very hard to shoot,
but were prevented by an unexpected meeting with a lioness." The Major
then gave an account of his perceiving the tail of the lioness, and his
"I am very glad to hear that you were so prudent, Major; it would have
been a very rash thing to attack a lioness with only three guns. So the
"Yes, but we have the elands, which you say are such good eating. Do we
stay here any longer, or do we proceed up the river?"
"You must ask Wilmot to decide that point," said Swinton.
"It is just as you please," said Alexander; "but they say that the more
you go to the northward, the more plentiful is the game."
"Yes, and we shall fall in with the giraffe," said the Major, "which is
now the great object of my ambition. I have killed the rhinoceros and
elephant, and now I must have the giraffe; they can kill the two first
animals in India, but the other is only to be had in this country."
"And when you meet again your Indian friends, you wish to say that you
have killed what they have not?"
"Certainly; what is the good of traveling so far, if one has not
something to boast of when one returns? If I say I have hunted and
killed the rhinoceros and elephant, they may reply to me, 'So have we;'
but if I add the giraffe, that will silence them; don't you observe,
Swinton, I then remain master of the field? But here come the Hottentots
with our game; come, Swinton, leave your preparations for a little
while, and see what our morning's sport has been."
Swinton put aside the skin of the sassaby that he was cleaning, and
walked with them to where the men were assembled, and was not a little
surprised when he saw the skins and jaws of the lion and lioness. He was
still more so when the Major recounted how they had been shot.
"You certainly have run a great risk," said he, "and I am glad that you
have been so successful. You are right in saying that I should have
persuaded you not to attempt it; you are like two little boys who have
taken advantage of the absence of their tutor to run into mischief.
However, I am glad that it has been done, as I now hope your desire to
kill a lion will not again lead you into unnecessary danger."
"No, indeed," replied Alexander; "having once accomplished the feat, and
being fully aware of the great risk that is run, we shall be more
prudent in future."
"That is all I ask of you," said Swinton, "for I should be unhappy if we
did not all three return safe to the Cape. I never saw a finer lion's
skin: I will arrange it for you, that it shall arrive at the Cape in
As usual, the afternoon was by the Hottentots devoted to eating as much
as they could possibly contrive to get down their throats; the flesh of
the eland was pronounced excellent by our travelers, and there was much
more than they could possibly consume. The Hottentots were only allowed
to bring a certain quantity into the camp, that they might not attract
the wild beasts. They would have brought it all in, although they never
could have eaten it. The cattle were driven up in the evening, the fires
lighted, and the night passed quietly away.
At daylight they turned the cattle out to graze for a couple of hours,
and then yoked and proceeded on their journey, keeping as near as they
could to the banks of the river. They saw many hippopotami, snorting and
rising for a moment above the water, but they passed by them without
attempting to shoot at them, as they did not wish to disturb the other
game. As they advanced, the variety of flowers which were in bloom
attracted the notice of Alexander, who observed--"Does not this plain
put you in mind of a Turkey carpet, Major; so gay with every variety of
"Yes, and as scentless," replied the Major; "they are all very brilliant
in appearance; but one modest English violet is, to my fancy, worth them
"I agree with you," replied Swinton; "but still you must acknowledge
that this country is beautiful beyond description,--these grassy meads
so spangled with numerous flowers, and so broken by the masses of grove
and forest! Look at these aloes blooming in profusion, with their coral
tufts--in England what would they pay for such an exhibition?--and the
crimson and lilac hues of these poppies and amaryllis blended together:
neither are you just in saying that there is no scent in this gay
parterre. The creepers which twine up those stately trees are very
sweetly scented; and how picturesque are the twinings of those vines
upon the mimosas. I can not well imagine the garden of Eden to have been
"And in another respect there is a resemblance," said the Major,
laughing; "the serpent is in it"
"Yes, I grant that," replied Swinton.
"Well, I can feel no real pleasure without security; if I am to be ever
on the alert, and turning my eyes in every direction, that I may not
tread upon a puff adder, or avoid the dart of the cobra capella, I can
feel little pleasure in looking at the rich hues of those flowers which
conceal them. As I said before, give me the violet and the rose of
England, which I can pick and smell in security."
"I agree with you, Major," said Alexander; "but," continued he,
laughing, "we must make allowance for Swinton, as a naturalist. A puff
adder has a charm for him, because it adds one more to the numerous
specimens to be obtained; and he looks upon these flowers as a
botanist, rejoicing as he adds to his herbal, or gathers seeds and bulbs
to load his wagon with. You might as well find fault with a husbandman
for rejoicing in a rich harvest."
"Or with himself, for being so delighted at the number and the variety
of the animals which fall to his rifle," replied Swinton, smiling.
"There I have you, Major."
"I grant it," replied the Major; "but what is that in the river--the
back of a hippopotamus?"
"No, it is the back of an elephant, I should rather think; but the reeds
are so high, that it is difficult to ascertain. There may be a herd
bathing in the river, nothing more likely."
"Let us stop the caravan; the creaking of these wheels would drive away
any thing," replied the Major; "we will then ride forward and see what
it is. It is not more than half a mile from us."
"Be it so," replied Swinton. "Omrah, get the rifles, and tell Bremen to
come here. Now, Major, is it to be a regular hunt, or only a passing
shot at them; for I now perceive through my glass that they are
"Well, I think a passing shot will be best; for if we are to hunt, we
must send a party on the opposite side of the river, and that will be a
"I think myself it will be better to proceed," said Swinton; "so now
then, to scatter the enemy."
They soon arrived at that part of the river where they had at a distance
discovered the elephants bathing; but as they approached, the high reeds
prevented them from seeing the animals, although they could hear them
plainly. At last, as they proceeded a little further up the river, they
discovered a female with its young one by its side; the mother playing
with its offspring, pouring water over it with its trunk, and now and
then pressing it into the water, so as to compel it to swim. They
watched the motions of the animals for some time, and the Major first
broke silence by saying, "I really have not the heart to fire at the
poor creature; its maternal kindness, and the playing of the little one,
are too interesting. It would be cruel, now that we do not want meat,
for an eland is to be killed every ten minutes."
"I am glad to hear you say so," replied Swinton. "Let us fire over them,
and set them all in motion."
"Agreed," said the Major; "this is to start them," and he fired off his
rifle in the air.
The noise that ensued was quite appalling; the shrieks and cries of the
elephants, and the treading down and rushing through the reeds, the
splashing and floundering in the mud, for a few seconds, was followed by
the bounding out of the whole herd on the opposite bank of the river,
tossing their trunks, raising up their ears, roaring wildly, and
starting through the bushes into the forest from which they had
descended. Two large males only were to be perceived among the whole
herd, the rest were all females and their young ones, who scrambled away
after the males, crowding together, but still occasionally looking
behind after their young ones, till they had all disappeared in the
forest, the cracking and crushing of the bushes in which were heard for
many minutes afterward.
"That was a splendid scene," said Alexander.
"Yes, it was a living panorama, which one must come to Africa to
"I do not think that I shall ever become a true elephant-hunter," said
the Major. "I feel a sort of repugnance to destroy so sagacious an
animal, and a degree of remorse when one lies dead. At the same time, if
once accustomed to the fearful crashing and noise attending their
movements, I do not consider them very dangerous animals to pursue."
"Not if people are cool and collected. We have had several famous
elephant-hunters among the Dutch farmers. I remember that one of them,
after a return from a successful chase, made a bet that he would go up
to a wild elephant and pluck eight hairs out of his tail. He did so and
won his bet, for the elephant can not see behind him, and is not very
quick in turning round. However, a short time afterward he made the same
attempt, and being foolhardy from success, the animal was too quick for
him, and he was crushed to death."
Bremen now came up to them, to say that there was a party of people to
the eastward, and he thought that there was a wagon. On examination with
their telescopes, they found that such was the case; and our travelers
turned their horses' heads in the direction, to ascertain who they might
be, leaving the caravan to proceed by the banks of the river. In about
an hour, they came close to them, and Swinton immediately recognized
them as Griquas, or mixed European and Hottentot races. Of course, they
met in the most friendly manner, and the Griquas said that they had come
to hunt the elephant, eland, and other animals; the former for their
ivory, and the latter for their flesh. Their wagon, which was a very old
one, was loaded with flesh, cut in long strips, and hanging to dry; and
they had a great many hundred-weight of ivory, which they had already
collected. As soon as our travelers had explained to them their own
motions, the Griquas said that they would bring their wagon down in the
evening and encamp with them. Our travelers then returned to the
As they promised, the Griquas joined them late in the afternoon. They
were a party of sixteen; all stout fellows, and armed with the long guns
used by the Dutch boors. They said that they had been two months from
Griqua-town, and were thinking of returning very soon, as their wagon
was loaded to the extent that it would bear. The Major stating that it
was their intention to hunt the giraffe, the Griquas informed them that
they would not find the animal to the southward of the Val River, and
they would have to cross over into the territories of the king
Moselekatsee, who ruled over the Bechuana country, to the northward of
the river; and that it would be very dangerous to attempt so to do
without his permission; indeed, that there would be danger in doing so,
even with it.
"Do you know any thing of this person, Swinton?"
"Yes, I have heard of him, but I did not know that he had extended his
conquests so low down as to the Val River."
"Who is he?"
"You have heard of Chaka, the king of the Zoolus, who conquered the
whole country, as far as Port Natal to the eastward?"
"Yes," replied Alexander; "we have heard of him."
"Well, Moselekatsee was a chief of two or three tribes, who, when hard
pressed by his enemies, took refuge with Chaka, and became one of his
principal warrior chiefs. After a time he quarreled with Chaka, about
the distribution of some cattle they had taken, and aware that he had no
mercy to expect from the tyrant, he revolted from him with a large
force, and withdrew to the Bechuana country. There he conquered all the
tribes, enrolled them in his own army, and gradually became as
formidable as Chaka himself. In the arrangements of his army, he
followed the same plans as Chaka, and has now become a most powerful
monarch, and, they do say, is almost as great a tyrant and despot as
Chaka himself was. I believe that the Griquas are right in saying there
would be danger in passing through his dominions without his
"But," said Alexander, "I suppose if we send a message to him and
presents, there will be no difficulty?"
"Perhaps not, except that our caravan may excite his cupidity, and he
may be induced to delay us to obtain possession of its contents.
However, we had better put this question to the Griquas, who probably
can answer it better."
The Griquas, on being questioned, replied, that the best plan would be
to send a message to the Matabili capital, where Moselekatsee resided,
requesting permission to hunt in the country, and begging the monarch to
send some of his principal men to receive the presents which they had to
offer;--that it would not take long to receive an answer, as it would
only be necessary to deliver the message to the first officer belonging
to Moselekatsee, at the advanced post. That officer would immediately
dispatch a native with the message, who would arrive much sooner than
any one they could send themselves. Bremen and three other Hottentots
offered to take the message, if our travelers wished it. This was agreed
to, and that afternoon they mounted their horses, and crossed the river.
By the advice of the Griquas, the camp was shifted about a mile further
up the river, on account of the lions.
The weather now threatened a change; masses of clouds accumulated, but
were again dispersed. The next day the weather was again threatening;
thunder pealed in the distant mountains, and the forked lightning flew
in every direction; but the rain, if any, was expended on the
A strong wind soon blew up so as to try the strength of the canvas
awning of their wagons, and they found it difficult to keep their fires
in at night. They had encamped upon a wide plain covered with high
grass, and abounding with elands and other varieties of antelopes: here
they remained for five days, waiting the reply of the king of the
Matabili, and went out every day to procure game. On the Sabbath-day,
after they had, as usual, performed Divine service, they observed a
heavy smoke to windward, which, as the wind was fresh, soon bore down
upon them and inconvenienced them much.
Swanevelt stated that the high grass had been fired by some means or
another, and as it threatened to come down upon the encampment, the
Hottentots and Griquas were very busy beating down the grass round about
them. When they had so done, they went to windward some hundred yards
and set fire to the grass in several places; the grass burned quickly,
till it arrived at where it had been beaten down, and the fire was
extinguished. That this was a necessary precaution was fully proved, for
as the night closed in, the whole country for miles was on fire, and the
wind bore the flames down rapidly toward them.
The sky was covered with clouds, and the darkness of the night made the
flames appear still more vivid; the wind drove them along with a loud
crackling noise, sweeping over the undulating ground, now rising and now
disappearing in the hollows, the whole landscape lighted up for miles.
As our travelers watched the progress of the flames, and every now and
then observed a terrified antelope spring from its lair, and appearing
like a black figure in a phantasmagoria, suddenly the storm burst upon
them and the rain poured down in torrents, accompanied with large
hailstones and thunder and lightning. The wind was instantly lulled, and
after the first burst of the storm a deathlike silence succeeded to the
crackling of the flames. A deluge of rain descended, and in an instant
every spark of the conflagration was extinguished, and the pitchy
darkness of the night was unbroken by even a solitary star.
The next morning was bright and clear, and after breakfast, they
perceived the Hottentots who had been sent on their message to
Moselekatsee, on the opposite bank of the river, accompanied by three of
the natives; they soon crossed the river and came to the encampment. The
natives, who were Matabili, were tall, powerful men, well proportioned,
and with regular features; their hair was shorn, and surmounted with an
oval ring attached to the scalp, and the lobe of their left ears was
perforated with such a large hole, that it contained a small gourd,
which was used as a snuff-box. Their dress was a girdle of strips of
catskins, and they each carried two javelins and a knobbed stick for
They were heartily welcomed by our travelers, who placed before them a
large quantity of eland-steaks, and filled their boxes with snuff. As
soon as they had finished eating, and drawn up a large quantity of snuff
into their nostrils, they explained through the Griquas, who could speak
their language, that they had come from the greatest of all monarchs in
the world, Moselekatsee, who wished to know who the strangers were, what
they wanted of him, and what presents they had brought.
Swinton, who was spokesman, returned for answer that they were hunters,
and not traders; that they had come to see the wonders of the country
belonging to so great a monarch, and that hearing that his majesty had
animals in his country which were not to be found elsewhere, they wanted
permission to kill some, to show upon their return to their own people
what a wonderful country it was that belonged to so great a
monarch;--that they had brought beads and copper wire, and knives, and
boxes for making fire, and snuff and tobacco, all of which they wished
to present to the great monarch; a part as soon as they had received
his permission to enter his territory, and another part when they were
about to leave it. A handsome present of the above articles was then
produced, and the messengers of the king, having surveyed the articles
with some astonishment, declared that their king would feel very glad
when he saw all these things, and that he had desired them to tell our
travelers that they might come into his dominions with safety, and kill
all the animals that they pleased. That his majesty had commanded one of
them to remain with the party, and that as soon as he had received his
presents, he would send a chief to be answerable for their safety. The
Matabili then packed up the articles presented, and two of them set off
at full speed on their return to the king. The third, who remained,
assured our travelers that they might cross the river and enter the
Matabili country as soon as they pleased.
A debate now ensued as to whether they should go with their whole force
or not. The Matabili had informed them that in three days' journey they
would fall in with the giraffe, which they were in search of, and as
there would be some risk in crossing the river, and they had every
reason to expect that it would soon rise, the question was whether it
would be prudent to take over even one of the wagons. The opinion of the
Griquas was asked, and it was ultimately arranged that they should take
over Alexander's wagon only, with fifteen pair of oxen, and that some of
the Griquas should accompany them, with Swanevelt, Omrah, and
Mahomed;--that Bremen and the Hottentots should remain where they were,
with the other three wagons and the rest of the Griquas, until our
travelers should return.
This arrangement was not at all disagreeable to the Hottentots, who did
not much like the idea of entering the Matabili country, and were very
happy in their present quarters, as they were plentifully provided with
good meat. Alexander's wagon was therefore arranged so as to carry the
bedding and articles they might require, all other things being removed
to the other wagons. Their best oxen were selected, and eight of the
fleetest of their horses, and on the following morning, having
ascertained from the Matabili the best place to cross the river, our
travelers set off, and in an hour were on the other side.
There was no change in the country during the first day's journey; the
same variety and brilliancy of flowers were every where to be seen. The
eland and the other antelopes were plentiful, and they were soon joined
by parties of the natives, who requested them to shoot the animals for
them, which they did in quantities even sufficient to satisfy them.
Indeed if they found them troublesome, our travelers had only to bring
down an eland, and the natives were immediately left behind, that they
might devour the animal, which was done in an incredibly short space of
time. The Matabili who had conducted them proved to be a chief, and if
he gave any order, it was instantly obeyed; so that our travelers had no
trouble with the natives except their begging and praying for snuff,
which was incessant, both from the men and women. Neither did they fear
any treachery from the Matabili king, as they were well armed, and the
Griquas were brave men, and the superiority of their weapons made them a
match for a large force. Every precaution, however, was taken when they
halted at night, which they invariably did in the center of an open
plain, to prevent any surprise; and large fires were lighted round the
They traveled on in this way for two days more, when in the evening they
arrived at a large plain sprinkled with mimosa-trees, and abutting on
the foot of a low range of hills. The Matabili told them that they would
find the giraffes on these plains, and the Major, who was very anxious,
kept his telescope to his eyes, looking round in every direction till
nightfall, but did not succeed in descrying any of the objects of his
search. They retired that night with anxious expectation for the
following morning, when they anticipated that they should fall in with
these remarkable animals. Their guns were examined and every precaution
taken, and having lighted their fires and set the watch, they went to
bed; and, after commending themselves to the care of Providence, were
soon fast asleep.
With the exception of three lions coming very near to the encampment and
rousing up the Griquas, nothing occurred during the night. In the
morning they yoked the oxen and had all the horses saddled ready for the
chase; but they were disappointed for nearly the whole day; as, although
they saw a variety of game, no giraffe appeared in sight. In the
afternoon, as they passed by a clump of mimosas, they were charged by a
rhinoceros, which nearly threw down Alexander's best horse; but a volley
from the Griquas laid him prostrate. It was a very large animal, but not
of the black or ferocious sort, being what is termed the white
rhinoceros. Within the last two days they had also observed that the
gnoo was not of the same sort as the one which they had seen so long,
but a variety which Swinton told them was called the brindled gnoo; it
was, however, in every other respect the same animal, as to its motions
and peculiarities. Toward the evening the Matabili warrior who
accompanied them pointed to a mimosa at a distance, and made signs to
the Major that there was a giraffe.
"I can not see him--do you, Alexander?" said the Major; "he points to
that mimosa with the dead stump on the other side of it, there. Yes, it
is one, I see the stump, as I called it, move; it must be the neck of
the animal. Let loose the dogs, Swanevelt," cried the Major, starting
off at full speed, and followed by Alexander, and Omrah, with the spare
horse. In a minute or two the giraffe was seen to get clear of the
mimosa, and then set off in an awkward, shambling kind of gallop; but
awkward as the gallop appeared, the animal soon left the Major behind.
It sailed along with incredible velocity, its long, swan-like neck
keeping time with its legs, and its black tail curled above its back.
"Push on, Alexander," cried the Major; "if ever there were seven-league
boots, that animal has a pair of them on. He goes like the wind; but he
can not keep it up long, depend upon it, and our horses are in capital