One day I had gone to the ant-hill in search of mushrooms, when I saw a troop of gnus coming across the plain. As they advanced towards me I remained stationary, hiding myself from them by the hill. I got my rifle ready to fire, earnestly hoping that my aim would be steady. On came the herd, frisking and prancing, till they got within thirty yards of where I lay concealed. They scented danger, I fancied, for they began to look about, and seemed ready to dart off in an opposite direction. I selected the nearest, and fired. I could scarcely say how delighted I was when over rolled the creature. He got up, however, and even then would, I was afraid, escape me. I dashed forward, and drawing my axe, struck him on one of the hind-legs. Down he fell, and in another instant I had deprived him of life. I now understood the feelings of a famished hunter. Without a moment's delay I began to cut up the animal, and loaded myself with as much of the best parts of the meat as I could carry. The remainder I left for the birds and beasts of prey, and hurried back with my prize to Natty. I selected as much as I thought we could consume while it remained eatable. The rest I cut into thin strips, and hung them up to the boughs outside our cavern. Natty meantime made up a fire, with which we roasted a good portion. I felt no longer surprised at the way I had seen the blacks feed, so ravenous did the smell of the roasted meat make me.
"Don't you think that if we were to smoke some flesh it would keep longer?" observed Natty.
I followed his suggestion, and from the way it dried I was in hopes that the experiment would be successful. I was about to return for the remainder of the meat, to dry it in this way, when the rein came down.
Notwithstanding the more substantial food Natty had now got, he was still too weak to walk any distance. The flesh of the gnu, with the honey and mushrooms, enabled us to subsist in tolerable plenty for a week. The portions I had smoked and dried, at the end of that time became almost uneatable, and I saw that I must succeed in killing another animal, or that we should starve. That night I was awaked from sleep by hearing a low cry of distress. The dreadful thought seized me that a hyena had come into our cavern and carried off Natty. I anxiously put out my hands, and to my relief found that he was on his bed, breathing quietly. Then I thought that he must have cried out in his sleep. But again that low wail of distress reached my ears. It is some human being, I thought to myself, attacked by wild beasts, or fallen into a lagoon; indeed, it sounded exactly like the cry of a person in danger of drowning. Perhaps it may be one of our friends come in search of us. Again it came through the night air. I could bear it no longer, for I was certain that a fellow-creature was in danger. I awoke Natty. "Do not be alarmed," I said; "I hear some one calling for help. I must go out and see what I can do, but I will be back presently. Remain quiet till my return!" Seizing my rifle, and feeling the lock to ascertain that it was all right, I hurried out in the direction from whence the sounds came. Again that plaintive cry reached my ear. I thought I heard the very words,—"Come, come! Help, help!" I dashed forward, for I knew the ground thoroughly. It could not be a person drowning, for there was no lagoon in that direction. As I advanced the wails became lower and lower, and sobs alone reached me. I was afraid that I was too late to render help. Presently, bending down, to be more certain of the direction I should take, I saw against the dark sky the outline of a lion. His claws were on his prey, and his tail was moving round. "He has killed the man, I fear," I thought. Still, regardless of the danger I was running, and urged by an impulse I could not resist, I rushed forward, ready to fire should the lion advance towards me. I shouted at the top of my voice. I went on till I was within a dozen yards of the brute, and then once more raised a loud and determined shout. As I did so he turned his head, and then uttering a loud growl, slowly stalked away, and disappeared behind some bushes at a little distance. I hurried to the spot he had quitted, but instead of a human being, I saw before me an animal stretched lifeless on the ground. On feeling the head, I discovered that it had no horns, and then, taking one of the hoofs in my hand, I found that it was either a zebra or quagga. To leave it there would be to ensure its being carried off by its destroyer. I therefore set to work as well as I could in the dark, and cut off the flesh, looking up cautiously every minute, as may be supposed, to ascertain whether the lion was coming back to reclaim his prey. The necessity of obtaining food only could have induced me to run so terrible a risk, for I could scarcely suppose that the monarch of the woods would allow me thus before his face to carry off his prize. He did not appear, however. I supposed that, never having before encountered a human being, he was more alarmed by my appearance than I had been by his. Perhaps he took me for a gorilla, which the lion is said to hold in wholesome fear.
I now hastened back to Natty. The lion must have returned and carried off the portions I left him, for the next morning not a particle of the zebra could I discover. Still, it was not pleasant to know that he was in our neighbourhood. I treated the flesh of the zebra as I had done that of the gnu, although it was not quite so palatable.
The following day we were seated at our dinner, when, looking out, I saw a troop of zebras trotting by, stopping occasionally to feed, and then again moving on. I remarked especially a young zebra following them at a short distance. They passed close to the thicket in which I had seen the lion disappear. "If the old fellow is there," I observed to Natty, "I should not be surprised were he to rush out and seize one of them." Scarcely had I spoken when the whole herd began frisking about, and scampering here and there. Just then I heard a loud roar, and, as I had been surmising might possibly occur, out dashed a grey old lion towards the little zebra. I had instinctively seized my rifle. "You shall not kill that pretty little beast if I can help it," I exclaimed. But the lion seemed determined that he would do so in spite of me. In another instant he was up to the zebra, and had struck him with one of his paws, which threw it staggering some paces from me. He was evidently, I saw, an old fellow, unable to leap as a young lion does. I ran forward, and before he had again come up with the little zebra, I had levelled my rifle and fired. The ball hit him in the head, and over he rolled. Greatly to my astonishment, the little zebra, instead of attempting to escape, rose to his feet, and, looking at me for a moment, came trotting towards me. "I am sure I know you," I exclaimed. "You are Bella's little pet." The poor little creature was very much hurt, but not, I hoped, maimed altogether. From the way he came up to me, I had not the slightest doubt that my conjecture was right; for when I held out my hand, he put his nose into it, and seemed to recognise me as a friend. He looked very thin, but as I examined him I was sure that he was an old acquaintance. The lion, meantime, giving a few struggles, fell over perfectly dead. Putting my handkerchief round the zebra's neck, I led him up to our tree. Great was Natty's delight at seeing him.
"O Andrew," he exclaimed, "now there is a way for us to rejoin our friends. Though you cannot carry me so far, Zebra, I am sure, can; and as soon as he is well, we will set out."
As there was ample room for the little animal inside our cavern, I brought him in, and closed the entrance. Having washed his side, I bound it up with a handkerchief, when the bleeding stopped. The rain had brought up an abundance of grass. I went out and cut some, which he readily ate out of my hand. Having done this, I went back to examine the lion. I found the mane thickly streaked with grey; and on examining his huge mouth, I discovered that the teeth were completely worn away, while his claws were broken and blunted. This accounted for the escape of the little zebra I had heard that when lions in their old age can no longer kill the prey to which they have been accustomed, they lie in wait for the young of animals, or take to robbing the poultry-yards of the natives, attacking their goats, and sometimes, indeed, try to carry off women and children. It was the consciousness, probably, of his weakness which made the old fellow so easily render up his prey to me on a former occasion. In spite of his age and probable toughness, I was tempted to see if I could get any steaks out of him, to form a supply of food should our stock of meat not be sufficient to last us till we could get home. I cut off a few pounds; but the smell of the flesh at last made me desist, thinking that neither Natty nor I would be able to eat it, either smoked or dried. I had thrown it down, indeed, but still I thought it might be wiser to secure some; so I took up what I had cut off, and returned with it to the tree. Without telling Natty, I lighted a fire, and cutting it into strips, hung it up to the branches, so that it might be thickly enveloped in smoke. By giving the little zebra plenty of grass, in three or four days he had entirely recovered from his injury. Natty also said that he felt better, and was sure he could undertake the journey homeward.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.
ANXIETY ABOUT OUR FRIENDS—A SEARCH FOR LEO.
On a bright morning, as soon as we had breakfasted, I mounted Natty on the zebra's back, and leading him with my handkerchief, set off in the direction of our home. I had manufactured some baskets, in which I stowed the honeycombs and the remaining portion of our meat, with several large white mushrooms. I hoped we might find provisions on our way; at the same time, as I had only three or four charges of powder left, I did not think it wise to abandon what we possessed. The little zebra bore Natty very willingly, but, unaccustomed to the burden on its back, could only proceed at a slower pace than I could have walked. However, I was very thankful to have this means of conveyance for my young friend. The sun came down with great heat, and I began to fear he would suffer from it. Accordingly I steered a course towards a clump of trees, where he might rest under the shade. I placed him on the ground, and told him to hold the zebra, which, I was afraid, might, following the wild instincts of its nature, scamper off. I then cut a stick and several boughs with large leaves, with which I manufactured a parasol to shelter him as we walked along. He was very grateful for the shade, and begged that I would make it sufficiently large to shelter my head also. This I accordingly did. I should have said that I had doubled up my jacket and placed it on the zebra's back for a saddle. I made also, out of some vines, a pair of stirrups, which enabled Natty to ride more at ease.
Having taken some dinner, we again pushed on. I was greatly disappointed when, as the evening began to close in, I found that we were still at a considerable distance from the hill which we were anxious to reach. Just as I had finished our hut, it occurred to me that should we leave the zebra tethered outside, it might very likely attract either lions or hyenas, or other wild beasts of prey. I accordingly cut down a large number of stakes, with which I formed an enclosure by the side of the hut. I covered it also with a tolerably strong roof, lest any animal might leap over the walls. The little creature had, I suspect, learned so severe a lesson during his wanderings with his kindred, that he seemed fully to understand the necessity for these arrangements. At all events, when I led him in he was perfectly quiet and contented, especially when I gave him as much grass as he could require. I also made up a large fire outside our hut, and although I did not attempt to keep awake all the night, I was able to rouse myself from time to time to throw on enough wood to keep it alive. Although I heard the sounds of animals in the distance, the fire prevented them from making an attack on us.
The next morning we again started. Natty looked somewhat better; but when, in order to relieve the little zebra, he got off and attempted to walk, he was unable to proceed many paces, and made no objection when I again put him on the animal's back.
Our pet was tamed entirely by gentleness and kindness, or it would have remained as wild and savage as its fellows. I believe there are no animals which cannot be made subject to man, provided they are treated in the right way. I have often wished that our horses and asses in England were treated more gently. I am sure they would be more faithful and useful animals than they often prove when subjected to a contrary system.
As we proceeded, we began to recognise more clearly the outline of the hills on which we had so long lived. Still, however, we were at a considerable distance, and I soon saw that, at the slow rate we were proceeding, another day must elapse before we could reach them. The arrangements of the previous night were repeated with similar success. We now hoped to reach our destination early in the afternoon. Once more the lake appeared in sight, the stream running into it, the woods on the other side, and the well-known hill, though we were much too far off to distinguish our village. The little zebra seemed to know it also, for he hastened his pace. We were anticipating the delight our reappearance would give our friends, though then the thought came across us of the disappointment they would feel at not seeing Leo. "But perhaps," said Natty, "they have gone in search of him, and discovered him and brought him back, and we shall find him all well; oh, how joyful that will be!" As we reached the hill I could not resist the temptation of firing off my rifle, to attract the attention of our friends, and give them notice of our coming. No one, however, appeared; still I was sure they must have heard the report. We wound our way up the hill, when we came to a point where I expected to see the huts; but no trace of them could I discover. The grass was green from the recent rains; the trees waved on the hill-side as before; but the huts, the habitations of our friends, where were they? I shouted out, but no answer came. My heart sank within me. I could no longer restrain my anxiety, and telling Natty to follow slowly, I rushed up the hill. There, on the spot where the huts had stood, were heaps of charred timber. I felt faint and sick! What had become of our friends! I scarcely dared to search about, lest I might find some dreadful traces of their death. Oh no, no! It is impossible! The dear, energetic, gentle Kate—such could not have been her fate! And sweet little Bella too! Still, I could not resist the temptation to search about. There were no traces of human beings. I saw, too, by the way the grass had sprung up, that some time must have passed since the fire took place. I roused myself as I saw Natty approaching. I was afraid of what the effect might be on him, and hurried down the hill to prepare him for the scene; indeed, I thought it might be better to turn the zebra's head, and let him proceed down the mountain again. Still, I did not like to leave the spot without a further examination.
"I should like to look at it," said Natty, when I told him. "I cannot believe that they are lost; and perhaps by an examination we may discover something to guide us in our future proceedings."
The little zebra did not object to come up the hill, but when he reached the black spot where the house had stood, he stopped, gazing at it, and I thought trembled.
"It seems to me," said Natty, after remaining silent for a minute or two, "that the zebra must have made his escape when the huts were on fire, and the other animals were set free. Oh! I do—I do hope that our friends escaped! I will not believe that they did not!"
I would not let Natty quit the zebra, but allowed him to sit down on a stone, holding the rein, while I examined the ruins in the neighbourhood. Though I searched carefully in every direction, not a trace of any sort could I discover. Everything they had must have been destroyed or carried off by them I trusted that the latter was the case.
"It is of no use, Natty," I said at last. "Here they are not, and we must go in search of them."
"What do you think, Andrew?" said Natty. "Perhaps they have gone to Kabomba, where the people know the captain and Timbo, and would, I am sure, receive them kindly."
"I trust you are right, Natty," I said; "and we will set off there immediately."
Without loss of time we descended the hill. I had spent so much time, however, in examining the ruins, that we could get but a little distance before it grew dark. I made our camp as usual, and had only finished a hut sufficient to hold Natty before darkness overtook us. I made up a good fire, also, and hoped by tethering the zebra close to the hut, that no wild beast would injure him during the night. There was little fear of my fire going out, for my anxiety concerning our friends kept me awake. Over and over again I thought of all sorts of accidents which might have happened. We had but little food remaining, and all but my last charge of powder was expended. Still, my anxiety about our friends prevented me thinking of our own condition.
We travelled on all next day, and I began to fear that we must have passed the village. Just, however, as the sun was about to set, his rays lighted up the tops of some huts in the distance. We made towards them, though still doubtful whether they were those of Kabomba or not. Perhaps the inhabitants had themselves attacked and destroyed our friends. I had often heard of the treachery of the natives, and these might be as bad as others.
"Still, we must hazard everything for the sake of ascertaining the truth." I said to Natty.
"Oh yes, yes," he answered. "I do not fear them; and after all, Andrew, they can but kill us; and if they have killed our friends, were it not wrong, I should almost wish that they would kill us."
As we got nearer to the side of the village I had no longer any doubt that it was the one Stanley had visited. That we might not take the inhabitants by surprise, as I drew near I shouted out, and presently several people appeared at the chief entrance. As soon as they saw us they came running forward. Among them was an old man, whom, by his appearance, I took to be the chief. He had no weapon, and as he drew near, his countenance, which wore a friendly expression, reassured me. I therefore hastened on, leading the zebra, to meet him. He took my hands in his, and looking into my face, seemed to be inquiring whence we came. Then he seized Natty's hands and stroked his face, and exhibited every sign of regard. He cast, however, an astonished gaze at the zebra, and was evidently greatly surprised at seeing the docility of the animal.
"At all events, you see, they are friends," said Natty. "I do hope they can give us some account of the rest."
We were quickly conducted inside the village. The chief led us to his house. He then seemed to inquire what we would do with the little zebra, and pointed to a small enclosure on one side. I begged that it might be placed within it, and signified that I should be glad if it could be supplied with grass. Immediately several people set out with knives, I concluded for the purpose of cutting the grass. My disappointment was great, however, at not seeing any of our friends, and by all the signs I could think of I inquired of the chief what had become of them. I could get no satisfactory reply to my questions, and I could not help supposing that the chief had some reason for not informing me. We were taken at once into his house, and in a short time food was placed before us. How delicious the plantains and cassava tasted, and some well-dressed venison. As soon as our hunger was satisfied I again began to inquire by signs about our friends. A stranger coming in might have supposed that I was performing some pantomimic play for his especial amusement. He, however, seemed greatly puzzled, and I concluded of course that I had not the right talent for my purpose. At length a sign of intelligence came over his countenance, and he now in return made a variety of gestures, which I must own were considerably more clear than mine. He first pointed to the north, and held up his fingers, counting the number of people of whom our party consisted. He then got up and ran across the room, and next opened his arms, and seemed to be receiving some phantom guests. He then lay down on the ground and pretended to be asleep, and got up seven times; by which I understood that they had come and remained at the village that number of days. He next pointed southward, and seemed to be mourning, as if regretting that they had taken their departure. I now told Natty I was sure our friends had come to the village, and after stopping a few days had proceeded to the south. The chief seemed to understand that Natty was ill, and he and his wives did their best to arrange a comfortable bed for him with mats placed over dried grass strewed on the ground. I hoped that after a day's rest he would be able again to set forward, as I wished to lose no time in following our friends. I spoke of my intention to Natty.
"Can you think of doing so without first trying to find Leo?" he said. "Perhaps our new friends here will assist us."
"If you were better able to undergo the fatigue I would," I said; "but I wish first to place you in safety."
"Oh, do not think of that," he answered, "leave me here. The people seem so friendly, that I am sure they will take care of me; and though I wish very much indeed to go with you, I am sure I should only be an impediment to your progress."
I immediately set to work to try and make the chief understand that two of our party were in captivity somewhere in the east or south-east, and that I wished to go in search of them. I was nearly sure that he understood me, and with some hopes of setting off next day I lay down to get a sounder sleep than I might possibly enjoy for many days to come.
The next morning, when I again entered on the subject, he appeared to be unwilling to accede to my wishes. I was indeed not sorry to rest another day and night, hoping that in the meantime something might occur to assist my project. I remembered the account Stanley had given of the idol like a crocodile which he had seen. Curiosity prompted me to search for it as I walked about the village. The chief divined my object, and, taking my arm, led me into a hut, where on the ground lay a number of fragments of plaster, wicker-work, and hair. On these he stamped, and then turned away with a contemptuous glance, touching his ears and eyes, and then shaking his head, as much as to say that the idol could neither hear nor see. From several other signs he made, I came to the conclusion that Timbo had carried out his project, and at all events succeeded in showing the blacks the falsity of their wretched faith. I had hopes, too, that he had also planted the germs of a purer one in their minds. It was on that and other accounts very vexatious being so utterly unable to exchange ideas with them. One thing was certain,—they were disposed to treat Natty and I with the greatest kindness. At last, by perseverance, I made the chief understand what I wanted, and he signified his readiness to assist me. I showed him also that I wished him to take care of Natty while I was away. At this he seemed highly pleased, and brought his son—a boy of about Natty's age— to show that he would be his companion, and that he would take as good care of him as he would of his own children. To show his still greater readiness to assist me, he brought a number of articles which had evidently been left by our friends, I could not make out whether as gifts or not. He signified that we might ransom Leo with them if he was detained as a prisoner. These, and sufficient provisions to last me for several days, I placed on the back of the zebra. The load, though not very heavy, was as much as I thought it could carry.
I was doubtful whether I should venture to go alone, or obtain some attendants. If they proved faithful they would be of great use, otherwise I would rather have trusted to my own energy and watchfulness. The matter was settled by the chief bringing up three young men, whom he signified were to accompany me. They were armed with shields, bows and arrows, and spears; but these might alarm their countrymen, and I knew I must depend for success only on pacific measures. It cost me a good deal to part with Natty. He looked so sorrowful when I bid him good-bye.
"But you will bring back Leo; I know you will," he said. "I cannot help thinking he is not very far off."
Just as I was parting the chief brought me a prize, which, in my circumstances, was of the greatest value. It was a powder-horn full of fine powder. I could not help fancying it must have been left behind by accident. It was certainly, however, not the one which Stanley had been in the habit of using.
I think I have before said that the zebra would not allow any of the blacks to come near him. I was therefore obliged to lead him myself, they following at a little distance behind. He then went on readily enough: but the moment they came near his heels, he flung out in a way which made them always keep at a respectful distance.
I must give a very brief account of my journey. It required a good deal of calculation to direct my course. I had first to consider the position of the village where Natty and I had remained so long near the lake. It was some distance to the south-east of this that I might hope to find Leo, and yet at no very great distance, otherwise my former hosts would not have refused to go beyond the stream, at which it will be remembered we turned back. The journey might, I thought, occupy me three or four days, if I could manage to steer a direct course for it. The weather was now again fine, so we camped out at night, lighting the usual watch-fires; and I lay down on the ground with the zebra tethered near me. We saw two or three villages in the distance; but I understood from my companions that they were sure no white men were there, or they would have heard of it. At length, at the end of a four days' journey, a village appeared directly before us, situated on some rising ground. It was in the direction where, by my calculations, I thought it possible the one would be found to which Leo had been carried. A number of goats were feeding on the side of the hill, and below my eyes were gladdened by the sight of some horned cattle, which, by their movements, were evidently tame.
My companions now made signs to me that I might go on alone, as they did not feel disposed to trust themselves within the village until they had ascertained the disposition of the inhabitants. Leading the zebra, I therefore walked on till I came in sight of a gate at the end of the principal street, if I may so call it, it being always remembered that the houses were only reed huts, and the gates were composed of rough poles. As I neared it several people issued forth with javelins in their hands, and, vociferating loudly, rushed towards me. My gun was slung at my back, so I held up my hands to show that I had no intention of attacking them. On this they somewhat slackened their pace, though they still held their weapons in a threatening manner. I knew that my best chance of safety was to advance boldly without showing any sign of fear. This had the desired effect, and they now came on in a more friendly manner. They showed signs of astonishment at seeing the zebra in my company, and, I observed, paid me more respect from believing that I had the power of taming an animal so generally untameable. We were still at some little distance from the gates, when another person came out. Seeing me, he rushed forward, and breaking through the people who surrounded me, threw himself at my feet. Greatly to my delight I recognised young Mango. Tears dropped from his eyes as he took my hands.
"O massa, so glad! so glad!" he exclaimed, showing that he had not forgotten his small knowledge of English.
"And Leo?" I asked, taking him by the hand; "where is he?"
"Gone! gone!" he answered.
My heart sank as I heard this.
"What! dead?" I exclaimed, the thought of the grief his death would cause his sisters and Natty, indeed all of us, coming into my mind.
I was greatly relieved when Mango answered—
"No, massa, not dead; but gone away," and he pointed south.
"What I did any one come to take him away, or did he go all alone?"
"Yes, massa, all alone," said Mango. "He run away. Dey catchy me, and bring back."
This was indeed disappointing. Still, I hoped that he might reach some place of safety, or that possibly I might find him. On making further inquiries of Mango, I ascertained that he had started only two days before. Then I thought, perhaps he has gone towards Kabomba; I may actually have passed him on the road.
The inhabitants now conducted me into the village, accompanied by Mango, and I was led before the chief. He was an enormously fat man, and was seated on a pile of matting in a sort of verandah in front of his abode, and supported by a number of women, whom I took to be his wives. Determined not to be treated as a prisoner, I went up at once and shook him by the hand, and told Mango to explain that I had come from a distance to look for a young countryman, and that my people would be very angry if any injury had happened to him. The chief was evidently not addicted to making long speeches, indeed it was with difficulty he brought out his words. Mango interpreted what he said. He declared that he had no intention of injuring the white boy; that his people had found him and his companion some time back, and that he had since fed him and taken good care of him, and that of his own accord he had run away.
"Yes," added Mango, "what he say true; but when we want go away, he no let us, so Massa Leo run. He got rifle and powder, too, and dis make old rogue here wish keepy."
I concluded from this that Leo's case had been very similar to ours, and as my anxiety about him had somewhat decreased, I began to fear that the fat chief would detain me in his place. I therefore assumed a still more authoritative air, and declared that though my people were very much obliged to the chief for taking care of our friends, they would be very angry at his having detained them longer than they wished.
"Tell him I insist upon their letting you go immediately, and if they do so, I am prepared to make them a present; but that if not, I shall fight my way out of the place on the back of my wonderful steed there"— pointing to the zebra—"and very likely return and burn their village to the ground."
"Bery good," said Mango; and he began to interpret my address, adding, I suspect, not a few threats and boastings of his own.
The effect, at all events, was to make the old chief and his attendants treat me with great civility. His wives hurried off to prepare a banquet, and I was allowed to proceed through the village with Mango as my guide. I led the zebra all the time, for the little animal showed a great disinclination to leave me, or to go nearer the blacks than he could help; indeed, when any of them drew near, as was his usual custom, he struck out with his heels right and left at them, or, if they appeared in front, he ran forward and tried to bite them. He, however, appeared to recognise Mango, and though he would not allow him to touch his head, yet he showed no hostility when he came near.
By the time the banquet—which consisted of a variety of dishes of the meat of several wild animals—was over, it was almost dark. I had no doubt my attendants would camp out in the neighbourhood of the village, and I therefore told the chief that I would take my departure, accompanied by Mango, and camp with them, to be ready to start on the following morning. I found, however, that he had no intention of letting me go so easily, and insisted that I must pass the night in his village. Seeing how matters stood, I said that I had no objection to do this, but that I must have a house to myself, where my zebra would obtain accommodation, as I could not be parted from the animal; and that I wanted Mango also to attend on me. There is an old saying, "There is nothing like asking for a thing one wants," and I found the advantage of so doing; for my request, after the chief had consulted his wives, was granted. This arrangement being made, I told Mango to inform the chief that I required a supply of green grass for my animal. This also was brought me before night. I asked Mango whether he thought the chief intended to detain us. He did not think so; but expressed himself ready to try and get out of the village during the night, if I thought it advisable. I discovered, on further questioning him, that he and Leo had heard of the appearance of some white people at the distance of three or four days' journey off, towards the south-west, and though the account was not very exact, from that moment Leo had determined to make his escape. He arranged that if they could not get off together he should go first, and leave marks to show his route. Mango was to follow, or should he be prevented, Leo promised that he would return with his friends to his rescue.
"But, massa," added Mango, "long way walky. Dey got cows, big horns, for ridey. Me steal one for massa."
Perhaps I am making Mango speak even more clearly than he really did; but he made me understand his meaning by the help of words and signs.
"No," I replied. "I shall be very glad to buy one of their animals, though they must suppose it is for you to ride, and not for me, as they now believe that I could not possibly require any other steed beside my zebra."
While I remained in the hut, I sent Mango to the chief with an offer to buy an ox, provided he would bring several to the village early in the morning for me to choose from. Mango shortly returned to say that the chief agreed to my proposal; indeed, the old man was probably, as most Africans are, perfectly ready to do a stroke of business, particularly as Mango had told him that I was willing to pay a good price for the animal.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.
A SEARCH FOR LEO, AND AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.
I need not enter into the particulars of my purchase. The transaction was soon completed. I had brought articles sufficient, I hoped, to ransom both Leo and Mango. I told the chief that, although I did not consider myself bound to pay him anything for releasing Mango, yet I would make him a present in consideration of the kind treatment which he and my young countryman had experienced. All parties seemed well pleased, especially when I offered a further sum for some provisions— cassava, plantains, antelope flesh, and dried elephant meat—which I intended for my attendants, whom I hoped to meet in the valley below.
In case the fickle negroes should change their mind, I hurried off as soon as I possibly could without exciting their undue suspicions, and was glad to find that no one followed us. We took our way down the hill to a spot where I left my three attendants, but they were nowhere to be seen. There was their camp-fire, but it had long gone out; and I supposed that, having been alarmed, they had taken to flight. I hoped to come up with them further on. Still, no traces could I see of the deserters. As I had made up my mind to search for Leo before returning to Kabomba, I gave up the pursuit, and turned on one side for the purpose of intersecting the course I concluded, from Mango's account, that he had taken.
Leo had promised to make crosses on trees, and where no trees existed to cut the same mark on the grass, or to arrange stones in a like form, or to stick little crosses into the ground, to show his course. "I always thought that Leo had his wits about him, and this proves it!" I exclaimed, though Mango probably did not understand me. We accordingly examined the ground on either side as we went along. I could still see in the far distance the outlines of the village, and, judging by the sun, I calculated that it was about north-east of us, while I hoped by travelling south-west to come up with my young friend.
We had been searching for some time, and at Mango's suggestion I had mounted the ox. I have not before described the animal. It was clean-limbed, almost white, with long pointed horns projecting horizontally from its head; a thoroughly tame and tractable animal. It went on at a steady pace, sufficient to keep Mango and the zebra at a trot. We were searching carefully as we went for Leo's promised indication of his route, when Mango suddenly started off, and running a few paces, lifted up a small cross, formed of two pieces of wood, fastened together by the material of which the natives make their mats. Mango's delight was excessive. "See I see!" he exclaimed. "We now find—we now find Massa Leo!" and running on ahead, he lifted up a second cross made in the same way. The arms of both of them were pointing in the direction which we supposed Leo had taken. This fact also showed his forethought, for if a single cross only had been left, we should have had to search about perhaps for a long time before ascertaining his route. We now went on with more confidence. From the start he had had, I feared it would be some time before we could come up with him. Still, as he had his rifle and provisions to carry, I knew that he could not proceed as fast as we were doing. We travelled on till nightfall, when we tethered the animals with some rope which Mango had brought, lighted our fires, and made a slight shelter from the wind. As the weather was clear, there was no necessity for building a substantial hut. Having unloaded the zebra, I placed the packages under my head as a pillow, keeping my rifle as usual by my side, and told Mango that we would watch alternately during the night. I gave him the first watch, with directions to call me after a couple of hours, intending to allow him a longer rest than I took myself. I was awoke by a loud roar sounding in my ears. It was the well-known voice of a lion. I started up. So did Mango, for he had been asleep. A few glowing embers of the fire alone remained. I had seized my rifle instinctively, and with it in my hand looked around on every side. The ox stood near, though trembling violently; but the little zebra was nowhere to be seen. I caught sight, however, of the massive form of a lion bounding over the ground. The zebra, I hoped, had escaped, though the lion might be pursuing it, and I resolved to try and save the life of our little pet. I fired, and believed that I had hit the savage brute, for it stopped and growled more furiously than before. Meantime Mango was employed in throwing sticks on the fire, blowing with might and main to make them blaze up. The lion drew nearer. Again I fired, but missed. There might be scarcely time to reload before the lion would be upon me. I hurriedly began to do so. I never more eagerly rammed down a charge. Still the lion came on. Mango piled on more sticks, and blew and blew harder than ever, as if his existence depended on it. So, perhaps, it did, for had the lion made a spring, and had I again missed him, Mango's life must have been sacrificed. Just then the fire blazed up. Fortunately the sticks were very dry. A few bounds would have brought the savage brute up to us. I shouted, and so did Mango, with might and main. I refrained, however, from firing till the lion had approached nearer, for should I not kill him outright, he might, in spite of the fire, rush towards us. On he came roaring, but slowly, afraid of the flames. Once more he stopped. He dared not face them. Greatly to my relief, he then turned round and moved off, roaring furiously. Fearing that he might still pursue the zebra, which I hoped had escaped, and might, after making a circuit, come back to us, I raised my rifle and fired again. I fancied I could hear the thud of the bullet as it struck the lion behind the shoulder. Fearful were the roars he uttered; but defeated, he stalked off, evidently having had enough of the fight. Mango, who had been thoroughly alarmed, seemed very penitent for having gone to sleep. There was no necessity to point out to him the danger we had been in, in consequence. He tried to say he would never do so again. At last I persuaded him to lie down and rest, while I sat up. I kept looking round, in the hope of seeing the zebra trot up to us, but when the morning came our little pet had not returned.
I had begun to cook our breakfast even before daylight, that we might lose no time in starting, so as to take advantage of the cool air of the early day. We had not gone far when we came to a small cross made of stones on the ground. It revived my spirits, for it was the sign that Leo had passed that way. Then again the fear came across me that the lion which had scented us out might have attacked him. During the day we passed several other crosses, some cut, as he had promised, in the trees; but the greater number were composed, as were the first we had seen, of sticks. It took a shorter time to erect them than to cut the marks on the trees or the grass, or even to make crosses of stones on the ground. Frequently during the day I turned back, in the hope of seeing the zebra following us, but I was disappointed.
The next night passed away, and then another, and Mango kept wide awake during his watch. Leo must have pushed on well, for still the crosses appeared. We came on all the spots where he had slept—his lean-to or hut, with the ashes of his fire before it; and generally midway between them a black patch alone, where he had stopped to cook his mid-day meal. We found the feathers of several birds which he had shot. It was evident, indeed, that he had exercised all the sagacity of an experienced hunter—remarkable in one so young. I was very thankful that I had an animal to ride, for the heat and the constant exertion I was undergoing tried me greatly.
On the third day we still found Leo's crosses, but several were out of the straight line. The country had become open, similar in character to that which I had passed over with Natty. Hitherto we had found springs affording sufficient water for ourselves and the ox. Now, however, we had to go a long way without meeting with any, though we carried enough in our bottle for ourselves, and a small quantity for the patient ox. Travelling on, I saw something lying on the ground a short distance off. I pointed it out to Mango, who ran towards it, and returned with a knapsack. "Yes," he said in a sorrowful tone, "dis Massa Leo's." I recognised it indeed as the one Leo had with him. Fatigue alone could have made him throw it aside; and perhaps, hoping soon to reach the Europeans of whom he had heard, he would no longer encumber himself with it. Securing it to the ox's back, we went on still more eagerly, looking carefully about on every side. I expected every moment to overtake Leo. We went on for another mile or more, when to my dismay we found his rifle on the ground. That he certainly would not have thrown away unless greatly overcome by fatigue. Still, perhaps, he might have had no powder, and found it a useless encumbrance. I, however, dreaded that, weak as he must have been before he would quit his knapsack and rifle, he might have fallen an easy victim to some beast of prey. Though we looked anxiously about, we could see nothing of him. Presently Mango, who had gone ahead of me, began running very fast. I pushed on to overtake him, when I saw, lying on the ground, a human form, by the side of which Mango had thrown himself. Could it be Leo? I urged the ox into a gallop, and did not stop till I reached the spot. My worst apprehensions were fulfilled. There lay Leo extended on the grass.
"Is he dead?" I exclaimed, in a faltering voice.
"Hope not, massa," answered Mango, looking up; "he 'till breathes."
The words somewhat relieved my fears, and throwing myself from the ox, I knelt down by his side. My first care was to pour some water down his throat, then to bathe his temples; to treat him, indeed, as I had Natty under similar circumstances. I cannot express my thankfulness when I saw him at length open his eyes. He gazed at me with a look of surprise, but he was still too weak to speak. He pointed to his lips, and I gave him more water. It was necessary to get him at once into the shade, for, exposed to the hot sun, it was scarcely possible that he could regain his strength. Mango accordingly lifted him up on the ox's back, and I supporting him in my arms, he urged the animal on towards a wood we saw in the distance. Leo was still too weak to speak, but he recognised me, and a grateful look lighted up his eyes as he gazed at my face. As I thought he might understand me, I briefly narrated some of my adventures in search of him, of course not telling him my anxiety about his sisters and brothers. How thankful I felt that I had come in time to save him, for it was evident that he would not have survived many hours lying out on the exposed plain. I was now doubtful whether we should proceed on in the same course we had been steering, or turn away to the west in search of Kabomba, where, I felt sure, he would be well taken care of. I should have to go there at all events for Natty, even if we could gain certain tidings that our friends were further south. Presently Leo's lips moved, and I heard him whispering, "On! on as before! You will find them, I am sure!" This decided me. Still, I resolved to rest at the nearest wood we could reach. I was thankful when at length we arrived at one—a little oasis in the desert. What was still more satisfactory, within it appeared a small pool, a bright stream rushing out of the bank on its side. We had tethered the ox. While Mango sat by Leo's side bathing his temples and wetting his lips, I was busily employed in collecting wood for our hut. Suddenly the sound of animals rushing across the plain reached my ears. I looked up, and saw a troop of giraffes galloping at full speed, and, closely following them, two horsemen. On they dashed! Shouting at the top of my voice, I called again and again. I rushed to the ox, in the vain hope of overtaking them. Even at that distance I fancied I recognised Stanley, though his companion's figure I did not know. Just as I was about to mount, there came tearing after them, as if in pursuit, a large herd of buffaloes, among which appeared several huge rhinoceroses. It seemed as if they were in pursuit of the horsemen. Another herd of buffaloes came out of the wood opposite, and stopping, gazed a few moments before joining the chase. The whole passed by like creatures in a dream. I saw at once that it would be impossible to catch up the horsemen; besides which, I should have run a great chance of being gored to death by the rhinoceroses or buffaloes. On they went, tearing across the plain. Poor Leo lifted up his head.
Just then Mango called to me. "He say he sure dey're friends," said Mango. "We go after dem."
"Not just yet," I answered; "but it is a great satisfaction to have seen them, for it shows that they must be encamped not far off, though in which direction it is hard to say."
Had I been alone, I should certainly have followed; but it would have killed Leo to move. I therefore remained encamped, hoping that he would soon be sufficiently recovered to proceed. In a short time not an animal was to be seen. However, the incident greatly raised my spirits, especially as Leo was evidently getting better. Mango and I therefore went on building a hut, and collecting wood for a fire. We meantime propped up Leo with the baggage and some piles of wood. While thus employed, I saw a couple of parrots on a bough near, and fortunately killed them; and by the time our fire was burned up, Mango had plucked them, and they were soon roasting before it.
Night came on; but Leo was very restless, and declared that he could not sleep. I did everything I could to soothe him, but in vain. At length the moon rose and lighted up the whole landscape. "Me t'ink good time go on," said Mango. I thought so too; indeed, I had become very anxious about Leo. The camp, I hoped, was at no great distance, and I thought it would be better to obtain assistance for him, rather than take a long rest and have to travel during the heat of the day. Accordingly, rousing our patient ox, which had lain down near the fire after cropping the abundant grass, I mounted and lifted Leo up, holding him in my arms. Mango carried my rifle, and led the animal, that I might be more at liberty to support my young friend. On we went over the plain. We had gone some distance, when I felt Leo resting more heavily on my arm. I asked him what was the matter. He did not answer. I feared that he had fainted. Telling Mango to stop, we bathed his temples, and I poured a few drops of water down his throat. I had no other remedy. It slightly revived him, for he opened his eyes and spoke a few words; but his condition made me more than ever anxious to discover the camp, if such was indeed to be found. I had already gone through a great deal of anxiety, but nothing to equal what I suffered at present. It seemed so sad to think that Leo might die when succour was so near at hand. Eager, however, as I was to proceed, Leo's condition prevented me from allowing the ox to go out of a steady walk. Still, even thus, without any jolting, he got quickly over the ground. On and on we went, looking about in every direction for the light of a fire which might indicate the situation of the wished-for camp. I say wished-for, for I was not certain that our friends were actually in the neighbourhood. Perhaps the horsemen I had seen had come from a considerable distance, and were in light hunting order, with merely saddle-bags to hold their provisions and ammunition. If so, they could render us, even if we should fall in with them, but little assistance. These thoughts passed through my mind as we proceeded, while I formed a variety of plans, to be carried out according to any emergency which might arise. As the moon was bright, I had no fear of an attack from wild beasts.
We had gone on for about three hours, when Mango stopped. "See, massa, see!" he exclaimed. I looked ahead, and observed a ruddy glow in the sky. The ox at the same time poked out his head, as if he also saw something that interested him. Presently the light increased, and I could distinctly make out fires burning in the distance. "If those are campfires, they must have been lighted by a somewhat large party," I observed. The further we advanced, the more distinct did the fires become. We proceeded eagerly. At length, to my surprise, the ox seemed unwilling to move on. In spite of Mango's coaxing voice, it proceeded more and more slowly. At length I could distinguish not only the fires, but objects moving about; a waggon and numerous oxen tethered near, and horses and men, gradually came in sight. Then the barking of dogs reached our ears. This made me still more surprised at the unwillingness of the ox to proceed. Then I distinguished some water, on which the light of the fire was reflected. Between us and it, however, several dark objects appeared. In vain Mango now tried to urge on the ox. He stopped altogether. "Ah, massa, look dere!" he exclaimed in a terrified tone. He had cause for alarm. The fires just then blazing up more completely, exhibited the dark outlines of several lions and other creatures, which I took to be hyenas, standing on our side of the stream, watching the camp, while the dogs we had heard ran backwards and forwards, barking at them from the opposite side. My fear now was that the savage brutes might turn and attack us. Even if they did not do so, it might take us some time to find a ford and get round to the camp, unless we could make the travellers hear us and come to our assistance. Mango and I shouted again and again with all our might. Though our friends might not have heard our voices, the wild beasts did, for suddenly turning round, the whole pack, with angry roars, came bounding towards us.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.
DOINGS AT THE CAMP.
It was a nervous thing to stand in front of a dozen or more lions and hyenas bounding over the plain. I thought the ox would have bolted, in spite of Mango's efforts to hold him. To fly would have been more dangerous than standing still, so we remained firm, and shouted our utmost. The moon, which had before been behind a cloud, came out brightly, when the savage creatures, awed, if not terrified, by our cries, separated as they approached us, and bounded off on either hand into the wilds. The ox, recovering from his alarm, no longer refused to move on.
Reaching the banks of the stream, we again cried out, hoping to attract the attention of the travellers.
"Who are you? What is it you want?" shouted a voice from the other side.
"Andrew Crawford and Leonard Hyslop with the black Mango. We want to cross the river and join you," I shouted in return.
"Welcome! welcome! Move to the right! There is an easy passage. We will go that way and show you. Captain Hyslop and several of his party are here." The last words which reached my ears were the first certain intimation I had that my cousin Stanley was in the camp near us. I earnestly hoped that his sisters and David were there also. As we rode along we heard a number of voices, and saw men with torches moving rapidly along the side of the stream. Presently we came to a somewhat wider part, where the banks were very low, and where I should have expected to find a ford. At the same time several people were seen with torches crossing it. We went on to meet them, Mango leading the ox, which advanced without hesitation. We were already in the water when I heard Stanley's voice.
"Andrew, my dear fellow, is it you? and have you really brought poor Leo?" he exclaimed. "We had given you all up for lost!"
"I have brought him," I said; "but where is David?"
"He is in the camp; but having turned in, I suppose was not dressed in time to join us," he replied.
We had not time to exchange many words while crossing the stream; but as soon as we had got safe on dry ground I gave him a brief account of our adventures, and expressed my anxiety to have Leo placed under David's care without delay.
"And Kate and Bella!" I asked. "Are they with you, and well?"
"Yes, I am thankful to say so," he answered, "though they have had to go through much hardship, no little danger, and great fatigue; indeed, I do not know what would have occurred had not our friend Silva, and a party he had collected, arrived sooner than we expected. He had fallen in with a trader making an exploring expedition further north than any of his calling have hitherto reached, and, offering him a handsome remuneration, induced him to come on with his waggon and several good horses, in the hope of meeting us. The trader—Donald Fraser by name, a Scotchman—having got into this unknown region, would not consent to proceed further, and was on the point of turning south again, when Silva induced him to remain another week, while Chickango went on to try and get tidings of us. We had, meantime, started south, and happily fell in with him, when reduced to extremities, about two days' journey from the camp. I am not surprised at our friend Donald's unwillingness to proceed, for he had fallen in with some rough customers, who were more likely to rob him of his goods than pay for them. However, by the exertion of the diplomatic talents of our friend Silva, they got free, and now, I am thankful to say, we are all well, and ready to march southward. Kate and Bella have been dreadfully cut up about Leo's loss, and yours, too, Andrew. But what has become of Natty? I hope the poor boy is not dead?"
I satisfied Stanley on that point.
"We must go back, then, for him at once," he remarked. "Though the Kabomba people may treat him well, we must not desert the poor lad."
By this time we had reached the camp. Although the rest of the party had been asleep, they had been aroused, and now appeared out of their respective huts to receive us. Kate and Bella greeted me kindly, but were too much occupied with poor Leo to exchange more than a few words. He was at once carried into their hut, where David went to attend to him. Senhor Silva, Jack, Timbo, and the other blacks, greeted me warmly.
"So glad, Massa Andrew, you come back; so glad," exclaimed Timbo. "Me pray always for you. Neber t'ought you lost. Knew you come back some day, dough me not den know de way."
Though I felt somewhat fatigued, my friends insisted on getting a substantial supper ready; and the relief I felt from the idea that my cares had now come to an end, contributed to give me a good appetite. I was introduced to Mr Donald Fraser, a tall, gaunt, red-haired Scotchman.
"I am very glad to welcome you, Mr Andrew Crawford," he said, putting out his horny-palmed hand. "You come from the North, I know, by your name, and you are none the less welcome so far from the old country, out in these southern and heathenish lands. Your stout arm and rifle will be a pleasant addition, too, to our party; for they are rough fellows we are travelling amongst, and I shouldn't be surprised if we had to fight our way out from their midst."
"My father came from Scotland, and though I have never been in it, I love the country for his sake," I answered. "Though I hope we shall have no fighting, I am ready to take my part if we have to defend ourselves."
"No doubt you would, Mr Crawford," he said. "We are men of peace, and should never wish to fight, unless in cases of urgent necessity. I hope, now you are come, we shall begin our journey southward forthwith."
"I am afraid not, Mr Fraser," said Stanley. "My brother, who has just arrived, will scarcely yet be able to move, and we have a young friend, I find, lying ill at a village some days' journey to the north of us; and until we get him we cannot leave this spot."
This information did not seem very palatable to our friend Donald; but after taking a glass of real Glenlivet, a flask of which stood in our midst, his countenance relaxed.
"Ay, to be sure. I had once a young brother of my own, a delicate boy. I had few else to love in the world. He is gone; but I know how you feel about this little fellow; we must not risk his life. And the other lad, the son of poor Captain Page—I knew him—made a voyage aboard his ship—and should like to do the boy a good turn for his sake. I don't greatly esteem the gratitude of this world, and yet it's pleasant to have the opportunity of repaying a debt for kindness received."
I was glad to hear these remarks, and trusting that Natty would find a friend in Mr Fraser, I lay down to enjoy a sounder rest than I had for very long obtained.
Leo was much better in the morning, and David told me that though he was seriously ill, yet he trusted that he would shortly regain sufficient strength to travel. I begged of Stanley that he would allow me to accompany him to convey Natty to the camp. To this he willingly agreed, and it was arranged that Timbo was to take a third horse and act as interpreter, and that we were to travel during the bright moonlight hours of night.
I was anxious to set off immediately; but the horses were so tired with their hunting expedition of the previous day, that Stanley considered it was necessary to give them a couple of days' rest before they would be fit to start.
"When did you ride last, Mr Crawford?" inquired Donald Fraser of me the following morning. "Because it strikes me that, unless you are a good horseman, you'll be little fit to take the journey the captain proposes, at the rate he goes over the ground."
I confessed that some years had passed since I had mounted a horse, though in my father's prosperous days I had owned one, and was then a fair rider.
"Well, then, we'll just take a canter across the plain this afternoon. It will not tire the horses, and it will help to get your muscles into play for the exertion you'll have to make by-and-by," he said.
I was very glad to accept his offer. After dinner, with our rifles at our backs—to be ready for any lion, panther, elephant, or rhinoceros which might cross our path—we set out for an hour's ride towards the south, Stanley cautioning us not to go far and fatigue the horses.
"Never fear, captain," answered Mr Fraser. "We'll just go far enough to stretch our steeds' legs, and see how our young friend here sticks to his saddle."
As we rode along my companion gave me many valuable hints with regard to the journey I was about to undertake.
"Keep your horse well in hand," he observed, "your eyes about you, and your ears open; never press him unnecessarily; and then, should you meet a lion or be attacked by savages, you will be ready for action, and do what in my opinion is the wisest thing under such circumstances—get out of their way."
We had not gone far when an exclamation of pleasure burst from Donald, and I saw to the southward a vast herd of springboks crossing from east to west. Numerous as were the wild animals we had met with, I had never seen so many of one species together. They formed an immense herd extending for a full mile across our path, and, as far as we could judge, of the same width. On they went, bounding and leaping. "On! on!" cried my companion, forgetting all about our tired steeds; and putting spurs to the flanks of his, away he galloped, calling on me to keep up with him. The wary animals saw us coming, and, apprehending danger, immediately began to scour over the plain, turning, however, to the south-west. This placed us directly behind them. They would lead us a long chase, of that there was no doubt; but Donald was too eager to think of letting them escape. Mile after mile was passed over. We were approaching the herd. They now, however, began to scatter to the right and left, though still keeping in considerable bodies. We followed the centre one. At length we found ourselves in a rocky country, which compelled us to turn aside. Twice Donald fired, and each time brought down an animal. I also killed one; but could with difficulty rein in my horse while I reloaded my rifle. Away the springboks went, leaping over the rocks with wonderful agility. We had been gradually ascending, when Donald disappeared among the rocks and trees to the right, and shortly afterwards I found myself going down the somewhat steep side of a hill, with a number of springboks directly ahead of me. I again fired, but missed, when I stopped to reload; and just then looking up, I saw a high precipice, towards which several of the springboks were making. Rushing on, regardless of the height of the cliff, they leaped over it. I thought they must have broken their legs; but they alighted unhurt. Just then I saw Donald coming on at full speed, directly after another herd. They, too, made for the precipice. I shouted out to him, fearing that he might not see it, and that he and his horse would fall over and be killed. I shouted and waved again and again. Just before he reached the edge he saw me, and though he could not have heard what I said, he guessed there was danger, and reined in his steed; not, however, till they were both on the point of rushing over. Scrambling up the hill, I rejoined him. He had killed four antelopes—a welcome supply for our camp. We might have slaughtered many more, but those we had got we could not carry home. Gutting up four animals, we loaded our horses with the meat, and then drew the remaining two into a hollow of a rock, and filled up the entrance with stones and sand, hoping to send for them in the evening.
The springboks are so called from their wonderful agility. They are found in all parts of Southern Africa, and are more numerous than any other variety of the antelope. In form they are very graceful—not unlike the lovely gazelle of the north of Africa.
We had a somewhat fatiguing trudge towards the camp, though we had less to complain of than our steeds. The supply of venison was very welcome, though I was afraid, in consequence of our long chase, the intended journey might be delayed another day. Donald complimented me on my horsemanship; indeed, I had not been five minutes in the saddle before I found myself perfectly at home. I was somewhat stiff, I must confess; but the horses were not much the worse for their unexpected gallop. We therefore prepared to set off the following afternoon.
No time was lost in sending for the rest of the venison, which the hyenas would soon have found out had it been allowed to remain during the night. Late in the evening Chickango and one of the Hottentots, who had been sent to bring it in, returned. As they were approaching the camp, one of the oxen, which had been allowed to feed for a moment, was seen suddenly to stop, and begin to roar with pain, its countenance exhibiting the utmost helplessness. I, with others, ran forward to see what was the matter, supposing that it must have been bitten by some venomous insect or snake. Donald soon followed, when, telling the men to hold the poor ox's mouth, he took out of it a curious woody-looking substance, covered with sharp thorns.
"The poor creature has got this seed-vessel of the grapple plant into his mouth," he said, exhibiting it. "I suspect that any of you who had taken the same between your jaws would have roared too, if not so loudly."
He told us that if an animal lies down upon these seed-vessels, they stick to his skin, so that he cannot possibly get rid of them. David, who examined it, said it came from the plant Uncaria procumbens; or grapple plant.
I had gone out the next morning soon after sunrise to look round the camp, when I saw several birds of a greyish colour, about the size of a common thrush. Their notes, too, reminded me, as they sang their morning song, of the mistletoe thrush. Presently they flew off together, some way up the stream. Turning round, I saw Chickango, Igubo, and several of Mr Fraser's blacks following, with guns in their hands, accompanied by a pack of dogs. I pointed out the birds to them. "'Noceros not far off," observed Chickango. Presently we saw the birds pitch behind a neighbouring bush, and getting on one side of it, what was my surprise to find that they were standing on the back of a huge rhinoceros, sticking their bills into his head, and even into his ears, and uttering a loud harsh grating cry. The rhinoceros, we could see even at that distance, was a huge white monster, with a couple of horns, a short one placed on the head behind the front, and pointed—a formidable looking weapon. The object, probably, of these rhinoceros-birds, as they may be called, in thus pitching on his body, was to feed upon the ticks, and other parasitic insects, which swarm upon those animals. They also attend upon the hippopotamus, and, whether intentionally or not I cannot say, often thus give him warning of danger. Presently up rose the rhinoceros and looked about him. I, unfortunately, not intending to go far from the camp, had left my rifle behind. The dogs at that instant started off, rushing with loud barks towards the monster. They had better have kept at a distance, for, lowering his head, he caught the first which leaped towards him on his horn, and threw him back dead among the reeds. Then, turning round, he charged directly towards us. The unarmed blacks immediately took to the water. Unable to escape by flight, I thought that my last moments had come; but, providentially, the dogs attracting his attention, diverted it from me. Chickango, rifle in hand, boldly ran up to face the monster, who at that instant seemed to catch sight of the waggon and cattle in the distance. He probably thought it an enemy worthy of his courage, for, to my great horror and dismay, in spite of our shouts and the barking of the dogs, he rushed off towards it. I could only hope that our friends saw him coming, though when I left the camp they were still asleep. I thought he would have struck Chickango, who was directly in his course; but the active black sprang out of his way, and then turning round, fired at his head. Though I was sure the bullet had struck, yet it did not stop his course. On he dashed towards the waggon. I shouted and shouted to Stanley, hoping that he might possibly hear my voice. In vain. The brute went on, and seemed to be almost in the midst of the camp. Aiming directly at the waggon, he struck it, and, heavy as it was, so great was the impetus of his huge body that he sent it on several feet. Fortunately he came against it in the rear, otherwise it must inevitably have been upset. Just then another shot was fired, and, greatly to my relief, over rolled the huge creature. Never have I heard such shouting, barking, and yelping of dogs, as immediately arose.
When I got to the camp I found our friends, as may be supposed, in a state of no small alarm; but that quickly subsided, and the blacks especially gave way to their delight at the prospect of so bountiful a supply of meat as the creature's carcass would afford them. We calculated that it was fully equal to three good-sized oxen. It was an enormous creature. David likened it to an immense grey hog shorn of its bristles. With the exception of a tuft at the extremity of the ears and tail, it had no hair on its body. Its eyes were absurdly small; indeed, at a little distance one could scarcely see them. We agreed that, what with its giant body, misshapen head, ungainly legs and feet, and absurdly small eyes, it was, according to our notions, the very image of ugliness. Next to the elephant, the white rhinoceros is the largest animal in existence, and scarcely inferior to it in strength, as this one had proved by the way in which it pushed on the huge waggon. Notwithstanding its ungainly appearance, it had shown us how active it could be, by the way it had turned about when assailed by the dogs, and the rapid charge it made towards the camp; indeed, I believe even a fast horse, with a rider on his back, could only keep pace with it. Senhor Silva told us it cannot go long without water, and it is, therefore, always found in the neighbourhood of some pond or fountain, which it seeks at least once during the day, both to quench its thirst and to wallow in the mud, in which amusement it delights. Probably it is thus able to get rid of the insects which cling to its hide. We measured the animal, and found that it was nearly sixteen feet in length, from the snout to the end of the tail, and twelve feet in circumference. It is said to attain the age of one hundred years; indeed, judging from its horns, the old fellow we killed must have been nearly as old. The body was long and thick; the belly hanging nearly to the ground, and of great size. Its legs were short, round, and very strong; and its hoofs were divided into three parts, each pointing forward. The head was especially large, the ears long and erect, and its small eyes deeply sunk. The horns of the rhinoceros are composed of a mass of fine longitudinal threads, forming a hard solid substance, not secured to the skull, but merely attached to the skin. They rest, however, on a bony protuberance near the nostrils. The white rhinoceros, of which I have been speaking, has an extraordinary prolongation of the head, which we found to be nearly one-third of the length of the whole body. Its nose was square, and the after horn of considerable length. The horn of the black rhinoceros is much shorter, and the animal itself is smaller than the white species. There are, however, four species of rhinoceros—two black, or of a dark colour; and two of a whitish hue. The black is supposed to be of a wilder and more morose disposition than the white. It has a peculiar upper lip, which is capable of extension, and is extremely pliable, so that it can move it from side to side, and twist it round a stick. It in this way collects its food, and carries it to its mouth, making use of it somewhat as an elephant does his trunk. The black species are very fierce, and probably, next to the buffalo, are the most dangerous beasts in Southern Africa to encounter; for the lion gives notice of his approach by his roar, and can easily be driven off, while even the elephant is less pertinacious in assailing an enemy.
Senhor Silva said he had heard of rhinoceroses with three horns, but he had never seen them, and rather doubted their existence. One species known as the cobaba has a front horn frequently upwards of four feet in length, pointing slightly forward from the snout, at an angle of 45 degrees. It can easily be conceived how fearful is a charge from an animal with such a weapon, active and determined as it is. Although the rhinoceros sees but badly, it has a peculiarly acute sense of hearing and smell. It winds an enemy at a great distance; but the hunter may approach to leeward of it within a few paces, if he walks with care, without being discovered, though at the same time any noise will instantly arouse it. Ugly as the rhinoceros is, the female is a very affectionate mother, and guards her young with the tenderest care. The calf also clings to its dam; and Senhor Silva told us that he had seen a calf watching by the side of the carcass two days after the mother had been killed. Until aroused, the rhinoceros looks the most stupid and inoffensive of animals; but woe betide the unwary traveller who offends him! If on horseback, he will have to scamper for his life; if on foot, his only chance of safety is to climb a tree, or hide on the opposite side of the thick trunk of one. A lion will never attack a rhinoceros, and slinks out of his way if he meets one. Even the elephant avoids an encounter, if he can, with so formidable an opponent, who, careless of the blows of his trunk or the thrusts of his tusks, will charge him with his sharp horn, and pierce him to the heart.
Senhor Silva told us that he once saw a battle between a large male elephant and a rhinoceros, when, after an encounter of some minutes, the elephant, who had at first shown great courage and activity, turned tail and fled, the blood flowing from the wounds he had received. He once also saw a battle between four enormous rhinoceroses. Again and again they charged each other, uttering the most horrible grunts, and digging their horns into each other's sides. So fiercely engaged were the monsters, that they did not observe the approach of his hunters, who succeeded in killing two of them, while the others escaped. Those killed were utterly unfit for food, their flesh being quite rotten from the wounds they had received on previous occasions.
The black rhinoceros feeds on a species of thorn known in Cape Colony as wait-a-bit, which gives it a somewhat acrid and bitter flavour. The white species, however, feeds chiefly on grass. The flesh has in consequence a pleasant taste, and is usually very fat. A high polish can be given to the horns of the rhinoceros, and they are valuable articles of commerce. They fetch, indeed, half as much as common elephant ivory. They are formed into drinking-cups, handles for swords, ramrods for rifles, and are used for many other purposes.
"When you speak of drinking-cups," said David to our Portuguese friend, who had given us this account, "I have heard that they are believed to possess the virtue of detecting poison. It is said that if wine is poured into them it forthwith rises and bubbles up as if it were boiling; and if poison is mixed with it, immediately the cup splits. It is said, also, that if poison by itself is poured into one of these cups, that the cup will instantly fly to pieces. I confess, however, that I am inclined to doubt that such is the case."
"I also have no belief in the account," remarked Senhor Silva.
The ordinary way of killing the rhinoceros is to stalk him either when feeding or asleep. By approaching to leeward, a good shot will kill him before he moves. Some hunters prefer hiding themselves in huts or pits, as he comes to drink in the stream at the morning or evening. Sometimes, however, the animals are taken in pitfalls, such as are used to capture elephants or other large game. Englishmen (for I have not heard of any one else who has done so) occasionally hunt the rhinoceros on horseback. Though their horses have been able to keep up with the chase, the infuriated beasts have been known to charge the hunter. In two instances I heard of, the horses were completely run through by the creature's horns; and, in two others, the unfortunate huntsmen themselves were killed, being fearfully gored by the savage brutes.
I was very anxious to set off to bring back Natty; and in the afternoon Stanley pronounced the horses fit to proceed. Mr Donald Fraser proposed accompanying us; but when Stanley promised to try and induce some of the blacks to come south and trade with him, he abandoned his intentions, hoping to do a stroke of business in the meantime with any natives who might come to the camp. Timbo therefore took the third horse, and I mounted the one he would have ridden. They were all three fine strong animals, fleet and active; and we hoped on their backs to bid defiance to any human beings or wild beasts we might encounter. Stanley did not fail to urge on those who remained behind the importance of keeping bright fires burning round the camp at night, and being ever on the watch, lest the wild beasts we had encountered might be tempted to swim across the stream and attack either them or the oxen.
"Do you, my dear brother, be careful of yourself," said Kate, as she wished us good-bye. "You seem to forget that though you have attacked so many of them successfully, some day they may turn round and treat you in the same way."
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
EXPEDITION TO RECOVER NATTY.
Though, after the wild life I had been so long living, I would gladly have remained behind in the society of my young cousins, I was so anxious to learn how Natty was going on that I felt very glad when I found myself in the saddle, with saddle-bags well stored with rhinoceros' meat and other eatables, and my rifle by my side. We had tethers for our horses, hooks for cutting grass for them, and axes for supplying ourselves with firewood to keep up blazing fires at night.
As we rode along, Stanley gave me fuller details of the attack which had been made on our village, and which had resulted in the party being compelled to quit it and seek safety at Kabomba. Soon after we had left our home on our unfortunate expedition, Timbo had set off to Kabomba, in the hope, as he said, of telling the natives about the Bible, showing them how much superior is the white man's religion to their foolish idolatry. They had listened more readily than he had expected; and his great wish now was to return there at some future day with missionaries, who might teach them to read about the matter themselves. He had just got back, when one morning Jack Handspike, who was on guard, observed a body of blacks approaching. At first he thought that they were the villagers for whose benefit Stanley had killed the man-eating lions. They, however, very soon exhibited their hostile intentions, by letting fly a shower of arrows into the enclosure. Happily no one was hit. Jack instantly roused the inmates, and fired his rifle at their assailants, while Stanley and the rest seized their arms and rushed out to defend the fortress. Their assailants were, however, too well acquainted with its construction, and were now seen rushing on, each man with a torch in his hand. These they threw among the prickly-pear hedge, which, dried by the hot sun, was as combustible as tinder. In an instant the whole was in a blaze. Stanley had collected his party, each one being loaded with as much property as could be carried. Then, sallying forth, they fired a volley, which drove the blacks to a distance. They were thus able to secure several of their animals, and to save a few more of their effects. They now retreated to some rising ground, where they witnessed the utter destruction of our habitation. The blacks had probably not expected so brave a defence. They once more came on; but a volley killed three of their number, and the rest, disappointed of their expected plunder, took to flight. Timbo on this urged Stanley to set out without delay for Kabomba. They were happily able to reach it, though my young cousins had undergone great fatigue on the journey. After a stay of a week at Kabomba, they had received information that a party of white travellers had appeared at some distance to the south. Scarcely expecting that Senhor Silva could have returned so soon, they set off in the hope of falling in with the strangers, accompanied by an escort of the Kabomba people, who were anxious to show their gratitude by guarding them on their way. They had fallen in, as I have mentioned, with Chickango, and arrived safely at Donald Fraser's camp. Timbo supposed that the attack had been made by a tribe from the border of the lake, who had heard of the wealth possessed by the white men. It occurred to me that they had possibly come from the very village which our friends had advised us to avoid; and such I found was the ease. Had we fallen into their hands, our fate would have been sealed.
Soon after leaving the camp, we saw before us a grove of tall palm-trees. At first they appeared to form a part of an extensive wood. As we drew nearer, we discovered that the trees grew at considerable distances from each other. They were tall and extremely graceful, each branch having the appearance of a beautiful fan; and as the wind waved them to and fro, the effect was peculiarly pleasing. They are known as "fan-palms"—the most beautiful, perhaps, of their tribe. We found fruit growing on them about the size of an apple, of a deep brown colour. Timbo begged us to stop, and he would try and get some. He accordingly climbed up one of the trees, helping himself with a band round his waist, and soon came down with a number of the fruit. They contained kernels as hard as a stone, which put us in mind of vegetable ivory. We found the fruit very palatable and refreshing. Most of the trees, however, were so tall, that it was evident the fruit could not be obtained without difficulty. I should have said we took a couple of dogs with us which had attached themselves to Stanley. They might prove useful at night in giving us warning of the approach of any wild beast; and we were therefore glad of their company. The country was tolerably open, but in some parts we had to pass through dense forests. In most of these, however, we could generally find an elephant path from one side to the other, always broad enough to allow two horsemen to ride abreast. Frequently Stanley rode ahead; while I rode alongside Timbo, who was more communicative than my cousin. He, I have already said, was a man rather of action than words; and would, for an hour together, ride without speaking, unless something attracted his attention. He had gone some way ahead, with the two dogs at his side; we following at a little distance, though, of course, always keeping him in sight. Timbo was recounting, with considerable animation, some of the adventures of his youth, when suddenly his narrative was interrupted by a loud trumpeting sound, and we saw Stanley wheel round and gallop towards us. At the same moment, a huge elephant, the largest monster I ever saw, with trunk projected, vast ears spread-out, and tail erect, burst from the thicket, and in hot haste pursued my cousin.
"Fly! fly!" shouted Stanley; "gallop off for your lives!" We required no second order to obey him. Stanley was looking round at the monster; but, situated as he was in a pathway between thick trees, among which he could not force a passage, he was unable to fire. Flight was our only resource. We were already deep in the forest, and I had remarked no other way except the one by which we had come. Had we stopped and attempted to fire, we might too likely have shot Stanley, who was directly between us and the elephant. Had we missed, Stanley would certainly have been trampled upon; and so probably should we, as by the delay we should have impeded his progress, and prevented him from escaping. Very unwillingly, therefore, we turned our horses' heads and galloped on, hoping to keep ahead of him. His horse was, fortunately, the fleetest and strongest animal of the three. It seemed also to know its danger, and flew along over the ground at a rapid rate; but still the cumbrous monster came as fast, trumpeting and shrieking with rage. His huge feet almost touched the horse's hinder hoofs, so it seemed; while his trunk, in the glance I had got of him, appeared to be about to descend upon Stanley's head. So dangerous was the position in which he was placed, that I scarcely dared hope he would escape. "On! on!" he shouted. "On! on!" we shrieked in return, trying to urge forward our steeds at a little faster rate. The dogs, aware of their danger, scampered off, with tongues hanging out, watching for an opening in the thicket through which they might bolt. We had passed over several fallen trees and other impediments in the path; and I dreaded lest, coming against such, our horses might stumble. Now a trunk appeared before us. Our horses leaped boldly over it. I hoped that Stanley's would follow, and that it might offer some impediment to the elephant. Glancing for a moment anxiously round over my shoulder, I saw that the monster had also got over it without stopping. Could we once gain the open country, I knew that we should have a better prospect of escaping; because by separating the elephant would hesitate which to pursue, and while he followed one of us, the others would be able to fire at him. Still we had a considerable distance to go, for I calculated that we had penetrated a mile or more into the forest. It was indeed a gallop for life, and the elephant seemed determined to wreak his fury on us. What had offended him so much it was difficult to say—perhaps the sight of a horse, strange probably to him.
I think I have mentioned that when a troop of elephants are passing leisurely onwards, feeding as they go, their footfall is unheard; but when angry, the case is very different. The monster seemed to make the very ground quake beneath his feet, as he came trumpeting on behind us, adding, not a little, I suspect, to the terror of our horses, which, with manes and tails streaming out, like some demon-pursued steeds of German legend, dashed through the wood. There was no need of whip or spur to urge them on. How thankful I felt when at length, under the tall arched trees, I caught sight of the open plain! Still our steeds dashed on. I turned my head to learn how it fared with Stanley. He was sitting his horse as composedly as ever, though the elephant was close behind him. "Andrew, turn to the right!—Timbo, keep ahead!" he shouted. We obeyed, and the elephant dashed out of the cover. The huge animal was coming on at even greater speed than at first, in no way out of breath with its long and tremendous charge. Stanley wheeled his horse to the left, while the elephant dashed forward, and seeing Timbo, pursued him. This was exactly what Stanley wanted. Again wheeling his horse, he followed, keeping on the quarter of the animal. I saw he was getting his rifle ready to fire. I imitated his example. The dogs, too, breaking from the cover, came in pursuit, and assisted us. With difficulty could Stanley curb in his horse. The elephant, hearing noises behind him, stopped. The instant he did so, Stanley's rifle was at his shoulder. There was a report, and the animal, a moment before so terror-inspiring by its bulk and powers of destruction, sank upon the grass. Its trunk fell, its mighty limbs stretched out, and before one of the yelping dogs could reach it, life was extinct.
Our escape had indeed been providential. It was some minutes before Timbo could rein in his horse, and we had to shout and shout to him to return. At length, however, he arrived, and was as delighted as we were to see our enemy overcome.
Timbo proposed that we should return to the camp and get our friends to come and carry off the tusks and flesh; but as I was anxious to get assistance for Natty as soon as possible, I begged Stanley to proceed, hoping that we might find the tusks on our way back.
"Dat bery unlikely," said Timbo; "but we cut dem out and hide dem, and den if black fellows come to take de meat, dey no find de tusks."
We accordingly set to work to cut out the tusks, which Timbo then hid in the wood and covered them up with branches. I asked Stanley whether we should proceed by the pathway, or take the route outside the forest.
"There is but little fear of our encountering another fellow like the one we have killed," he answered. "He was evidently a solitary beast, by his savage disposition: and the chances are we shall get through without further interruption. If not, we can but have another gallop for it, Andrew. I rather enjoyed mine; though, to be sure, it was a neck or nothing affair."
This was the chief difficulty we met on our journey. We formed our camp at night, as we had proposed. With the aid of the dogs and the watch-fires, we were uninterrupted, although the roars of lions were heard in the distance, and we had visits from jackals and hyena-dogs, who came prowling round, attracted by the scent of our roasting meat; Stanley's unerring rifle supplying us amply with game. We had a pleasant addition one day in a large bustard which he shot. Though very abundant, the bird is shy, so that a good sportsman alone can hope to kill it. It weighed about fifteen pounds. The flesh was very tender and palatable, and we agreed that it was the best flavoured of the game birds we had met with. After each day's journey, Timbo generally went in search of small game or birds' eggs, of which he brought us a plentiful supply; so that we lived in abundance.
At length we recognised the reed-covered habitations of our Kabomba friends, the whole population apparently turning out to welcome us. The chief men, and those who had accompanied Stanley to the camp, hurried forward to grasp his hands, while the rest stood at a distance, gazing at the strange animals which our horses appeared to them; indeed, those only who had been to the camp had ever seen a horse before. Our first inquiries were, of course, for Natty.
"Chief say better, but not like walk much," answered Timbo.
"Beg them to let me see him at once," I said, riding on.
It was difficult, however, to get through the dense mass who came to shake our hands and embrace Timbo—a ceremony to which they knew we objected. At length we reached the chief's house, at the entrance of which Natty was standing. Poor fellow! he still looked very pale and thin, and I was afraid from his appearance that his days were numbered.
"I shall get better now you have come for me," he said, looking up in my face. "I have been so longing for your return, and began to dread that some accident had happened. Do not be anxious about me, Andrew. I know—I am sure I shall get better."
I trusted so. "The food on which he has been living probably has not suited him," I thought; "and when he is placed under David's care, he may begin to improve." This hope prevented my spirits sinking, as they would otherwise have done. We told the Kabomba people that we were anxious to return immediately to our friends; and as I saw that it would be dangerous for Natty to ride behind one of us, as we had proposed, I begged the chief to allow some of his young men to carry him. To this he agreed; and forthwith I set to work, aided by Timbo, to form a litter. There were plenty of bamboos in the neighbourhood, and with these we constructed a light and very convenient conveyance, with a roof, back, and sides. The greater part was formed of bamboo, and matting served as a cover to keep off the sun's rays in the day-time, and the damp at night. We then had to train some bearers; for the people were unaccustomed to bear loads in the way a litter must be carried. Timbo employed his time, when not assisting me, in addressing his countrymen. When I asked him if he had succeeded in impressing on their minds any gospel truths—"Yes," he said; "I sow leetle seed, but it grow up and bear fruit some of dese days. No fear; dat seed I sow nebber rot."
Among the inhabitants of the village I recognised my three faithless attendants. The chief expressed himself very much ashamed at their having deserted me. They excused themselves by saying that they thought I had been made prisoner, and that they had run away to avoid sharing my fate. I replied that I was very glad they had got home safely, and that I harboured no ill-will towards them.
"I tell dem dat Christians ought to do good to deir enemies, so dey understand why you no beg de chief to kill dem," observed Timbo.
At break of day we commenced our return journey. Our style of travelling was very different from what it had been during my former adventures. We had bearers for Natty, and also a party of armed men with shields and spears as a body-guard, and others carrying provisions, while we ourselves were mounted on strong steeds. For most of the time I rode near Natty, anxious to keep up his spirits. Now and then Timbo took my place. Stanley generally rode ahead; as, however, we had to proceed slowly, he frequently started off with the dogs to get some sport. He was, as usual, successful, and kept our pots well supplied. I told him he must look out, and not be caught by another rogue elephant.
"No fear of that," he answered. "I keep my eye about me; and, in truth, I should rather enjoy being again chased. It is but fair, considering how fond I am of hunting animals, that I should occasionally be hunted in return."
We had accomplished four days of our journey, when, early in the morning, Stanley was riding some distance ahead, and Timbo and I were keeping at the side of Natty's litter. Natty was, I hoped, decidedly better. He was able to walk about every evening in the cool, and would sit at the camp-fire and join in conversation as well as any of us. We were passing along the edge of a wood, of which there were several scattered about in sight, though the country was generally open. A shorter way might have been found, perhaps, through the wood; but our black friends declined entering it, declaring that many lions lurked there, and urging us to be on the watch for them.
"I only wish some of them would come out," observed Stanley. "I should like to carry home the hide of one, for I have lost all those I have killed."
Stanley, as I have said, was a little in advance, keeping close to the wood, looking apparently into it in search of game, for he was as good a shot on horseback as on foot. Presently I saw his horse swerve on one side. With whip and spur he brought the animal again up to the wood. Just then there was a fearful roar. The horse again started on one side, the suddenness of his movement almost unseating his rider, whose cap was knocked off. The next moment a huge lion, breaking cover, sprang out of the wood with a tremendous bound, and alighted on the back of the horse, grasping Stanley with one of his tremendous claws. Stanley, leaning over his horse's neck to avoid him, in vain attempted with his rifle to beat off the savage brute. To gallop to his rescue was the impulse of the moment. In another instant my cousin might be killed; for had he once been dragged from his horse, nothing could have prevented the lion seizing him between his powerful jaws, wide open at that moment to grasp him. The risk Stanley had run in the adventure with the elephant seemed as nothing compared to the awful danger in which he was now placed. Our horses, though not unaccustomed to carry their riders in chase of lions, trembled in every limb. The frightened blacks were about to fly, leaving Natty on the ground. I shouted to them to come back, when Timbo and I spurred on our horses towards my cousin. He caught sight of us coming.
"Fire! fire!" he shouted. "Kill the brute! Never mind though you hit me!"
I sprang from my horse, and just as I got my rifle to my shoulder, Stanley, with the lion still clinging to him, dashed by. It was not a moment to hesitate. If I failed to hit the lion, my cousin must be killed. I fired, and he and the lion fell from the back of the horse. My heart felt sick, for I thought he had been killed. The horse, freed from the grasp of the mighty brute, galloped off across the plain. My cousin lay on the ground, and I saw that the lion's paw was still on him. I instantly began to reload. Timbo in the meantime had come up. What was my horror to see the lion, though wounded, working his way on towards Stanley's body. I was afraid if I now fired of hitting him. Without a moment's delay Timbo bravely rushed forward, shouting loudly, when the lion, raising himself on his fore-feet, and crouching down, prepared to make his deadly spring. Timbo stood firm as a rock. I fired. For an instant I saw the lion in the air; but the next he rolled over, not two feet from the brave black. I rushed up to Stanley. As I approached, he lifted himself on his arm, greatly to my relief.
"He nearly did for me; but I believe I am less hurt than I supposed!" he exclaimed.
However, even as he spoke, he sank back again. I knelt down by his side. The lion's claws had inflicted a fearful wound on his shoulder, and his hip also appeared to be greatly torn. Timbo, having ascertained that the lion was dead, now came up to assist me in supporting his master. Fortunately we had brought some spirits. I shouted to the blacks to come on with Natty and our goods, and as soon as possible poured a good portion of spirits and water down Stanley's throat. Natty had got out of his palanquin and came towards us. Some of the blacks had, in the meantime, gone off to catch the horses. Poor Natty's concern was very great at seeing what had occurred.
"O Captain Hyslop, you must be put into my litter!" he said; "I am sure I shall be able to ride, for I feel quite strong now."