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I should like to see some of these spoc-karls', on wilde paard, hunting an angry bull elephant. I think we should laugh then.'

“Yes, Hans; and they laughed at you because you were not clever at what is not a manly business, and we should laugh at them because they could not do what it requires a man with a head, heart, and hand to succeed in. I don't think we shall ever want to live in a town.'

1 The Boers are fond of terming a man whom they consider a dandy a spoc-karl.

CHAPTER XXVII.

Hans tires of the Towns—Reaches the Wilderness—Adventures

with Wild Beasts—Meets his old Companions, and starts for his old Haunts.

0 a man with the habits and training of Hans

Sterk, the journey from the eastern frontier

to the locality north-west of Natal Bay, in which his friends were residing, was merely a pleasant trip. He had to pass over many hundred miles of wild country, in which were savage men and beasts, the former of which would not hesitate, should the opportunity occur, to slay a solitary traveller for the sake of his gun or clothes, whilst the latter would consider a white man a very good meal for dinner or supper.

As Hans intended to pursue his journey alone, should no other means present themselves, he trusted that his knowledge of the habits of wild beasts, and his weapon, which he well knew how to use, would enable him to defend himself against any number of these enemies. He also hoped that he should be able to gain from his countrymen such information as would enable him to

The Journey of Hans Sterk.

341

judge where and when he must travel in order to avoid any enemies who might endanger his safe transit across the country.

Thus Hans without hesitation left the last läger of the farmers near the Orange river, and with no other guide than an old waggon-track, and the knowledge that he must ride in a north-easterly direction, he started for the pass in the Draakensberg mountains by which he should be able to reach his friends near the Bushman's river. Having exchanged the horse which had carried him from Port Elizabeth for another well suited to carry pack-saddles, and having bought a hardy, well-trained, shooting horse, Hans was amply provided for a week's ride. The country through which he intended riding was well supplied with game; there was water in abundance; and thus to the hunter supplied with ammunition there was all that might be needed to be obtained on the journey

During two days Hans rode steadily onwards, passing principally over plains where ostriches scoured away on seeing him. Herds of gnus and bontebok bounded over the plains, and many solitary antelopes started from their lairs as he approached them. As these old familiar sights once more greeted him, Hans felt a sensation of freedom which he had in vain sought for since his capture by the slavers. As he looked around at the free, open, untrodden country, and saw the creatures on it, he went back in memory to Cape Town and the life led there, and he could not help being thankful that he had been to that town, in order that now he might more fully appreciate his free life. Having brought with him some cooked meat and biscuit, he had no need of shooting in order to supply himself with food; and thus on the third evening of his ride he stopped near a narrow ravine where a clear stream ran over the rocks, and where there were several fine trees, underneath which broken branches were scattered in abundance, and where there was consequently plenty of fuel for fire. Having kneehaltered his horses, so that they could not stray far, Hans started with his gun to examine the edge of a vlei or marsh into which the little stream flowed, and where Hans believed he might find some game.

Having reached the edge of this vlei, Hans commenced examining the ground to look for spoor, as by that means he could tell what creatures he might probably find there. The first footprint that attracted his attention was that of a buffalo, which from the size of the hoof and the wide-spread toes he concluded was a very old bull. This buffalo, from the freshness of the spoor, was evidently in the reeds not far from him. Being a thorough sportsman, Hans was not one who shot for the mere object of killing. He, on the present occasion, wished to obtain fresh meat, and a small buck was what he wanted, an old bull buffalo being rather too tough. As Hans decided to seek for some other game, he noticed a movement in the reeds about fifty yards from him, and there saw the bull buffalo stalk slowly out, raise its head as it scented danger, and then trot slowly away in the

A Lion and a Buffalo.

343

opposite direction. From curiosity Hans stood watching this noble-looking brute as it moved apparently unwillingly away from a danger which it would have readily encountered. Having reached a covert about two hundred yards from where Hans stood watching it, the creature entered this, crushing the long canes as though they were nothing stronger than grass, and expecting there to obtain a sanctuary. As far as Hans was concerned the buffalo was safe ; but his attention was soon drawn to an object which, scarcely visible above the long grass, seemed rapidly advancing to the reeds in which the buffalo had retreated. At first Hans supposed this to be a buck, but a glance which he obtained as the animal bounded over a tangled mass of reeds showed him it was a full-sized lion. The defenceless state of his horses at once occurred to Hans, whose first thought was to return to them; but being convinced that the lion was in pursuit of the buffalo, he determined to wait in order to see the result of the combat.

The buffalo was evidently aware of some danger, for it did not rest amongst the thick canes, but slowly stalked out on the opposite side, thus giving to Hans a good view of itself. The lion soon followed, and as the buffalo turned about and sniffed the air, the lion with a rapid bound sprang on the buffalo's shoulder, and endeavoured to drag it to the ground. The great height and giant strength of the buffalo prevented the lion from at once succeeding, and with a bound and a shake it shook off its foe. In an instant, however, the lion with a savage

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