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Night in the Wilderness.
with its attendant thrilling additions. India is generally too much populated: America somewhat destitute of numerous members of the feræ which abound in Africa. Europe is the land of men and cities, and thus we return to Africa as the true hunter's paradise.
Scarcely has the sun disappeared below the African horizon, than the hunter realizes the novelty of his position in the wilderness; for a space of nearly half an hour the air vibrates with the sharp cricket-like cry, or deep hum of hundreds of insect creatures who are thus signalling their presence to each other. From amidst a lofty ruined mass of rocks, which appeared by day deserted by every living creature, except a few lizards and poisonous snakes, a grim gaunt figure stalks out, and ascending a prominent block of stone, gazes around at the domain over which darkness has again given it dominion. Man may by day be monarch of the hill-side and plain, but by night the lion may well be called monarch of all he surveys. From the dimly-seen, statue-like figure on the rock, a few deep, dissatisfied growls come rolling over the plain, strike the face of the rock, and echo back again in confused murmurs, evincing the power of the mighty beast who thus, with no apparent effort, speaks to all within a range of several miles. From a far-distant and woody ravine, a fiend-like yell next breaks the silence of the night, and is followed by a deep-drawn, howling sigh, as the strand wolf wanders forth to search for the carrion of the day, or to capture such prey as he is capable of doing. Busy, silent-moving
a than useless, and 1 man vno as thoroughly
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Hans the tread of an animat with 1oor would
a lion or lengarri, and he footsteps of man
some other animals moving us TONINV
It was writi mingite teangs or surprise and half-doubt that Hats her wine was content was the footstep of a man xo sateenus position near Katte. For CSVĒTA minutes to sound disturbed the stillness of tix nyak-sccpt te somewhat heavy breathing of the steppers towever, was a source of great
TY-DE-QUIC CARS QË a ion, or even of a Kaffir, "rasting could `ave been heard at a distance as gu coud thus serve as a guide to either may. Claas, 'owever, did not like to disturb > the last moment, or unless he found he
alone was unable to deal with the foe. It was evident to Hans that whoever or whatever was the foe who approached, it was one who used the greatest caution: but two or three steps at a time were taken, and then all was quiet. From this fact Hans was convinced that a man was the enemy who was near him, for no other creature could act with so much caution. He was also aware of the peculiar individual daring of members of the Kaffir race. Many men are brave in a crowd, and when led on by example or enthusiasm, but the Kaffir is an epicure in excitement. He likes to venture upon feats of daring alone, and the night is to him the most suitable time for such deeds. It matters not how great is the risk, the greater the risk the greater seems to be the excitement. Knowing this, Hans believed it possible that one single Kaffir might have followed on their spoor, have watched him as he halted for the night, and was now desirous of capturing his guns or assagying some of the sleepers, and then retreating, boast at his kraal of his deeds. Believing this, Hans had an additional reason for remaining silent, for he knew that should he awake his companions, the Kaffir would readily escape, or wait for a more favourable opportunity for attack.
Grasping his hunting-knife firmly, Hans crouched close to the ground and waited anxiously for the nearer approach of his foe. The slow, stealthy tread of the man was evidently guided by the sound of the sleepers, for no eyes could distinguish forms amidst the darkness, and Hans soon found that light as was the breathing of
forms glide past the hunter, and, with a snort of terror or a growl of anger, move away to the distance, scarce liking to let alone so apparently defenceless a creature as man seems to be, yet awed by a certain presence which the brute creation never thoroughly overcome.
Tiny creeping animals again crackle the crisp leaves as they scamper about in their fastnesses among the bushes, and sniff the scent of the strange intruder; whilst the noiseless flapping of wings attracts for an instant the hunter's sight as some ghost-like moving night-bird flies around him, and examines the strange being that has intruded into its domain.
Suddenly the sound of a struggle startles the hunter, and a cry of distress from a stricken creature is audible, whilst frightened animals rush hither and thither for a time, and then again relapse into their former indifference. A lion, perhaps, has captured its evening prey from amongst a grazing herd; or a leopard has struck down the antelope that it has been cautiously watching and stalking during the past half-hour. And then again a silence so still, so unbroken, follows the past turmoil, that the desert wanderer fancies he can hear the thin, fleecy clouds moving above him, or the long-absent but deeply-loved voice of one who should be near him. Amidst all the danger, all the novelty of the scene, however, exhausted nature usually exerts her sway, and the hvena's laugh or leopard's cry ceases to be heard, whilst
traveller passes into the unconsciousness of sleep, dreams probably of scenes the very opposite of those
amidst which he then is, and awakes, scarcely knowing which is the reality-the dream of old, well-known scenes, amidst which the greater part of his life has been passed, or the wild, unusual events transpiring around him.
To men of adventure such as Hans and his companions, a night in the desert was not unusual, and they experienced but few of the sensations which a more civilized man undoubtedly would feel; yet to these hunters there was something awe-inspiring in the calm stillness of the night, broken only by the shrieks and cries of night wanderers among the wild animals, or the snorts of terror from their horses as these sounds met their ears.
It was past midnight when Hans commenced his watch, and was the only one of the five who was awake. The sisters were sheltered from the dew by a blanket supported by two or three sticks, and arranged so as to form a kind of tent. The two Dutchmen were lying beneath some bushes with merely the blanket over them that served during the day to protect their horses' backs from a badly-stuffed saddle.
Although Hans believed that any attack from an enemy was unlikely, yet, being a man who knew the value of guarding against every possible, not every likely danger only, he placed himself within a few yards of Katrine and her sister, and there listened attentively to every sound that broke the silence of the night.
When darkness spreads her mantle over the earth it is by sound alone that an enemy can be discovered; for