Page images

The Ride.

91 had to ride on a man's saddle, with one stirrup crossed over to supply the place of a pommel, they had been too much accustomed to horses from their childhood to find much difficulty in this performance. Victor and Bernhard were soon ready also, and merely waiting for the signal to gallop off.

'Let the men descend into that hollow,' said Hans, 'then they will not see us ride away. We will keep the slope of the hill, as the streams are smaller there than in the valley below. Now, be ready, men, and off with you.'


The horses, though far from fresh, in consequence of the small amount of food they had eaten, yet responded to the application of the impromptu whip which each rider had provided himself with, and started at a pace which, if continued, would have placed the riders far beyond the possibility of capture from any pedestrians. however, knew the infectious nature of the sickness, and watched with anxiety the action of the various horses, for if another horse died, one animal would have to carry double weight, a fact which would prevent any rapid progress. He knew too that the Matabili could journey fully fifty miles a day for several days, and this would be more than the half-starved horses could manage; so that the present position was one of extreme danger.

By the time the Matabili had reached the spot on which Hans and his party had been concealed, he had ridden nearly two miles away, and his spoor alone showed the Matabili how near theỷ had been to their

enemies; for they at once recognized the freshness of this spoor, whilst the dying horse showed that he had not been long deserted.

Not knowing that two out of the five riders were women, the Matabili fortunately did not pursue in a body, but despatching two of their fastest and best runners to watch the enemy and to bring back the latest intelligence, the remainder continued their journey towards the head-quarters of their chief.

During fully three hours Hans rode steadily onwards, the sun, the ranges of hills, and the streams serving to show him in which direction he should travel. Wishing to give the horses every chance, he then deemed it advisable to halt, and allow the animals to graze, as also to try and procure some food for the party. Selecting the bank of a stream, where a clear open space round prevented much chance of a surprise, he again off-saddled the horses; and telling Victor and Bernhard to prepare a fire, he started in search of food.

To a hunter as well skilled as was Hans in the habits of animals it was not difficult to procure game when provided with a gun. Some patches of grass and weeds on the leeward side of a ravine at once attracted him; there he thought either a reitbok or a duiker should be found, and either would supply enough food for two days.

Hans was correct in his judgment, and obtained an easy shot at a reitbok, which he killed, and thus provided his companions with food sufficient for two

[blocks in formation]

days. Roughly cooked as it was, and eaten with nothing else, it yet was not despised by any one of the party.

About two hours' additional riding from the last resting-place completed the day's journey, and a suitable locality having been chosen, the party halted for the night, Hans agreeing to sleep first whilst Victor watched, and then to take his turn about midnight.



Night in the Wilderness-The Lions roar-The Savage outwitted by a Lion-The Party take up a good position.

HERE are few more singular experiences to the civilized man than to camp in the wilder

ness; and there are now but few countries in the world where such an event can occur. Man has now spread so widely over our planet, that but few spots can be found in the state in which nature framed them. To find any spot so far removed from the residence of man that no sound can reach it which is indicative of a human being, is indeed a rarity. The distant bark of a dog, the tinkle of a bell, the bleating of a sheep, or the sound of a signal gun, can all be heard on a still night for many miles. Thus, when we say that to experience the full effects of a night in the wilderness, we should be at least forty or fifty miles from any residence of human beings, and in a country where the wild animals are as yet no more than partially thinned by the occasional visits of hunters, probably Africa alone of all the continents yields to the hunter the thorough wilderness,

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

« PreviousContinue »