Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/94

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mile in the background, standing motionless, and watching my proceedings. On their rejoining me, and in the first burst of indignation, I charged them with cowardice; but Hans immediately drew himself up to his full height, and indignantly but respectfully replied as follows:

"Sir! when you have had my experience, you will never call that man a coward who does not attack a wounded black rhinoceros on an open and naked plain. I would rather," he continued, "face fifty lions than one of these animals in such an exposed situation, for not one in a hundred would take it as quietly as this has done. A wounded black rhinoceros seldom waits to be attacked, but charges instantly; and there would not have been the least chance of saving one's life in an open place like this. Had there been but the smallest bush or stone, I shouldn't have hesitated a moment, for the sight of the rhinoceros is bad, and if there is the least cover it is easy to avoid him. Not many years ago, a great Namaqua chief, who, contrary to the advice of his friends, had fired at a rhinoceros under precisely similar circumstances to yourself, lost his life by his rashness."

I could not but be sensibly aware of the injustice of my accusation and my own foolhardiness; yet I then felt but half convinced of the truth of what Hans had told me, and should certainly have acted in the like imprudent manner (as indeed I did on many subsequent occasions) had another opportunity offered. But, after all, Hans was perfectly right, as I am sure every one who has come much in contact with the beast in question will readily admit. Indeed, after the severe lesson which, at an after period, I received from a black rhinoceros, I am free to confess that nothing in the world would ever again induce me willfully to expose myself in the way just mentioned.

To proceed. After receiving my fire, both mother and calf galloped off as fast as their legs would carry them; but gradually they slackened their pace to a canter, then to a