Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/95

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87
RHINOCEROS HUNT.

trot, and finally to a walk. By this time, however, they were so far away that, but for the certain knowledge of their identity, we might readily have taken them for stocks or stones. The indistinctness of objects, moreover, even at a moderate distance, was increased by the effects of a most perplexing mirage.

While discussing the propriety of following up the rhinoceroses, we saw them make for an isolated tree, no doubt with the intention of sheltering themselves from the scorching rays of the sun. This decided us on continuing the chase; and, although suffering greatly from thirst (our small supply of water having been long exhausted), the hope of ultimate success gave us strength to proceed.

Approaching under cover of some stunted bushes, and when almost certain of closing with the beasts, and putting an end to one or both, I was startled by the report of guns close behind me, and on turning round I found that Hans and our man had fired. I never felt more vexed in my life, for we were still a good hundred yards from the animals, and it had been previously agreed that—unless the beasts knew of our presence—we were not to fire until within a very short distance of them. As, however, the evil could not be remedied, I lost no time in firing; but the brutes being fully one hundred and fifty paces from me, I had small hope of inflicting serious injury. That I hit the mother, however, was very certain, for, at the instant of discharging my gun, she bounded like a cat into the air; and Hans, who looked upon this as a sure sign of her being mortally wounded, exclaimed, "Aha, old girl, you are safe!" Annoyed as I was, I could not help smiling, and ironically-replied, "To be sure, she is safe enough." And so it proved, for we never saw her or her calf again.

I felt disappointed at our failure and the chance of a feast, and was moreover sorry for the poor rhinoceros; for, though she was lost to us, I felt certain it was only to die a