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board ship.

One story he quotes from Arrian the writer, of an
Indian who had brought up a white elephant from the
time it was a little creature, and loved it dearly. Now
white elephants are greatly valued in many countries ;
indeed, in Siam, they take rank immediately after the
king, and before the heir to the throne ; and the king
of that part of India, hearing of the white elephant,
sent to the man and demanded it should be given him
as a present. The Indian could not bear the thought



ELEPHANT SHOOTING 251

of parting with his elephant, which he had brought up
and taught for so many years, till it was almost like
his own child, and in the middle of the night he
mounted its back, and they both fled away into a
desert place.

When the king heard what the man had done he was
very wroth, and sent messengers to take the elephant,
and to bring its master into his own presence, so that
he might receive the punishment due to his disobedi-
ence.

The Indian saw them coming, and climbed with his
elephant up a steep rock, only answering their summons
to give himself up by throwing stones at their heads, and
the elephant followed his example. At length, some of
the men stole round from behind, and seizing the Indian
threw him on the ground. At this the elephant waxed
so furious that it charged them madly, catching up
some in its trunk and dashing them to the earth again,
and trampling others under its great feet. The men at
the back, seeing the fate of their foremost comrades, fled
away in terror from the enraged elephant, who then,
stooping over its unconscious master, raised him gently
in its trunk, and carried him away to a safe place.



252



HYENAS AND CHILDREN



LONG ago, travellers used to think that hyenas had a kind
of magic about them, by which they could force their
prey to stand in one place till they were ready to fall
upon it. It was enough for the hyena to walk round an
animal three times to make it as helpless as a bird in the
power of a snake. Of course it may not always have been
easy to get the creature to remain stock still while the
hyena was performing this ceremony for nothing less
than three complete turns would induce the spell to work
but that does not seem to have occurred to the old
writers. In the case of a man, he must be most careful,
if he ever met a hyena, not to allow him to pass on the
right side, for, if he did, he would be certain to fall sense-
less off his horse before he had ridden very far.

All sorts of charms were considered necessary to
preserve men against the wiles of a hyena, and curiously
enough, the beast's own skin was held to contain a spell.
A hyena's skin hung up on a gate or fence would ensure
that the fruit trees within should be proof against either
hail or lightning. No darts could pierce the man w T ho
went into battle with the skin of a hyena wrapped about
him, and any farmer, anxious to increase his crop, had
only to place his seed in a hyena bag, for his land to bring
forth a three-fold quantity.

Travellers in these times do not put quite so much
faith in the power of the hyena, dead or alive ; but they
quite agree that, like most cowardly beasts, he is very
cunning. One of his favourite tricks is suddenly to pop
up his big, bristly body in the midst of the grass where



HYENAS AND CHILDREN 253

a herd of cattle are feeding, and to frighten them into
running away. If they fly, he follows and bites the
hindermost animals ; but if they make a stand, he seldom
or never fights.

He may always be found prowling about African battle-
fields, after the dead bodies, or hiding amidst the ruins of a
deserted city, waiting for some unsuspecting creature to
come past ; but his greed is equal to his cowardice, and
he infinitely prefers human flesh to any other, when he
can get it without danger to himself. In some parts of
Africa hyenas will actually pass by a calf which is tied
up inside the dlwelling-house, and will take up a sleeping
child from its mother's side, moving it so gently that
neither child nor mother wakes.

This horrible event happened more than once in the
family of a man named Dassa, who lived in the land of the
Kaffirs. One night, when all were sleeping soundly, a
great hyena (or wolf, as it is called in those parts) stole
softly into the house, and picking up a little boy, made
for the door. Luckily, however, the child woke before it
was beyond help, and its cries brought its father to the
rescue. The hyena dropped his prey, and the boy escaped,
thankful to get off with a torn cheek.

The next night the father lit a bigger fire than before
very few animals will venture past a fire and lay down
to sleep with his longest spear in his hand. But the
hyena knew better than to come back so soon, and if he
peeped in longingly, nobody was any the wiser.

Several nights passed; the boy's cheek was almost
well, and the frighi nearly forgotten. But one morning,
when they all woke, another brother was nowhere to be
seen. They searched high and low, with beating hearts,
and at length they came on the trail of a hyena, which
they followed up. Then at last the father came on some-
thing which he recognised as having belonged to the
boy, but nothing more was ever heard of the little fellow
himself. The terrible creature had managed to move him



254 HYENAS AND CHILDREN

so softly, that the child had never opened his eyes till it
was too late, and then he saw the face of his deadly
enemy above him. It really seems almost as if hyenas
had indeed the power of casting a spell over their prey.

Made bold by this success, the hyena prowled nightly
round the house till he thought he could safely venture
in. This time, the child lying nearest the door was a
boy of about ten, and therefore nofc so easy to deal with
as the other two. In spite of this, the monster managed
to get him outside the hut, and then dropping him for a
moment, seized him again by the shoulder. The child,
now fully awake, gave him such a blow on the nose that
the hyena let go his shoulder, but grasping his collar-
bone firmly with his teeth, broke it in two. The boy still
hit out, though his right arm was disabled, and again the
hyena shifted his hold to the thigh, and ran off with his
victim just as the father, roused from sleep by the boy's
cries, rushed to the spot. For a quarter of a mile the
chase continued, and then a fierce blow forced the animal
to drop the boy. When brought to the camp of the
Englishmen to be doctored, his thigh was found to be
half-bitten through, though fortunately the bone was not
broken. Every possible care was given to him, and in a
few months his leg was quite cured.

A little girl, two years younger, did not escape so easily.
One very hot morning, she was lying under the shade of
a tree, when four hyenas suddenly appeared before her,
and carried her off between them. One took hold of her
head, a second seized her shoulder, and the other two
grasped her thighs. The child's shrieks brought the
village people flying to her help, and they soon managed
to beat off the hyenas, but not before the child was
dreadfully injured. Savage nations have not much
patience with sick or deformed people, even when part of
their own family ; and after trying all their medicines on
her for a few days without making her any better, they
got tired of the whole affair. A choice was given the



HYENAS AND CHILDREN 255

poor little thing, either to be put to death at once, or, if
she preferred it, to be turned loose in the forests, and
there to run her chance of being eaten by wild beasts, or
dying of starvation.

It did not take the little girl long to make up her mind,
neither did she waste any time in weeping over her dread-
ful fate. Although only eight years old, she had heard of
the fame and the kindness of the white men, and she at
once determined to go in search of their station. What
a terrible journey that must have been ! The station was
many miles away, and to reach it, the child, badly injured
as she was, and still suffering from the shock of the attack,
had to pass through woods haunted by the most savage
beasts, and to climb through deep glens, where an enemy
might be lurking behind every rock. But somehow or
other she did it, and arrived at the station in a fearful
condition of pain and hunger, covered with fourteen large
wounds from the teeth of the hyenas. At first it seemed
impossible that she could live, but, wonderful to say, in the
end, she not only recovered from her injuries, but bore
hardly any signs of them, except some scars.

In spite of his ugly, ill-shapen form, few animals
are quicker of movement than a hyena, and, cowardly
though they are, their skill in dodging often enables
them to get the better of their enemies. When Mr.
Selous was on one of his expeditions in Mashonaland,
the camp was disturbed for several nights by the know-
ledge that a hyena was prowling round, in the fond hope
of catching them napping. He had not, however, shown
as much cunning as usual, for the moon was still bright,
and it was easy for the dogs to stop his proceedings.

At length a night came when the moon did not rise
till ten, and, as near the equator it always gets dark early,
it was necessary to shut up the camp at sunset to defend
it against wild beasts. So the waggon was, as usual,
placed in the middle, and the horses tied up just beyond,
with their maize porridge cooling beside them on the hide



256 HYENAS AND CHILDREN

of a freshly-killed eland bull. A few yards away were a
circle of big fires, with thirty or forty natives talking and
laughing over their supper.

Suddenly, in the very midst of the group, appeared
the gaunt form of a hyena, with its sides looking as if
they had been flattened by a spade. It seized the skin, and
was lost in the darkness, before any of the men had
recovered from their surprise. Indeed, the whole thing
hardly lasted longer than a flash of lightning. In a
moment, however, when they had recovered their senses,
they were all after it, dogs as well as men, lighted by
bundles of burning grass by way of torches. The trail
was easily found, as it had to drag the huge eland skin,
weighing at least forty pounds, in its mouth, but it was
already across the stream, three hundred yards away,
before the dogs came up. Then it dropped the skin
at once, without attempting to show fight, and galloped
off as fast as its legs would carry it.

But they all knew the ways of hyenas well enough
to be sure that this one was certain to. return again
before very long. So the dogs were tied up, and as there
was still plenty of time before the moon rose, Selous
took his rifle and waited under a bush outside the camp.
After some time he fancied he saw something coming
towards him, and when the creature was quite close he
fired. It was too dark to tell clearly what had happened,
but it seemed as if something fell, and then got up and
walked off. Shouting for the dogs to be unfastened and for
the Kaffirs to bring torches, Selous made ready to follow,
and the hyena was tracked to some long grass a hundred
yards away. It managed to beat off the attacks of
the dogs, and reached the river, where it stood in a pool
till an assegai from a Kaffir put an end to it, much to
the joy of the natives, for the hyena was a well-known
robber, and many were the goats and cattle that it had
stolen for dinner. 1

1 Steedraan's Wanderings, and Selous' Travels passim.



257



A FIGHT WITH A HIPPOPOTAMUS

THE great White Nile river, which flows north, out of
Lake Victoria Nyanza, and joins the Blue Nile at
Khartoum, is full of hippopotami, who lie concealed in
grassy swamps on the river bank by day, and come out
to play in the cool of the evening. In many places this
river is choked up by mud and vegetation, so that very
often the water is not more than five or six feet deep,
therefore only small boats can float easily. Under these
circumstances a huge heavy beast, like the hippopotamus
(which means in Greek ' river-horse '), can do great
damage, and travellers and explorers have many tales to
tell of their narrow escapes.

Nobody had more adventures with these troublesome
animals than Sir Samuel Baker, when, thirty years ago,
he set out from Khartoum on his journey south. Some-
times the hippopotamus \vould be seen leaving his grassy
bed, where he had been sleeping during the long hot day,
his hard skin preserving him from the flies which are the
pests of those countries. But more often his presence
would be guessed by an agitation on the surface of the
stream, and a loud snorting noise, and then his ugly, shape-
less head would be thrust out.

With such a thick hide to deal with, Sir Samuel pre-
ferred, in his encounter with a hippopotamus, to use a
weapon more certain than an ordinary bullet. He liked
to allow the- animal to get within thirty yards of him, and
n s



258 A FIGHT WITH A HIPPOPOTAMUS

then to take accurate aim right under his eye, where
the bone is thinnest, and the brain can most easily
be reached. The bullet he employed was of a very
deadly kind, being really an explosive shell in the form
of an iron bottle, filled with strong gunpowder, and fitting
into a two-ounce rifle. This shell did great execution, and
produced instant death.

One night the party lay encamped by the side of a
lake, and a small boat was moored to a grass-covered mud
bank, close to the larger vessel. This boat, used as a
larder, was full of hippopotamus flesh, which the men
considered a great treat, and did not seem to find too
tough for their strong white teeth.

After dinner was over, and the mosquito curtains
hung up, the natives dropped off to bed one by one, and
soon all was quiet, except for the sentry's steady tramp.
Considering the latitude the night was cold, and wrapped
in blankets everyone slept more soundly than usual.
Suddenly Sir Samuel, who lay on a sofa on the poop-deck,
was roused by the sounds of loud snorting and splashing
just below him, and by the light of the moon saw a huge
hippopotamus making ready to assault the little ship.
Calling to his servant, Suleiman, to bring a rifle, Baker
made his way to the main deck, where the rest of the
crew were sleeping ; but the whole place was such a mass
of interlaced mosquito strings, that it was very difficult
to steer between them so as to wake the men. Mean-
while the hippopotamus had not wasted his time. He
had sunk the larder boat, and crushed the little ' dingey '
alongside as if it had been a walnut, and was now gather-
ing himself together for the larger vessel, caring nothing
for the noises made by the natives in the hope of
frightening him away. As for Suleiman, he was in
such mortal terror that he never remembered that the
gun he had brought was unloaded, and that he had for-
gotten the charge.

Thrusting him hastily on one side, his master dashed



A FIGHT WITH A HIPPOPOTAMUS 259

into the cabin, where ammunition and loaded rifles were
always kept ; but for a few minutes the commotion raised
in the water by the furious beast was so great that no
aim could be taken with certainty. Then the shell, which
had always proved so deadly, was sent at him, but pro-
duced no effect except to make him still more wild, and




HOW THE HIPPOPOTAMUS ATTACKED THE BOAT

the boat rocked wildly about as if blown by a hurricane.
Several other shells were fired at him, but for a long time
he gave no sign that any of them had touched him, then
he slowly drew himself out of the water, and lay still
snorting in the swampy grass. Taking for granted,
rather rashly, that he had received his death-bl<3w, Baker

s 2



260 A FIGHT WITH A HIPPOPOTAMUS

gave the order for everyone to return to bed, as the
danger was past.

But he had rejoiced too soon. In half an hour that
fearful splash was heard again, and w r ith a rush the crea-
ture made for the boat. A bullet in his head stopped his
career just as he was upon it, and rolling and kicking,
apparently in his last agony, he \vas carried down stream.

After he had floated about fifty yards he suddenly, to
the surprise of those who were watching him, pulled him-
self together, and returned slowly along the river bank,
which lay in dense shadow. The boat's crew waited with
their ears at full cock for some time longer, and then
decided that the beast had had enough, and that they
might go back to bed for the third time. Baker
followed their example, but kept the gun close beside
him.

Unlike his men, he did not feel inclined to sleep, and
it was not long before everyone was again on his feet,
watching the enemy, who was splashing heavily across
the river so as to get a better chance for a rush. Now
was the opportunity for aiming at the shoulder, and as
the animal turned and his body was exposed, Baker lodged
a ball in his heart. This time he really was dead, and
tumbled into the river.

Then they all went to bed again. Next morning they
examined his body which was covered with scars from
the tusks of his own species for the fury of his onslaught
really looked more like madness than anything else. The
bullets had broken one of his jaws and cut through his
nose, but nothing except death could stop him from
fighting. As for the dingey, he had simply bitten out a
piece of its side, and would doubtless have done the same
to the larger vessel if he had been suffered actually to
touch it.



261



KANNY, THE KANGAROO

A WHITER in Chambers' Journal, more than twenty years
ago, tells an interesting story about a pet kangaroo that
he and his sisters had for a playmate. How she came into
the family he does not say. Perhaps some sailor uncle or
cousin brought her from Australia ; but, at any rate, there
she was, and dearly the children loved her.

To begin with, she was so pretty, tall, and slight she
measured quite five feet when standing up with a small
head, large eyes, and soft silky skin. Her tail, which she
used both as a whip and as a means of expressing her
feelings, was long and powerful, and with her two little
hands she helped herself at meals in the most delicate
and polite manner. And then, how she could jump !
The flight of stairs she cleared at a bound, with an ease
no boy ever managed to imitate ; and as for the big hall,
four skips brought her from one end to the other. The
cats, who had been rather pleased with their own leaping
performances before Kanny came, treated her coldly, and
not very civilly ; w T hen she bounded into the room where
they were all comfortably seated on the best chairs, they
rose as one cat, and put their tails up and their ears
down. Kanny did not understand the language of cats
it was only quite lately she had made the acquaintance
of any and stared at them with wonder, and when the
cats found it was no use being rude, they became polite,
and at last grew quite fond of Kanny, who never tried to
take liberties with them, though she was so big. But to



262



KANNY, THE KANGAROO



the end they never could bear to see Kanny help herself
first at dinner, and growled and snarled when she put
her paws into the dish.

Kanny's favourite dinner was rabbit bones, and this
taste was shared by the cats, but in general they con-
sidered that, in the matter of food, she was not to be
depended upon. Fancy any sensible creature liking tea,




THE NEW ARRIVAL



when it could get good milk, and sometimes say on
birthdays cream ! What could she see in all those
horrid pink and yellow things that the children called
'bull's eyes,' and ' lollipops ' ? and surely she must be mad
to get so excited over those hard white fruits that were
said to be almonds. But Kanny paid no heed to these
remarks and scornful glances, and ate thankfully all the
sweets that the children gave her. Indeed, almost the



KANNY, THE KANGAROO 263

only time she was ever out of temper was when anyone
forgot to put sugar in her tea !

One day, when the children came in from their walk,
they went as usual to find Kanny in her own particular
apartments -an outhouse, which had been fitted up for
her when she first arrived. Instead of bounding to meet
them directly she heard their voices, as was her usual
habit, Kanny waited for them in her own drawing-room,
quite like a lady. As the children ran up to her they
suddenly stopped short, for out of Kanny's pouch two
little black eyes, and two little skinny hands were peeping.
Oh, how happy the children were with the new baby,
and what care they and Kanny took of it. Other people
might say it was lean, and ill-made, and ugly, but they
knew it was the most beautiful creature in the world.
For a few weeks nothing was thought of or talked of but
the baby kangaroo ; then frost came and cold winds blew
and one day the poor little baby was found dead in its
cradle.

* The children did their best to comfort Kanny, and
brought her all the sweet things they could think of, and
by-and-by she began to play again. Her favourite prank
was to jump on top of the great walls seven feet high,
which shut in the fruit garden and shut out the children,
and then spring right down among the bushes where her
favourite currants and cherries grew. But Kanny's
appetite was a good one, and like all people who are fond
of eating, she enjoyed trying experiments. One morning,
when she had had as much fruit as she wanted, she
leaped on top of the wall which at that end opened out
upon a lane, where some workmen were busy making a
door into another garden. Her movements were as silent
as they were rapid, and when the carpenters suddenly
looked up and saw this strange creature standing before
them, they flung down their tools and ran away as hard
as they could. Nothing ever put out Kanny, so she only
began to wonder if they had left anything behind for her



264 KANNY, THE KANGAROO

to drink, for the day was hot, and in spite of the fruit,
she was thirsty. Glancing round, her eye fell on the




KANKT FBIGHTENS THE CABPENTERS

pewter pots, which the men had just filled with beer for
it was their hour for leaving off work and without
hesitation she took a sip. The taste she thought was



KANNY, THE KANGAROO 265

good. Yes after another sip it was certainly refreshing ;
so from one pot she went to another, until she had
emptied them all.

All this time the men were cowering under an out-
house, far too much frightened to interfere with the
kangaroo. And even when she was called off, and taken
back to her own outhouse, they did their work in fear and
trembling for the rest of the day, lest this terrible stranger
should come back again.

But as winter came on, poor Kanny's games got
fewer and fewer. She had attacks of shivering, which
generally ended in fainting fits, and between them she
would lie on her bed, looking up sadly at her anxious
nurses, who sat by her, stroking her head. At length
the weather got so cold that they could not keep her
warm in the outhouse, so she was carried in and laid on
a soft rug before the kitchen fire. She knew they meant
to be kind to her, and though she had hardly strength
for the move, she tried to raise her head, and rub it
against their hands. But the bitter frost had touched
her lungs, and she fell back gasping, and in a few minutes
was dead.

The children wept bitterly for their beloved play-
fellow, whom they themselves buried under a tree ; and
though time passed and they had other pets, no one ever
took in their hearts the place of Kanny.



266



COLLIES, OB SHEEP DOGS

SHEPHERDS' dogs, when in regular work, are serious
animals, and far too busy in their daily life to have time
or taste for play. They do not make friends very easily,
because they and their masters are accustomed to live
alone on the wild hills or great moors, and the sight
of other men is strange to them. But they are as useful
and necessary to the shepherds, their masters, as any
other race of dogs trained to business habits ; indeed, the
work of keeping a flock together would be quite impossible
without them.

The shepherd's dog (or ' collie ' as he is called in
Scotland) is a beautifully shaped animal, either bright
yellow, or black and white, with a curly tail. He is a
very quick runner, and a splendid jumper, as he has need
to be, when his duty is to follow the sheep into all sorts
of rough places, where no man could ever keep his foot-
ing. He is regularly sent to school before going out to
service, and carefully taught his work, which, in general,
he learns very easily ; and besides the training he gets in
this way, his life soon teaches him to bear hunger and
thirst and to do without much food, which is often, in
severe winters, very hard to get in distant spots.


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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 15 of 22)