The Rhinoceros Hunt part 2/4

Short story

The Rhinoceros Hunt part 2/4

Within  three days the viceroy and other high officials of the district came for a rhino hunt. Our master summoned the headmen of the surrounding villages,  together with many hunters and trackers and porters, as an escort  for the dignitaries.

After everyone had gathered  together at dawn, we set out for  the forest, The officials were on horseback  and  the village people followed behind, carrying  spears and knives and bamboo drums. Porters  carried  food  in bags and baskets made of bark and string; otherwise,  they were unarmed except for their machetes.

Now, hunting  rhinos is quite different from hunting other animals. You have  to set up a base of operations  in the forest and bring enough food  for  three or four days. So we brought along many bags of rice and pots to cook it in, besides  the rice  that was already  prepared.
"And what was your  load?" I asked.

"Nothing,"  the old man answered, "all I had to carry was the master's  rifle and ammunition."

"So you didn't carry any  food?"

"No,  those of us who were personal  attendants of the master had to depend upon him for our  food. But he was always  very generous  about giving us plenty of leftovers." And  the old man went on with his story: It was still morning when we reached the forest;  the day was just beginning  to get hot. We started building some huts, strong enough  for overnight  shelter,  in a wide, open  field. When  the villagers arrived, they were divided  into several groups. Then they set out in different directions, leaving behind  only the men working on  the huts. Each group was led by a village headman and an official with a rifle. There were about  twenty rifles in all.

The viceroy  and the  rest of the officials  set off  for  the place of ambush.  This was an open  field where a platform already stood-no,  not  just a platform, but more of a hut built above
the ground with live trees  for poles. Branches  that had grown around  the hut were cut away to give a good view, and  the riflemen  climbed  into the hut to wait.  It was a very pleasant place  for an ambush.  If a rhino showed himself  anywhere  in that vicinity, a single well-aimed  shot would soon bring him down.

All day  long the bamboo  drums  could be heard  faintly in the distance as the beaters searched  for the rhinos;  it seemed as though  the sound would never end. Nothing happened all that first day. Things began again the next morning; the surrounding  circle of beaters with  their drums grew gradually  smaller. But again night came without any sign of a rhino.

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