The Rhinoceros Hunt part 3/4

Short story from Asia

The Rhinoceros Hunt part 3/4

Early  in the morning of the third day people came  from a nearby  plantation and  reported that some  rhinos had come into their village  the night before. Trackers  were sent to have a look and  they came back saying  the animals had gone from the village  into the forest near our ambush.

Beaters  surrounded this part of the  forest, and  trackers kept on the move  to make sure the animals had not slipped out of the forest. Everyone  felt sure that the rhinos were inside the circle of beaters.  The hunters who had picked the ambush  spot were highly praised for having  chosen so well.
Everyone  waited  anxiously.
Fires were lit on the south and east sides of the  forest.

There was a strong wind and the fire blazed high, sending smoke  up  into the sky. To the west  there was shouting, and the drums kept beating  loudly.  The  fire spread quickly,  its flames  licking out  in all directions,  thundering and  roaring and blackening  the sky. When  the fire from the east joined that  from  the south,  the smoke  billowed  still higher. The circle of beaters kept growing smaller, and presently the sound of  loud  rifle are was heard over  the shouting and  the drums.

It was  terribly  frightening: sitting on a branch with your heart thumping, trying  to keep as still as possible.  I got down and  joined  the shouting crowd.

We could hear the  rhinos coming from the burning  forest.

A crowd of people  came  shouting  toward  the dry field, overgrown with weeds and small trees. There were only a few tall  trees.  The rhinos suddenly  appeared  from the cast, looking like huge, rolling boulders.
People were  shouting:  "Rhino ! Rhino  !" The drums grew louder.

The rhinos kept on walking  to the west. There were  three of  them: a male, a female,  and one offspring. When  they saw people surrounding  them,  they turned back  toward  the east and stopped again when they  reached  the edge of  the forest. They seemed to be afraid of the  fire, and the smoke was suffocating;  so they  turned back  to the west but were blocked by  the people.  In the end,  looking bewildered,  the rhinos stood  in the middle of  the dry field. There was no doubt that the biggest one was a male. It  bellowed,  its mouth wide open. God ! I can still  remember  the terrible redness of its mouth and  its dreadful teeth.

The dignitaries  shouted orders,  telling  the people  to move closer. Flames and smoke billowed in a tall black wall. The weeds were burnt to a crisp. The rhinos were already  troubled, sensing that they were  in danger. The only way out was to the north. But strangely  they did not want  to run that way. It was as if they had sensed  our presence.  They .seemed  to be  thinking,  gazing  toward the southwest  horizon.

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