But this was a very difficult matter, for there were no footmarks now, owing to the thick undergrowth, and, moreover, the giraffes were on guard. For this was their great object in living in low woods; it was quite easy to see an enemy approaching.
Groar’s long neck and small head had appeared at the top of some of the bushes just before the hunters entered the wood, and he knew perfectly well what it all meant. With a swift movement he withdrew his head, and, telling Gean to follow him, he led her to a nice, tall tree, and when she had settled herself comfortably, with her head under the branches, betook himself to another tree near by, and hid his own head in the same manner.
So wonderfully did the giraffes blend with the bark and foliage of the trees, that, although the hunters passed close by, they were unable to find them. Little did they think while moving cautiously along that the very animals they were looking for were silently watching them, with gentle eyes, from between the branches of trees quite close to them.
Not a muscle did either Groar or Gean move until they made quite sure the hunters had gone, and then, Groar declaring it to be quite safe, they withdrew their heads and necks from the branches, relaxed their stiffened limbs, and, moving their sloping[Footnote: The slope in a giraffe’s back is caused by its elongated shoulder-blades. The fore and hind legs are exactly the same length.—Author.] backs from the trees, walked softly and quietly in another direction.
They were both so stiff from standing in the same position for so long a time that they were obliged to go slowly at first, and it was a very good thing they did so; for suddenly they came to a deep pit, so cunningly and cleverly hidden, that it was a great wonder Gean had not walked straight into it. The pit was nearly ten feet deep, and a hard bank of earth had been built from one side to the other, about six or seven feet high. Had Gean fallen into it, her forelegs would have been on one side of the wall and her hind legs on the other, and she would have been balanced in such a manner that, in spite of any amount of kicking and struggling, it would have been quite impossible for her to obtain a foothold, and she would have been obliged to stay there until the natives came and killed her.
As it was, she stopped just in time; but two such frights, in one day, were enough to make any giraffe nervous, and so they both rejoined the herd, and let the old leader keep guard while they had their evening meal in peace.
Gean wandered off a little way by herself that night, and, as she seemed to wish to be alone, Groar did not bother her, but kept a strict lookout all the time. And in the morning she called him to look at something, and this something was a soft, helpless, little, baby giraffe, with delicate limbs and small body, a funny, scraggy, long neck and small head, with the very same sort of gentle, pathetic eyes that Gean herself had.