It was a cruel death, perhaps, yet it was merciful, for it was far better to die like that than to grow old, or sick, and be torn to death by one of her own kind, or left to starve in the jungle.
And, curiously enough, her skin eventually went to the very same palace where Tranta’s had been sent some time before.
HIPPO, THE HIPPOPOTAMUS
Hippo came to the conclusion, in his heavy, phlegmatic way, that perhaps, as it was getting dark and he was very hungry, it would be as well to go and get something to eat. So, moving his huge body, and his short, stumpy legs, he prepared to look around and find his supper.
He was not handsome, by any means. He had an enormous body, a wide head and nose, big mouth and teeth, and, although he only stood about four feet high, his tiny eyes, ears and tail made him look ridiculous, for they were out of all proportion to the rest of his body. As he crawled out of the damp, marshy ground in which he loved to pass his time, he seemed one of the ugliest and most awkward of animals, and so indeed he was.
He had not even a hairy or furry coat to hide some of his ugliness, but an unpleasant, oily skin of the color of dark chocolate, so thick that no ordinary bullet could possibly penetrate it. On all parts of his body the skin was three-quarters of an inch thick, while on his back it was more than twice that thickness.
Therefore, Hippo was pretty safe from the attacks of enemies, a fact of which he was well aware, and, not being sensitive in any way, or nervous, he was not given to trouble or worry.
He made his way slowly towards a nice corn-field, which he had found a few days ago, and the only thing he felt at all uneasy about was that some of the other hippopotami might also have found it. Hippo belonged to a herd consisting of from twenty to thirty hippopotami—mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, relations of all kinds, and several little baby calves. They agreed well together, on the whole.
The only time they grew quarrelsome was when they were selecting new wives, or when one of them had discovered a field of corn or rice, and found that the others wanted to explore it, too. Then some nasty things were said, and some terrible fights took place; for, although a hippopotamus is such a heavy and ungainly creature, he can move swiftly when he is angry.
However, this time Hippo wended his way to the field of corn without the others noticing him, and, arriving there, walked slowly through the ripe grain, his short legs and thick body doing an enormous amount of damage. He never ate what he crushed down—only what he actually cut with his wonderful teeth. [Footnote: The teeth of a hippopotamus are very large and powerful, and those in the under jaw grow forward and outward, not straight up and down, as in most other animals. The large teeth weigh from five to eight pounds each, and, being excellent ivory, keep white under almost any conditions.—Author.]