The harpoon this time went straight into one of Hippo’s eyes, and, although it was a cruel stroke, it was also a merciful one, for it touched the brain, and in a very few minutes Hippo, with a few spasmodic efforts, blew his last blast of rage, snorted and groaned for the last time, and, with a mighty stirring of the waters, rolled heavily over in the African river, by the side of which he had been born, and died.
And then the hunters threw up their caps and cheered for joy, for they had at least killed one of their enemies and one of the finest specimens in the whole herd. As, at the time of his death, he had been standing in a shallow part of the river, it was possible with great trouble to drag the huge carcass out, but it took the strength of ten horses and the ingenuity of as many men to do it.
The hunters measured him carefully, and found that he measured nearly twelve feet from one end of his body to the other, that he stood about four feet high, and that his tusks, hide and teeth were the best and finest that had been seen for many a day. It turned out to be a fortunate thing that Hippo had been in such a dangerous mood during the last few days, for the other hippopotami had followed the example of Hippo’s wife and moved a little farther down the river; consequently, the hunters were able to complete their task without any molestation from them.
As for Hippo’s wife, she grieved very little about him. He had made himself so intensely disagreeable lately that she had grown rather tired of him, and, moreover, animal like, she did not like a sick or wounded comrade near her, and a sick husband was a thing to be despised.
Besides, she had her baby calf to think of now, and he took up most of her time. What with feeding him, teaching him to swim, dive, sink himself in the water, and come up frequently to breathe, she was busy all day long. The calf was rather stupid and slow, and was not easy to teach, and altogether she had a good deal of trouble with him.
At one time she missed him for a while, and at last found him very nearly dead under the water, for, like most young things, he thought he could do just the same as his elders, and had tried to stay underneath as long as an old hippopotamus. The consequence was, he was nearly suffocated or drowned, for it is only the adult animals who can stay any time under water, and even they are obliged to come up often in order to obtain fresh air.
So Hippo’s wife—or widow, as she was by this time—administered a severe punishment to her son by first giving him a bite, and then refusing to give him his supper. She began, after a time, to refuse him his supper so often, that the baby Hippo at last made up his mind to get other food, and in a very short time found out that rice, corn, grass, roots and such things were very good to eat, and, when his mother began, not only to treat him with indifference, but even with dislike, he took to vegetable food altogether, and grew slowly, but steadily, as stout and strong as his father, Hippo, had been.