There was another young giraffe about the same age as herself, who had come to see her several times lately, and, although he was a fine, handsome animal and stood nearly two feet taller than Gean herself, she would have nothing to do with him. Not even when he took the trouble to reach up his long neck[Footnote: although a giraffe’s neck is so long, it has exactly the same number of vertebrae as all other mammals—seven—but each vertebra is exceptionally long.—Author.] and, stretching his tongue out to its full length—about eighteen or twenty inches—break off a tender, young branch of the “camel-thorn,” which is a sort of acacia tree and considered a great dainty by giraffes, and offer it to her. Gean was very independent, as well as shy, and much preferred to pick leaves and blades of grass for herself.
Groar took it all very well; he was disappointed, of course, but he preferred a young giraffe that was shy, and knew he should value her all the more if he had a little trouble and difficulty in winning her. So he waited patiently, hoping that some day he would have an opportunity of distinguishing himself, and the day arrived much sooner than he expected.
Gean was pacing slowly up and down the open plain one day, but keeping pretty close to the low woods—for she avoided the high forest, not being able to keep as good a lookout there for her two greatest enemies, men and lions—when she suddenly scented danger. It was a long way off, it is true, but Gean had a very keen sense of smell. Not being with any herd at present, Gean was accustomed to look after herself, and generally managed to keep clear of enemies, although, as I told you just now, she knew what it was to have very narrow escapes.
She was cautious enough not to stop walking, but kept slowly on, putting each foot down in a careful, dainty manner, and so softly that only the very faintest rustle could be heard, this being caused by the whisking to and fro of her tail, which made a curious little swish-swish as she moved. She took care, however, to look round in all directions, and, as her beautiful, round eyes projected in a peculiar manner, she was able to do this without moving her head at all. The only direction in which she could not look without turning her head was directly behind her, but this little difficulty was overcome by walking in a semi-circle for a few minutes.
Suddenly Gean saw the enemy. It was a full-grown lion, and he was creeping cautiously out of the underbrush in the wood close by. It was not often that lions came out by day, but Gean had passed close to this lion’s lair, and the odor of such a dainty morsel as a giraffe was too much for the lion, who decided to make the most of his opportunity.