And so it came to pass that the only one who felt the least sorrow or faintest regret was the old mother monkey, who had been one of the first to see Mona after he was born.
In the thick mud of one of the marshy swamps of South Africa a herd of buffaloes, some sixteen in number, stood almost knee-deep. The thick fog which arose from the swamp hung round and about like a huge, vapory cloud, making the hot air moist and stifling.
But the buffaloes cared not; to them it was pleasant and enjoyable, and they, one and all, stood placidly chewing their cuds and gazing calmly at nothing in particular.
The leader of the herd, a sturdy, shaggy animal of exceptional size, stood a little apart from the others, on guard and on the lookout for danger. The birds of the herd fluttered and hopped around and appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.[Footnote: A herd of buffaloes is generally accompanied by one or more red-beaked rhinoceros birds. These birds feed on the ticks or insects which infest the animals’ skin, and also give warning of danger.—Author.]
It was such fun to fly from one animal to another, perching lightly on the mass of woolly hair, and then to peep and hunt, first with one bright little eye and then with the other, until some unwary insect came in sight. These little insects—the ticks—were quick and moved with lightning-like rapidity, but they were not so quick as the birds, for, almost before they realized their danger, the sharp red beaks opened simultaneously with a quick dart forward of their heads, and the next instant the insects were out of sight.
Bulon, the leader of the herd, glanced from under his shaggy brows, first at the birds and then at the buffaloes; his wild fiery eyes were blood-red, and his shaggy mane and almost hairless shanks—for he was getting old—showed unmistakable signs of a recent fight.
And a terrible fight it had been, too, for one of the younger males had dared to show a little attention to one of Bulon’s wives, and this in buffalo land is a great insult and not to be overlooked.
So Bulon had promptly challenged the offender; his rival had just as promptly responded to the challenge, and a great fight they had. In times gone by no one would have dared to interfere with Bulon, unless, perhaps, the leader of some other herd, for in those days his strength had been magnificent, and even lions and tigers quailed before him. But old age was creeping on, which the other buffaloes realized only too quickly. His massive shoulders and sturdy limbs were shrinking a little, while his tough, thick skin was now almost hairless, except for his mane and a thin fringe on his back and withers.
But, in spite of his age and diminished strength, Bulon had won the day. It had seemed doubtful at first, very doubtful, and some of the herd had looked on with interest, but with grave doubts as to the result.