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Pania

The Deerhounds, from having lived for innumerable generations with man, have acquired a human sense of humour, and can laugh. Their idea of a joke is that of the Natives, who are amused by things going wrong. Perhaps you cannot get above this class of humour, until you also get an art, and an established Church.

Pania was Dusk’s son. I walked with him one day near the pond where there was a row of tall, thin blue-gum trees, when he ran away from me up to one of the trees and came back again half-way, to make me come with him. I went up to the tree, and saw a Serval-cat sitting high up in it. The Serval-cats take your chickens, so that I shouted to a Toto walking by, and sent him up to the house for my gun, and when I had it brought, I shot the Serval-cat. She came down from her great height with a thump, and Pania was upon her in a second, shaking her and pulling her about, very pleased with the performance.

Some time after I again came by the same road, past the pond; I had been out to shoot partridge, but had got none, and both Pania and I were downcast. All at once Pania flew up to the farthest tree of the row, barking round it in a state of the highest excitement, then rushed back to me, and again back to the tree. I was pleased that I had got my gun with me, and at the prospect of a second Serval-cat, for they have got pretty, spotted skins, I ran up to the tree. But, when I looked up, there was a black domestic cat sitting, very angry, as high up as possible in the swaying top of the tree. I lowered my gun. “Pania,” I said, “you fool! It’s a cat.”

As I turned round to Pania, he stood at a little distance, looking at me and splitting his sides with laughter. When his eyes met mine he rushed up to me, danced, wagged his tail, whined, put his feet on my shoulders, and his nose to my face, then jumped back again to give free course to his laughter.

He expressed by pantomime: “I know. I know. It was a tame cat. I knew all the time. Indeed you must excuse me. But if you only knew the figure you cut, rushing up to a tame cat with a gun!”

All that day, from time to time, he went through the same agitation of mind, and the same behaviour, expressing the most overwhelmingly friendly feelings towards me, and then withdrawing a little to have an unhindered laugh.

An insinuating note came into his friendliness. “You know,” he said, “that in this house it is only you and Farah that I ever laugh at.”

Even in the evening when he was asleep, in front of the fire, I heard him in his sleep groaning and whimpering a little with laughter. I believe that he remembered the event a long time after, when we passed the pond and the trees.


Some African Birds | Out of Africa | Esa ’s Death







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