THE COW AND THE CROCODILE 377
The time when it is most dangerous to enter the water on account of these greedy monsters is towards sunset, for then the fish come to the shallow water to feed, and the crocodiles come to prey on them; they may be seen dashing furiously like huge pike after the larger fish, who often leap several feet out of the water in the vain hope of evading their pursuer.
Their cunning is only equalled by their ferocity, and nothing daunts them, not even the sight of a large steamer passing quickly through the water, from the deck of which they will even snatch any person heedless enough to place himself within their reach. This happened more than once on Sir Samuel Baker's explorations of the White Nile. A sailor, seated on deck dangling his feet over the side of the vessel within half a yard of the water, was seized and carried off so swiftly, that, though a hundred men were present, nothing more was ever seen or heard of him. Another sailor, who was seated on the rudder washing himself, was borne off just as suddenly in the sight of all his comrades.
The troops were in the habit of bathing in a small dock, which had been made for the accommodation of one of the steamers, and was connected with the river by a canal thirty yards long and only three feet deep. This was considered a perfectly safe bathing place, and free from the intrusions of crocodiles. One evening, however, the captain was absent from muster, and as it was known that he had gone to bathe at this basin, search was immediately made there for him. His clothes and red fez alone being found on the bank, a number of men went into the water in search of his body, which was not long in being discovered. One leg being broken in several places proved unmistakably that it was the work of a crocodile, who would doubtless soon have returned to devour his victim. Some months after this catastrophe another occurred in the same canal, occasioned, it was supposed, by the same monster, though there were no actual proofs