Etext prepared by John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
and Emma Dudding, email@example.com
A TALE OF THREE LIONS
by H. Rider Haggard
THE INTEREST ON TEN SHILLINGS
Most of you will have heard that Allan Quatermain, who was one of the
party that discovered King Solomon's mines some little time ago, and
who afterwards came to live in England near his friend Sir Henry
Curtis. He went back to the wilderness again, as these old hunters
almost invariably do, on one pretext or another.[*] They cannot endure
civilization for very long, its noise and racket and the omnipresence
of broad-clothed humanity proving more trying to their nerves than the
dangers of the desert. I think that they feel lonely here, for it is a
fact that is too little understood, though it has often been stated,
that there is no loneliness like the loneliness of crowds, especially
to those who are unaccustomed to them. "What is there in the world,"
old Quatermain would say, "so desolate as to stand in the streets of a
great city and listen to the footsteps falling, falling, multitudinous
as the rain, and watch the white line of faces as they hurry past, you
know not whence, you know not whither? They come and go, their eyes
meet yours with a cold stare, for a moment their features are written
on your mind, and then they are gone for ever. You will never see them
again; they will never see you again; they come up out of the unknown,
and presently they once more vanish into the unknown, taking their
secrets with them. Yes, that is loneliness pure and undefiled; but to
one who knows and loves it, the wilderness is not lonely, because the
spirit of nature is ever there to keep the wanderer company. He finds
companions in the winds--the sunny streams babble like Nature's
children at his feet; high above them, in the purple sunset, are domes
and minarets and palaces, such as no mortal man has built, in and out
of whose flaming doors the angels of the sun seem to move continually.
And there, too, is the wild game, following its feeding-grounds in
great armies, with the springbuck thrown out before for skirmishers;
then rank upon rank of long-faced blesbuck, marching and wheeling like
infantry; and last the shining troops of quagga, and the fierce-eyed
shaggy vilderbeeste to take, as it were, the place of the cossack host
that hangs upon an army's flanks.
[*] This of course was written before Mr. Quatermain's account of the
adventures in the newly-discovered country of Zu-Vendis of
himself, Sir Henry Curtis, and Capt. John Good had been received
"Oh, no," he would say, "the wilderness is not lonely, for, my boy,
remember that the further you get from man, the nearer you grow to
God," and though this is a saying that might well be disputed, it is
one I am sure that anybody will easily understand who has watched the
sun rise and set on the limitless deserted plains, and seen the
thunder chariots of the clouds roll in majesty across the depths of
Well, at any rate we went back again, and now for many months I have
heard nothing at all of him, and to be frank, I greatly doubt if
anybody will ever hear of him again. I fear that the wilderness, that
has for so many years been a mother to him, will now also prove his
grave and the grave of those who accompanied him, for the quest upon
which he and they have started is a wild one indeed.
But while he was in England for those three years or so between his
return from the successful discovery of the wise king's buried
treasures, and the death of his only son, I saw a great deal of old
Allan Quatermain. I had known him years before in Africa, and after he
came home, whenever I had nothing better to do, I used to run up to
Yorkshire and stay with him, and in this way I at one time and another
heard many of the incidents of his past life, and most curious some of
them were. No man can pass all those years following the rough
existence of an elephant-hunter without meeting with many strange
adventures, and in one way and another old Quatermain has certainly
seen his share. Well, the story that I am going to tell you in the
following pages is one of the later of these adventures, though I
forget the exact year in which it happened. at any rate I know that it
was the only trip upon which he took his son Harry (who is since dead)
with him, and that Harry was then about fourteen. And now for the
story, which I will repeat, as nearly as I can, in the words in which
Hunter Quatermain told it to me one night in the old oak-panelled
vestibule of his house in Yorkshire. We were talking about gold-
"Gold-mining!" he broke in; "ah! yes, I once went gold-mining at
Pilgrims' Rest in the Transvaal, and it was after that that we had the
business about Jim-Jim and the lions. Do you know Pilgrim's Rest?
Well, it is, or was, one of the queerest little places you ever saw.
The town itself was pitched in a stony valley, with mountains all
about it, and in the middle of such scenery as one does not often get
the chance of seeing. Many and many is the time that I have thrown
down my pick and shovel in disgust, clambered out of my claim, and
walked a couple of miles or so to the top of some hill. Then I would
lie down in the grass and look out over the glorious stretch of
country--the smiling valleys, the great mountains touched with gold--
real gold of the sunset, and clothed in sweeping robes of bush, and
stare into the depths of the perfect sky above; yes, and thank Heaven
I had got away from the cursing and the coarse jokes of the miners,
and the voices of those Basutu Kaffirs as they toiled in the sun, the
memory of which is with me yet.
"Well, for some months I dug away patiently at my claim, till the very
sight of a pick or of a washing-trough became hateful to me. A hundred
times a day I lamented my own folly in having invested eight hundred
pounds, which was about all that I was worth at the time, in this
gold-mining. But like other better people before me, I had been bitten
by the gold bug, and now was forced to take the consequences. I bought
a claim out of which a man had made a fortune--five or six thousand
pounds at least--as I thought, very cheap; that is, I gave him five
hundred pounds down for it. It was all that I had made by a very rough
year's elephant-hunting beyond the Zambesi, and I sighed deeply and
prophetically when I saw my successful friend, who was a Yankee, sweep
up the roll of Standard Bank notes with the lordly air of the man who
has made his fortune, and cram them into his breeches pockets. 'Well,'
I said to him--the happy vendor--'it is a magnificent property, and I
only hope that my luck will be as good as yours has been.'
"He smiled; to my excited nerves it seemed that he smiled ominously,
as he answered me in a peculiar Yankee drawl: 'I guess, stranger, as I
ain't the one to make a man quarrel with his food, more especial when
there ain't no more going of the rounds; and as for that there claim,
well, she's been a good nigger to me; but between you and me,
stranger, speaking man to man, now that there ain't any filthy lucre
between us to obscure the features of the truth, I guess she's about
"I gasped; the fellow's effrontery took the breath out of me. Only
five minutes before he had been swearing by all his gods--and they
appeared to be numerous and mixed--that there were half a dozen
fortunes left in the claim, and that he was only giving it up because
he was downright weary of shovelling the gold out.
"'Don't look so vexed, stranger,' went on my tormentor, 'perhaps there
is some shine in the old girl yet; anyway you are a downright good
fellow, you are, therefore you will, I guess, have a real A1
opportunity of working on the feelings of Fortune. Anyway it will
bring the muscle up upon your arm, for the stuff is uncommon stiff,
and, what is more, you will in the course of a year earn a sight more
than two thousand dollars in value of experience.'
"Then he went just in time, for in another moment I should have gone
for him, and I saw his face no more.
"Well, I set to work on the old claim with my boy Harry and half a
dozen Kaffirs to help me, which, seeing that I had put nearly all my
worldly wealth into it, was the least that I could do. And we worked,
my word, we did work--early and late we went at it--but never a bit of
gold did we see; no, not even a nugget large enough to make a scarf-
pin out of. The American gentleman had secured it all and left us the
"For three months this went on, till at last I had paid away all, or
very near all, that was left of her little capital in wages and food
for the Kaffirs and ourselves. When I tell you that Boer meal was
sometimes as high as four pounds a bag, you will understand that it
did not take long to run through our banking account.
"At last the crisis came. One Saturday night I had paid the men as
usual, and bought a muid of mealie meal at sixty shillings for them to
fill themselves with, and then I went with my boy Harry and sat on the
edge of the great hole that we had dug in the hill-side, and which we
had in bitter mockery named Eldorado. There we sat in the moonlight
with our feet over the edge of the claim, and were melancholy enough
for anything. Presently I pulled out my purse and emptied its contents
into my hand. There was a half-sovereign, two florins, ninepence in
silver, no coppers--for copper practically does not circulate in South
Africa, which is one of the things that make living so dear there--in
all exactly fourteen and ninepence.
"'There, Harry, my boy!' I said, 'that is the sum total of our worldly
wealth; that hole has swallowed all the rest.'
"'By George!' said Master Harry; 'I say, father, you and I shall have
to let ourselves out to work with the Kaffirs and live on mealie pap,'
and he sniggered at his unpleasant little joke.
"But I was in no mood for joking, for it is not a merry thing to dig
like anything for months and be completely ruined in the process,
especially if you happen to dislike digging, and consequently I
resented Harry's light-heartedness.
"'Be quiet, boy!' I said, raising my hand as though to give him a
cuff, with the result that the half-sovereign slipped out of it and
fell into the gulf below.
"'Oh, bother,' said I, 'it's gone.'
"'There, Dad,' said Harry, 'that's what comes of letting your angry
passions rise; now we are down to four and nine.'
"I made no answer to these words of wisdom, but scrambled down the
steep sides of the claim, followed by Harry, to hunt for my little
all. Well, we hunted and we hunted, but the moonlight is an uncertain
thing to look for half-sovereigns by, and there was some loose soil
about, for the Kaffirs had knocked off working at this very spot a
couple of hours before. I took a pick and raked away the clods of
earth with it, in the hope of finding the coin; but all in vain. At
last in sheer annoyance I struck the sharp end of the pickaxe down
into the soil, which was of a very hard nature. To my astonishment it
sunk in right up to the haft.
"'Why, Harry,' I said, 'this ground must have been disturbed!'
"'I don't think so, father,' he answered; 'but we will soon see,' and
he began to shovel out the soil with his hands. 'Oh,' he said
presently, 'it's only some old stones; the pick has gone down between
them, look!' and he began to pull at one of the stones.
"'I say, Dad,' he said presently, almost in a whisper, 'it's precious
heavy, feel it;' and he rose and gave me a round, brownish lump about
the size of a very large apple, which he was holding in both his
hands. I took it curiously and held it up to the light. It /was/ very
heavy. The moonlight fell upon its rough and filth-encrusted surface,
and as I looked, curious little thrills of excitement began to pass
through me. But I could not be sure.
"'Give me your knife, Harry,' I said.
"He did so, and resting the brown stone on my knee I scratched at its
surface. Great heavens, it was soft!
"Another second and the secret was out, we had found a great nugget of
pure gold, four pounds of it or more. 'It's gold, lad,' I said, 'it's
gold, or I'm a Dutchman!'
"Harry, with his eyes starting out of his head, glared down at the
gleaming yellow scratch that I had made upon the virgin metal, and
then burst out into yell upon yell of exultation, which went ringing
away across the silent claims like shrieks of somebody being murdered.
"'Be quiet!' I said; 'do you want every thief on the fields after
"Scarcely were the words out of my mouth when I heard a stealthy
footstep approaching. I promptly put the big nugget down and sat on
it, and uncommonly hard it was. As I did so I saw a lean dark face
poked over the edge of the claim and a pair of beady eyes searching us
out. I knew the face, it belonged to a man of very bad character known
as Handspike Tom, who had, I understood, been so named at the Diamond
Fields because he had murdered his mate with a handspike. He was now
no doubt prowling about like a human hyŠna to see what he could steal.
"'Is that you, 'unter Quatermain?' he said.
"'Yes, it's I, Mr. Tom,' I answered, politely.
"'And what might all that there yelling be?' he asked. 'I was walking
along, a-taking of the evening air and a-thinking on the stars, when I
'ears 'owl after 'owl.'
"'Well, Mr. Tom,' I answered, 'that is not to be wondered at, seeing
that like yourself they are nocturnal birds.'
"''Owl after 'owl!' he repeated sternly, taking no notice of my
interpretation, 'and I stops and says, "That's murder," and I listens
again and thinks, "No, it ain't; that 'owl is the 'owl of hexultation;
some one's been and got his fingers into a gummy yeller pot, I'll
swear, and gone off 'is 'ead in the sucking of them." Now, 'unter
Quatermain, is I right? is it nuggets? Oh, lor!' and he smacked his
lips audibly--'great big yellow boys--is it them that you have just
been and tumbled across?'
"'No,' I said boldly, 'it isn't'--the cruel gleam in his black eyes
altogether overcoming my aversion to untruth, for I knew that if once
he found out what it was that I was sitting on--and by the way I have
heard of rolling in gold being spoken of as a pleasant process, but I
certainly do not recommend anybody who values comfort to try sitting
on it--I should run a very good chance of being 'handspiked' before
the night was over.
"'If you want to know what it was, Mr. Tom,' I went on, with my
politest air, although in agony from the nugget underneath--for I hold
it is always best to be polite to a man who is so ready with a
handspike--'my boy and I have had a slight difference of opinion, and
I was enforcing my view of the matter upon him; that's all.'
"'Yes, Mr. Tom,' put in Harry, beginning to weep, for Harry was a
smart boy, and saw the difficulty we were in, 'that was it--I halloed
because father beat me.'
"'Well, now, did yer, my dear boy--did yer? Well, all I can say is
that a played-out old claim is a wonderful queer sort of place to come
to for to argify at ten o'clock of night, and what's more, my sweet
youth, if ever I should 'ave the argifying of yer'--and he leered
unpleasantly at Harry--'yer won't 'oller in quite such a jolly sort 'o
way. And now I'll be saying good-night, for I don't like disturbing of
a family party. No, I ain't that sort of man, I ain't. Good-night to
yer, 'unter Quatermain--good-night to yer, my argified young one;' and
Mr. Tom turned away disappointed, and prowled off elsewhere, like a
human jackal, to see what he could thieve or kill.
"'Thank goodness!' I said, as I slipped off the lump of gold. 'Now,
then, do you get up, Harry, and see if that consummate villain has
gone.' Harry did so, and reported that he had vanished towards
Pilgrim's Rest, and then we set to work, and very carefully, but
trembling with excitement, with our hands hollowed out all the space
of ground into which I had struck the pick. Yes, as I hoped, there was
a regular nest of nuggets, twelve in all, running from the size of a
hazel-nut to that of a hen's egg, though of course the first one was
much larger than that. How they all came there nobody can say; it was
one of those extraordinary freaks, with stories of which, at any rate,
all people acquainted with alluvial gold-mining will be familiar. It
turned out afterwards that the American who sold me the claim had in
the same way made his pile--a much larger one than ours, by the way--
out of a single pocket, and then worked for six months without seeing
colour, after which he gave it up.
"At any rate, there the nuggets were, to the value, as it turned out
afterwards, of about twelve hundred and fifty pounds, so that after
all I took out of that hole four hundred and fifty pounds more than I
put into it. We got them all out and wrapped them up in a
handkerchief, and then, fearing to carry home so much treasure,
especially as we knew that Mr. Handspike Tom was on the prowl, made up
our minds to pass the night where we were--a necessity which,
disagreeable as it was, was wonderfully sweetened by the presence of
that handkerchief full of virgin gold--the interest of my lost half-
"Slowly the night wore away, for with the fear of Handspike Tom before
my eyes I did not dare to go to sleep, and at last the dawn came. I
got up and watched its growth, till it opened like a flower upon the
eastern sky, and the sunbeams began to spring up in splendour from
mountain-top to mountain-top. I watched it, and as I did so it flashed
upon me, with a complete conviction which I had not felt before, that
I had had enough of gold-mining to last me the rest of my natural
life, and I then and there made up my mind to clear out of Pilgrims'
Rest and go and shoot buffalo towards Delagoa Bay. Then I turned, took
the pick and shovel, and although it was a Sunday morning, woke up
Harry and set to work to see if there were any more nuggets about. As
I expected, there were none. What we had got had lain together in a
little pocket filled with soil that felt quite different from the
stiff stuff round and outside the pocket. There was not another trace
of gold. Of course it is possible that there were more pocketfuls
somewhere about, but all I have to say is I made up my mind that,
whoever found them, I should not; and, as a matter of fact, I have
since heard that this claim has been the ruin of two or three people,
as it very nearly was the ruin of me.
"'Harry,' I said presently, 'I am going away this week towards Delagoa
to shoot buffalo. Shall I take you with me, or send you down to
"'Oh, take me with you, father!' begged Harry, 'I want to kill a
"'And supposing that the buffalo kills you instead?' I asked.
"'Oh, never mind,' he said, gaily, 'there are lots more where I came
"I rebuked him for his flippancy, but in the end I consented to take
WHAT WAS FOUND IN THE POOL
"Something over a fortnight had passed since the night when I lost
half-a-sovereign and found twelve hundred and fifty pounds in looking
for it, and instead of that horrid hole, for which, after all,
Eldorado was hardly a misnomer, a very different scene stretched away
before us clad in the silver robe of the moonlight. We were camped--
Harry and I, two Kaffirs, a Scotch cart, and six oxen--on the swelling
side of a great wave of bushclad land. Just where we had made our
camp, however, the bush was very sparse, and only grew about in
clumps, while here and there were single flat-topped mimosa-trees. To
our right a little stream, which had cut a deep channel for itself in
the bosom of the slope, flowed musically on between banks green with
maidenhair, wild asparagus, and many beautiful grasses. The bed-rock
here was red granite, and in the course of centuries of patient
washing the water had hollowed out some of the huge slabs in its path
into great troughs and cups, and these we used for bathing-places. No
Roman lady, with her baths of porphyry or alabaster, could have had a
more delicious spot to bathe herself than we found within fifty yards
of our skerm, or rough inclosure of mimosa thorn, that we had dragged
together round the cart to protect us from the attacks of lions. That
there were several of these brutes about, I knew from their spoor,
though we had neither heard nor seen them.
"Our bath was a little nook where the eddy of the stream had washed
away a mass of soil, and on the edge of it there grew a most beautiful
old mimosa thorn. Beneath the thorn was a large smooth slab of granite
fringed all round with maidenhair and other ferns, that sloped gently
down to a pool of the clearest sparkling water, which lay in a bowl of
granite about ten feet wide by five feet deep in the centre. Here to
this slab we went every morning to bathe, and that delightful bath is
among the most pleasant of my hunting reminiscences, as it is also,
for reasons which will presently appear, among the most painful.
"It was a lovely night. Harry and I sat to the windward of the fire,
where the two Kaffirs were busily employed in cooking some impala
steaks off a buck which Harry, to his great joy, had shot that
morning, and were as perfectly contented with ourselves and the world
at large as two people could possibly be. The night was beautiful, and
it would require somebody with more words on the tip of his tongue
than I have to describe properly the chastened majesty of those
moonlit wilds. Away for ever and for ever, away to the mysterious
north, rolled the great bush ocean over which the silence brooded.
There beneath us a mile or more to the right ran the wide Oliphant,
and mirror-like flashed back the moon, whose silver spears were
shivered on its breast, and then tossed in twisted lines of light far
and wide about the mountains and the plain. Down upon the river-banks
grew great timber-trees that through the stillness pointed solemnly to
Heaven, and the beauty of the night lay upon them like a cloud.
Everywhere was silence--silence in the starred depths, silence on the
bosom of the sleeping earth. Now, if ever, great thoughts might rise
in a man's mind, and for a space he might forget his littleness in the
sense that he partook of the pure immensity about him.
"'Hark! what was that?'
"From far away down by the river there comes a mighty rolling sound,
then another, and another. It is the lion seeking his meat.
"I saw Harry shiver and turn a little pale. He was a plucky boy
enough, but the roar of a lion heard for the first time in the solemn
bush veldt at night is apt to shake the nerves of any lad.
"'Lions, my boy,' I said; 'they are hunting down by the river there;
but I don't think that you need make yourself uneasy. We have been
here three nights now, and if they were going to pay us a visit I
think that they would have done so before this. However, we will make
up the fire.'
"'Here, Pharaoh, do you and Jim-Jim get some more wood before we go to
sleep, else the cats will be purring round you before morning.'
"Pharaoh, a great brawny Swazi, who had been working for me at
Pilgrims' Rest, laughed, rose, and stretched himself, then calling to
Jim-Jim to bring the axe and a reim, started off in the moonlight
towards a clump of sugar-bush where we cut our fuel from some dead
trees. He was a fine fellow in his way, was Pharaoh, and I think that
he had been named Pharaoh because he had an Egyptian cast of
countenance and a royal sort of swagger about him. But his way was a
somewhat peculiar way, on account of the uncertainty of his temper,
and very few people could get on with him; also if he could find
liquor he would drink like a fish, and when he drank he became
shockingly bloodthirsty. These were his bad points; his good ones were
that, like most people of the Zulu blood, he became exceedingly
attached if he took to you at all; he was a hard-working and
intelligent man, and about as dare-devil and plucky a fellow at a
pinch as I have ever had to do with. He was about five-and-thirty
years of age or so, but not a 'keshla' or ringed man. I believe that
he had got into trouble in some way in Swaziland, and the authorities
of his tribe would not allow him to assume the ring, and that is why
he came to work at the gold-fields. The other man, or rather lad, Jim-
Jim, was a Mapoch Kaffir, or Knobnose, and even in the light of
subsequent events I fear I cannot speak very well of him. He was an
idle and careless young rascal, and only that very morning I had to
tell Pharaoh to give him a beating for letting the oxen stray, which
Pharaoh did with the greatest gusto, although he was by way of being
very fond of Jim-Jim. Indeed, I saw him consoling Jim-Jim afterwards
with a pinch of snuff from his own ear-box, whilst he explained to him
that the next time it came in the way of duty to flog him, he meant to
thrash him with the other hand, so as to cross the old cuts and make a
"pretty pattern" on his back.
"Well, off they went, though Jim-Jim did not at all like leaving the
camp at that hour, even when the moonlight was so bright, and in due
course returned safely enough with a great bundle of wood. I laughed
at Jim-Jim, and asked him if he had seen anything, and he said yes, he
had; he had seen two large yellow eyes staring at him from behind a
bush, and heard something snore.
"As, however, on further investigation the yellow eyes and the snore
appeared to have existed only in Jim-Jim's lively imagination, I was
not greatly disturbed by this alarming report; but having seen to the
making-up of the fire, got into the skerm and went quietly to sleep
with Harry by my side.
"Some hours afterwards I woke up with a start. I don't know what woke
me. The moon had gone down, or at least was almost hidden behind the
soft horizon of bush, only her red rim being visible. Also a wind had
sprung up and was driving long hurrying lines of cloud across the
starry sky, and altogether a great change had come over the mood of
the night. By the look of the sky I judged that we must be about two
hours from day-break.
"The oxen, which were as usual tied to the disselboom of the Scotch
cart, were very restless--they kept snuffling and blowing, and rising
up and lying down again, so I at once suspected that they must wind
something. Presently I knew what it was that they winded, for within
fifty yards of us a lion roared, not very loud, but quite loud enough
to make my heart come into my mouth.
"Pharaoh was sleeping on the other side of the cart, and, looking
beneath it, I saw him raise his head and listen.
"'Lion, Inkoos,' he whispered, 'lion!'
"Jim-Jim also jumped up, and by the faint light I could see that he
was in a very great fright indeed.
"Thinking that it was as well to be prepared for emergencies, I told
Pharaoh to throw wood upon the fire, and woke up Harry, who I verily
believe was capable of sleeping happily through the crack of doom. He
was a little scared at first, but presently the excitement of the
position came home to him, and he grew quite anxious to see his
majesty face to face. I got my rifle handy and gave Harry his--a
Westley Richards falling block, which is a very useful gun for a
youth, being light and yet a good killing rifle, and then we waited.
"For a long time nothing happened, and I began to think that the best
thing we could do would be to go to sleep again, when suddenly I heard
a sound more like a cough than a roar within about twenty yards of the
skerm. We all looked out, but could see nothing; and then followed
another period of suspense. It was very trying to the nerves, this
waiting for an attack that might be developed from any quarter or
might not be developed at all; and though I was an old hand at this
sort of business I was anxious about Harry, for it is wonderful how
the presence of anybody to whom one is attached unnerves a man in
moments of danger. I know, although it was now chilly enough, I could
feel the perspiration running down my nose, and in order to relieve
the strain on my attention employed myself in watching a beetle which
appeared to be attracted by the firelight, and was sitting before it
thoughtfully rubbing his antennŠ against each other.
"Suddenly, the beetle gave such a jump that he nearly pitched headlong
into the fire, and so did we all--gave jumps, I mean, and no wonder,
for from right under the skerm fence there came a most frightful roar
--a roar that literally made the Scotch cart shake and took the breath
out of me.
"Harry made an exclamation, Jim-Jim howled outright, while the poor
oxen, who were terrified almost out of their hides, shivered and lowed
"The night was almost entirely dark now, for the moon had quite set,
and the clouds had covered up the stars, so that the only light we had
came from the fire, which by this time was burning up brightly again.
But, as you know, firelight is absolutely useless to shoot by, it is
so uncertain, and besides, it penetrates but a very little way into
the darkness, although if one is in the dark outside, one can see it
from far away.
"Presently the oxen, after standing still for a moment, suddenly
winded the lion and did what I feared they would do--began to 'skrek,'
that is, to try and break loose from the trektow to which they were
tied, to rush off madly into the wilderness. Lions know of this habit
on the part of oxen, which are, I do believe, the most foolish animals
under the sun, a sheep being a very Solomon compared to them; and it
is by no means uncommon for a lion to get in such a position that a
herd or span of oxen may wind him, skrek, break their reims, and rush
off into the bush. Of course, once there, they are helpless in the
dark; and then the lion chooses the one that he loves best and eats
him at his leisure.
"Well, round and round went our six poor oxen, nearly trampling us to
death in their mad rush; indeed, had we not hastily tumbled out of the
way, we should have been trodden to death, or at the least seriously
injured. As it was, Harry was run over, and poor Jim-Jim being caught
by the trektow somewhere beneath the arm, was hurled right across the
skerm, landing by my side only some paces off.
"Snap went the disselboom of the cart beneath the transverse strain
put upon it. Had it not broken the cart would have overset; as it was,
in another minute, oxen, cart, trektow, reims, broken disselboom, and
everything were soon tied in one vast heaving, plunging, bellowing,
and seemingly inextricable knot.
"For a moment or two this state of affairs took my attention off from
the lion that had caused it, but whilst I was wondering what on earth
was to be done next, and how we should manage if the cattle broke
loose into the bush and were lost--for cattle frightened in this
manner will so straight away like mad things--my thoughts were
suddenly recalled to the lion in a very painful fashion.
"For at that moment I perceived by the light of the fire a kind of
gleam of yellow travelling through the air towards us.
"'The lion! the lion!' holloaed Pharaoh, and as he did so, he, or
rather she, for it was a great gaunt lioness, half wild no doubt with
hunger, lit right in the middle of the skerm, and stood there in the
smoky gloom lashing her tail and roaring. I seized my rifle and fired
it at her, but what between the confusion, my agitation, and the
uncertain light, I missed her, and nearly shot Pharaoh. The flash of
the rifle, however, threw the whole scene into strong relief, and a
wild sight it was I can tell you--with the seething mass of oxen
twisted all round the cart, in such a fashion that their heads looked
as though they were growing out of their rumps; and their horns seemed
to protrude from their backs; the smoking fire with just a blaze in
the heart of the smoke; Jim-Jim in the foreground, where the oxen had
thrown him in their wild rush, stretched out there in terror, and then
as a centre to the picture the great gaunt lioness glaring round with
hungry yellow eyes, roaring and whining as she made up her mind what
"It did not take her long, however, just the time that it takes a
flash to die into darkness, for, before I could fire again or do
anything, with a most fiendish snort she sprang upon poor Jim-Jim.
"I heard the unfortunate lad shriek, and then almost instantly I saw
his legs thrown into the air. The lioness had seized him by the neck,
and with a sudden jerk thrown his body over her back so that his legs
hung down upon the further side.[*] Then, without the slightest
hesitation, and apparently without any difficulty, she cleared the
skerm face at a single bound, and bearing poor Jim-Jim with her
vanished into the darkness beyond, in the direction of the bathing-
place that I have already described. We jumped up perfectly mad with
horror and fear, and rushed wildly after her, firing shots at
haphazard on the chance that she would be frightened by them into
dropping her prey, but nothing could we see, and nothing could we
hear. The lioness had vanished into the darkness, taking Jim-Jim with
her, and to attempt to follow her till daylight was madness. We should
only expose ourselves to the risk of a like fate.
[*] I have known a lion carry a two-year-old ox over a stone wall four
feet high in this fashion, and a mile away into the bush beyond.
He was subsequently poisoned by strychnine put into the carcass of
the ox, and I still have his claws.--Editor.
"So with scared and heavy hearts we crept back to the skerm, and sat
down to wait for the dawn, which now could not be much more than an
hour off. It was absolutely useless to try even to disentangle the
oxen till then, so all that was left for us to do was to sit and
wonder how it came to pass that the one should be taken and the other
left, and to hope against hope that our poor servant might have been
mercifully delivered from the lion's jaws.
"At length the faint dawn came stealing like a ghost up the long slope
of bush, and glinted on the tangled oxen's horns, and with white and
frightened faces we got up and set to the task of disentangling the
oxen, till such time as there should be light enough to enable us to
follow the trail of the lioness which had gone off with Jim-Jim. And
here a fresh trouble awaited us, for when at last with infinite
difficulty we had disentangled the great helpless brutes, it was only
to find that one of the best of them was very sick. There was no
mistake about the way he stood with his legs slightly apart and his
head hanging down. He had got the redwater, I was sure of it. Of all
the difficulties connected with life and travelling in South Africa
those connected with oxen are perhaps the worst. The ox is the most
exasperating animal in the world, a negro excepted. He has absolutely
no constitution, and never neglects an opportunity of falling sick of
some mysterious disease. He will get thin upon the slightest
provocation, and from mere maliciousness die of 'poverty'; whereas it
is his chief delight to turn round and refuse to pull whenever he
finds himself well in the centre of a river, or the waggon-wheel
nicely fast in a mud hole. Drive him a few miles over rough roads and
you will find that he is footsore; turn him loose to feed and you will
discover that he has run away, or if he has not run away he has of
malice aforethought eaten 'tulip' and poisoned himself. There is
always something with him. The ox is a brute. It was of a piece with
his accustomed behaviour for the one in question to break out--on
purpose probably--with redwater just when a lion had walked off with
his herd. It was exactly what I should have expected, and I was
therefore neither disappointed nor surprised.
"Well, it was no use crying as I should almost have liked to do,
because if this ox had redwater it was probable that the rest of them
had it too, although they had been sold to me as 'salted,' that is,
proof against such diseases as redwater and lungsick. One gets
hardened to this sort of thing in South Africa in course of time, for
I suppose in no other country in the world is the waste of animal life
"So taking my rifle and telling Harry to follow me (for we had to
leave Pharaoh to look after the oxen--Pharaoh's lean kine, I called
them), I started to see if anything could be found of or appertaining
to the unfortunate Jim-Jim. The ground round our little camp was hard
and rocky, and we could not hit off any spoor of the lioness, though
just outside the skerm was a drop or two of blood. About three hundred
yards from the camp, and a little to the right, was a patch of sugar
bush mixed up with the usual mimosa, and for this I made, thinking
that the lioness would have been sure to take her prey there to devour
it. On we pushed through the long grass that was bent down beneath the
weight of the soaking dew. In two minutes we were wet through up to
the thighs, as wet as though we had waded through water. In due
course, however, we reached the patch of bush, and by the grey light
of the morning cautiously and slowly pushed our way into it. It was
very dark under the trees, for the sun was not yet up, so we walked
with the most extreme care, half expecting every minute to come across
the lioness licking the bones of poor Jim-Jim. But no lioness could we
see, and as for Jim-Jim there was not even a finger-joint of him to be
found. Evidently they had not come here.
"So pushing through the bush we proceeded to hunt every other likely
spot, but with the same result.
"'I suppose she must have taken him right away,' I said at last, sadly
enough. 'At any rate he will be dead by now, so God have mercy on him,
we can't help him. What's to be done now?'
"'I suppose that we had better wash ourselves in the pool, and then go
back and get something to eat. I am filthy,' said Harry.
"This was a practical if a somewhat unfeeling suggestion. At least it
struck me as unfeeling to talk of washing when poor Jim-Jim had been
so recently eaten. However, I did not let my sentiment carry me away,
so we went down to the beautiful spot that I have described, to wash.
I was the first to reach it, which I did by scrambling down the ferny
bank. Then I turned round, and started back with a yell--as well I
might, for almost from beneath my feet there came a most awful snarl.
"I had lit nearly upon the back of the lioness, that had been sleeping
on the slab where we always stood to dry ourselves after bathing. With
a snarl and a growl, before I could do anything, before I could even
cock my rifle, she had bounded right across the crystal pool, and
vanished over the opposite bank. It was all done in an instant, as
quick as thought.
"She had been sleeping on the slab, and oh, horror! what was that
sleeping beside her? It was the red remains of poor Jim-Jim, lying on
a patch of blood-stained rock.
"'Oh! father, father!' shrieked Harry, 'look in the water!'
"I looked. There, floating in the centre of the lovely tranquil pool,
was Jim-Jim's head. The lioness had bitten it right off, and it had
rolled down the sloping rock into the water.
JIM-JIM IS AVENGED
"We never bathed in that pool again; indeed for my part I could never
look at its peaceful purity fringed round with waving ferns without
thinking of that ghastly head which rolled itself off through the
water when we tried to catch it.
"Poor Jim-Jim! We buried what was left of him, which was not very
much, in an old bread-bag, and though whilst he lived his virtues were
not great, now that he was gone we could have wept over him. Indeed,
Harry did weep outright; while Pharaoh used very bad language in Zulu,
and I registered a quiet little vow on my account that I would let
daylight into that lioness before I was forty-eight hours older, if by
any means it could be done.
"Well, we buried him, and there he lies in the bread-bag (which I
rather grudged him, as it was the only one we had), where lions will
not trouble him any more--though perhaps the hyŠnas will, if they
consider that there is enough on him left to make it worth their while
to dig him up. However, he won't mind that; so there is an end of the
book of Jim-Jim.
"The question that now remained was, how to circumvent his murderess.
I knew that she would be sure to return as soon as she was hungry
again, but I did not know when she would be hungry. She had left so
little of Jim-Jim behind her that I should scarcely expect to see her
the next night, unless indeed she had cubs. Still, I felt that it
would not be wise to miss the chance of her coming, so we set about
making preparations for her reception. The first thing that we did was
to strengthen the bush wall of the skerm by dragging a large quantity
of the tops of thorn-trees together, and laying them one on the other
in such a fashion that the thorns pointed outwards. This, after our
experience of the fate of Jim-Jim, seemed a very necessary precaution,
since if where one goat can jump another can follow, as the Kaffirs
say, how much more is this the case when an animal so active and so
vigorous as the lion is concerned! And now came the further question,
how were we to beguile the lioness to return? Lions are animals that
have a strange knack of appearing when they are not wanted, and
keeping studiously out of the way when their presence is required. Of
course it was possible that if she had found Jim-Jim to her liking she
would come back to see if there were any more of his kind about, but
still it was not to be relied on.
"Harry, who as I have said was an eminently practical boy, suggested
to Pharaoh that he should go and sit outside the skerm in the
moonlight as a sort of bait, assuring him that he would have nothing
to fear, as we should certainly kill the lioness before she killed
him. Pharaoh however, strangely enough, did not seem to take to this
suggestion. Indeed, he walked away, much put out with Harry for having
"It gave me an idea, however.
"'By Jove!' I said, 'there is the sick ox. He must die sooner or
later, so we may as well utilize him.'
"Now, about thirty yards to the left of our skerm, as one stood facing
down the hill towards the river, was the stump of a tree that had been
destroyed by lightning many years before, standing equidistant
between, but a little in front of, two clumps of bush, which were
severally some fifteen paces from it.
"Here was the very place to tie the ox; and accordingly a little
before sunset the sick animal was led forth by Pharaoh and made fast
there, little knowing, poor brute, for what purpose; and we began our
long vigil, this time without a fire, for our object was to attract
the lioness and not to scare her.
"For hour after hour we waited, keeping ourselves awake by pinching
each other--it is, by the way, remarkable what a difference of opinion
as to the force of pinches requisite to the occasion exists in the
mind of pincher and pinched--but no lioness came. At last the moon
went down, and darkness swallowed up the world, as the Kaffirs say,
but no lions came to swallow us up. We waited till dawn, because we
did not dare to go to sleep, and then at last with many bad thoughts
in our hearts we took such rest as we could get, and that was not
"That morning we went out shooting, not because we wanted to, for we
were too depressed and tired, but because we had no more meat. For
three hours or more we wandered about in a broiling sun looking for
something to kill, but with absolutely no results. For some unknown
reason the game had grown very scarce about the spot, though when I
was there two years before every sort of large game except rhinoceros
and elephant was particularly abundant. The lions, of whom there were
many, alone remained, and I fancy that it was the fact of the game
they live on having temporarily migrated which made them so daring and
ferocious. As a general rule a lion is an amiable animal enough if he
is left alone, but a hungry lion is almost as dangerous as a hungry
man. One hears a great many different opinions expressed as to whether
or no the lion is remarkable for his courage, but the result of my
experience is that very much depends upon the state of his stomach. A
hungry lion will not stick at a trifle, whereas a full one will flee
at a very small rebuke.
"Well, we hunted all about, and nothing could we see, not even a
duiker or a bush buck; and at last, thoroughly tired and out of
temper, we started on our way back to camp, passing over the brow of a
steepish hill to do so. Just as we climbed the crest of the ridge I
came to a stand, for there, about six hundred yards to my left, his
beautiful curved horns outlined against the soft blue of the sky, I
saw a noble koodoo bull (/Strepsiceros kudu/). Even at that distance,
for as you know my eyes are very keen, I could distinctly see the
white stripes on its side when the light fell upon it, and its large
and pointed ears twitch as the flies worried it.
"So far so good; but how were we to get at it? It was ridiculous to
risk a shot at that great distance, and yet both the ground and the
wind lay very ill for stalking. It seemed to me that the only chance
would be to make a detour of at least a mile or more, and come up on
the other side of the koodoo. I called Harry to my side, and explained
to him what I thought would be our best course, when suddenly, without
any delay, the koodoo saved us further trouble by suddenly starting
off down the hill like a leaping rocket. I do not know what had
frightened it, certainly we had not. Perhaps a hyŠna or a leopard--a
tiger as we call it there--had suddenly appeared; at any rate, off it
went, running slightly towards us, and I never saw a buck go faster. I
am afraid that forgetting Harry's presence I used strong language, and
really there was some excuse. As for Harry, he stood watching the
beautiful animal's course. Presently it vanished behind a patch of
bush, to emerge a few seconds later about five hundred paces from us,
on a stretch of comparatively level ground that was strewn with
boulders. On it went, clearing the boulders in its path with a
succession of great bounds that were beautiful to behold. As it did
so, I happened to look round at Harry, and perceived to my
astonishment that he had got his rifle to his shoulder.
"'You young donkey!' I exclaimed, 'surely you are not going to'--and
just at that moment the rifle went off.
"And then I think I saw what was in its way one of the most wonderful
things I ever remember in my hunting experience. The koodoo was at the
moment in the air, clearing a pile of stones with its fore-legs tucked
up underneath it. All of an instant the legs stretched themselves out
in a spasmodic fashion, it lit on them, and they doubled up beneath
it. Down went the noble buck, down upon his head. For a moment he
seemed to be standing on his horns, his hind-legs high in the air, and
then over he rolled and lay still.
"'Great Heavens!' I said, 'why, you've hit him! He's dead.'
"As for Harry, he said nothing, but merely looked scared, as well he
might, for such a marvellous, I may say such an appalling and ghastly
fluke it has never been my lot to witness. A man, let alone a boy,
might have fired a thousand such shots without ever touching the
object; which, mind you, was springing and bounding over rocks quite
five hundred yards away; and here this lad--taking a snap shot, and
merely allowing for speed and elevation by instinct, for he did not
put up his sights--had knocked the bull over as dead as a door-nail.
Well, I made no further remark, as the occasion was too solemn for
talking, but merely led the way to where the koodoo had fallen. There
he lay, beautiful and quite still; and there, high up, about half-way
down his neck, was a neat round hole. The bullet had severed the
spinal marrow, passing through the vertebrŠ and away on the other
"It was already evening when, having cut as much of the best meat as
we could carry from the bull, and tied a red handkerchief and some
tufts of grass to his spiral horns, which, by the way, must have been
nearly five feet in length, in the hope of keeping the jackals and
aasv÷gels (vultures) from him, we finally got back to camp, to find
Pharaoh, who was getting rather anxious at our absence, ready to greet
us with the pleasing intelligence that another ox was sick. But even
this dreadful bit of intelligence could not dash Harry's spirits; the
fact of the matter being, incredible as it may appear, I do verily
believe that in his heart of hearts he set down the death of the
koodoo to the credit of his own skill. Now, though the lad was a
pretty shot enough, this of course was ridiculous, and I told him so
"By the time that we had finished our supper of koodoo steaks (which
would have been better if the koodoo had been a little younger), it
was time to get ready for Jim-Jim's murderess. Accordingly we
determined again to expose the unfortunate sick ox, that was now
absolutely on its last legs, being indeed scarcely able to stand. All
the afternoon Pharaoh told us it had been walking round and round in a
circle as cattle in the last stage of redwater generally do. Now it
had come to a standstill, and was swaying to and fro with its head
hanging down. So we tied him up to the stump of the tree as on the
previous night, knowing that if the lioness did not kill him he would
be dead by morning. Indeed I was afraid that he would die at once, in
which case he would be of but little use as a bait, for the lion is a
sportsmanlike animal, and unless he is very hungry generally prefers
to kill his own dinner, though when that is once killed he will come
back to it again and again.
"Then we again went through our experience of the previous night,
sitting there hour after hour, till at last Harry fell fast asleep,
and, though I am accustomed to this sort of thing, even I could
scarcely keep my eyes open. Indeed I was just dropping off, when
suddenly Pharaoh gave me a push.
"'/Listen!/' he whispered.
"I was awake in a second, and listening with all my ears. From the
clump of bush to the right of the lightning-shattered stump to which
the sick ox was tied came a faint crackling noise. Presently it was
repeated. Something was moving there, faintly and quietly enough, but
still moving perceptibly, for in the intense stillness of the night
any sound seemed loud.
"I woke up Harry, who instantly said, 'Where is she? where is she?'
and began to point his rifle about in a fashion that was more
dangerous to us and the oxen than to any possible lioness.
"'Be quiet!' I whispered, savagely; and as I did so, with a low and
hideous growl a flash of yellow light sped out of the clump of bush,
past the ox, and into the corresponding clump upon the other side. The
poor sick creature gave a sort of groan, staggered round and then
began to tremble. I could see it do so clearly in the moonlight, which
was now very bright, and I felt a brute for having exposed the
unfortunate animal to such agony as he must undoubtedly be undergoing.
The lioness, for it was she, passed so quickly that we could not even
distinguish her movements, much less fire. Indeed at night it is
absolutely useless to attempt to shoot unless the object is very close
and standing perfectly still, and then the light is so deceptive and
it is so difficult to see the foresight that the best shot will miss
more often than he hits.
"'She will be back again presently,' I said; 'look out, but for
Heaven's sake don't fire unless I tell you to.'
"Hardly were the words out of my mouth when back she came, and again
passed the ox without striking him.
"'What on earth is she doing?' whispered Harry.
"'Playing with it as a cat does with a mouse, I suppose. She will kill
"As I spoke, the lioness once more flashed out of the bush, and this
time sprang right over the doomed and trembling ox. It was a beautiful
sight to see her clear him in the bright moonlight, as though it were
a trick which she had been taught.
"'I believe that she has escaped from a circus,' whispered Harry;
'it's jolly to see her jump.'
"I said nothing, but I thought to myself that if it was, Master Harry
did not quite appreciate the performance, and small blame to him. At
any rate, his teeth were chattering a little.
"Then came a longish pause, and I began to think that the lioness must
have gone away, when suddenly she appeared again, and with one mighty
bound landed right on to the ox, and struck it a frightful blow with
"Down it went, and lay on the ground kicking feebly. She put down her
wicked-looking head, and, with a fierce growl of contentment, buried
her long white teeth in the throat of the dying animal. When she
lifted her muzzle again it was all stained with blood. She stood
facing us obliquely, licking her bloody chops and making a sort of
"'Now's our time,' I whispered, 'fire when I do.'
"I got on to her as well as I could, but Harry, instead of waiting for
me as I told him, fired before I did, and that of course hurried me.
But when the smoke cleared, I was delighted to see that the lioness
was rolling about on the ground behind the body of the ox, which
covered her in such a fashion, however, that we could not shoot again
to make an end of her.
"'She's done for! she's dead, the yellow devil!' yelled Pharaoh in
exultation; and at that very moment the lioness, with a sort of
convulsive rush, half-rolled, half-sprang, into the patch of thick
bush to the right. I fired after her as she went, but so far as I
could see without result; indeed the probability is that I missed her
clean. At any rate she got to the bush in safety, and once there,
began to make such a diabolical noise as I never heard before. She
would whine and shriek with pain, and then burst out into perfect
volleys of roaring that shook the whole place.
"'Well,' I said, 'we must just let her roar; to go into that bush
after her at night would be madness.'
"At that moment, to my astonishment and alarm, there came an answering
roar from the direction of the river, and then another from behind the
swell of bush. Evidently there were more lions about. The wounded
lioness redoubled her efforts, with the object, I suppose, of
summoning the others to her assistance. At any rate they came, and
quickly too, for within five minutes, peeping through the bushes of
our skerm fence, we saw a magnificent lion bounding along towards us,
through the tall tambouki grass, that in the moonlight looked for all
the world like ripening corn. On he came in great leaps, and a
glorious sight it was to see him. When within fifty yards or so, he
stood still in an open space and roared. The lioness roared too; then
there came a third roar, and another great black-maned lion stalked
majestically up, and joined number two, till really I began to realize
what the ox must have undergone.
"'Now, Harry,' I whispered, 'whatever you do don't fire, it's too
risky. If they let us be, let them be.'
"Well, the pair marched off to the bush, where the wounded lioness was
now roaring double tides, and the three of them began to snarl and
grumble away together there. Presently, however, the lioness ceased
roaring, and the two lions came out again, the black-maned one first--
to prospect, I suppose--walked to where the carcass of the ox lay, and
sniffed at it.
"'Oh, what a shot!' whispered Harry, who was trembling with
"'Yes,' I said; 'but don't fire; they might all of them come for us.'
"Harry said nothing, but whether it was from the natural impetuosity
of youth, or because he was thrown off his balance by excitement, or
from sheer recklessness and devilment, I am sure I cannot tell you,
never having been able to get a satisfactory explanation from him; but
at any rate the fact remains, he, without word or warning, entirely
disregarding my exhortations, lifted up his Westley Richards and fired
at the black-maned lion, and, what is more, hit it slightly on the
"Next second there was a most awful roar from the injured lion. He
glared around him and roared with pain, for he was badly stung; and
then, before I could make up my mind what to do, the great black-maned
brute, clearly ignorant of the cause of his hurt, sprang right at the
throat of his companion, to whom he evidently attributed his
misfortune. It was a curious sight to see the astonishment of the
other lion at this most unprovoked assault. Over he rolled with an
angry snarl, and on to him sprang the black-maned demon, and began to
worry him. This finally awoke the yellow-maned lion to a sense of the
situation, and I am bound to say that he rose to it in a most
effective manner. Somehow or other he got to his feet, and, roaring
and snarling frightfully, closed with his mighty foe.
"Then ensued a most tremendous scene. You know what a shocking thing
it is to see two large dogs fighting with abandonment. Well, a whole
hundred of dogs could not have looked half so terrible as those two
great brutes as they rolled and roared and rent in their horrid rage.
They gripped each other, they tore at each other's throat, till their
manes came out in handfuls, and the red blood streamed down their
yellow hides. It was an awful and a wonderful thing to see the great
cats tearing at each other with all the fierce energy of their savage
strength, and making the night hideous with their heart-shaking noise.
And the fight was a grand one too. For some minutes it was impossible
to say which was getting the best of it, but at last I saw that the
black-maned lion, though he was slightly bigger, was failing. I am
inclined to think that the wound in his flank crippled him. Anyway, he
began to get the worst of it, which served him right, as he was the
aggressor. Still I could not help feeling sorry for him, for he had
fought a gallant fight, when his antagonist finally got him by the
throat, and, struggle and strike out as he would, began to shake the
life out of him. Over and over they rolled together, a hideous and
awe-inspiring spectacle, but the yellow one would not loose his hold,
and at length poor black-mane grew faint, his breath came in great
snorts and seemed to rattle in his nostrils, then he opened his huge
mouth, gave the ghost of a roar, quivered, and was dead.
"When he was quite sure that the victory was his own, the yellow-maned
lion loosed his grip and sniffed at the fallen foe. Then he licked the
dead lion's eye, and next, with his fore-feet resting on the carcass,
sent up his own chant of victory, that went rolling and pealing down
the dark paths of the night. And at this point I interfered. Taking a
careful sight at the centre of his body, in order to give the largest
possible margin for error, I fired, and sent a .570 express bullet
right through him, and down he dropped dead upon the carcass of his
"After that, fairly satisfied with our performances, we slept
peaceably till dawn, leaving Pharaoh to keep watch in case any more
lions should take it into their heads to come our way.
"When the sun was well up we arose, and went very cautiously--at least
Pharaoh and I did, for I would not allow Harry to come--to see if we
could find any trace of the wounded lioness. She had ceased roaring
immediately upon the arrival of the two lions, and had not made a
sound since, from which we concluded that she was probably dead. I was
armed with my express, while Pharaoh, in whose hands a rifle was
indeed a dangerous weapon, to his companions, had an axe. On our way
we stopped to look at the two dead lions. They were magnificent
animals, both of them, but their pelts were entirely spoiled by the
terrible mauling they had given to each other, which was a sad pity.
"In another minute we were following the blood spoor of the wounded
lioness into the bush, where she had taken refuge. This, I need hardly
say, we did with the utmost caution; indeed, I for one did not at all
like the job, and was only consoled by the reflection that it was
necessary, and that the bush was not thick. Well, we stood there,
keeping as far from the trees as possible, searching and looking
about, but no lioness could we see, though we saw plenty of blood.
"'She must have gone somewhere to die, Pharaoh,' I said in Zulu.
"'Yes, Inkoos,' he answered, 'she has certainly gone away.'
"Hardly were the words out of his mouth, when I heard a roar, and
starting round saw the lioness emerge from the very centre of a bush,
in which she had been curled up, just behind Pharaoh. Up she went on
to her hind-legs, and as she did so I noticed that one of her fore-
paws was broken near the shoulder, for it hung limply down. Up she
went, towering right over Pharaoh's head, as she did so lifting her
uninjured paw to strike him to the earth. And then, before I could get
my rifle round or do anything to avert the oncoming catastrophe, the
Zulu did a very brave and clever thing. Realizing his own imminent
danger, he bounded to one side, and swinging the heavy axe round his
head, brought it down right on to the back of the lioness, severing
the vertebrŠ and killing her instantaneously. It was wonderful to see
her collapse all in a heap like an empty sack.
"'My word, Pharaoh!' I said, 'that was well done, and none too soon.'
"'Yes,' he answered, with a little laugh, 'it was a good stroke,
Inkoos. Jim-Jim will sleep better now.'
"Then, calling Harry to us, we examined the lioness. She was old, if
one might judge from her worn teeth, and not very large, but thickly
made, and must have possessed extraordinary vitality to have lived so
long, shot as she was; for, in addition to her broken shoulder, my
express bullet had blown a great hole in her middle that one might
have put a fist into.
"Well, that is the story of the death of poor Jim-Jim and how we
avenged it. It is rather interesting in its way, because of the fight
between the two lions, of which I never saw the like in all my
experience, and I know something of lions and their manners."
"And how did you get back to Pilgrim's Rest?" I asked Hunter
Quatermain when he had finished his yarn.
"Ah, we had a nice job with that," he answered. "The second sick ox
died, and so did another, and we had to get on as best we could with
three harnessed unicorn fashion, while we pushed behind. We did about
four miles a day, and it took us nearly a month, during the last week
of which we pretty well starved."
"I notice," I said, "that most of your trips ended in disaster of some
sort or another, and yet you went on making them, which strikes one as
a little strange."
"Yes, I dare say: but then, remember I got my living for many years
out of hunting. Besides, half the charm of the thing lay in the
dangers and disasters, though they were terrible enough at the time.
Another thing is, my trips were not all disastrous. Some time, if you
like, I will tell you a story of one which was very much the reverse,
for I made several thousand pounds out of it, and saw one of the most
extraordinary sights a hunter ever came across. It was on this trip
that I met the bravest native woman I ever knew; her name was Maiwa.
But it is too late now, and besides, I am tired of talking about
myself. Pass the water, will you!"