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Long Odds by H. Rider Haggard

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Etext prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz
Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com
and Emma Dudding, emma_302@hotmail.com

This is our second version of Long Odds, also see Etext #1918.

Long Odds

by H. Rider Haggard

The story which is narrated in the following pages came to me from the
lips of my old friend Allan Quatermain, or Hunter Quatermain, as we
used to call him in South Africa. He told it to me one evening when I
was stopping with him at the place he bought in Yorkshire. Shortly
after that, the death of his only son so unsettled him that he
immediately left England, accompanied by two companions, his old
fellow-voyagers, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good, and has now
utterly vanished into the dark heart of Africa. He is persuaded that a
white people, of which he has heard rumours all his life, exists
somewhere on the highlands in the vast, still unexplored interior, and
his great ambition is to find them before he dies. This is the wild
quest upon which he and his companions have departed, and from which I
shrewdly suspect they never will return. One letter only have I
received from the old gentleman, dated from a mission station high up
the Tana, a river on the east coast, about three hundred miles north
of Zanzibar. In it he says they have gone through many hardships and
adventures, but are alive and well, and have found traces which go far
towards making him hope that the results of their wild quest may be a
"magnificent and unexampled discovery." I greatly fear, however, that
all he has discovered is death; for this letter came a long while ago,
and nobody has heard a single word of the party since. They have
totally vanished.

It was on the last evening of my stay at his house that he told the
ensuing story to me and Captain Good, who was dining with him. He had
eaten his dinner and drunk two or three glasses of old port, just to
help Good and myself to the end of the second bottle. It was an
unusual thing for him to do, for he was a most abstemious man, having
conceived, as he used to say, a great horror of drink from observing
its effects upon the class of men--hunters, transport riders, and
others--amongst whom he had passed so many years of his life.
Consequently the good wine took more effect on him that it would have
done on most men, sending a little flush into his wrinkled cheeks, and
making him talk more freely than usual.

Dear old man! I can see him now, as he went limping up and down the
vestibule, with his grey hair sticking up in scrubbing-brush fashion,
his shrivelled yellow face, and his large dark eyes, that were as keen
as any hawk's, and yet soft as a buck's. The whole room was hung with
trophies of his numerous hunting expeditions, and he had some story
about every one of them, if only he could be got to tell them.
Generally he would not, for he was not very fond of narrating his own
adventures, but to-night the port wine made him more communicative.

"Ah, you brute!" he said, stopping beneath an unusually large skull of
a lion, which was fixed just over the mantelpiece, beneath a long row
of guns, its jaws distended to their utmost width. "Ah, you brute! you
have given me a lot of trouble for the last dozen years, and will, I
suppose, to my dying day."

"Tell us the yarn, Quatermain," said Good. "You have often promised to
tell me, and you never have."

"You had better not ask me to," he answered, "for it is a longish

"All right," I said, "the evening is young, and there is some more

Thus adjured, he filled his pipe from a jar of coarse-cut Boer tobacco
that was always standing on the mantelpiece, and still walking up and
down the room, began--

"It was, I think, in the March of '69 that I was up in Sikukuni's
country. It was just after old Sequati's time, and Sikukuni had got
into power--I forget how. Anyway, I was there. I had heard that the
Bapedi people had brought down an enormous quantity of ivory from the
interior, and so I started with a waggon-load of goods, and came
straight away from Middelburg to try and trade some of it. It was a
risky thing to go into the country so early, on account of the fever;
but I knew that there were one or two others after that lot of ivory,
so I determined to have a try for it, and take my chance of fever. I
had become so tough from continual knocking about that I did not set
it down at much.

"Well, I got on all right for a while. It is a wonderfully beautiful
piece of bush veldt, with great ranges of mountains running through
it, and round granite koppies starting up here and there, looking out
like sentinels over the rolling waste of bush. But it is very hot--hot
as a stew-pan--and when I was there that March, which, of course, is
autumn in this part of Africa, the whole place reeked of fever. Every
morning, as I trekked along down by the Oliphant River, I used to
creep from the waggon at dawn and look out. But there was no river to
be seen--only a long line of billows of what looked like the finest
cotton wool tossed up lightly with a pitchfork. It was the fever mist.
Out from among the scrub, too, came little spirals of vapour, as
though there were hundreds of tiny fires alight in it--reek rising
from thousands of tons of rotting vegetation. It was a beautiful
place, but the beauty was the beauty of death; and all those lines and
blots of vapour wrote one great word across the surface of the
country, and that word was 'fever.'

"It was a dreadful year of illness that. I came, I remember, to one
little kraal of Knobnoses, and went up to it to see if I could get
some /maas/, or curdled butter-milk, and a few mealies. As I drew near
I was struck with the silence of the place. No children began to
chatter, and no dogs barked. Nor could I see any native sheep or
cattle. The place, though it had evidently been recently inhabited,
was as still as the bush round it, and some guinea fowl got up out of
the prickly pear bushes right at the kraal gate. I remember that I
hesitated a little before going in, there was such an air of
desolation about the spot. Nature never looks desolate when man has
not yet laid his hand upon her breast; she is only lonely. But when
man has been, and has passed away, then she looks desolate.

"Well, I passed into the kraal, and went up to the principal hut. In
front of the hut was something with an old sheep-skin /kaross/ thrown
over it. I stooped down and drew off the rug, and then shrank back
amazed, for under it was the body of a young woman recently dead. For
a moment I thought of turning back, but my curiosity overcame me; so
going past the dead woman I went down on my hands and knees and crept
into the hut. It was so dark that I could not see anything, though I
could smell a great deal, so I lit a match. It was a 'tandstickor'
match, and burnt slowly and dimly, and as the light gradually
increased I made out what I took to be a family of people, men, women,
and children, fast asleep. Presently it burnt up brightly, and I saw
that they too, five of them altogether, were quite dead. One was a
baby. I dropped the match in a hurry, and was making my way from the
hut as quick as I could go, when I caught sight of two bright eyes
staring out of a corner. Thinking it was a wild cat, or some such
animal, I redoubled my haste, when suddenly a voice near the eyes
began first to mutter, and then to send up a succession of awful

"Hastily I lit another match, and perceived that the eyes belonged to
an old woman, wrapped up in a greasy leather garment. Taking her by
the arm, I dragged her out, for she could not, or would not, come by
herself, and the stench was overpowering me. Such a sight as she was--
a bag of bones, covered over with black, shrivelled parchment. The
only white thing about her was her wool, and she seemed to be pretty
well dead except for her eyes and her voice. She thought that I was a
devil come to take her, and that is why she yelled so. Well, I got her
down to the waggon, and gave her a 'tot' of Cape smoke, and then, as
soon as it was ready, poured about a pint of beef-tea down her throat,
made from the flesh of a blue vilderbeeste I had killed the day
before, and after that she brightened up wonderfully. She could talk
Zulu--indeed, it turned out that she had run away from Zululand in
T'Chaka's time--and she told me that all the people whom I had seen
had died of fever. When they had died the other inhabitants of the
kraal had taken the cattle and gone away, leaving the poor old woman,
who was helpless from age and infirmity, to perish of starvation or
disease, as the case might be. She had been sitting there for three
days among the bodies when I found her. I took her on to the next
kraal, and gave the headman a blanket to look after her, promising him
another if I found her well when I came back. I remember that he was
much astonished at my parting with two blankets for the sake of such a
worthless old creature. 'Why did I not leave her in the bush?' he
asked. Those people carry the doctrine of the survival of the fittest
to its extreme, you see.

"It was the night after I had got rid of the old woman that I made my
first acquaintance with my friend yonder," and he nodded towards the
skull that seemed to be grinning down at us in the shadow of the wide
mantel-shelf. "I had trekked from dawn till eleven o'clock--a long
trek--but I wanted to get on, and had turned the oxen out to graze,
sending the voorlooper to look after them, my intention being to
inspan again about six o'clock, and trek with the moon till ten. Then
I got into the waggon, and had a good sleep till half-past two or so
in the afternoon, when I rose and cooked some meat, and had my dinner,
washing it down with a pannikin of black coffee--for it was difficult
to get preserved milk in those days. Just as I had finished, and the
driver, a man called Tom, was washing up the things, in comes the
young scoundrel of a voorlooper driving one ox before him.

"'Where are the other oxen?' I asked.

"'Koos!' he said, 'Koos! the other oxen have gone away. I turned my
back for a minute, and when I looked round again they were all gone
except Kaptein, here, who was rubbing his back against a tree.'

"'You mean that you have been asleep, and let them stray, you villain.
I will rub your back against a stick,' I answered, feeling very angry,
for it was not a pleasant prospect to be stuck up in that fever trap
for a week or so while we were hunting for the oxen. 'Off you go, and
you too, Tom, and mind you don't come back till you have found them.
They have trekked back along the Middelburg Road, and are a dozen
miles off by now, I'll be bound. Now, no words; go both of you.'

"Tom, the driver, swore, and caught the lad a hearty kick, which he
richly deserved, and then, having tied old Kaptein up to the
disselboom with a reim, they took their assegais and sticks, and
started. I would have gone too, only I knew that somebody must look
after the waggon, and I did not like to leave either of the boys with
it at night. I was in a very bad temper, indeed, although I was pretty
well used to these sort of occurrences, and soothed myself by taking a
rifle and going to kill something. For a couple of hours I poked about
without seeing anything that I could get a shot at, but at last, just
as I was again within seventy yards of the waggon, I put up an old
Impala ram from behind a mimosa thorn. He ran straight for the waggon,
and it was not till he was passing within a few feet of it that I
could get a decent shot at him. Then I pulled, and caught him half-way
down the spine; over he went, dead as a door-nail, and a pretty shot
it was, though I ought not to say it. This little incident put me into
rather a better humour, especially as the buck had rolled over right
against the after-part of the waggon, so I had only to gut him, fix a
reim round his legs, and haul him up. By the time I had done this the
sun was down, and the full moon was up, and a beautiful moon it was.
And then there came down that wonderful hush which sometimes falls
over the African bush in the early hours of the night. No beast was
moving, and no bird called. Not a breath of air stirred the quiet
trees, and the shadows did not even quiver, they only grew. It was
very oppressive and very lonely, for there was not a sign of the
cattle or the boys. I was quite thankful for the society of old
Kaptein, who was lying down contentedly against the disselboom,
chewing the cud with a good conscience.

"Presently, however, Kaptein began to get restless. First he snorted,
then he got up and snorted again. I could not make it out, so like a
fool I got down off the waggon-box to have a look round, thinking it
might be the lost oxen coming.

"Next instant I regretted it, for all of a sudden I heard a roar and
saw something yellow flash past me and light on poor Kaptein. Then
came a bellow of agony from the ox, and a crunch as the lion put his
teeth through the poor brute's neck, and I began to realize what had
happened. My rifle was in the waggon, and my first thought being to
get hold of it, I turned and made a bolt for it. I got my foot on the
wheel and flung my body forward on to the waggon, and there I stopped
as if I were frozen, and no wonder, for as I was about to spring up I
heard the lion behind me, and next second I felt the brute, ay, as
plainly as I can feel this table. I felt him, I say, sniffing at my
left leg that was hanging down.

"My word! I did feel queer; I don't think that I ever felt so queer
before. I dared not move for the life of me, and the odd thing was
that I seemed to lose power over my leg, which had an insane sort of
inclination to kick out of its own mere motion--just as hysterical
people want to laugh when they ought to be particularly solemn. Well,
the lion sniffed and sniffed, beginning at my ankle and slowly nosing
away up to my thigh. I thought that he was going to get hold then, but
he did not. He only growled softly, and went back to the ox. Shifting
my head a little I got a full view of him. He was about the biggest
lion I ever saw, and I have seen a great many, and he had a most
tremendous black mane. What his teeth were like you can see--look
there, pretty big ones, ain't they? Altogether he was a magnificent
animal, and as I lay there sprawling on the fore-tongue of the waggon,
it occurred to me that he would look uncommonly well in a cage. He
stood there by the carcass of poor Kaptein, and deliberately
disembowelled him as neatly as a butcher could have done. All this
while I dared not move, for he kept lifting his head and keeping an
eye on me as he licked his bloody chops. When he had cleared Kaptein
out he opened his mouth and roared, and I am not exaggerating when I
say that the sound shook the waggon. Instantly there came back an
answering roar.

"'Heavens!' I thought, 'there is his mate.'

"Hardly was the thought out of my head when I caught sight in the
moonlight of the lioness bounding along through the long grass, and
after her a couple of cubs about the size of mastiffs. She stopped
within a few feet of my head, and stood, waved her tail, and fixed me
with her glowing yellow eyes; but just as I thought that it was all
over she turned and began to feed on Kaptein, and so did the cubs.
There were four of them within eight feet of me, growling and
quarrelling, rending and tearing, and crunching poor Kaptein's bones;
and there I lay shaking with terror, and the cold perspiration pouring
out of me, feeling like another Daniel come to judgment in a new sense
of the phrase. Presently the cubs had eaten their fill, and began to
get restless. One went round to the back of the waggon and pulled at
the Impala buck that hung there, and the other came round my way and
commenced the sniffing game at my leg. Indeed, he did more than that,
for my trouser being hitched up a little, he began to lick the bare
skin with his rough tongue. The more he licked the more he liked it,
to judge from his increased vigour and the loud purring noise he made.
Then I knew that the end had come, for in another second his file-like
tongue would have rasped through the skin of my leg--which was luckily
pretty tough--and have tasted the blood, and then there would be no
chance for me. So I just lay there and thought of my sins, and prayed
to the Almighty, and reflected that after all life was a very
enjoyable thing.

"Then all of a sudden I heard a crashing of bushes and the shouting
and whistling of men, and there were the two boys coming back with the
cattle, which they had found trekking along all together. The lions
lifted their heads and listened, then bounded off without a sound--and
I fainted.

"The lions came back no more that night, and by the next morning my
nerves had got pretty straight again; but I was full of wrath when I
thought of all that I had gone through at the hands, or rather noses,
of those four brutes, and of the fate of my after-ox Kaptein. He was a
splendid ox, and I was very fond of him. So wroth was I that like a
fool I determined to attack the whole family of them. It was worthy of
a greenhorn out on his first hunting trip; but I did it nevertheless.
Accordingly after breakfast, having rubbed some oil upon my leg, which
was very sore from the cub's tongue, I took the driver, Tom, who did
not half like the business, and having armed myself with an ordinary
double No. 12 smoothbore, the first breechloader I ever had, I
started. I took the smoothbore because it shot a bullet very well; and
my experience has been that a round ball from a smoothbore is quite as
effective against a lion as an express bullet. The lion is soft, and
not a difficult animal to finish if you hit him anywhere in the body.
A buck takes far more killing.

"Well, I started, and the first thing I set to work to do was to try
to discover whereabouts the brutes lay up for the day. About three
hundred yards from the waggon was the crest of a rise covered with
single mimosa trees, dotted about in a park-like fashion, and beyond
this was a stretch of open plain running down to a dry pan, or
waterhole, which covered about an acre of ground, and was densely
clothed with reeds, now in the sere and yellow leaf. From the further
edge of this pan the ground sloped up again to a great cleft, or
nullah, which had been cut out by the action of the water, and was
pretty thickly sprinkled with bush, amongst which grew some large
trees, I forget of what sort.

"It at once struck me that the dry pan would be a likely place to find
my friends in, as there is nothing a lion is fonder of than lying up
in reeds, through which he can see things without being seen himself.
Accordingly thither I went and prospected. Before I had got half-way
round the pan I found the remains of a blue vilderbeeste that had
evidently been killed within the last three or four days and partially
devoured by lions; and from other indications about I was soon assured
that if the family were not in the pan that day they spent a good deal
of their spare time there. But if there, the question was how to get
them out; for it was clearly impossible to think of going in after
them unless one was quite determined to commit suicide. Now there was
a strong wind blowing from the direction of the waggon, across the
reedy pan towards the bush-clad kloof or donga, and this first gave me
the idea of firing the reeds, which, as I think I told you, were
pretty dry. Accordingly Tom took some matches and began starting
little fires to the left, and I did the same to the right. But the
reeds were still green at the bottom, and we should never have got
them well alight had it not been for the wind, which grew stronger and
stronger as the sun climbed higher, and forced the fire into them. At
last, after half-an-hour's trouble, the flames got a hold, and began
to spread out like a fan, whereupon I went round to the further side
of the pan to wait for the lions, standing well out in the open, as we
stood at the copse to-day where you shot the woodcock. It was a rather
risky thing to do, but I used to be so sure of my shooting in those
days that I did not so much as mind the risk. Scarcely had I got round
when I heard the reeds parting before the onward rush of some animal.
'Now for it,' said I. On it came. I could see that it was yellow, and
prepared for action, when instead of a lion out bounded a beautiful
reit bok which had been lying in the shelter of the pan. It must, by
the way, have been a reit bok of a peculiarly confiding nature to lay
itself down with the lion, like the lamb of prophecy, but I suppose
the reeds were thick, and that it kept a long way off.

"Well, I let the reit bok go, and it went like the wind, and kept my
eyes fixed upon the reeds. The fire was burning like a furnace now;
the flames crackling and roaring as they bit into the reeds, sending
spouts of fire twenty feet and more into the air, and making the hot
air dance above it in a way that was perfectly dazzling. But the reeds
were still half green, and created an enormous quantity of smoke,
which came rolling towards me like a curtain, lying very low on
account of the wind. Presently, above the crackling of the fire, I
heard a startled roar, then another and another. So the lions were at

"I was beginning to get excited now, for, as you fellows know, there
is nothing in experience to warm up your nerves like a lion at close
quarters, unless it is a wounded buffalo; and I became still more so
when I made out through the smoke that the lions were all moving about
on the extreme edge of the reeds. Occasionally they would pop their
heads out like rabbits from a burrow, and then, catching sight of me
standing about fifty yards away, draw them back again. I knew that it
must be getting pretty warm behind them, and that they could not keep
the game up for long; and I was not mistaken, for suddenly all four of
them broke cover together, the old black-maned lion leading by a few
yards. I never saw a more splendid sight in all my hunting experience
than those four lions bounding across the veldt, overshadowed by the
dense pall of smoke and backed by the fiery furnace of the burning

"I reckoned that they would pass, on their way to the bushy kloof,
within about five and twenty yards of me, so, taking a long breath, I
got my gun well on to the lion's shoulder--the black-maned one--so as
to allow for an inch or two of motion, and catch him through the
heart. I was on, dead on, and my finger was just beginning to tighten
on the trigger, when suddenly I went blind--a bit of reed-ash had
drifted into my right eye. I danced and rubbed, and succeeded in
clearing it more or less just in time to see the tail of the last lion
vanishing round the bushes up the kloof.

"If ever a man was mad I was that man. It was too bad; and such a shot
in the open! However, I was not going to be beaten, so I just turned
and marched for the kloof. Tom, the driver, begged and implored me not
to go, but though as a personal rule I never pretend to be very brave
(which I am not), I was determined that I would either kill those
lions or they should kill me. So I told Tom that he need not come
unless he liked, but I was going; and being a plucky fellow, a Swazi
by birth, he shrugged his shoulders, muttered that I was mad or
bewitched, and followed doggedly in my tracks.

"We soon reached the kloof, which was about three hundred yards in
length and but sparsely wooded, and then the real fun began. There
might be a lion behind every bush--there certainly were four lions
somewhere; the delicate question was, where. I peeped and poked and
looked in every possible direction, with my heart in my mouth, and was
at last rewarded by catching a glimpse of something yellow moving
behind a bush. At the same moment, from another bush opposite me out
burst one of the cubs and galloped back towards the burnt pan. I
whipped round and let drive a snap shot that tipped him head over
heels, breaking his back within two inches of the root of the tail,
and there he lay helpless but glaring. Tom afterwards killed him with
his assegai. I opened the breech of the gun and hurriedly pulled out
the old case, which, to judge from what ensued, must, I suppose, have
burst and left a portion of its fabric sticking to the barrel. At any
rate, when I tried to get in the new cartridge it would only enter
half-way; and--would you believe it?--this was the moment that the
lioness, attracted no doubt by the outcry of her cub, chose to put in
an appearance. There she stood, twenty paces or so from me, lashing
her tail and looking just as wicked as it is possible to conceive.
Slowly I stepped backwards, trying to push in the new case, and as I
did so she moved on in little runs, dropping down after each run. The
danger was imminent, and the case would not go in. At the moment I
oddly enough thought of the cartridge maker, whose name I will not
mention, and earnestly hoped that if the lion got /me/ some condign
punishment would overtake /him/. It would not go in, so I tried to
pull it out. It would not come out either, and my gun was useless if I
could not shut it to use the other barrel. I might as well have had no

"Meanwhile I was walking backward, keeping my eye on the lioness, who
was creeping forward on her belly without a sound, but lashing her
tail and keeping her eye on me; and in it I saw that she was coming in
a few seconds more. I dashed my wrist and the palm of my hand against
the brass rim of the cartridge till the blood poured from them--look,
there are the scars of it to this day!"

Here Quatermain held up his right hand to the light and showed us four
or five white cicatrices just where the wrist is set into the hand.

"But it was not of the slightest use," he went on; "the cartridge
would not move. I only hope that no other man will ever be put in such
an awful position. The lioness gathered herself together, and I gave
myself up for lost, when suddenly Tom shouted out from somewhere in my

"'You are walking on to the wounded cub; turn to the right.'

"I had the sense, dazed as I was, to take the hint, and slewing round
at right-angles, but still keeping my eyes on the lioness, I continued
my backward walk.

"To my intense relief, with a low growl she straightened herself,
turned, and bounded further up the kloof.

"'Come on, Inkoos,' said Tom, 'let's get back to the waggon.'

"'All right, Tom,' I answered. 'I will when I have killed those three
other lions,' for by this time I was bent on shooting them as I never
remember being bent on anything before or since. 'You can go if you
like, or you can get up a tree.'

"He considered the position a little, and then he very wisely got up a
tree. I wish that I had done the same.

"Meanwhile I had found my knife, which had an extractor in it, and
succeeded after some difficulty in pulling out the cartridge which had
so nearly been the cause of my death, and removing the obstruction in
the barrel. It was very little thicker than a postage-stamp; certainly
not thicker than a piece of writing-paper. This done, I loaded the
gun, bound a handkerchief round my wrist and hand to staunch the
flowing of the blood, and started on again.

"I had noticed that the lioness went into a thick green bush, or
rather a cluster of bushes, growing near the water, about fifty yards
higher up, for there was a little stream running down the kloof, and I
walked towards this bush. When I got there, however, I could see
nothing, so I took up a big stone and threw it into the bushes. I
believe that it hit the other cub, for out it came with a rush, giving
me a broadside shot, of which I promptly availed myself, knocking it
over dead. Out, too, came the lioness like a flash of light, but quick
as she went I managed to put the other bullet into her ribs, so that
she rolled right over three times like a shot rabbit. I instantly got
two more cartridges into the gun, and as I did so the lioness rose
again and came crawling towards me on her fore-paws, roaring and
groaning, and with such an expression of diabolical fury on her
countenance as I have not often seen. I shot her again through the
chest, and she fell over on to her side quite dead.

"That was the first and last time that I ever killed a brace of lions
right and left, and, what is more, I never heard of anybody else doing
it. Naturally I was considerably pleased with myself, and having again
loaded up, I went on to look for the black-maned beauty who had killed
Kaptein. Slowly, and with the greatest care, I proceeded up the kloof,
searching every bush and tuft of grass as I went. It was wonderfully
exciting work, for I never was sure from one moment to another but
that he would be on me. I took comfort, however, from the reflection
that a lion rarely attacks a man--rarely, I say; sometimes he does, as
you will see--unless he is cornered or wounded. I must have been
nearly an hour hunting after that lion. Once I thought I saw something
move in a clump of tambouki grass, but I could not be sure, and when I
trod out the grass I could not find him.

"At last I worked up to the head of the kloof, which made a /cul-de-
sac/. It was formed of a wall of rock about fifty feet high. Down this
rock trickled a little waterfall, and in front of it, some seventy
feet from its face, was a great piled-up mass of boulders, in the
crevices and on the top of which grew ferns, grasses, and stunted
bushes. This mass was about twenty-five feet high. The sides of the
kloof here were also very steep. Well, I came to the top of the nullah
and looked all round. No signs of the lion. Evidently I had either
overlooked him further down, or he had escaped right away. It was very
vexatious; but still three lions were not a bad bag for one gun before
dinner, and I was fain to be content. Accordingly I departed back
again, making my way round the isolated pillar of boulders, beginning
to feel, as I did so, that I was pretty well done up with excitement
and fatigue, and should be more so before I had skinned those three
lions. When I had got, as nearly as I could judge, about eighteen
yards past the pillar or mass of boulders, I turned to have another
look round. I have a pretty sharp eye, but I could see nothing at all.

"Then, on a sudden, I saw something sufficiently alarming. On the top
of the mass of boulders, opposite to me, standing out clear against
the rocks beyond, was the huge black-maned lion. He had been crouching
there, and now arose as though by magic. There he stood lashing his
tail, just like a living reproduction of the animal on the gateway of
Northumberland House that I have seen in a picture. But he did not
stand long. Before I could fire--before I could do more than get the
gun to my shoulder--he sprang straight up and out from the rock, and
driven by the impetus of that one mighty bound came hurtling through
the air towards me.

"Heavens! how grand he looked, and how awful! High into the air he
flew, describing a great arch. Just as he touched the highest point of
his spring I fired. I did not dare to wait, for I saw that he would
clear the whole space and land right upon me. Without a sight, almost
without aim, I fired, as one would fire a snap shot at a snipe. The
bullet told, for I distinctly heard its thud above the rushing sound
caused by the passage of the lion through the air. Next second I was
swept to the ground (luckily I fell into a low, creeper-clad bush,
which broke the shock) and the lion was on the top of me, and the next
those great white teeth of his had met in my thigh--I heard them grate
against the bone. I yelled out in agony, for I did not feel in the
least benumbed and happy, like Dr. Livingstone--who, by the way, I
knew very well--and gave myself up for dead. But suddenly, as I did
so, the lion's grip on my thigh loosened, and he stood over me,
swaying to and fro, his huge mouth, from which the blood was gushing,
wide open. Then he roared, and the sound shook the rocks.

"To and fro he swung, and suddenly the great head dropped on me,
knocking all the breath from my body, and he was dead. My bullet had
entered in the centre of his chest and passed out on the right side of
the spine about half-way down the back.

"The pain of my wound kept me from fainting, and as soon as I got my
breath I managed to drag myself from under him. Thank heavens, his
great teeth had not crushed my thigh-bone; but I was losing a great
deal of blood, and had it not been for the timely arrival of Tom, with
whose aid I loosed the handkerchief from my wrist and tied it round my
leg, twisting it tight with a stick, I think that I should have bled
to death.

"Well, it was a just reward for my folly in trying to tackle a family
of lions single-handed. The odds were too long. I have been lame ever
since, and shall be to my dying day; in the month of March the wound
always troubles me a great deal, and every three years it breaks out

"I need scarcely add that I never traded the lot of ivory at
Sikukuni's. Another man got it--a German--and made five hundred pounds
out of it after paying expenses. I spent the month on the broad of my
back, and was a cripple for six months after that. And now I've told
you the yarn, so I will have a drop of Hollands and go to bed. Good-
night to you all, good-night!"

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