Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/124

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tively free from bushes, up suddenly sprung the beast within a few paces of me. It was a black-maned lion, and one of the largest I ever remember to have encountered in Africa. But his movements were so rapid, so silent and smooth withal, that it was not until he had partially entered the thick cover (at which time he might have been about thirty paces distant) that I could fire. On receiving the ball, he wheeled short about, and with a terrific roar bounded toward me. When within a few paces, he couched, as if about to spring, having his head imbedded, so to say, between his fore-paws.

Drawing a large hunting-knife and slipping it over the wrist of my right hand, I dropped on one knee, and, thus prepared, awaited his onset. It was an awful moment of suspense, and my situation was critical in the extreme. Still, my presence of mind never for a moment forsook me—indeed, I felt that nothing but the most perfect coolness and absolute self-command would be of any avail.

I would now have become the assailant; but, as—owing to the intervening bushes, and clouds of dust raised by the lion's lashing his tail against the ground—I was unable to see his head, while to aim at any other part would have been madness, I refrained from firing. While intently watching his every motion, he suddenly bounded toward me; but, whether it was owing to his not perceiving me, partially concealed as I was in the long grass, or to my instinctively throwing my body on one side, or to his miscalculating the distance, in making his last spring he went clear over me, and alighted on the ground three or four paces beyond. Instantly, and without rising, I wheeled round on my knee and discharged my second barrel; and as his broadside was then toward me, lodged a ball in his shoulder, which it completely smashed. On receiving my second fire, he made another and more determined rush at me, but, owing to his disabled state, I happily avoided him. It was, however, only by a hair's breadth, for he passed me within arm's length. He