Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/246

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ple thoroughly acquainted with the locality ran great risk of being precipitated into these dangerous traps.

Lions were numerous and very daring. From time to time, several of Amral's people, while lying in ambush for game at night, had been either carried off or fearfully mangled by these beasts. Finding that I was somewhat incautious, the chief expressed the greatest apprehensions for my safety, more especially as I was usually quite alone.

On one of these occasions I must confess to having felt rather uncomfortable. I had posted myself in a dense mimosa brake, commanding the approach to the Zwart Nosop River at a point much frequented by wild animals, and flanked by an immense pitfall. The darkness was deepened by surrounding thick foliage and high river banks. Indeed, so black was the night that I could not discern even the muzzle of my gun. The gloominess of my solitude was increased by the occasional "Qua-qua!" of the night-heron, which made the succeeding hush more dreary, during which even the falling of leaves and rustling of insects among dry grass was hailed as a relief to the oppressive dumbness. To a man in a savage wilderness, and without a companion, silence, especially when combined with utter privation of light, is inexpressibly solemn. It strikes the mind not merely as a negation, but as a threatening presence. It seems ominous. I shall never forget the loneliness and sense of desolation I felt on this occasion. It was past midnight, and still no game appeared.

Suddenly I fancied I heard the purr and breathing of an animal close behind me; but as no other indications of any living thing ensued, I attributed the sounds to a heated imagination. All at once, however, the dismal stillness was disturbed by the quick steps of a troop of pallahs descending the stony slope leading direct to my ambush. Stooping as low as possible, in order to catch their outline, I waited their arrival with my gun on full cock. Nearer and nearer they