Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/247

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239
A NIGHT ADVENTURE—"SIR, THE LION."

came, till at last I fancied the leader was on the verge of the pitfall; but just at that moment there was a low, stifled growl, a rush, and then a faint cry, as of some dying animal. All was again silent. Though the impenetrable darkness prevented me from seeing any thing, I could no longer doubt that I was in the immediate vicinity of a lion. I freely acknowledge that I felt awed, well knowing that, were he to attack me, I should be completely at his mercy. My situation was critical in the extreme. Straining eyes and ears to discover the beast's whereabout, I held my breath in fearful suspense, while every nerve was strung to the highest pitch. Presently I heard, to my astonishment, the report of a gun within fifty paces of my hiding-place; then a second and a third shot. This made matters worse; for I now became apprehensive that the men, not aware of my presence, might direct their fire toward me. I therefore sprang to my feet, and vociferated, "Who's there?" "Sir! the lion—the lion!" replied Eyebrecht, for it was no other. The next instant he stood trembling before me. He had, it appeared, been sent by Amral to call me back, but had encountered the beast in his path, and fired, in order to frighten him away.

Though I did not exactly comply with the wishes of the chief, I deemed it advisable, after what had passed, to remove to a more open place, where I was less likely to be taken by surprise. Early next morning a number of Hottentots came to examine the ground, when, as I had expected, we found the footprints of a lion at the very back of my "skärm," and scarcely distant the length of the gun-barrel from my own person, where he had evidently been crouching previously to leaping on the pallah (whose cry I had heard in the night), but which, though wounded, had effected its escape. How far the beast intended me mischief is hard to say, but, in any case, my position had not been an enviable one.

On our return journey to Barmen it rained heavily, and in some places the landscape looked quite revived. Many mi-