Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/517

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509
DEATH OF THE BEAST—TRYING SITUATION.

pulse was to get hold of my gun, which was lying ready cocked immediately before me, and the next to raise myself partially from my reclining position. In doing so, I made as little noise as possible; but, slight though it might be, it was sufficient to attract the notice of the beast, who uttered a gruff kind of growl, too well known to be misunderstood. Following with my eyes the direction of the sound, I endeavored to discover the lion, but could only make out a large dark mass looming through the night-mist. Scarcely knowing what I was about, I instinctively leveled my gun at the beast. My finger was on the trigger; for a moment I hesitated; but, by a sudden impulse, pulled it, and the next instant the surrounding rocks rang with the report, followed by roarings from the beast, as if in the agonies of death. Well knowing what a wounded lion is capable of, and how utterly helpless I was, I regretted my rashness. The wounded beast, who at times seemed to be within a few paces of the "skärm," and at others at some little distance, was rolling on the ground, and tearing it up, in convulsive agonies. How long this struggle between life and death lasted is hard to say, but to me it appeared an age. Gradually, however, and to my great relief, his roars and moans subsided, and after a while ceased altogether.

Dawn at length appeared; but it was not until after some time, and then with much caution, that I ventured to ascertain the fate of the lion, whom, to my great satisfaction, I found dead within fifty yards of my place of concealment. The beast was of an average size, but, unfortunately, the hyænas and jackals had played sad havoc with his skin.

Some time previously, my men, Eyebrecht and Klaas Zaal, had also shot a lion in this identical spot; but, owing to his fearful growls while dying, they thought it best to decamp at once without ascertaining his fate.

During the four months that I was absent from my men, I traveled, either alone or accompanied by a single native,