A TALE OF THREE LIONS
By H. Rider Haggard
CHAPTER I. THE INTEREST ON TEN SHILLINGS
CHAPTER II. WHAT WAS FOUND IN THE POOL
CHAPTER III. JIM-JIM IS AVENGED
CHAPTER I. THE INTEREST ON TEN SHILLINGS
Most of you will have heard that Allan Quatermain, who was one of the
party that discovered King Solomon's mines some little time ago, and who
afterwards came to live in England near his friend Sir Henry Curtis. He
went back to the wilderness again, as these old hunters almost invariably
do, on one pretext or another.[*] They cannot endure civilization for very
long, its noise and racket and the omnipresence of broad-clothed humanity
proving more trying to their nerves than the dangers of the desert. I
think that they feel lonely here, for it is a fact that is too little
understood, though it has often been stated, that there is no loneliness
like the loneliness of crowds, especially to those who are unaccustomed to
them. "What is there in the world," old Quatermain would say, "so desolate
as to stand in the streets of a great city and listen to the footsteps
falling, falling, multitudinous as the rain, and watch the white line of
faces as they hurry past, you know not whence, you know not whither? They
come and go, their eyes meet yours with a cold stare, for a moment their
features are written on your mind, and then they are gone for ever. You
will never see them again; they will never see you again; they come up out
of the unknown, and presently they once more vanish into the unknown,
taking their secrets with them. Yes, that is loneliness pure and
undefiled; but to one who knows and loves it, the wilderness is not
lonely, because the spirit of nature is ever there to keep the wanderer
company. He finds companions in the winds—the sunny streams babble
like Nature's children at his feet; high above them, in the purple sunset,
are domes and minarets and palaces, such as no mortal man has built, in
and out of whose flaming doors the angels of the sun seem to move
continually. And there, too, is the wild game, following its
feeding-grounds in great armies, with the springbuck thrown out before for
skirmishers; then rank upon rank of long-faced blesbuck, marching and
wheeling like infantry; and last the shining troops of quagga, and the
fierce-eyed shaggy vilderbeeste to take, as it were, the place of the
cossack host that hangs upon an army's flanks.
[*] This of course was written before Mr. Quatermain's
account of the adventures in the newly-discovered country of
Zu-Vendis of himself, Sir Henry Curtis, and Capt. John Good
had been received in England.—Editor.
"Oh, no," he would say, "the wilderness is not lonely, for, my boy,
remember that the further you get from man, the nearer you grow to God,"
and though this is a saying that might well be disputed, it is one I am
sure that anybody will easily understand who has watched the sun rise and
set on the limitless deserted plains, and seen the thunder chariots of the
clouds roll in majesty across the depths of unfathomable sky.
Well, at any rate we went back again, and now for many months I have heard
nothing at all of him, and to be frank, I greatly doubt if anybody will
ever hear of him again. I fear that the wilderness, that has for so many
years been a mother to him, will now also prove his grave and the grave of
those who accompanied him, for the quest upon which he and they have
started is a wild one indeed.
But while he was in England for those three years or so between his return
from the successful discovery of the wise king's buried treasures, and the
death of his only son, I saw a great deal of old Allan Quatermain. I had
known him years before in Africa, and after he came home, whenever I had
nothing better to do, I used to run up to Yorkshire and stay with him, and
in this way I at one time and another heard many of the incidents of his
past life, and most curious some of them were. No man can pass all those
years following the rough existence of an elephant-hunter without meeting
with many strange adventures, and in one way and another old Quatermain
has certainly seen his share. Well, the story that I am going to tell you
in the following pages is one of the later of these adventures, though I
forget the exact year in which it happened, at any rate I know that it was
the only trip upon which he took his son Harry (who is since dead) with
him, and that Harry was then about fourteen. And now for the story, which
I will repeat, as nearly as I can, in the words in which Hunter Quatermain
told it to me one night in the old oak-panelled vestibule of his house in
Yorkshire. We were talking about gold-mining—
"Gold-mining!" he broke in; "ah! yes, I once went gold-mining at Pilgrims'
Rest in the Transvaal, and it was after that that we had the business
about Jim-Jim and the lions. Do you know Pilgrim's Rest? Well, it is, or
was, one of the queerest little places you ever saw. The town itself was
pitched in a stony valley, with mountains all about it, and in the middle
of such scenery as one does not often get the chance of seeing. Many and
many is the time that I have thrown down my pick and shovel in disgust,
clambered out of my claim, and walked a couple of miles or so to the top
of some hill. Then I would lie down in the grass and look out over the
glorious stretch of country—the smiling valleys, the great mountains
touched with gold—real gold of the sunset, and clothed in sweeping
robes of bush, and stare into the depths of the perfect sky above; yes,
and thank Heaven I had got away from the cursing and the coarse jokes of
the miners, and the voices of those Basutu Kaffirs as they toiled in the
sun, the memory of which is with me yet.
"Well, for some months I dug away patiently at my claim, till the very
sight of a pick or of a washing-trough became hateful to me. A hundred
times a day I lamented my own folly in having invested eight hundred
pounds, which was about all that I was worth at the time, in this
gold-mining. But like other better people before me, I had been bitten by
the gold bug, and now was forced to take the consequences. I bought a
claim out of which a man had made a fortune—five or six thousand
pounds at least—as I thought, very cheap; that is, I gave him five
hundred pounds down for it. It was all that I had made by a very rough
year's elephant-hunting beyond the Zambesi, and I sighed deeply and
prophetically when I saw my successful friend, who was a Yankee, sweep up
the roll of Standard Bank notes with the lordly air of the man who has
made his fortune, and cram them into his breeches pockets. 'Well,' I said
to him—the happy vendor—'it is a magnificent property, and I
only hope that my luck will be as good as yours has been.'
"He smiled; to my excited nerves it seemed that he smiled ominously, as he
answered me in a peculiar Yankee drawl: 'I guess, stranger, as I ain't the
one to make a man quarrel with his food, more especial when there ain't no
more going of the rounds; and as for that there claim, well, she's been a
good nigger to me; but between you and me, stranger, speaking man to man,
now that there ain't any filthy lucre between us to obscure the features
of the truth, I guess she's about worked out!'
"I gasped; the fellow's effrontery took the breath out of me. Only five
minutes before he had been swearing by all his gods—and they
appeared to be numerous and mixed—that there were half a dozen
fortunes left in the claim, and that he was only giving it up because he
was downright weary of shovelling the gold out.
"'Don't look so vexed, stranger,' went on my tormentor, 'perhaps there is
some shine in the old girl yet; anyway you are a downright good fellow,
you are, therefore you will, I guess, have a real A1 opportunity of
working on the feelings of Fortune. Anyway it will bring the muscle up
upon your arm, for the stuff is uncommon stiff, and, what is more, you
will in the course of a year earn a sight more than two thousand dollars
in value of experience.'
"Then he went just in time, for in another moment I should have gone for
him, and I saw his face no more.
"Well, I set to work on the old claim with my boy Harry and half a dozen
Kaffirs to help me, which, seeing that I had put nearly all my worldly
wealth into it, was the least that I could do. And we worked, my word, we
did work—early and late we went at it—but never a bit of gold
did we see; no, not even a nugget large enough to make a scarf-pin out of.
The American gentleman had secured it all and left us the sweepings.
"For three months this went on, till at last I had paid away all, or very
near all, that was left of her little capital in wages and food for the
Kaffirs and ourselves. When I tell you that Boer meal was sometimes as
high as four pounds a bag, you will understand that it did not take long
to run through our banking account.
"At last the crisis came. One Saturday night I had paid the men as usual,
and bought a muid of mealie meal at sixty shillings for them to fill
themselves with, and then I went with my boy Harry and sat on the edge of
the great hole that we had dug in the hill-side, and which we had in
bitter mockery named Eldorado. There we sat in the moonlight with our feet
over the edge of the claim, and were melancholy enough for anything.
Presently I pulled out my purse and emptied its contents into my hand.
There was a half-sovereign, two florins, ninepence in silver, no coppers—for
copper practically does not circulate in South Africa, which is one of the
things that make living so dear there—in all exactly fourteen and
"'There, Harry, my boy!' I said, 'that is the sum total of our worldly
wealth; that hole has swallowed all the rest.'
"'By George!' said Master Harry; 'I say, father, you and I shall have to
let ourselves out to work with the Kaffirs and live on mealie pap,' and he
sniggered at his unpleasant little joke.
"But I was in no mood for joking, for it is not a merry thing to dig like
anything for months and be completely ruined in the process, especially if
you happen to dislike digging, and consequently I resented Harry's
"'Be quiet, boy!' I said, raising my hand as though to give him a cuff,
with the result that the half-sovereign slipped out of it and fell into
the gulf below.
"'Oh, bother,' said I, 'it's gone.'
"'There, Dad,' said Harry, 'that's what comes of letting your angry
passions rise; now we are down to four and nine.'
"I made no answer to these words of wisdom, but scrambled down the steep
sides of the claim, followed by Harry, to hunt for my little all. Well, we
hunted and we hunted, but the moonlight is an uncertain thing to look for
half-sovereigns by, and there was some loose soil about, for the Kaffirs
had knocked off working at this very spot a couple of hours before. I took
a pick and raked away the clods of earth with it, in the hope of finding
the coin; but all in vain. At last in sheer annoyance I struck the sharp
end of the pickaxe down into the soil, which was of a very hard nature. To
my astonishment it sunk in right up to the haft.
"'Why, Harry,' I said, 'this ground must have been disturbed!'
"'I don't think so, father,' he answered; 'but we will soon see,' and he
began to shovel out the soil with his hands. 'Oh,' he said presently,
'it's only some old stones; the pick has gone down between them, look!'
and he began to pull at one of the stones.
"'I say, Dad,' he said presently, almost in a whisper, 'it's precious
heavy, feel it;' and he rose and gave me a round, brownish lump about the
size of a very large apple, which he was holding in both his hands. I took
it curiously and held it up to the light. It was very heavy. The
moonlight fell upon its rough and filth-encrusted surface, and as I
looked, curious little thrills of excitement began to pass through me. But
I could not be sure.
"'Give me your knife, Harry,' I said.
"He did so, and resting the brown stone on my knee I scratched at its
surface. Great heavens, it was soft!
"Another second and the secret was out, we had found a great nugget of
pure gold, four pounds of it or more. 'It's gold, lad,' I said, 'it's
gold, or I'm a Dutchman!'
"Harry, with his eyes starting out of his head, glared down at the
gleaming yellow scratch that I had made upon the virgin metal, and then
burst out into yell upon yell of exultation, which went ringing away
across the silent claims like shrieks of somebody being murdered.
"'Be quiet!' I said; 'do you want every thief on the fields after you?'
"Scarcely were the words out of my mouth when I heard a stealthy footstep
approaching. I promptly put the big nugget down and sat on it, and
uncommonly hard it was. As I did so I saw a lean dark face poked over the
edge of the claim and a pair of beady eyes searching us out. I knew the
face, it belonged to a man of very bad character known as Handspike Tom,
who had, I understood, been so named at the Diamond Fields because he had
murdered his mate with a handspike. He was now no doubt prowling about
like a human hyŠna to see what he could steal.
"'Is that you, 'unter Quatermain?' he said.
"'Yes, it's I, Mr. Tom,' I answered, politely.
"'And what might all that there yelling be?' he asked. 'I was walking
along, a-taking of the evening air and a-thinking on the stars, when I
'ears 'owl after 'owl.'
"'Well, Mr. Tom,' I answered, 'that is not to be wondered at, seeing that
like yourself they are nocturnal birds.'
"''Owl after 'owl!' he repeated sternly, taking no notice of my
interpretation, 'and I stops and says, "That's murder," and I listens
again and thinks, "No, it ain't; that 'owl is the 'owl of hexultation;
some one's been and got his fingers into a gummy yeller pot, I'll swear,
and gone off 'is 'ead in the sucking of them." Now, 'unter Quatermain, is
I right? is it nuggets? Oh, lor!' and he smacked his lips audibly—'great
big yellow boys—is it them that you have just been and tumbled
"'No,' I said boldly, 'it isn't'—the cruel gleam in his black eyes
altogether overcoming my aversion to untruth, for I knew that if once he
found out what it was that I was sitting on—and by the way I have
heard of rolling in gold being spoken of as a pleasant process, but I
certainly do not recommend anybody who values comfort to try sitting on it—I
should run a very good chance of being 'handspiked' before the night was
"'If you want to know what it was, Mr. Tom,' I went on, with my politest
air, although in agony from the nugget underneath—for I hold it is
always best to be polite to a man who is so ready with a handspike—'my
boy and I have had a slight difference of opinion, and I was enforcing my
view of the matter upon him; that's all.'
"'Yes, Mr. Tom,' put in Harry, beginning to weep, for Harry was a smart
boy, and saw the difficulty we were in, 'that was it—I halloed
because father beat me.'
"'Well, now, did yer, my dear boy—did yer? Well, all I can say is
that a played-out old claim is a wonderful queer sort of place to come to
for to argify at ten o'clock of night, and what's more, my sweet youth, if
ever I should 'ave the argifying of yer'—and he leered unpleasantly
at Harry—'yer won't 'oller in quite such a jolly sort 'o way. And
now I'll be saying good-night, for I don't like disturbing of a family
party. No, I ain't that sort of man, I ain't. Good-night to yer, 'unter
Quatermain—good-night to yer, my argified young one;' and Mr. Tom
turned away disappointed, and prowled off elsewhere, like a human jackal,
to see what he could thieve or kill.
"'Thank goodness!' I said, as I slipped off the lump of gold. 'Now, then,
do you get up, Harry, and see if that consummate villain has gone.' Harry
did so, and reported that he had vanished towards Pilgrim's Rest, and then
we set to work, and very carefully, but trembling with excitement, with
our hands hollowed out all the space of ground into which I had struck the
pick. Yes, as I hoped, there was a regular nest of nuggets, twelve in all,
running from the size of a hazel-nut to that of a hen's egg, though of
course the first one was much larger than that. How they all came there
nobody can say; it was one of those extraordinary freaks, with stories of
which, at any rate, all people acquainted with alluvial gold-mining will
be familiar. It turned out afterwards that the American who sold me the
claim had in the same way made his pile—a much larger one than ours,
by the way—out of a single pocket, and then worked for six months
without seeing colour, after which he gave it up.
"At any rate, there the nuggets were, to the value, as it turned out
afterwards, of about twelve hundred and fifty pounds, so that after all I
took out of that hole four hundred and fifty pounds more than I put into
it. We got them all out and wrapped them up in a handkerchief, and then,
fearing to carry home so much treasure, especially as we knew that Mr.
Handspike Tom was on the prowl, made up our minds to pass the night where
we were—a necessity which, disagreeable as it was, was wonderfully
sweetened by the presence of that handkerchief full of virgin gold—the
interest of my lost half-sovereign.
"Slowly the night wore away, for with the fear of Handspike Tom before my
eyes I did not dare to go to sleep, and at last the dawn came. I got up
and watched its growth, till it opened like a flower upon the eastern sky,
and the sunbeams began to spring up in splendour from mountain-top to
mountain-top. I watched it, and as I did so it flashed upon me, with a
complete conviction which I had not felt before, that I had had enough of
gold-mining to last me the rest of my natural life, and I then and there
made up my mind to clear out of Pilgrims' Rest and go and shoot buffalo
towards Delagoa Bay. Then I turned, took the pick and shovel, and although
it was a Sunday morning, woke up Harry and set to work to see if there
were any more nuggets about. As I expected, there were none. What we had
got had lain together in a little pocket filled with soil that felt quite
different from the stiff stuff round and outside the pocket. There was not
another trace of gold. Of course it is possible that there were more
pocketfuls somewhere about, but all I have to say is I made up my mind
that, whoever found them, I should not; and, as a matter of fact, I have
since heard that this claim has been the ruin of two or three people, as
it very nearly was the ruin of me.
"'Harry,' I said presently, 'I am going away this week towards Delagoa to
shoot buffalo. Shall I take you with me, or send you down to Durban?'
"'Oh, take me with you, father!' begged Harry, 'I want to kill a buffalo!'
"'And supposing that the buffalo kills you instead?' I asked.
"'Oh, never mind,' he said, gaily, 'there are lots more where I came
"I rebuked him for his flippancy, but in the end I consented to take him."
CHAPTER II. WHAT WAS FOUND IN THE POOL
"Something over a fortnight had passed since the night when I lost
half-a-sovereign and found twelve hundred and fifty pounds in looking for
it, and instead of that horrid hole, for which, after all, Eldorado was
hardly a misnomer, a very different scene stretched away before us clad in
the silver robe of the moonlight. We were camped—Harry and I, two
Kaffirs, a Scotch cart, and six oxen—on the swelling side of a great
wave of bushclad land. Just where we had made our camp, however, the bush
was very sparse, and only grew about in clumps, while here and there were
single flat-topped mimosa-trees. To our right a little stream, which had
cut a deep channel for itself in the bosom of the slope, flowed musically
on between banks green with maidenhair, wild asparagus, and many beautiful
grasses. The bed-rock here was red granite, and in the course of centuries
of patient washing the water had hollowed out some of the huge slabs in
its path into great troughs and cups, and these we used for
bathing-places. No Roman lady, with her baths of porphyry or alabaster,
could have had a more delicious spot to bathe herself than we found within
fifty yards of our skerm, or rough inclosure of mimosa thorn, that we had
dragged together round the cart to protect us from the attacks of lions.
That there were several of these brutes about, I knew from their spoor,
though we had neither heard nor seen them.
"Our bath was a little nook where the eddy of the stream had washed away a
mass of soil, and on the edge of it there grew a most beautiful old mimosa
thorn. Beneath the thorn was a large smooth slab of granite fringed all
round with maidenhair and other ferns, that sloped gently down to a pool
of the clearest sparkling water, which lay in a bowl of granite about ten
feet wide by five feet deep in the centre. Here to this slab we went every
morning to bathe, and that delightful bath is among the most pleasant of
my hunting reminiscences, as it is also, for reasons which will presently
appear, among the most painful.
"It was a lovely night. Harry and I sat to the windward of the fire, where
the two Kaffirs were busily employed in cooking some impala steaks off a
buck which Harry, to his great joy, had shot that morning, and were as
perfectly contented with ourselves and the world at large as two people
could possibly be. The night was beautiful, and it would require somebody
with more words on the tip of his tongue than I have to describe properly
the chastened majesty of those moonlit wilds. Away for ever and for ever,
away to the mysterious north, rolled the great bush ocean over which the
silence brooded. There beneath us a mile or more to the right ran the wide
Oliphant, and mirror-like flashed back the moon, whose silver spears were
shivered on its breast, and then tossed in twisted lines of light far and
wide about the mountains and the plain. Down upon the river-banks grew
great timber-trees that through the stillness pointed solemnly to Heaven,
and the beauty of the night lay upon them like a cloud. Everywhere was
silence—silence in the starred depths, silence on the bosom of the
sleeping earth. Now, if ever, great thoughts might rise in a man's mind,
and for a space he might forget his littleness in the sense that he
partook of the pure immensity about him.
"'Hark! what was that?'
"From far away down by the river there comes a mighty rolling sound, then
another, and another. It is the lion seeking his meat.
"I saw Harry shiver and turn a little pale. He was a plucky boy enough,
but the roar of a lion heard for the first time in the solemn bush veldt
at night is apt to shake the nerves of any lad.
"'Lions, my boy,' I said; 'they are hunting down by the river there; but I
don't think that you need make yourself uneasy. We have been here three
nights now, and if they were going to pay us a visit I think that they
would have done so before this. However, we will make up the fire.'
"'Here, Pharaoh, do you and Jim-Jim get some more wood before we go to
sleep, else the cats will be purring round you before morning.'
"Pharaoh, a great brawny Swazi, who had been working for me at Pilgrims'
Rest, laughed, rose, and stretched himself, then calling to Jim-Jim to
bring the axe and a reim, started off in the moonlight towards a clump of
sugar-bush where we cut our fuel from some dead trees. He was a fine
fellow in his way, was Pharaoh, and I think that he had been named Pharaoh
because he had an Egyptian cast of countenance and a royal sort of swagger
about him. But his way was a somewhat peculiar way, on account of the
uncertainty of his temper, and very few people could get on with him; also
if he could find liquor he would drink like a fish, and when he drank he
became shockingly bloodthirsty. These were his bad points; his good ones
were that, like most people of the Zulu blood, he became exceedingly
attached if he took to you at all; he was a hard-working and intelligent
man, and about as dare-devil and plucky a fellow at a pinch as I have ever
had to do with. He was about five-and-thirty years of age or so, but not a
'keshla' or ringed man. I believe that he had got into trouble in some way
in Swaziland, and the authorities of his tribe would not allow him to
assume the ring, and that is why he came to work at the gold-fields. The
other man, or rather lad, Jim-Jim, was a Mapoch Kaffir, or Knobnose, and
even in the light of subsequent events I fear I cannot speak very well of
him. He was an idle and careless young rascal, and only that very morning
I had to tell Pharaoh to give him a beating for letting the oxen stray,
which Pharaoh did with the greatest gusto, although he was by way of being
very fond of Jim-Jim. Indeed, I saw him consoling Jim-Jim afterwards with
a pinch of snuff from his own ear-box, whilst he explained to him that the
next time it came in the way of duty to flog him, he meant to thrash him
with the other hand, so as to cross the old cuts and make a "pretty
pattern" on his back.
"Well, off they went, though Jim-Jim did not at all like leaving the camp
at that hour, even when the moonlight was so bright, and in due course
returned safely enough with a great bundle of wood. I laughed at Jim-Jim,
and asked him if he had seen anything, and he said yes, he had; he had
seen two large yellow eyes staring at him from behind a bush, and heard
"As, however, on further investigation the yellow eyes and the snore
appeared to have existed only in Jim-Jim's lively imagination, I was not
greatly disturbed by this alarming report; but having seen to the
making-up of the fire, got into the skerm and went quietly to sleep with
Harry by my side.
"Some hours afterwards I woke up with a start. I don't know what woke me.
The moon had gone down, or at least was almost hidden behind the soft
horizon of bush, only her red rim being visible. Also a wind had sprung up
and was driving long hurrying lines of cloud across the starry sky, and
altogether a great change had come over the mood of the night. By the look
of the sky I judged that we must be about two hours from day-break.
"The oxen, which were as usual tied to the disselboom of the Scotch cart,
were very restless—they kept snuffling and blowing, and rising up
and lying down again, so I at once suspected that they must wind
something. Presently I knew what it was that they winded, for within fifty
yards of us a lion roared, not very loud, but quite loud enough to make my
heart come into my mouth.
"Pharaoh was sleeping on the other side of the cart, and, looking beneath
it, I saw him raise his head and listen.
"'Lion, Inkoos,' he whispered, 'lion!'
"Jim-Jim also jumped up, and by the faint light I could see that he was in
a very great fright indeed.
"Thinking that it was as well to be prepared for emergencies, I told
Pharaoh to throw wood upon the fire, and woke up Harry, who I verily
believe was capable of sleeping happily through the crack of doom. He was
a little scared at first, but presently the excitement of the position
came home to him, and he grew quite anxious to see his majesty face to
face. I got my rifle handy and gave Harry his—a Westley Richards
falling block, which is a very useful gun for a youth, being light and yet
a good killing rifle, and then we waited.
"For a long time nothing happened, and I began to think that the best
thing we could do would be to go to sleep again, when suddenly I heard a
sound more like a cough than a roar within about twenty yards of the
skerm. We all looked out, but could see nothing; and then followed another
period of suspense. It was very trying to the nerves, this waiting for an
attack that might be developed from any quarter or might not be developed
at all; and though I was an old hand at this sort of business I was
anxious about Harry, for it is wonderful how the presence of anybody to
whom one is attached unnerves a man in moments of danger. I know, although
it was now chilly enough, I could feel the perspiration running down my
nose, and in order to relieve the strain on my attention employed myself
in watching a beetle which appeared to be attracted by the firelight, and
was sitting before it thoughtfully rubbing his antennŠ against each other.
"Suddenly, the beetle gave such a jump that he nearly pitched headlong
into the fire, and so did we all—gave jumps, I mean, and no wonder,
for from right under the skerm fence there came a most frightful roar—a
roar that literally made the Scotch cart shake and took the breath out of
"Harry made an exclamation, Jim-Jim howled outright, while the poor oxen,
who were terrified almost out of their hides, shivered and lowed
"The night was almost entirely dark now, for the moon had quite set, and
the clouds had covered up the stars, so that the only light we had came
from the fire, which by this time was burning up brightly again. But, as
you know, firelight is absolutely useless to shoot by, it is so uncertain,
and besides, it penetrates but a very little way into the darkness,
although if one is in the dark outside, one can see it from far away.
"Presently the oxen, after standing still for a moment, suddenly winded
the lion and did what I feared they would do—began to 'skrek,' that
is, to try and break loose from the trektow to which they were tied, to
rush off madly into the wilderness. Lions know of this habit on the part
of oxen, which are, I do believe, the most foolish animals under the sun,
a sheep being a very Solomon compared to them; and it is by no means
uncommon for a lion to get in such a position that a herd or span of oxen
may wind him, skrek, break their reims, and rush off into the bush. Of
course, once there, they are helpless in the dark; and then the lion
chooses the one that he loves best and eats him at his leisure.
"Well, round and round went our six poor oxen, nearly trampling us to
death in their mad rush; indeed, had we not hastily tumbled out of the
way, we should have been trodden to death, or at the least seriously
injured. As it was, Harry was run over, and poor Jim-Jim being caught by
the trektow somewhere beneath the arm, was hurled right across the skerm,
landing by my side only some paces off.
"Snap went the disselboom of the cart beneath the transverse strain put
upon it. Had it not broken the cart would have overset; as it was, in
another minute, oxen, cart, trektow, reims, broken disselboom, and
everything were soon tied in one vast heaving, plunging, bellowing, and
seemingly inextricable knot.
"For a moment or two this state of affairs took my attention off from the
lion that had caused it, but whilst I was wondering what on earth was to
be done next, and how we should manage if the cattle broke loose into the
bush and were lost—for cattle frightened in this manner will so
straight away like mad things—my thoughts were suddenly recalled to
the lion in a very painful fashion.
"For at that moment I perceived by the light of the fire a kind of gleam
of yellow travelling through the air towards us.
"'The lion! the lion!' holloaed Pharaoh, and as he did so, he, or rather
she, for it was a great gaunt lioness, half wild no doubt with hunger, lit
right in the middle of the skerm, and stood there in the smoky gloom
lashing her tail and roaring. I seized my rifle and fired it at her, but
what between the confusion, my agitation, and the uncertain light, I
missed her, and nearly shot Pharaoh. The flash of the rifle, however,
threw the whole scene into strong relief, and a wild sight it was I can
tell you—with the seething mass of oxen twisted all round the cart,
in such a fashion that their heads looked as though they were growing out
of their rumps; and their horns seemed to protrude from their backs; the
smoking fire with just a blaze in the heart of the smoke; Jim-Jim in the
foreground, where the oxen had thrown him in their wild rush, stretched
out there in terror, and then as a centre to the picture the great gaunt
lioness glaring round with hungry yellow eyes, roaring and whining as she
made up her mind what to do.
"It did not take her long, however, just the time that it takes a flash to
die into darkness, for, before I could fire again or do anything, with a
most fiendish snort she sprang upon poor Jim-Jim.
"I heard the unfortunate lad shriek, and then almost instantly I saw his
legs thrown into the air. The lioness had seized him by the neck, and with
a sudden jerk thrown his body over her back so that his legs hung down
upon the further side.[*] Then, without the slightest hesitation, and
apparently without any difficulty, she cleared the skerm face at a single
bound, and bearing poor Jim-Jim with her vanished into the darkness
beyond, in the direction of the bathing-place that I have already
described. We jumped up perfectly mad with horror and fear, and rushed
wildly after her, firing shots at haphazard on the chance that she would
be frightened by them into dropping her prey, but nothing could we see,
and nothing could we hear. The lioness had vanished into the darkness,
taking Jim-Jim with her, and to attempt to follow her till daylight was
madness. We should only expose ourselves to the risk of a like fate.
[*] I have known a lion carry a two-year-old ox over a stone
wall four feet high in this fashion, and a mile away into
the bush beyond. He was subsequently poisoned by strychnine
put into the carcass of the ox, and I still have his claws.
"So with scared and heavy hearts we crept back to the skerm, and sat down
to wait for the dawn, which now could not be much more than an hour off.
It was absolutely useless to try even to disentangle the oxen till then,
so all that was left for us to do was to sit and wonder how it came to
pass that the one should be taken and the other left, and to hope against
hope that our poor servant might have been mercifully delivered from the
"At length the faint dawn came stealing like a ghost up the long slope of
bush, and glinted on the tangled oxen's horns, and with white and
frightened faces we got up and set to the task of disentangling the oxen,
till such time as there should be light enough to enable us to follow the
trail of the lioness which had gone off with Jim-Jim. And here a fresh
trouble awaited us, for when at last with infinite difficulty we had
disentangled the great helpless brutes, it was only to find that one of
the best of them was very sick. There was no mistake about the way he
stood with his legs slightly apart and his head hanging down. He had got
the redwater, I was sure of it. Of all the difficulties connected with
life and travelling in South Africa those connected with oxen are perhaps
the worst. The ox is the most exasperating animal in the world, a negro
excepted. He has absolutely no constitution, and never neglects an
opportunity of falling sick of some mysterious disease. He will get thin
upon the slightest provocation, and from mere maliciousness die of
'poverty'; whereas it is his chief delight to turn round and refuse to
pull whenever he finds himself well in the centre of a river, or the
waggon-wheel nicely fast in a mud hole. Drive him a few miles over rough
roads and you will find that he is footsore; turn him loose to feed and
you will discover that he has run away, or if he has not run away he has
of malice aforethought eaten 'tulip' and poisoned himself. There is always
something with him. The ox is a brute. It was of a piece with his
accustomed behaviour for the one in question to break out—on purpose
probably—with redwater just when a lion had walked off with his
herd. It was exactly what I should have expected, and I was therefore
neither disappointed nor surprised.
"Well, it was no use crying as I should almost have liked to do, because
if this ox had redwater it was probable that the rest of them had it too,
although they had been sold to me as 'salted,' that is, proof against such
diseases as redwater and lungsick. One gets hardened to this sort of thing
in South Africa in course of time, for I suppose in no other country in
the world is the waste of animal life so great.
"So taking my rifle and telling Harry to follow me (for we had to leave
Pharaoh to look after the oxen—Pharaoh's lean kine, I called them),
I started to see if anything could be found of or appertaining to the
unfortunate Jim-Jim. The ground round our little camp was hard and rocky,
and we could not hit off any spoor of the lioness, though just outside the
skerm was a drop or two of blood. About three hundred yards from the camp,
and a little to the right, was a patch of sugar bush mixed up with the
usual mimosa, and for this I made, thinking that the lioness would have
been sure to take her prey there to devour it. On we pushed through the
long grass that was bent down beneath the weight of the soaking dew. In
two minutes we were wet through up to the thighs, as wet as though we had
waded through water. In due course, however, we reached the patch of bush,
and by the grey light of the morning cautiously and slowly pushed our way
into it. It was very dark under the trees, for the sun was not yet up, so
we walked with the most extreme care, half expecting every minute to come
across the lioness licking the bones of poor Jim-Jim. But no lioness could
we see, and as for Jim-Jim there was not even a finger-joint of him to be
found. Evidently they had not come here.
"So pushing through the bush we proceeded to hunt every other likely spot,
but with the same result.
"'I suppose she must have taken him right away,' I said at last, sadly
enough. 'At any rate he will be dead by now, so God have mercy on him, we
can't help him. What's to be done now?'
"'I suppose that we had better wash ourselves in the pool, and then go
back and get something to eat. I am filthy,' said Harry.
"This was a practical if a somewhat unfeeling suggestion. At least it
struck me as unfeeling to talk of washing when poor Jim-Jim had been so
recently eaten. However, I did not let my sentiment carry me away, so we
went down to the beautiful spot that I have described, to wash. I was the
first to reach it, which I did by scrambling down the ferny bank. Then I
turned round, and started back with a yell—as well I might, for
almost from beneath my feet there came a most awful snarl.
"I had lit nearly upon the back of the lioness, that had been sleeping on
the slab where we always stood to dry ourselves after bathing. With a
snarl and a growl, before I could do anything, before I could even cock my
rifle, she had bounded right across the crystal pool, and vanished over
the opposite bank. It was all done in an instant, as quick as thought.
"She had been sleeping on the slab, and oh, horror! what was that sleeping
beside her? It was the red remains of poor Jim-Jim, lying on a patch of
"'Oh! father, father!' shrieked Harry, 'look in the water!'
"I looked. There, floating in the centre of the lovely tranquil pool, was
Jim-Jim's head. The lioness had bitten it right off, and it had rolled
down the sloping rock into the water."
CHAPTER III. JIM-JIM IS AVENGED
"We never bathed in that pool again; indeed for my part I could never look
at its peaceful purity fringed round with waving ferns without thinking of
that ghastly head which rolled itself off through the water when we tried
to catch it.
"Poor Jim-Jim! We buried what was left of him, which was not very much, in
an old bread-bag, and though whilst he lived his virtues were not great,
now that he was gone we could have wept over him. Indeed, Harry did weep
outright; while Pharaoh used very bad language in Zulu, and I registered a
quiet little vow on my account that I would let daylight into that lioness
before I was forty-eight hours older, if by any means it could be done.
"Well, we buried him, and there he lies in the bread-bag (which I rather
grudged him, as it was the only one we had), where lions will not trouble
him any more—though perhaps the hyŠnas will, if they consider that
there is enough on him left to make it worth their while to dig him up.
However, he won't mind that; so there is an end of the book of Jim-Jim.
"The question that now remained was, how to circumvent his murderess. I
knew that she would be sure to return as soon as she was hungry again, but
I did not know when she would be hungry. She had left so little of Jim-Jim
behind her that I should scarcely expect to see her the next night, unless
indeed she had cubs. Still, I felt that it would not be wise to miss the
chance of her coming, so we set about making preparations for her
reception. The first thing that we did was to strengthen the bush wall of
the skerm by dragging a large quantity of the tops of thorn-trees
together, and laying them one on the other in such a fashion that the
thorns pointed outwards. This, after our experience of the fate of
Jim-Jim, seemed a very necessary precaution, since if where one goat can
jump another can follow, as the Kaffirs say, how much more is this the
case when an animal so active and so vigorous as the lion is concerned!
And now came the further question, how were we to beguile the lioness to
return? Lions are animals that have a strange knack of appearing when they
are not wanted, and keeping studiously out of the way when their presence
is required. Of course it was possible that if she had found Jim-Jim to
her liking she would come back to see if there were any more of his kind
about, but still it was not to be relied on.
"Harry, who as I have said was an eminently practical boy, suggested to
Pharaoh that he should go and sit outside the skerm in the moonlight as a
sort of bait, assuring him that he would have nothing to fear, as we
should certainly kill the lioness before she killed him. Pharaoh however,
strangely enough, did not seem to take to this suggestion. Indeed, he
walked away, much put out with Harry for having made it.
"It gave me an idea, however.
"'By Jove!' I said, 'there is the sick ox. He must die sooner or later, so
we may as well utilize him.'
"Now, about thirty yards to the left of our skerm, as one stood facing
down the hill towards the river, was the stump of a tree that had been
destroyed by lightning many years before, standing equidistant between,
but a little in front of, two clumps of bush, which were severally some
fifteen paces from it.
"Here was the very place to tie the ox; and accordingly a little before
sunset the sick animal was led forth by Pharaoh and made fast there,
little knowing, poor brute, for what purpose; and we began our long vigil,
this time without a fire, for our object was to attract the lioness and
not to scare her.
"For hour after hour we waited, keeping ourselves awake by pinching each
other—it is, by the way, remarkable what a difference of opinion as
to the force of pinches requisite to the occasion exists in the mind of
pincher and pinched—but no lioness came. At last the moon went down,
and darkness swallowed up the world, as the Kaffirs say, but no lions came
to swallow us up. We waited till dawn, because we did not dare to go to
sleep, and then at last with many bad thoughts in our hearts we took such
rest as we could get, and that was not much.
"That morning we went out shooting, not because we wanted to, for we were
too depressed and tired, but because we had no more meat. For three hours
or more we wandered about in a broiling sun looking for something to kill,
but with absolutely no results. For some unknown reason the game had grown
very scarce about the spot, though when I was there two years before every
sort of large game except rhinoceros and elephant was particularly
abundant. The lions, of whom there were many, alone remained, and I fancy
that it was the fact of the game they live on having temporarily migrated
which made them so daring and ferocious. As a general rule a lion is an
amiable animal enough if he is left alone, but a hungry lion is almost as
dangerous as a hungry man. One hears a great many different opinions
expressed as to whether or no the lion is remarkable for his courage, but
the result of my experience is that very much depends upon the state of
his stomach. A hungry lion will not stick at a trifle, whereas a full one
will flee at a very small rebuke.
"Well, we hunted all about, and nothing could we see, not even a duiker or
a bush buck; and at last, thoroughly tired and out of temper, we started
on our way back to camp, passing over the brow of a steepish hill to do
so. Just as we climbed the crest of the ridge I came to a stand, for
there, about six hundred yards to my left, his beautiful curved horns
outlined against the soft blue of the sky, I saw a noble koodoo bull (Strepsiceros
kudu). Even at that distance, for as you know my eyes are very keen, I
could distinctly see the white stripes on its side when the light fell
upon it, and its large and pointed ears twitch as the flies worried it.
"So far so good; but how were we to get at it? It was ridiculous to risk a
shot at that great distance, and yet both the ground and the wind lay very
ill for stalking. It seemed to me that the only chance would be to make a
detour of at least a mile or more, and come up on the other side of the
koodoo. I called Harry to my side, and explained to him what I thought
would be our best course, when suddenly, without any delay, the koodoo
saved us further trouble by suddenly starting off down the hill like a
leaping rocket. I do not know what had frightened it, certainly we had
not. Perhaps a hyŠna or a leopard—a tiger as we call it there—had
suddenly appeared; at any rate, off it went, running slightly towards us,
and I never saw a buck go faster. I am afraid that forgetting Harry's
presence I used strong language, and really there was some excuse. As for
Harry, he stood watching the beautiful animal's course. Presently it
vanished behind a patch of bush, to emerge a few seconds later about five
hundred paces from us, on a stretch of comparatively level ground that was
strewn with boulders. On it went, clearing the boulders in its path with a
succession of great bounds that were beautiful to behold. As it did so, I
happened to look round at Harry, and perceived to my astonishment that he
had got his rifle to his shoulder.
"'You young donkey!' I exclaimed, 'surely you are not going to'—and
just at that moment the rifle went off.
"And then I think I saw what was in its way one of the most wonderful
things I ever remember in my hunting experience. The koodoo was at the
moment in the air, clearing a pile of stones with its fore-legs tucked up
underneath it. All of an instant the legs stretched themselves out in a
spasmodic fashion, it lit on them, and they doubled up beneath it. Down
went the noble buck, down upon his head. For a moment he seemed to be
standing on his horns, his hind-legs high in the air, and then over he
rolled and lay still.
"'Great Heavens!' I said, 'why, you've hit him! He's dead.'
"As for Harry, he said nothing, but merely looked scared, as well he
might, for such a marvellous, I may say such an appalling and ghastly
fluke it has never been my lot to witness. A man, let alone a boy, might
have fired a thousand such shots without ever touching the object; which,
mind you, was springing and bounding over rocks quite five hundred yards
away; and here this lad—taking a snap shot, and merely allowing for
speed and elevation by instinct, for he did not put up his sights—had
knocked the bull over as dead as a door-nail. Well, I made no further
remark, as the occasion was too solemn for talking, but merely led the way
to where the koodoo had fallen. There he lay, beautiful and quite still;
and there, high up, about half-way down his neck, was a neat round hole.
The bullet had severed the spinal marrow, passing through the vertebrŠ and
away on the other side.
"It was already evening when, having cut as much of the best meat as we
could carry from the bull, and tied a red handkerchief and some tufts of
grass to his spiral horns, which, by the way, must have been nearly five
feet in length, in the hope of keeping the jackals and aasv÷gels
(vultures) from him, we finally got back to camp, to find Pharaoh, who was
getting rather anxious at our absence, ready to greet us with the pleasing
intelligence that another ox was sick. But even this dreadful bit of
intelligence could not dash Harry's spirits; the fact of the matter being,
incredible as it may appear, I do verily believe that in his heart of
hearts he set down the death of the koodoo to the credit of his own skill.
Now, though the lad was a pretty shot enough, this of course was
ridiculous, and I told him so plainly.
"By the time that we had finished our supper of koodoo steaks (which would
have been better if the koodoo had been a little younger), it was time to
get ready for Jim-Jim's murderess. Accordingly we determined again to
expose the unfortunate sick ox, that was now absolutely on its last legs,
being indeed scarcely able to stand. All the afternoon Pharaoh told us it
had been walking round and round in a circle as cattle in the last stage
of redwater generally do. Now it had come to a standstill, and was swaying
to and fro with its head hanging down. So we tied him up to the stump of
the tree as on the previous night, knowing that if the lioness did not
kill him he would be dead by morning. Indeed I was afraid that he would
die at once, in which case he would be of but little use as a bait, for
the lion is a sportsmanlike animal, and unless he is very hungry generally
prefers to kill his own dinner, though when that is once killed he will
come back to it again and again.
"Then we again went through our experience of the previous night, sitting
there hour after hour, till at last Harry fell fast asleep, and, though I
am accustomed to this sort of thing, even I could scarcely keep my eyes
open. Indeed I was just dropping off, when suddenly Pharaoh gave me a
"'Listen!' he whispered.
"I was awake in a second, and listening with all my ears. From the clump
of bush to the right of the lightning-shattered stump to which the sick ox
was tied came a faint crackling noise. Presently it was repeated. Something
was moving there, faintly and quietly enough, but still moving
perceptibly, for in the intense stillness of the night any sound seemed
"I woke up Harry, who instantly said, 'Where is she? where is she?' and
began to point his rifle about in a fashion that was more dangerous to us
and the oxen than to any possible lioness.
"'Be quiet!' I whispered, savagely; and as I did so, with a low and
hideous growl a flash of yellow light sped out of the clump of bush, past
the ox, and into the corresponding clump upon the other side. The poor
sick creature gave a sort of groan, staggered round and then began to
tremble. I could see it do so clearly in the moonlight, which was now very
bright, and I felt a brute for having exposed the unfortunate animal to
such agony as he must undoubtedly be undergoing. The lioness, for it was
she, passed so quickly that we could not even distinguish her movements,
much less fire. Indeed at night it is absolutely useless to attempt to
shoot unless the object is very close and standing perfectly still, and
then the light is so deceptive and it is so difficult to see the foresight
that the best shot will miss more often than he hits.
"'She will be back again presently,' I said; 'look out, but for Heaven's
sake don't fire unless I tell you to.'
"Hardly were the words out of my mouth when back she came, and again
passed the ox without striking him.
"'What on earth is she doing?' whispered Harry.
"'Playing with it as a cat does with a mouse, I suppose. She will kill it
"As I spoke, the lioness once more flashed out of the bush, and this time
sprang right over the doomed and trembling ox. It was a beautiful sight to
see her clear him in the bright moonlight, as though it were a trick which
she had been taught.
"'I believe that she has escaped from a circus,' whispered Harry; 'it's
jolly to see her jump.'
"I said nothing, but I thought to myself that if it was, Master Harry did
not quite appreciate the performance, and small blame to him. At any rate,
his teeth were chattering a little.
"Then came a longish pause, and I began to think that the lioness must
have gone away, when suddenly she appeared again, and with one mighty
bound landed right on to the ox, and struck it a frightful blow with her
"Down it went, and lay on the ground kicking feebly. She put down her
wicked-looking head, and, with a fierce growl of contentment, buried her
long white teeth in the throat of the dying animal. When she lifted her
muzzle again it was all stained with blood. She stood facing us obliquely,
licking her bloody chops and making a sort of purring noise.
"'Now's our time,' I whispered, 'fire when I do.'
"I got on to her as well as I could, but Harry, instead of waiting for me
as I told him, fired before I did, and that of course hurried me. But when
the smoke cleared, I was delighted to see that the lioness was rolling
about on the ground behind the body of the ox, which covered her in such a
fashion, however, that we could not shoot again to make an end of her.
"'She's done for! she's dead, the yellow devil!' yelled Pharaoh in
exultation; and at that very moment the lioness, with a sort of convulsive
rush, half-rolled, half-sprang, into the patch of thick bush to the right.
I fired after her as she went, but so far as I could see without result;
indeed the probability is that I missed her clean. At any rate she got to
the bush in safety, and once there, began to make such a diabolical noise
as I never heard before. She would whine and shriek with pain, and then
burst out into perfect volleys of roaring that shook the whole place.
"'Well,' I said, 'we must just let her roar; to go into that bush after
her at night would be madness.'
"At that moment, to my astonishment and alarm, there came an answering
roar from the direction of the river, and then another from behind the
swell of bush. Evidently there were more lions about. The wounded lioness
redoubled her efforts, with the object, I suppose, of summoning the others
to her assistance. At any rate they came, and quickly too, for within five
minutes, peeping through the bushes of our skerm fence, we saw a
magnificent lion bounding along towards us, through the tall tambouki
grass, that in the moonlight looked for all the world like ripening corn.
On he came in great leaps, and a glorious sight it was to see him. When
within fifty yards or so, he stood still in an open space and roared. The
lioness roared too; then there came a third roar, and another great
black-maned lion stalked majestically up, and joined number two, till
really I began to realize what the ox must have undergone.
"'Now, Harry,' I whispered, 'whatever you do don't fire, it's too risky.
If they let us be, let them be.'
"Well, the pair marched off to the bush, where the wounded lioness was now
roaring double tides, and the three of them began to snarl and grumble
away together there. Presently, however, the lioness ceased roaring, and
the two lions came out again, the black-maned one first—to prospect,
I suppose—walked to where the carcass of the ox lay, and sniffed at
"'Oh, what a shot!' whispered Harry, who was trembling with excitement.
"'Yes,' I said; 'but don't fire; they might all of them come for us.'
"Harry said nothing, but whether it was from the natural impetuosity of
youth, or because he was thrown off his balance by excitement, or from
sheer recklessness and devilment, I am sure I cannot tell you, never
having been able to get a satisfactory explanation from him; but at any
rate the fact remains, he, without word or warning, entirely disregarding
my exhortations, lifted up his Westley Richards and fired at the
black-maned lion, and, what is more, hit it slightly on the flank.
"Next second there was a most awful roar from the injured lion. He glared
around him and roared with pain, for he was badly stung; and then, before
I could make up my mind what to do, the great black-maned brute, clearly
ignorant of the cause of his hurt, sprang right at the throat of his
companion, to whom he evidently attributed his misfortune. It was a
curious sight to see the astonishment of the other lion at this most
unprovoked assault. Over he rolled with an angry snarl, and on to him
sprang the black-maned demon, and began to worry him. This finally awoke
the yellow-maned lion to a sense of the situation, and I am bound to say
that he rose to it in a most effective manner. Somehow or other he got to
his feet, and, roaring and snarling frightfully, closed with his mighty
"Then ensued a most tremendous scene. You know what a shocking thing it is
to see two large dogs fighting with abandonment. Well, a whole hundred of
dogs could not have looked half so terrible as those two great brutes as
they rolled and roared and rent in their horrid rage. They gripped each
other, they tore at each other's throat, till their manes came out in
handfuls, and the red blood streamed down their yellow hides. It was an
awful and a wonderful thing to see the great cats tearing at each other
with all the fierce energy of their savage strength, and making the night
hideous with their heart-shaking noise. And the fight was a grand one too.
For some minutes it was impossible to say which was getting the best of
it, but at last I saw that the black-maned lion, though he was slightly
bigger, was failing. I am inclined to think that the wound in his flank
crippled him. Anyway, he began to get the worst of it, which served him
right, as he was the aggressor. Still I could not help feeling sorry for
him, for he had fought a gallant fight, when his antagonist finally got
him by the throat, and, struggle and strike out as he would, began to
shake the life out of him. Over and over they rolled together, a hideous
and awe-inspiring spectacle, but the yellow one would not loose his hold,
and at length poor black-mane grew faint, his breath came in great snorts
and seemed to rattle in his nostrils, then he opened his huge mouth, gave
the ghost of a roar, quivered, and was dead.
"When he was quite sure that the victory was his own, the yellow-maned
lion loosed his grip and sniffed at the fallen foe. Then he licked the
dead lion's eye, and next, with his fore-feet resting on the carcass, sent
up his own chant of victory, that went rolling and pealing down the dark
paths of the night. And at this point I interfered. Taking a careful sight
at the centre of his body, in order to give the largest possible margin
for error, I fired, and sent a.570 express bullet right through him, and
down he dropped dead upon the carcass of his mighty foe.
"After that, fairly satisfied with our performances, we slept peaceably
till dawn, leaving Pharaoh to keep watch in case any more lions should
take it into their heads to come our way.
"When the sun was well up we arose, and went very cautiously—at
least Pharaoh and I did, for I would not allow Harry to come—to see
if we could find any trace of the wounded lioness. She had ceased roaring
immediately upon the arrival of the two lions, and had not made a sound
since, from which we concluded that she was probably dead. I was armed
with my express, while Pharaoh, in whose hands a rifle was indeed a
dangerous weapon, to his companions, had an axe. On our way we stopped to
look at the two dead lions. They were magnificent animals, both of them,
but their pelts were entirely spoiled by the terrible mauling they had
given to each other, which was a sad pity.
"In another minute we were following the blood spoor of the wounded
lioness into the bush, where she had taken refuge. This, I need hardly
say, we did with the utmost caution; indeed, I for one did not at all like
the job, and was only consoled by the reflection that it was necessary,
and that the bush was not thick. Well, we stood there, keeping as far from
the trees as possible, searching and looking about, but no lioness could
we see, though we saw plenty of blood.
"'She must have gone somewhere to die, Pharaoh,' I said in Zulu.
"'Yes, Inkoos,' he answered, 'she has certainly gone away.'
"Hardly were the words out of his mouth, when I heard a roar, and starting
round saw the lioness emerge from the very centre of a bush, in which she
had been curled up, just behind Pharaoh. Up she went on to her hind-legs,
and as she did so I noticed that one of her fore-paws was broken near the
shoulder, for it hung limply down. Up she went, towering right over
Pharaoh's head, as she did so lifting her uninjured paw to strike him to
the earth. And then, before I could get my rifle round or do anything to
avert the oncoming catastrophe, the Zulu did a very brave and clever
thing. Realizing his own imminent danger, he bounded to one side, and
swinging the heavy axe round his head, brought it down right on to the
back of the lioness, severing the vertebrŠ and killing her
instantaneously. It was wonderful to see her collapse all in a heap like
an empty sack.
"'My word, Pharaoh!' I said, 'that was well done, and none too soon.'
"'Yes,' he answered, with a little laugh, 'it was a good stroke, Inkoos.
Jim-Jim will sleep better now.'
"Then, calling Harry to us, we examined the lioness. She was old, if one
might judge from her worn teeth, and not very large, but thickly made, and
must have possessed extraordinary vitality to have lived so long, shot as
she was; for, in addition to her broken shoulder, my express bullet had
blown a great hole in her middle that one might have put a fist into.
"Well, that is the story of the death of poor Jim-Jim and how we avenged
it. It is rather interesting in its way, because of the fight between the
two lions, of which I never saw the like in all my experience, and I know
something of lions and their manners."
"And how did you get back to Pilgrim's Rest?" I asked Hunter Quatermain
when he had finished his yarn.
"Ah, we had a nice job with that," he answered. "The second sick ox died,
and so did another, and we had to get on as best we could with three
harnessed unicorn fashion, while we pushed behind. We did about four miles
a day, and it took us nearly a month, during the last week of which we
pretty well starved."
"I notice," I said, "that most of your trips ended in disaster of some
sort or another, and yet you went on making them, which strikes one as a
"Yes, I dare say: but then, remember I got my living for many years out of
hunting. Besides, half the charm of the thing lay in the dangers and
disasters, though they were terrible enough at the time. Another thing is,
my trips were not all disastrous. Some time, if you like, I will tell you
a story of one which was very much the reverse, for I made several
thousand pounds out of it, and saw one of the most extraordinary sights a
hunter ever came across. It was on this trip that I met the bravest native
woman I ever knew; her name was Maiwa. But it is too late now, and
besides, I am tired of talking about myself. Pass the water, will you!"