THE house at which we were staying stood on the beautiful Kitanga hills. They were so named after an Englishman, to whom the natives had given the name of Kitanga; some years ago, as we were told, he had been killed by a lion near where the ranch-house now stood; and we were shown his grave in the little Machakos graveyard. The house was one story high, clean and comfortable, with a veranda running round three sides; and on the veranda were lion skins and the skull of a rhinoceros. From the house we looked over hills and wide lonely plains; the green valley below, with its flat-topped acacias, was very lovely; and in the evening we could see, scores of miles away, the snowy summit of mighty Kilimanjaro turn crimson in the setting sun. The twilights were not long; and when night fell, stars new to northern eyes flashed glorious in the sky. Above the horizon hung the Southern Cross, and directly opposite in the heavens was our old familiar friend the Wain, the Great Bear, upside down and pointing to a North Star so low that behind a hill we could not see it. It is a dry country, and we saw it in the second year of a drought; yet I believe it to be a country of high promise for settlers of white race. In many ways it reminds one rather curiously of the great plains of the West, where they slope upward to the foothills of the Rockies. It is a white man’s country. Although under the equator, the altitude is so high that the nights are cool, and the region as a whole is very healthy. I saw many children, of the Boer immigrants, of English settlers, even of American missionaries, and they looked sound and well. Of course, there was no real identity in any feature; but again and again the general landscape struck me by its likeness to the cattle country I knew so well. As my horse shuffled forward, under the bright, hot sunlight, across the endless fiats or gently rolling slopes of brown and withered grass, I might have been on the plains anywhere, from Texas to Montana; the hills were just like our Western buttes; the half-dry watercourses were fringed with trees, just as if they had been the Sandy, or the Dry, or the Beaver, or the Cottonwood, or any of the multitude of creeks that repeat these and similar names, again and again, from the Panhandle to the Saskatchewan. Moreover a Westerner, far better than an Easterner, could see the possibilities of the country. There should be storage reservoirs in the hills and along the rivers—in my judgment built by the government, and paid for by the water-users in the shape of water-rents—and irrigation ditches; with the water stored and used there would be an excellent opening for small farmers, for the settlers, the actual home-makers, who, above all others, should be encouraged to come into a white man’s country like this of the highlands of East Africa. Even as it is, many settlers do well; it is hard to realize that right under the equator the conditions are such that wheat, potatoes, strawberries, apples, all flourish. No new country is a place for weaklings; but the right kind of man, the settler who makes a success in similar parts of our own West, can do well in East Africa; while a man with money can undoubtedly do very well indeed; and incidentally both men will be leading their lives under conditions peculiarly attractive to a certain kind of spirit. It means hard work, of course; but success generally does imply hard work.
The plains were generally covered only with the thick grass on which the great herds of game fed; here and there small thorn-trees grew upon them, but usually so small and scattered as to give no shelter or cover. By the occasional watercourses the trees grew more thickly, and also on the hills and in the valleys between. Most of the trees were mimosas, or of similar kind, usually thorny; but there were giant cactus-like Euphorbias, shaped like candelabras, and named accordingly; and on the higher hills fig-trees, wild olives, and many others whose names I do not know, but some of which were stately and beautiful. Many of the mimosas were in bloom, and covered with sweet-smelling yellow blossoms. There were many flowers. On the dry plains there were bushes of the color and size of our own sagebrush, covered with flowers like morning-glories. There were also wild sweet-peas, on which the ostriches fed; as they did on another plant with a lilac flower of a faint heliotrope fragrance. Among the hills there were masses of singularly fragrant flowers like pink jessamines, growing on bushes sometimes fifteen feet high or over. There were white flowers that smelt like narcissus, blue flowers, red lilies, orange tiger-lilies, and many others of many kinds and colors, while here and there in the pools of the rare rivers grew the sweet-scented purple lotus-lily.
There was an infinite variety of birds, small and large, dull-colored and of the most brilliant plumage. For the most part they either had no names at all or names that meant nothing to us. There were glossy starlings of many kinds; and scores of species of weaver finches, some brilliantly colored, others remarkable because of the elaborate nests they built by communities among the trees. There were many kinds of shrikes, some of them big, parti-colored birds, almost like magpies, and with a kestrel-like habit of hovering in the air over one spot; others very small and prettily colored. There was a little red-billed finch with its outer tail feathers several times the length of its head and body. There was a little emerald cuckoo, and a tiny thing, a barbet, that looked exactly like a kingfisher four inches long. Eared owls flew up from the reeds and grass. There were big, restless, wonderfully colored plantain-eaters in the woods; and hornbills, with strange swollen beaks. A truelark, colored like our meadow-lark (to which it is in no way related) sang from bushes; but the clapperlark made its curious clapping sounds (apparently with its wings, like a ruffed grouse) while it zigzagged in the air. Little pipits sang overhead like our Missouri sky-larks. There were night-jars; and doves of various kinds, one of which uttered a series of notes slightly resembling the call of our whippoorwill or chuckwills widow. The beautiful little sunbirds were the most gorgeous of all. Then there were bustards, great and small, and snake-eating secretary birds, on the plains; and francolins, and African spur fowl with brilliant naked throats, and sand grouse that flew in packs uttering guttural notes. The wealth of bird life was bewildering. There was not much bird music, judged by the standards of a temperate climate; but the bulbuls, and one or two warblers, sang very sweetly. The naturalists caught shrews and mice in their traps; mole rats with velvety fur, which burrowed like our pocket gophers; rats that lived in holes like those of our kangaroo rat; and one mouse that was striped like our striped gopher. There were conies among the rocks on the hills; they looked like squat, heavy woodchucks, but their teeth were somewhat like those of a wee rhinoceros, and they had little hoof-like nails instead of claws. There were civets and wildcats and things like a small mongoose. But the most interesting mammal we saw was a brilliantly colored yellow and blue, or yellow and slate, bat, which we put up one day while beating through a ravine. It had been hanging from a mimosa twig, and it flew well in the strong sunlight, looking like some huge, parti-colored butterfly.
It was a settled country, this in which we did our first hunting, and for this reason all the more interesting. The growth and development of East and Middle Africa are phenomena of such absorbing interest, that I was delighted at the chance to see the parts where settlement has already begun before plunging into the absolute wilderness. There was much to remind one of conditions in Montana and Wyoming thirty years ago; the ranches planted down among the hills and on the plains still teeming with game, the spirit of daring adventure everywhere visible, the hope and the heartbreaking disappointment, the successes and the failures. But the problem offered by the natives bore no resemblance to that once offered by the presence of our tribes of horse Indians, few in numbers and incredibly formidable in war. The natives of East Africa are numerous, many of them are agricultural—of pastoral people after their own fashion, and even the bravest of them, the warlike Masai, are in no way formidable as our Indians were formidable when they went on the war-path. The ranch country I first visited was in what was once the domain of the Wakamba, and in most of it the tribes still dwell. They are in most ways primitive savages, with an imperfect and feeble social, and therefore military, organization; they live in small communities under their local chiefs; they file their teeth, and though they wear blankets in the neighborhoods of the whites, these blankets are often cast aside; even when the blanket is worn, it is often in such fashion as merely to accentuate the otherwise absolute nakedness of both sexes. Yet these savages are cattle-keepers and cattle raisers, and the women do a good deal of simple agricultural work; unfortunately, they are wastefully destructive of the forests. The settlers evidently much prefer to rely upon the natives for unskilled labor rather than see coolies from Hindoostan brought into the country. The chief of each little village is recognized as the official headman by the British official, is given support, and is required to help the authorities keep peace and stamp out cattle disease—the two most important functions of government so far as the Wakamba themselves are concerned. All the little tribes have their herds of black, brown, and white goats, of mottled sheep, and especially of small humped cattle. The cattle form their pride and joy. During the day each herd is accompanied by the herdsmen, and at night it is driven within its boma, or circular fence of thorn-bushes. Except for the milk, which they keep in their foul, smoky calabashes, the natives really make no use of their cattle; they do not know how to work them, and they never eat them even in time of starvation. When there is prolonged drought and consequent failure of crops, the foolish creatures die by the hundreds when they might readily be saved if they were willing to eat the herds which they persist in treating as ornaments rather than as made for use.
Many of the natives work for the settlers, as cattle-keepers, as ostrich-keepers, or, after a. fashion, as laborers. At Sir Alfred Pease’s ranch, as at most of the other farms of the neighborhood, we found little Wakamba settlements. Untold ages separated employers and employed; yet those that I saw seemed to get on well together. The Wakamba are as yet not sufficiently advanced to warrant their sharing in the smallest degree in the common government; the “just consent of the governed” in their case, if taken literally, would mean idleness, famine, and endless internecine warfare. They cannot govern themselves from within; therefore they must be governed from without; and their need is met in highest fashion by firm and just control, of the kind that on the whole they are now getting. At Kitanga the natives on the place sometimes worked about the house; and they took care of the stock. The elders looked after the mild little humped cattle—bulls, steers. and cows; and the children, often the merest toddlers, took naturally to guarding the parties of pretty little calves, during the day-time, when they were separated from their mothers. It was an ostrich-farm, too; and in the morning and evening we would meet the great birds, as they went to their grazing-grounds or returned to the ostrich boma, mincing along with their usual air of foolish stateliness, convoyed by two or three boys, each with a red blanket, a throwing stick, copper wire round his legs and arms, and perhaps a feather stuck in his hair.
There were a number of ranches in the neighborhood—using “neighborhood” in the large Western sense, for they were many miles apart. The Hills, Clifford and Harold, were Africanders; they knew the country, and were working hard and doing well; and in the midst of their work they spared the time to do their full part in ensuring a successful hunt to me, an entire stranger. All the settlers I met treated me with the same large and thoughtful courtesy—and what fine fellows they were! And their wives even finer. At Bondoni was Percival, a tall sinewy man, a fine rider and shot; like so many other men whom I met, he wore merely a helmet, a flannel shirt, short breeches or trunks, and puttees and boots, leaving the knee entirely bare. I shall not soon forget seeing him one day, as he walked beside his twelve-ox team, cracking his long whip, while in the big wagon sat pretty Mrs. Percival with a puppy, and a little cheetah cub, which we had found and presented to her and which she was taming. They all—Sir Alfred, the Hills, everyone—behaved as if each was my host and felt it peculiarly incumbent on him to give me a good time; and among these hosts one who did very much for me was Captain Arthur Slatter. I was his guest at Kilimakin, where he was running an ostrich-farm; he had lost his right hand, yet he was an exceedingly good game shot, both with his light and his heavy rifles.
At Kitanga, Sir Alfred’s place, two Boers were working, Messrs. Prinsloo and Klopper. We forgathered, of course, as I too was of Dutch ancestry; they were strong, upstanding men, good mechanics, good masons, and Prinsloo spoke English well. I afterward stopped at the farm of Klopper’s father, and at the farm of another Boer named Loijs; and I met other Boers while out hunting—Erasmus, Botha, Joubert, Meyer. They were descendants of the Voortrekkers with the same names who led the hard-fighting farmers northward from the Cape seventy years ago; and were kinsfolk of the men who since then have made these names honorably known throughout the world. There must of course be many Boers who have gone backward under the stress of a hard and semi-savage life; just as in our communities of the frontier, the backwoods, and the lonely mountains there are shiftless “poor whites” and “mean whites” mingled with the sturdy men and women who have laid deep the foundations of our national greatness. But personally I happened not to come across these shiftless “mean white” Boers. Those that I met, both men and women, were of as good a type as anyone could wish for in his own countrymen or could admire in another nationality. They fulfilled the three prime requisites for any race: they worked hard, they could fight hard at need, and they had plenty of children. These are the three essential qualities in any and every nation; they are by no means all-sufficient in themselves, and there is need that many others should be added to them; but the lack of any one of them is fatal, and cannot be made good by the presence of any other set of attributes.
It was pleasant to see the good terms on which Boer and Briton met. Many of the English settlers whose guest I was, or with whom I hunted—the Hills, Captain Slatter, Heatley, Judd—had fought through the South African war; and so had all the Boers I met. The latter had been for the most part members of various particularly hard-fighting commandos; when the war closed they felt very bitterly, and wished to avoid living under the British flag. Some moved West and some East; those I met were among the many hundreds, indeed thousands, who travelled northward—a few overland, most of them by water—to German East Africa. But in the part in which they happened to settle they were decimated by fever, and their stock perished of cattle sickness; and most of them had again moved northward, and once more found themselves under the British flag. They were being treated precisely on an equality with the British settlers; and every well-wisher to his kind, and above all every well-wisher to Africa, must hope that the men who in South Africa fought so valiantly against one another, each for the right as he saw it, will speedily grow into a companionship of mutual respect, regard, and consideration such as that which, for our inestimable good fortune, now knits closely together in our own land the men who wore the blue and the men who wore the gray and their descendants. There could be no better and manlier people than those, both English and Dutch, who are at this moment engaged in the great and difficult task of adding East Africa to the domain of civilization; their work is bound to be hard enough anyhow; and it would be a lamentable calamity to render it more difficult by keeping alive a bitterness which has lost all point and justification, or by failing to recognize the fundamental virtues, the fundamental characteristics, in which the men of the two stocks are in reality so much alike.
Messrs. Klopper and Loijs, whose farms I visited, were doing well; the latter, with three of his sons, took me out with pride to show me the dam which they had built across a dry watercourse, so as to make a storage reservoir when the rains came. The houses were of stone, and clean and comfortable; the floors were covered with the skins of buck and zebra; the chairs were home-made, as was most of the other furniture; the “rust bunks,” or couches, strongly and gracefully shaped, and filled with plaited raw hide, were so attractive that I ordered one to take home. There were neatly kept little flower-gardens, suffering much from the drought; there were ovens and out-buildings; cattle-sheds for the humped oxen and the herds of pretty cows and calves; the biltong was drying in smoke-houses; there were patches of ground in cultivation, for corn and vegetables; and the wild velt came up to the door-sills, and the wild game grazed quietly on all sides within sight of the houses. It was a very good kind of pioneer life; and there could be no better pioneer settlers than Boers such as I saw.
The older men wore full beards, and were spare and sinewy. The young men were generally smooth-faced or moustached, strongly built, and rather shy. The elder women were stout, cordial, motherly housewives; the younger were often really pretty. At their houses I was received with hearty hospitality, and given coffee or fresh milk, while we conversed through the medium of the sons or daughters who knew a little English. They all knew that I was of Dutch origin, and were much interested when I repeated to them the only Dutch I knew, a nursery song which, as I told them, had been handed down to me by my own forefathers, and which in return I had repeated, so many, many times, to my children when they were little. It runs as follows, by the way; but I have no idea how the words are spelled, as I have no written copy; it is supposed to be sung by the father, who holds the little boy or little girl on his knee, and tosses him or her up in the air when he comes to the last line:
Trippe, troppa tronjes,
De yaarken’s en de bonjes,
De kuje’s en de klaver,
De paard’s en de hafer
De entje’s en de watter-plash!
So groot mein kleine (here insert the little boy’s or little girl’s name) was!
My pronunciation caused trouble at first; but I think they understood me the more readily because doubtless their own usual tongue was in some sort a dialect; and some of them already knew the song, while they were all pleased and amused at my remembering and repeating it; and we were speedily on a most friendly footing.
The essential identity of interest between the Boer and British settlers was shown by their attitude toward the district commissioner, Mr. Humphrey, who was just leaving for his biennial holiday, and who dined with us in our tent on his way out. From both Boer farmer and English settler—and from the American missionaries also—I heard praise of Humphrey, as a strong man, not in the least afraid of either settler or native, but bound to do justice to both, and, what was quite as important, sympathizing with the settlers, and knowing and understanding their needs. A new country in which white pioneer settlers are struggling with the iron difficulties and hardships of frontier life is above all others that in which the officials should be men having both knowledge and sympathy with the other men over whom they are placed and for whom they should work.
My host and hostess, Sir Alfred and Lady Pease, were on the best of terms with all their neighbors, and their friendly interest was returned; now it was the wife of a Boer farmer who sent over a box of flowers, now a box of apples from an English settler on the hills; now Prinsloo the Boer stopped to dinner; now the MacMillans—American friends, of whose farm and my stay thereon I shall speak later—rode over from their house on the Mua Hills, with their guest, Selous, to take lunch. This, by the way, was after I had shot my first lions, and I was much pleased to be able to show Selous the trophies.
My gentle-voiced hostess and her daughter had seen many strange lands and strange happenings; as was natural with a husband and father of such adventure-loving nature. They took a keen interest, untinged by the slightest nervousness, in every kind of wild creature from lions and leopards down. The game was in sight from the veranda of the house almost every hour of the day. Early one morning, in the mist, three hartebeests came right up to the wire fence, two score yards from the house itself; and the black-and-white striped zebra, and ruddy hartebeest, grazed or rested through the long afternoons in plain view, on the hill-sides opposite.
It is hard for one who has not himself seen it to realize the immense quantities of game to be found on the Kapiti Plains and Athi Plains and the hills that bound them. The common game of the plains, the animals of which I saw most while at Kitanga and in the neighborhood, were the zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest. Grant’s gazelle, and “Tommies ” or Thompson’s gazelle; the zebra, and the hartebeest, usually known by the Swahili name of kongoni, being by far the most plentiful. Then there were impala, mountain reedbuck, duyker, steinbuck, and diminutive dikdik. As we travelled and hunted we were hardlv ever out of sight of game; and on Pease’s farm itself there were many thousand head; and so there were on Slatter’s. If wealthy men who desire sport of the most varied and interesting kind would purchase farms like these they could get, for much less money, many times the interest and enjoyment a deer-forest or grouse-moor can afford.
Unless there was something special on, like a lion- or rhinoceros-hunt, I usually rode off followed only by my sais and gun-bearers. I cannot describe the beauty and the unceasing interest of these rides, through the teeming herds of game. It was like retracing the steps of time for sixty or seventy years, and being back in the days of Cornwallis Harris and Gordon Gumming, in the palmy times of the giant fauna of South Africa big game. On Pease’s own farm one day I passed through scores of herds of the beautiful and wonderful wild creatures I have spoken of above; all told there were several thousands of them. With the exception of the wildebeest, most of them were not shy, and I could have taken scores of shots at a distance of a couple of hundred yards or thereabout. Of course, I did not shoot at anything unless we were out of meat or needed the skin for the collection; and when we took the skin we almost always took the meat too, for the porters, although they had their rations of rice, depended for much of their well-being on our success with the rifle.
These rides through the wild, lovely country, with only my silent black followers, had a peculiar charm. When the sky was overcast it was cool and pleasant, for it is a high country; as soon as the sun appeared the vertical tropic rays made the air quiver above the scorched land. As we passed down a hillside we brushed through aromatic shrubs and the hot, pleasant fragrance enveloped us. When we came to a nearly dry watercourse, there would be beds of rushes, beautiful lilies and lush green plants with staring flowers; and great fig-trees, or flat-topped mimosas. In many of these trees there were sure to be native beehives; these were sections of hollow logs hung from the branches; they formed striking and characteristic features of the landscape. Wherever there was any moisture there were flowers, brilliant of hue and many of them sweet of smell; and birds of numerous kinds abounded. When we left the hills and the wooded watercourses we might ride hour after hour across the barren desolation of the flats, while herds of zebra and hartebeests stared at us through the heat haze. Then the zebra, with shrill, barking neighs, would file off across the horizon, or the high-withered hartebeests, snorting and bucking, would rush off in a confused mass, as unreasoning panic succeeded foolish confidence. If I shot at anything, vultures of several kinds, and the tall, hideous marabout storks, gathered before the skinners were through with their work; they usually stayed at a wary distance, but the handsome ravens, glossy hued with white napes, big-billed, long-winged, and short-tailed, came round more familiarly.
I rarely had to take the trouble to stalk anything; the shooting was necessarily at rather long range, but by maneuvering a little, and never walking straight toward a beast, I was usually able to get whatever the naturalists wished. Sometimes I shot fairly well, and sometimes badly. On one day, for instance, the entry in my diary ran: “Missed steinbuck, pig, impala and Grant; awful.” On another day it ran in part as follows: “Out with Heller. Hartebeest, 250 yards, facing me; shot through face, broke neck. Zebra, very large, quartering, 160 yards, between neck and shoulder. Buck Grant, 220 yards, walking, behind shoulder. Steinbuck, 180 yards, standing, behind shoulder.” Generally each head of game bagged cost me a goodly number of bullets; but only twice did I wound animals which I failed to get; in the other cases the extra cartridges represented either misses at animals which got clean away untouched, or else a running fusillade at wounded animals which I eventually got. I am a very strong believer in making sure, and, therefore, in shooting at a wounded animal as long as there is the least chance of its getting off. The expenditure of a few cartridges is of no consequence whatever compared to the escape of a single head of game which should have been bagged. Shooting at long range necessitates much running. Some of my successful shots at Grant’s gazelle and kongoni were made at 300, 350, and 400 yards; but at such distances my proportion of misses was very large indeed—and there were altogether too many even at shorter ranges.
The so-called grass antelopes, the steinbuck and duyker, were the ones at which I shot worst; they were quite plentiful, and they got up close, seeking to escape observation by hiding until the last moment; but they were small, and when they did go they rushed half hidden through the grass and in and out among the bushes at such a speed, and with such jumps and twists and turns, that I found it well-nigh impossible to hit them with the rifle. The few I got were shot when they happened to stand still.
On the steep, rocky, bush-clad hills there were little klipspringers and the mountain reedbuck or Chanler’s reedbuck, a very pretty little creature. Usually we found the reedbuck and their fawns in small parties, and the bucks by themselves; but e saw too few to enable us to tell whether this represented their normal habits. They fed on the grass, the hill plants, and the tips of certain of the shrubs, and were true mountaineers in their love of the rocks and rough ground, to which they fled in frantic haste when alarmed. They were shy and elusive little things, but not wary in the sense that some of the larger antelopes are wary. I shot two does with three bullets, all of which hit. Then I tried hard for a buck; at last, late one evening, I got up to one feeding on a steep hillside, and actually took ten shots to kill him, hitting him no less than seven times.
Occasionally we drove a ravine or a range of hills by means of beaters. On such occasions all kinds of things were put up. Most of the beaters, especially if they were wild savages impressed for the purpose from some neighboring tribe, carried throwing-sticks, with which they were very expert; as indeed were some of the colonials, like the Hills. Hares, looking and behaving much like small jack-rabbits, were plentiful both on the plains and in the ravines, and dozens of these were knocked over; while on several occasions I saw francolins and spurfowl cut down on the wing by a throwing-stick hurled from some unusually dexterous hand.
The beats, with the noise and laughter of the good-humored, excitable savages, and the alert interest as to what would turn up next, were great fun; but the days I enjoyed most were those spent alone with my horse and gun-bearers. We might be off by dawn, and see the tropic sun flame splendid over the brink of the world; strange creatures rustled through the bush or fled dimly through the long grass, before the light grew bright; and the air was fresh and sweet as it blew in our faces. When the still heat of noon drew near I would stop under a tree, with my water canteen and my lunch. The men lay in the shade, and the hobbled pony grazed close by, while I either dozed or else watched through my telescope the herds of game standing or lying drowsily in the distance. As the shadows lengthened I would again mount, and finally ride homeward as the red sunset paled to amber and opal, and all the vast, mysterious African landscape grew to wonderful beauty in the dying twilight.
LION-HUNTING ON THE KAPITI PLAINS
THE dangerous game of Africa are the lion, buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and leopard. The hunter who follows any of these animals always does so at a certain risk to life or limb; a risk which it is his business to minimize by coolness, caution, good judgment, and straight shooting. The leopard is in point of pluck and ferocity more than the equal of the other four; but his small size always renders it likely that he will merely maul, and not kill, a man. My friend, Carl Akely, of Chicago, actually killed bare-handed a leopard which sprang on him. He had already wounded the beast twice, crippling it in one front and one hind paw, whereupon it charged, followed him as he tried to dodge the charge, and struck him full just as he turned. It bit him in one arm, biting again and again as it worked up the arm from the wrist to the elbow; but Akely threw it, holding its throat with the other hand, and flinging its body to one side. It luckily fell on its side with its two wounded legs uppermost, so that it could not tear him. He fell forward with it and crushed in its chest with his knees until he distinctly felt one of its ribs crack; this, said Akely, was the first moment when he felt he might conquer. Redoubling his efforts, with knees and hand, he actually choked and crushed the life out of it, although his arm was badly bitten. A leopard will charge at least as readily as one of the big beasts, and is rather more apt to get his charge home, but the risk is less to life than to limb.
There are other animals often or occasionally dangerous to human life which are, nevertheless, not dangerous to the hunter. Crocodiles are far greater pests, and far more often man-eaters, than lions or leopards; but their shooting is not accompanied by the smallest element of risk. Poisonous snakes are fruitful sources of accident, but they are actuated only by fear, and the anger born of fear. The hippopotamus sometimes destroys boats and kills those in them; but again there is no risk in hunting him. Finally, the hyena, too cowardly ever to be a source of danger to the hunter, is sometimes a dreadful curse to the weak and helpless. The hyena is a beast of unusual strength, and of enormous power in his jaws and teeth, and thrice over would he be dreaded were fang and sinew driven by a beast with the cruel courage of the leopard. But though the creature’s foul and evil ferocity has no such backing as that yielded by the angry daring of the spotted cat, it is yet fraught with a terror all its own; for on occasion the hyena takes to man-eating after his own fashion. Carrion-feeder though it is, in certain places it will enter native huts and carry away children or even sleeping adults; and where famine or disease has worked havoc among a people, the hideous spotted beasts become bolder and prey on the survivors. For some years past Uganda has been scourged by the sleeping sickness, which has ravaged it as in the Middle Ages the Black Death ravaged Europe. Hundreds of thousands of natives have died. Every effort has been made by the Government officials to cope with the disease; and among other things sleeping-sickness camps have been established, where those stricken by the dread malady can be isolated and cease to be possible sources of infection to their fellows. Recovery among those stricken is so rare as to be almost unknown, but the disease is often slow, and months may elapse during which the diseased man is still able to live his life much as usual. ln the big camps of doomed men and women thus established there were, therefore, many persons carrying on their avocations much as in an ordinary native village. But the hyenas speedily found that in many of the huts the inmates were a helpless prey. In 1908 and throughout the early part of 1909 they grew constantly bolder, haunting these sleeping-sickness camps, and each night entering them, bursting into the huts and carrying off and eating the dying people. To guard against them each little group of huts was enclosed by a thick hedge; but after a while the hyenas learned to break through the hedges, and continued their ravages; so that every night armed sentries had to patrol the camps, and every night they could be heard firing at the marauders.
The men thus preyed on were sick to death, and for the most part helpless. But occasionally men in full vigor were attacked. One of Pease’s native hunters had been seized by a hyena as he slept beside the campfire, and part of his face torn off. Selous informed me that a friend of his, Major R. T. Coryndon, then administrator of Northwestern Rhodesia, was attacked by a hyena but two or three years ago. At the time Major Coryndon was lying, wrapped in a blanket, beside his wagon. A hyena, stealthily approaching through the night, seized him by the hand, and dragged him out of bed; but as he struggled and called out, the beast left him and ran off into the darkness. In spite of his torn hand the major was determined to get his assailant, which he felt sure would soon return. Accordingly, he went back to his bed, drew his cocked rifle beside him, pointing toward his feet, and feigned sleep. When all was still once more, a dim form loomed up through the uncertain light, toward the foot of the bed; it was the ravenous beast returning for his prey; and the major shot and killed it where it stood.
A few months ago a hyena entered the outskirts of Nairobi, crept into a hut, and seized and killed a native man. At Nairobi the wild creatures are always at the threshold of the town, and often cross it. At Governor Jackson’s table, at Government House, I met Mr. and Mrs. Sandiford. Mr. Sandiford is managing the railroad. A few months previously, while he was sitting, with his family, in his own house in Nairobi, he happened to ask his daughter to look for something in one of the bedrooms. She returned in a minute, quietly remarking, “Father, there’s a leopard under the bed.” So there was; and it was then remembered that the house-cat had been showing a marked and alert distrust of the room in question—very probably the leopard had gotten into the house while trying to catch her or one of the dogs. A neighbor with a rifle was summoned, and shot the leopard. Hyenas not infrequently kill mules and donkeys, tearing open their bellies, and eating them while they are still alive. Yet when themselves assailed they usually behave with abject cowardice. The Hills had a large Airedale terrier, an energetic dog of much courage. Not long before our visit this dog put up a hyena from a bushy ravine, in broad daylight, ran after it, overtook it, and flew at it. The hyena made no effective fight, although the dog—not a third its weight—bit it severely, and delayed its flight so that it was killed.
During the first few weeks of our trip I not infrequently heard hyenas after nightfall but saw none. Kermit, however, put one out of a ravine or dry creek-bed—a donga, as it is locally called—and though the brute had a long start he galloped after it and succeeded in running it down. The chase was a long one, for twice the hyena got in such rocky country that he almost distanced his pursuer; but at last, after covering nearly ten miles, Kermit ran into it in the open, shooting it from the saddle as it shambled along at a canter growling with rage and terror. I would not have recognized the cry of the hyenas from what I had read, and I did not hear them laugh. Pease said that he had only once heard them really laugh. On that occasion he was watching for lions outside a Somali zareba. Suddenly a leopard leaped clear over the zareba, close beside him, and in a few seconds came flying back again, over the high thorn fence, with a sheep in its mouth; but no sooner had it landed than the hyenas rushed at it and took away the sheep; and then their cackling and shrieking sounded exactly like the most unpleasant kind of laughter. The normal death of very old lions, as they grow starved and feeble—unless they are previously killed in an encounter with dangerous game like buffalo—is to be killed and eaten by hyenas; but of course a lion in full vigor pays no heed to hyenas, unless it is to kill one if it gets in the way.
During the last few decades, in Africa, hundreds of white hunters, and thousands of native hunters, have been killed or wounded by lions, buffaloes, elephants, and rhinos. All are dangerous game; each species has to its gruesome credit a long list of mighty hunters slain or disabled. Among those most competent to express judgment there is the widest difference of opinion as to the comparative danger in hunting the several kinds of animals. Probably no other hunter who has ever lived has combined Selous’s experience with his skill as a hunter and his power of accurate observation and narration. He has killed between three and four hundred lions, elephants, buffaloes, and rhinos, and he ranks the lion as much the most dangerous, and the rhino as much the least, while he puts the buffalo and elephant in between, and practically on a par. Governor Jackson has killed between eighty and ninety of the four animals; and he puts the buffalo unquestionably first in point of formidable capacity as a foe, the elephant equally unquestionably second, the lion third, and the rhino last. Drummond, who wrote a capital book on South African game, who was for years a professional hunter like Selous, who had fine opportunities for observation, but who was a much less accurate observer than Selous, put the rhino as unquestionably the most dangerous, with the lion as second, and the buffalo and elephant nearly on a level. Samuel Baker, a good observer, but with less experience of African game than any one of the above, put the elephant first, the rhino second, the buffalo seemingly third, and the lion last. The experts of greatest experience thus absolutely disagree among themselves; and there is the same wide divergence of view among good hunters and trained observers whose opportunities have been less. Mr. Abel Chapman, for instance, regards both the elephant and the rhino as more dangerous than the lion; and most of the hunters I met in East Africa seemed inclined to rank the buffalo as more dangerous than any other animal. A man who has shot but a dozen or a score of these various animals, all put together, is not entitled to express any but the most tentative opinion as to their relative prowess and ferocity; yet on the whole it seems to me that the weight of opinion among those best fitted to judge is that the lion is the most formidable opponent of the hunter, under ordinary conditions. But we must ever keep in mind the fact that the surrounding conditions, the geographical locality, and the wide individual variation of temper within the ranks of each species, must all be taken into account. Under certain circumstances, a lion may be easily killed, whereas a rhino would be a dangerous foe. Under other conditions the rhino could be attacked with impunity, and the lion only with the utmost hazard; and one bull buffalo might flee and one bull elephant charge, and yet the next couple met with might show an exact reversal of behavior.
At any rate, during the last three or four years, in German and British East Africa and Uganda, over fifty white men have been killed or mauled and hurt by lions, buffaloes, elephants, and rhinos; and the lions have the largest list of victims to their credit. In Nairobi churchyard I was shown the graves of seven men who had been killed by lions, and of one who had been killed by a rhino. The first man to meet us on the African shore was Mr. Campbell, Governor Jackson’s A.D.C., and only a year previously he had been badly mauled by a lion. We met one gentleman who had been crippled for life by a lioness. He had marked her into some patches of brush, and coming up, tried to put her out of one thick clump. Failing, he thought she might have gone into another thicket, and walked toward it; instantly that his back was turned, the lioness, who had really been in the first clump of brush, raced out after him, threw him down, and bit him again and again before she was driven off. One night we camped at the very spot where, a score of years before, a strange tragedy had happened. It was in the early days of the opening of the country, and an expedition was going toward Uganda; one of the officials in charge was sleeping in a tent with the flap open. There was an askari on duty; yet a lion crept up, entered the tent, and seized and dragged forth the man. He struggled and made outcry; there was a rush of people, and the lion dropped his prey and bounded off. The man’s wounds were dressed, and he was put back to bed in his own tent; but an hour or two after the camp again grew still, the lion returned, bent on the victim of whom he had been robbed; he re-entered the tent, seized the unfortunate wounded man with his great fangs, and this time made off with him into the surrounding darkness, killed and ate him. Not far from the scene of this tragedy, another had occurred. An English officer named Stewart, while endeavoring to kill his first lion, was himself set on and slain. At yet another place we were shown where two settlers, Messrs. Lucas and Goldfinch, had been one killed and one crippled by a lion they had been hunting. They had been following the chase on horseback, and being men of bold nature, and having killed several lions, had become too daring. They hunted the lion into a small piece of brush and rode too near it. It came out at a run and was on them before their horses could get under way. Goldfinch was knocked over and badly bitten and clawed; Lucas went to his assistance, and was in his turn knocked over, and the lion then lay on him and bit him to death. Goldfinch, in spite of his own severe wounds, crawled over and shot the great beast as it lay on his friend.
Most of the settlers with whom I was hunting had met with various adventures in connection with lions. Sir Alfred had shot many in different parts of Africa; some had charged fiercely, but he always stopped them. Captain Slatter had killed a big male with a mane a few months previously. He was hunting it in company with Mr. Humphrey, the District Commissioner of whom I have already spoken, and it gave them some exciting moments, for when hit it charged savagely. Humphrey had a shotgun loaded with buckshot, Slatter his rifle. When wounded, the lion charged straight home, hit Slatter, knocking him flat and rolling him over and over in the sand, and then went after the native gun-bearer, who was running away—the worst possible course to follow with a charging lion. The mechanism of Slatter’s rifle was choked by the sand, and as he rose to his feet he saw the lion overtake the fleeing man, rise on his hind legs like a rearing horse—not springing—and strike down the fugitive. Humphrey fired into him with buckshot, which merely went through the skin; and some minutes elapsed before Slatter was able to get his rifle in shape to kill the lion, which, fortunately, had begun to feel the effect of his wounds, and was too sick to resume hostilities of its own accord. The gun-bearer was badly but not fatally injured. Before this, Slatter, while on a lion-hunt, had been set afoot by one of the animals he was after, which had killed his horse. It was at night and the horse was tethered within six yards of his sleeping master. The latter was aroused by the horse galloping off, and he heard it staggering on for some sixty yards before it fell. He and his friend followed it with lanterns and drove off the lion, but the horse was dead. The tracks and the marks on the horse showed what had happened. The lion had sprung clean on the horse’s back, his fore claws dug into the horse’s shoulders, his hind claws cutting into its haunches, while the great fangs bit at the neck. The horse struggled off at a heavy run, carrying its fearsome burden. After going some sixty yards the lion’s teeth went through the spinal cord, and the ride was over. Neither animal had made a sound, and the lion’s feet did not touch the earth until the horse fell. While a magistrate in the Transvaal, Pease had under him as game officer a Boer hunter, a fine fellow, who underwent an extraordinary experience. He had been off some distance with his Kaffir boys, to hunt a lion. On his way home the hunter was hunted. It was after nightfall. He had reached a region where lions had not been seen for a long time, and where an attack by them was unknown. He was riding along a trail in the darkness, his big boarhound trotting ahead, his native “boys” some distance behind. He heard a rustle in the bushes alongside the path, but paid no heed, thinking it was a reedbuck. Immediately afterward two lions came out in the path behind and raced after him. One sprang on him, tore him out of the saddle, and trotted off holding him in its mouth, while the other continued after the frightened horse. The lion had him by the right shoulder, and yet with his left hand he wrenched his knife out of his belt and twice stabbed it. The second stab went to the heart and the beast let go of him, stood a moment, and fell dead. Meanwhile, the dog had followed the other lion, which now, having abandoned the chase of the horse, and with the dog still at his heels, came trotting back to look for the man. Crippled though he was, the hunter managed to climb a small tree; and though the lion might have gotten him out of it, the dog interfered. Whenever the lion came toward the tree the dog worried him, and kept him off until, at the shouts and torches of the approaching Kaffir boys, he sullenly retired, and the hunter was rescued.
Percival had a narrow escape from a lion, which nearly got him, though probably under a misunderstanding. He was riding through a wet spot of ground, where the grass was four feet high, when his horse burst suddenly into a run and the next moment a lion had galloped almost alongside of him. Probably the lion thought it was a zebra, for when Percival, leaning over, yelled in his face, the lion stopped short. But he at once came on again, and nearly caught the horse. However, they were now out of the tall grass, and the lion gradually drew up when they reached the open country.
The two Hills, Clifford and Harold, were running an ostrich farm. The lions sometimes killed their ostriches and stock; and the Hills in return had killed several lions. The Hills were fine fellows; Africanders, as their forefathers for three generations had been, and frontiersmen of the best kind. From the first moment they and I became fast friends, for we instinctively understood one another, and found that we felt alike on all the big questions, and looked at life, and especially the life of effort led by the pioneer settler, from the same standpoint. They reminded me, at every moment, of those Western ranchmen and homemakers with whom I have always felt a special sense of companionship and with whose ideals and aspirations I have always felt a special sympathy. A couple of months before my visit, Harold Hill had met with a rather unpleasant adventure. He was walking home across the lonely plains, in the broad daylight, never dreaming that lions might be abroad, and was unarmed. When still some miles from his house, while plodding along, he glanced up and saw three lions in the trail only fifty yards off, staring fixedly, at him. It happened to be a place where the grass was rather tall, and lions are always bold where there is the slightest cover; whereas, unless angered, they are cautious on bare ground. He halted, and then walked slowly to one side; and then slowly forward toward his house. The lions followed him with their eyes, and when he had passed they rose and slouched after him. They were not pleasant followers, but to hurry would have been fatal; and he walked slowly on along the road, while for a mile he kept catching glimpses of the tawny bodies of the beasts as they trod stealthily forward through the sunburned grass, alongside or a little behind him. Then the grass grew short, and the lions halted and continued to gaze after him until he disappeared over a rise.
Everywhere throughout the country we were crossing were signs that the lion was lord and that his reign was cruel. There were many lions, for the game on which they feed was extraordinarily abundant. They occasionally took the ostriches or stock of the settlers, or ravaged the herds and flocks of the natives, but not often; for their favorite food was yielded by the swarming herds of kongoni and zebras, on which they could prey at will. Later we found that they did not molest the buffalo, even where they lived in the same reed beds; and this though elsewhere they habitually prey on the buffalo. But where zebras and hartebeests could be obtained without effort, it was evidently not worth their while to challenge such formidable quarry. Every “kill” I saw was a kongoni or a zebra; probably I came across fifty of each. One zebra kill, which was not more than twenty-four hours old (after the lapse of that time the vultures and marabouts, not to speak of the hyenas and jackals, leave only the bare bones), showed just what had occurred. The bones were all in place, and the skin still on the lower legs and head. The animal was lying on its belly, the legs spread out, the neck vertebra crushed; evidently the lion had sprung clean on it, bearing it down by his weight while he bit through the back of the neck, and the zebra’s legs had spread out as the body yielded under the lion. One fresh kongoni kill showed no marks on the haunches, but a broken neck and claw marks on the face and withers; in this case the lion’s hind legs had remained on the ground, while with his fore paws he grasped the kongoni’s head and shoulders, holding it until the teeth splintered the neck bone.
One or two of our efforts to get lions failed, of course; the ravines we beat did not contain them, or we failed to make them leave some particularly difficult kill—for lions lie close. But Sir Alfred knew just the right place to go to, and was bound to get us lions—and he did.
One day we started from the ranch house in good season for an all-day lion hunt. Besides Kermit and myself, there was a fellow guest, a very good fellow, Medlicott, and not only our host, but our hostess and her daughter; and we were joined by Percival at lunch, which we took under a great figtree, at the foot of a high, rocky hill. Percival had with him a little mongrel bulldog, and a Masai “boy,” a fine, bold-looking savage, with a handsome head-dress and the usual formidable spear; master, man, and dog evidently all looked upon any form of encounter with lions simply in the light of a spree.
After lunch we began to beat down a long donga, or dry watercourse—a creek, as we should call it in the Western plains country. The watercourse, with low, steep banks, wound in curves, and here and there were patches of brush, which might contain anything in the shape of lion, cheetah, hyena, or wild dog. Soon we came upon lion spoor in the sandy bed; first the footprints of a big male, then those of a lioness. We walked cautiously along each side of the donga, the horses following close behind so that if the lion were missed we could gallop after him and round him up on the plain. The dogs—for besides the little bull we had a large brindled mongrel named Ben, whose courage belied his looks—began to show signs of scenting the lion; and we beat out each patch of brush, the natives shouting and throwing in stones, while we stood with the rifles where we could best command any probable exit. After a couple of false alarms the dogs drew toward one patch, their hair bristling, and showing such eager excitement that it was evident something big was inside; and in a moment one of the boys called, “simba” (lion), and pointed with his finger. It was just across the little ravine, there about four yards wide and as many feet deep; and I shifted my position, peering eagerly into the bushes for some moments before I caught a glimpse of tawny hide; as it moved, there was a call to me to “shoot,” for at that distance, if the lion charged, there would be scant time to stop it; and I fired into what I saw. There was a commotion in the bushes, and Kermit fired; and immediately afterward there broke out on the other side, not the hoped-for big lion, but two cubs the size of mastiffs. Each was badly wounded and we finished them off; even if unwounded, they were too big to take alive.
This was a great disappointment, and as it was well on in the afternoon, and we had beaten the country most apt to harbor our game, it seemed unlikely that we would have another chance. Percival was on foot and a long way from his house, so he started for it; and the rest of us also began to jog homeward. But Sir Alfred, although he said nothing, intended to have another try. After going a mile or two he started off to the left at a brisk canter; and we, the other riders, followed, leaving behind our gun-bearers, saises, and porters. A couple of miles away was another donga, another shallow watercourse with occasional big brush patches along the winding bed; and toward this we cantered. Almost as soon as we reached it our leader found the spoor of two big lions; and with every sense acock, we dismounted and approached the first patch of tall bushes. We shouted and threw in stones, but nothing came out; and another small patch showed the same result. Then we mounted our horses again, and rode toward another patch a quarter of a mile off. I was mounted on Tranquillity, the stout and quiet sorrel.
This patch of tall, thick brush stood on the hither bank—that is, on our side of the watercourse. We rode up to it and shouted loudly. The response was immediate, in the shape of loud gruntings and crashings through the thick brush. We were off our horses in an instant, I throwing the reins over the head of mine; and without delay, the good old fellow began placidly grazing, quite unmoved by the ominous sounds immediately in front.
I sprang to one side; and for a second or two we waited uncertain whether we should see the lions charging out ten yards distant, or running away. Fortunately, they adopted the latter course. Right in front of me, thirty yards off, there appeared, from behind the bushes which had first screened him from my eyes, the tawny, galloping form of a big maneless lion. Crack! the Winchester spoke; and as the soft-nosed bullet ploughed forward through his flank the lion swerved so that I missed him with the second shot; but my third bullet went through the spine and forward into his chest. Down he came, sixty yards off, his hind quarters dragging, his head up, his ears back, his jaws open and lips drawn up in a prodigious snarl, as he endeavored to turn to face us. His back was broken; but of this we could not at the moment be sure, and if it had merely been grazed, he might have recovered, and then, even though dying, his charge might have done mischief. So Kermit, Sir Alfred, and I fired, almost together, into his chest. His head sank, and he died.
This lion had come out on the left of the bushes; the other, to the right of them, had not been hit, and we saw him galloping off across the plain, six or eight hundred yards away. A couple more shots missed, and we mounted our horses to try to ride him down. The plain sloped gently upward for three-quarters of a mile to a low crest or divide, and long before we got near him he disappeared over this. Sir Alfred and Kermit were tearing along in front and to the right, and Miss Pease close behind; while Tranquillity carried me, as fast as he could, on the left, with Medlicott near me. On topping the divide Sir Alfred and Kermit missed the lion, which had swung to the left, and they raced ahead too far to the right. Medlicott and I, however, saw the lion, loping along close behind some kongoni; and this enabled me to get up to him as quickly as the lighter men on the faster horses. The going was now slightly downhill, and the sorrel took me along very well, while Medlicott, whose horse was slow, bore to the right and joined the other two men. We gained rapidly, and, finding out this, the lion suddenly halted and came to bay in a slight hollow, where the grass was rather long. The plain seemed flat, and we could see the lion well from horseback; but, especially when he lay down, it was most difficult to make him out on foot, and impossible to do so when kneeling.
We were about a hundred and fifty yards from the lion. Sir Alfred, Kermit, Medlicott, and Miss Pease off to one side, and slightly above him on the slope, while I was on the level, nearly equidistant from him and them. Kermit and I tried shooting from the horses; but at such a distance this was not effective. Then Kermit got off, but his horse would not let him shoot; and when I got off I could not make out the animal through the grass with sufficient distinctness to enable me to take aim. Old Ben the dog had arrived, and, barking loudly, was strolling about near the lion; which paid him not the slightest attention. At this moment my black sais, Simba, came running up to me and took hold of the bridle; he had seen the chase from the line of march and had cut across to join me. There was no other sais or gun-bearer anywhere near, and his action was plucky, for he was the only man afoot, with the lion at bay. Lady Pease had also ridden up and was an interested spectator only some fifty yards behind me.
Now, an elderly man with a varied past which includes rheumatism does not vault lightly into the saddle; as his sons, for instance, can; and I had already made up my mind that in the event of the lion’s charging it would be wise for me to trust to straight powder rather than to try to scramble into the saddle and get under way in time. The arrival of my two companions settled matters. I was not sure of the speed of Lady Pease’s horse; and Simba was on foot and it was of course out of the question for me to leave him. So I said, “Good, Simba, now we’ll see this thing through,” and gentle-mannered Simba smiled a shy appreciation of my tone, though he could not understand the words. I could still not see the lion when I knelt, but he was now standing up, looking first at one group of horses and then at the other, his tail lashing to and fro, his head held low, and his lips dropped over his mouth in peculiar fashion, while his harsh and savage growling rolled thunderously over the plain. Seeing Simba and me on foot, he turned toward us, his tail lashing quicker and quicker. Resting my elbow on Simba’s bent shoulder, I took steady aim and pressed the trigger; the bullet went in between the neck and shoulder, and the lion fell over on his side, one foreleg in the air. He recovered in a moment and stood up, evidently very sick, and once more faced me, growling hoarsely. I think he was on the eve of charging. I fired again at once, and this bullet broke his back just behind the shoulders; and with the next I killed him outright, after we had gathered round him.
These were two good-sized maneless lions; and very proud of them I was. I think Sir Alfred was at least as proud, especially because we had performed the feat alone, without any professional hunters being present. “We were all amateurs, only gentleman riders up,” said Sir Alfred. It was late before we got the lions skinned. Then we set off toward the ranch, two porters carrying each lion skin, strapped to a pole; and two others carrying the cub skins. Night fell long before we were near the ranch; but the brilliant tropic moon lighted the trail. The stalwart savages who carried the bloody lion skins swung along at a faster walk as the sun went down and the moon rose higher; and they began to chant in unison, one uttering a single word or sentence, and the others joining in a deep-toned, musical chorus. The men on a safari, and indeed African natives generally, are always excited over the death of a lion, and the hunting tribes then chant their rough hunting songs, or victory songs, until the monotonous, rhythmical repetitions make them grow almost frenzied. The ride home through the moonlight, the vast barren landscape shining like silver on either hand, was one to be remembered; and above all, the sight of our trophies and of their wild bearers.
Three days later we had another successful lion hunt. Our camp was pitched at a water hole in a little stream called Potha, by a hill of the same name. Pease, Medlicott, and both the Hills were with us, and Heller came too; for he liked, when possible, to be with the hunters so that he could at once care for any beast that was shot. As the safari was stationary, we took fifty or sixty porters as beaters. It was thirteen hours before we got into camp that evening. The Hills had with them as beaters and water-carriers half a dozen of the Wakamba who were working on their farm. It was interesting to watch these naked savages, with their filed teeth, their heads shaved in curious patterns, and carrying for arms little bows and arrows.
Before lunch we beat a long, low hill. Harold Hill was with me; Medlicott and Kermit were together. We placed ourselves, one couple on each side of a narrow neck, two-thirds of the way along the crest of the hill; and soon after we were in position we heard the distant shouts of the beaters as they came toward us, covering the crest and the tops of the slopes on both sides. It was rather disconcerting to find how much better Hill’s eyes were than mine. He saw everything first, and it usually took some time before he could make me see it. In this first drive nothing came my way except some mountain reedbuck does, at which I did not shoot. But a fine male cheetah came to Kermit, and he bowled it over in good style as it ran.
Then the beaters halted, and waited before resuming their march until the guns had gone clear round and established themselves at the base of the farther end of the hill. This time Kermit, who was a couple of hundred yards from me, killed a reedbuck and a steinbuck. Suddenly Hill said, “Lion,” and endeavored to point it out to me, as it crept cautiously among the rocks on the steep hill-side, a hundred and fifty yards away. At first I could not see it; finally I thought I did and fired, but, as it proved, at a place just above him. However, it made him start up, and I immediately put the next bullet behind his shoulders; it was a fatal shot; but, growling, he struggled down the hill, and I fired again and killed him. It was not much of a trophy, however, turning out to be a half-grown male.
We lunched under a tree, and then arranged for another beat. There was a long, wide valley, or rather a slight depression in the ground—for it was only three or four feet below the general level—in which the grass grew tall, as the soil was quite wet. It was the scene of Percival’s adventure with the lion that chased him. Hill and I stationed ourselves on one side of this valley or depression, toward the upper end; Pease took Kermit to the opposite side; and we waited, our horses some distance behind us. The beaters were put in at the lower end, formed a line across the valley, and beat slowly toward us, making a great noise.
They were still some distance off when Hill saw three lions, which had slunk stealthily off ahead of them through the grass. I have called the grass tall, but this was only by comparison with the short grass of the dry plains. In the depression or valley it was some three feet high. In such grass a lion, which is marvelously adept at hiding, can easily conceal itself, not merely when lying down, but when advancing at a crouching gait. If it stands erect, however, it can be seen.
There were two lions near us, one directly in our front, a hundred and ten yards off. Some seconds passed before Hill could make me realize that the dim yellow smear in the yellow-brown grass was a lion; and then I found such difficulty in getting a bead on it that I overshot. However, the bullet must have passed very close—indeed, I think it just grazed him—for he jumped up and faced us, growling savagely. Then, his head lowered, he threw his tail straight into the air and began to charge. The first few steps he took at a trot, and before he could start into a gallop I put the soft-nosed Winchester bullet in between the neck and shoulder. Down he went with a roar; the wound was fatal, but I was taking no chances, and I put two more bullets in him. Then we walked toward where Hill had already seen another lion—the lioness, as it proved. Again he had some difficulty in making me see her; but he succeeded, and I walked toward her through the long grass, repressing the zeal of my two gunbearers, who were stanch, but who showed a tendency to walk a little ahead of me on each side, instead of a little behind. I walked toward her because I could not kneel to shoot in grass so tall; and when shooting off-hand I like to be fairly close, so as to be sure that my bullets go in the right place. At sixty yards I could make her out clearly, snarling at me as she faced me; and I shot her full in the chest. She at once performed a series of extraordinary antics, tumbling about on her head, just as if she were throwing somersaults, first to one side and then to the other. I fired again, but managed to shoot between the somersaults, so to speak, and missed her. The shot seemed to bring her to herself, and away she tore; but instead of charging us she charged the line of beaters. She was dying fast, however, and in her weakness failed to catch anyone; and she sank down into the long grass. Hill and I advanced to look her up, our rifles at full cock, and the gunbearers close behind. It is ticklish work to follow a wounded Kon in tall grass, and we walked carefully, every sense on the alert. We passed Heller, who had been with the beaters. He spoke to us with an amused smile. His only weapon was a pair of field-glasses, but he always took things as they came, with entire coolness, and to be close to a wounded lioness when she charged merely interested him. A beater came running up and pointed toward where he had seen her, and we walked toward the place. At thirty yards distance Hill pointed, and eagerly peering, I made out the form of the lioness showing indistinctly through the grass. She was half crouching, half sitting, her head bent down; but she still had strength to do mischief. She saw us, but before she could turn I sent a bullet through her shoulders; down she went, and was dead when we walked up. A cub had been seen, and another full-grown lion, but they had slunk off and we got neither.
This was a full-grown, but young, lioness of average size; her cubs must have been several months old. We took her entire to camp to weigh; she weighed two hundred and eighty-three pounds. The first Hon, which we had difficulty in finding, as there were no identifying marks in the plain of tall grass, was a good-sized male, weighing about four hundred pounds, but not yet full-grown; although he was probably the father of the cubs. We were a long way from camp, and, after beating in vain for the other lion, we started back; it was after nightfall before we saw the campfires. It was two hours later before the porters appeared, bearing on poles the skin of the dead lion, and the lioness entire. The moon was nearly full, and it was interesting to see them come swinging down the trail in the bright silver light, chanting in deep tones, over and over again, a line or phrase that sounded like:
“Zon-zon-boule ma ja guntai; zon-zon-boule ma ja guntai.”
Occasionally they would interrupt it by the repetition in unison, at short intervals, of a guttural ejaculation, sounding like “huzlem.” They marched into camp, then up and down the lines, before the rows of small fires; then, accompanied by all the rest of the porters, they paraded up to the big fire where I was standing. Here they stopped and ended the ceremony by a minute or two’s vigorous dancing amid singing and wild shouting. The firelight gleamed and flickered across the grim dead beasts, and the shining eyes and black features of the excited savages, while all around the moon flooded the landscape with her white light.
(Source: UNZ.com, https://www.unz.com/print/Scribners-1909nov-00513/)