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Chapter 23


The boys skinned her while we ate lunch. Then we started several of them back towards camp with the trophy, and ourselves cut across country to a small river known as the Stony Athi. There we dismounted from our horses, and sent them and the boys atop the ridge above the stream, while we ourselves explored afoot the hillside along the river.

This was a totally different sort of country from that to which we had been accustomed. Imagine a very bouldery hillside planted thickly with knee-high brambles and more sparsely with higher bushes. They were not really brambles, of course, but their tripping, tangling, spiky qualities were the same. We had to force our way through these, or step from boulder to boulder. Only very rarely did we get a little rubbly clear space to walk in, and then for only ten or twenty feet. We tried in spaced intervals to cover the whole hillside. It was very hard work. The boys, with the horses, kept pace with us on the sky-line atop, and two or three hundred yards away.

We had proceeded in this fashion for about a mile, when suddenly, and most unexpectedly, the biggest lion I ever saw leapt straight up from a bush twenty-five yards in front of me, and with a tremendous roar vanished behind another bush. I had just time to throw up the.405 shotgun-fashion and let drive a snapshot. Clifford Hill, who was ten yards to my right, saw the fur fly, and we all heard the snarl as the bullet hit. Naturally we expected an instant charge, but, as things turned out, it was evident the lion had not seen us at all. He had leapt at the sight of our men and horses on the sky-line, and when the bullet hit he must have ascribed it to them. At any rate, he began to circle through the tangled vines in their direction.

From their elevation they could follow his movements. At once they set up howls of terror and appeals for help. Some began frantically to run back and forth. None of them tried to run away; there was nowhere to go! The only thing that saved them was the thick and spiky character of the cover. The lion, instead of charging straight and fast, was picking an easy way.

We tore directly up hill as fast as we were able, leaping from rock to rock, and thrusting recklessly through the tangle. About half-way up I jumped to the top of a high, conical rock, and thence by good luck caught sight of the lion's great yellow head advancing steadily about eighty yards away. I took as good a sight as I could and pulled trigger. The recoil knocked me clear off the boulder, but as I fell I saw his tail go up and knew that I had hit. At once Clifford Hill and I jumped up on the rock again, but the lion had moved out of sight. By this time, however, the sound of the shots and the smell of blood had caused the dogs to close in. They did not, of course, attempt to attack the lion, nor even to get very near him, but their snarling and barking showed us the beast's whereabouts. Even this much is bad judgment on their part, as a number of them have been killed at it. The thicket burst into an unholy row.

We all manoeuvred rapidly for position. Again luck was with me, for again I saw his great head, the mane standing out all around it; and for the second time I planted a heavy bullet square in his chest. This stopped his advance; he lay down. His head was up and his eyes glared, as he uttered the most reverberating and magnificent roars and growls. The dogs leapt and barked around him. We came quite close, and I planted my fourth bullet in his shoulder. Even this was not enough. It took a fifth in the same place to finish him, and he died at last biting great chunks of earth.

The howls from the hill top ceased. All gathered to marvel at the lion's immense size. He measured three feet nine inches at the shoulder, and nine feet eleven inches between stakes, or ten feet eleven inches along contour. This is only five inches under record. We weighed him piecemeal, after a fashion, and put him between 550 and 600 pounds.

But these are only statistics, and mean little unless a real attempt is made to visualize them. As a matter of fact, his mere height--that of a medium-size zebra-was little unless accented by the impression of his tremendous power and quickness.

We skinned him, and then rode four long hours to camp. We arrived at dark, and at once set to work preparing the trophy. A dozen of us squatted around the skin, working by lantern light. Memba Sasa had had nothing to eat since before dawn, but in his pride and delight he refused to touch a mouthful until the job was finished. Several times we urged him to stop long enough for even a bite. He steadily declined, and whetted his knife, his eyes gleaming with delight, his lips crooning one of his weird Monumwezi songs. At eleven o'clock the task was done. Then I presented Memba Sasa with a tall mug of coffee and lots of sugar. He considered this a great honour.

Stewart Edward White

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