15 NEWS OF A LION. [CHAP. fir,
know how much thrashing they would stand, I let thorn alone. I took some pains to exhibit and explain to them the mechanism of a spring rat-trap, and when they sufficiently comprehended its object, I gave them to understand that my boxes were all guarded by rat-traps, so that if they put their hands into them to steal, they would infallibly be caught.
The black-and-white crows almost attacked our larder for food. They live on the dead fish that lie about then beach, which indeed is almost the only food hereabouts for them. The natives brought us milk every morning to barter for tobacco, and also some goats. Mr. Dam very kindly sent me a slaughter ox. It seemed to me the most princely of presents. Meat keeps wonderfully well here in this season (August and September), and even dries instead of tainting; but I subsequently found it otherwise in December. I had taken plenty of salt meat with me from Cape Town, and rice and biscuits-quite two months' provisions--for I knew it must be a long time before we could fall into f.ie ways of the country, and find our own commissariat there.
I gave the mules a day's rest, and then started with my first load to Scheppmansdorf. Andersson remained behind. Mr. Dam had sent me word that a lion had come over from the Swakop River, and was prowling about and very daring, and that a hunt should be got up at once. As we travelled sometimes in the soft sand of the river bed, sometimes on the gravelly plain, through which it runs, we kept a sharp look-out for the track that had been seen there; we found it after we had travelled ten miles. The natives amused themselves by cleverly imitating it; they half clenched their fist, and pressed their knuckles into the sand. It was curious to see to what a distance the lion kept to the waggon-road, walking down the middle of it as though it had been made for him. I listened deferentially to Timboo and John St. Helena, who were quite learned on the subject of tracking. Except some ostriches scudding about, some crows, lizards, and a few small birds, there was no other sign of animal life, but we saw spoors now and then of the little steinbok, a very pretty gazelle some sixteen inches high.
We followed the waggon path till an hour after nightfall, when the damp feel of the air, distant lights, and barking of dogs, announced that we had arrived at Scheppmansdorf. Mr. Bam welcomed me most kindly, introduced me to his wife, gave me an outhouse for my boxes and myself, and we formed a very pleasant party that evening, more