His aim was true, the whole forepart of his body landed on the shelf and he hung there. Then he slipped. We distinctly heard his claws scrape the hard, smooth rock. He fell, turning a somersault, struck twenty feet below on the rough slant, bounded from that to fall down, striking suddenly and then to roll, a yellow wheel that lodged behind a rock and stretched out to move no more.
The hounds were silent; Jim and I were silent; a few little stones rattled, then were still. The dead silence of the canyon seemed to pay tribute to the lion’s unquenchable spirit and to the freedom he had earned to the last.
How long Jim and I sat there we never knew. The second tragedy, not so pitiful but as heart sickening as the first, crushed our spirits.
“Shore he was a game lion,” said Jim. “An’ I’ll have to get his skin.”
“I’m all in, Jim. I couldn’t climb out of that hole.” I said.
“You needn’t. Rest a little, take a good drink an’ leave your canteen here for me; then get your things back there on the trail an’ climb out. We’re not far from West Point. I’ll go back after the first lion’s skin an’ then climb straight up. You lead my horse to the point where you came off the rim.”
He clattered along the gorge knocking the stones and started down. I watched him letting himself over the end of the huge slabs until he passed out of my sight. A good, long drink revived me and I began the ascent.
From that moment on time did not matter to me. I forgot all about it. I felt only my leaden feet and my laboring chest and dripping skin. I did not even notice the additional weight of my rifle and camera though they must have overburdened me. I kept my eyes on the lion runway and plunged away with short steps. To look at these towering walls would have been to surrender.
At last, stumbling, bursting, sick, I gained the rim and had to rest before I could mount. When I did get into the saddle I almost fell from it.
Jones and Emett were waiting for me at the promontory where I had tied my horse, and were soon acquainted with the particulars of my adventure, and that Jim would probably not get out for hours. We made tracks for camp, and never did a place rouse in me such a sense of gratefulness. Emett got dinner and left on the fire a kettle of potato stew for Jim. It was almost dark when that worthy came riding into camp. We never said a word as he threw the two lion skins on the ground.
“Fellows, you shore have missed the wind-up!” he exclaimed.
We all looked at him and he looked at us.
“Was there any more?” I asked weakly.