The footing down this slope, too, was appalling, consisting mainly of chunks of lava interspersed with smooth, rounded stones and sparse tufts of grass. In spite of the stones we managed a sort of stumbling gallop. Why we did not all go down in a heap I do not know. At any rate we had no chance to watch our quarry, for we were forced to keep our eyes strictly to our way. When finally we emerged from that tumble of rocks, she had disappeared.
Either she had galloped out over the plains, or she had doubled back to take cover in the ravine. In the latter case she would stand. Our first job, therefore, was to determine whether she had escaped over the open country. To this end we galloped our horses madly in four different directions, pushing them to the utmost, swooping here and there in wide circles. That was an exhilarating ten minutes until we had surmounted every billow of the plain, spied in all directions, and assured ourselves beyond doubt that she had not run off. The horses fairly flew, spurning the hard sod, leaping the rock dikes, skipping nimbly around the pig holes, turning like cow-ponies under pressure of knee and rein. Finally we drew up, converged, and together jogged our sweating horses back to the ravine. There we learned from the boys that nothing more had been seen of our quarry.
We dismounted, handed our mounts to their syces, and prepared to make afoot a clean sweep of the wide, shallow ravine. Here was where the dogs came in handy. We left a rearguard of two men, and slowly began our beat.
The ravine could hardly be called a ravine; rather a shallow depression with banks not over a foot high, and with a varying width of from two to two hundred feet. The grass grew very patchy, and not very high; in fact, it seemed hardly tall enough to conceal anything as large as a lioness. We men walked along the edge of this depression, while the dogs ranged back and forth in its bottom.
We had gone thus a quarter-mile when one of the rearguard came running up.
“Bwana,” said he, “we have seen the lioness. She is lying in a patch of grass. After you had passed, we saw her raise her head.”
It seemed impossible that she should have escaped both our eyes and the dogs’ noses, but we returned. The man pointed out a thin growth of dried, yellow grass ten feet in diameter. Then it seemed even more incredible. Apparently we could look right through every foot of it. The man persisted, so we advanced in battle array. At thirty yards Captain D. saw the black tips of her ears. We all looked hard, and at last made her out, lying very flat, her head between her paws. Even then she was shadowy and unreal, and, as I have said, the cover did not look thick enough to conceal a good-sized dog.