“Food,” repeated Jeekie. “Yes, necessity for human stomach, which unhappily built that way, so Ogula find out, and so dwarfs find out presently.” Then he looked about him and in a kind of aimless manner lifted his gun and fired. “There we are,” he said, “Little Bonsa understand bodily needs,” and he pointed to a fat buck of the sort that in South Africa is called Duiker, which his keen eyes had discovered in its form against a stone where it now lay shot through the head and dying. “No further trouble on score of grub for next three day,” he added. “Come on to camp, Major. I send one savage skin and bring that buck.”
So on they went to the river bank, Alan so tired now that the excitement was over, that he was not sorry to lean upon Jeekie’s arm. Reaching the stream they drank deep of its water, and finding that it was shallow at this spot, waded through it to the island without waiting for a canoe to ferry them over. Here they found a party of the cannibals already at work clearing reeds with their large, curved knives, in order to make a site for the hut. Another party under the command of their chief himself had gone to the top end of the island, to cut the stems of a willow-like shrub to serve as uprights. These people stared at Alan, which was not strange, as they had never before seen the face of a white man and were wondering, doubtless, what had become of the ancient and terrible fetish that he had worn. Without entering into explanations Jeekie in a great voice ordered two of them to fetch the buck, which the white man, whom he described as “husband of the goddess,” had “slain by thunder.” When these had departed upon their errand, leaving Jeekie to superintend the building operations, Alan sat down upon a fallen tree, watching one of the savages making fire with a pointed stick and some tinder.
Just then from the head of the island where the willows were being cut, rose the sound of loud roarings and of men crying out in affright. Seizing his gun Alan ran towards the spot whence the noise came. Forcing his way through a brake of reeds, he saw a curious sight. The Ogula in cutting the willows which grew about some tumbled rocks, had disturbed a lioness that had her lair there, and being fearless savages, had tried to kill her with their spears. The brute, rendered desperate by wounds, and the impossibility of escape, for here the surrounding water was deep, had charged them boldly, and as it chanced, felled to the ground their chief, that yellow-toothed man to whom Jeekie gave his orders. Now she was standing over him looking round her royally, her great paw upon his breast, which it seemed almost to cover, while the Ogula ran round and round shouting, for they feared that if they tried to attack her, she would kill the chief. This indeed she seemed about to do, for just as Alan arrived she dropped her head as though to tear out the man’s throat. Instantly he fired. It was a snap shot, but as it chanced