74 GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
When we had walked half a mile or so we heard the shouts of men and barking of dogs. We quickened our pace and fell in with a troop of armed men leading a number of dogs of all kinds. The lion had passed that wray. He had entered the settlement next to ours, had scaled the enclosure where the flock was kept, and had carried off a sheep. He had secured his dinner; and that was why he had not roared again.
This was hardly the moment in which to attack him; lions do not like being disturbed at their meals. So I begged the Arabs to follow up the track—always an easy matter when a sheep is the victim—and I returned to my tent.
' But why is it easier to track a lion when he carries off a sheep than when he takes some other animal ?' asked Dumas.
Gerard smiled. ' That is another story,' said he, ' and if you want to hear it, here it is : '—
One day a lion was talking to the Marabout Sidi-Moussa. Now if the lion is the most powerful of beasts, the Marabout is the most holy of dervishes. So the two were conversing very much on an equality.
' You are very strong,' said the Marabout to the lion.
' Very,' replied the lion.
'And what do you consider the measure of your strength to be ? '
' My strength is as the strength of forty horses.'
' Then you can seize a bullock, throw it over your shoulder, and carry it off ?' asked the Marabout.
' By the aid of Allah, I can,' said the lion.
' Or a horse, I suppose ? '
' By the aid of Allah, I can carry off a horse as easily as a bullock.'
' Or a wild boar ? '
' By the help of Allah, I should do with the wild boar as with the horse.'
' And a sheep ? '