76 GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
when the owner of the sheep arrived, hot and panting, and told me that he had followed the traces of the lion for a mile and a half, but had been unable to go further. However, all his information was very precise, and I was able to give orders to my two beaters, who, luckily, were experienced men, for a track is far more difficult to follow up in summer than in winter.
They were both Arabs, from thirty to thirty-five years of age, strong, hardy, and cunning—true sons of the desert.
One was called Bilkassem, and the other Amar Ben-Sarah.
They divided the work between them, Bilkassem taking the animal from the time he left the settlement, and Amar Ben-Sarah from the point where the owner of the sheep had lost the track.
After a search of nearly two miles, Bilkassem found the skin of the sheep—for the lion is a dainty animal, and does not eat hides ; and, on reaching the neighbouring well, Bilkassem found a mark left by Amar Ben-Sarah. It was needless for him to go any further. His comrade was on the track, and he knew there was not much chance of its being lost. So Bilkassem returned to the tent and brought me his report.
Meantime Ben-Sarah followed the lion.
Towards mid-day Amar Ben-Sarah returned too. The lion had retired into its lair. The Arab had described a circle of a thousand paces round his den, and thus made sure of finding the exact spot. It was nearly 4,000 yards off.
My mind was made up, in all probability we should meet that very day.
The day wore on. I felt nervous and excited, and could neither eat, read, nor occupy myself with anything, in my feverish impatience, and shortly before sunset I set out. It is the time when any natives who may happen to have a lion in their neighbourhood invariably