256 HYENAS AND CHILDREN
of a freshly-killed eland bull. A few yards away were a circle of big fires, with thirty or forty natives talking and laughing over their supper.
Suddenly, in the very midst of the group, appeared the gaunt form of a hyena, with its sides looking as if they had been flattened by a spade. It seized the skin, and was lost in the darkness, before any of the men had recovered from their surprise. Indeed, the whole thing hardly lasted longer than a flash of lightning. In a moment, however, when they had recovered their senses, they were all after it, dogs as well as men, lighted by bundles of burning grass by way of torches. The trail was easily found, as it had to drag the huge eland skin, weighing at least forty pounds, in its mouth, but it was already across the stream, three hundred yards away, before the dogs came up. Then it dropped the skin at once, without attempting to show fight, and galloped off as fast as its legs would carry it.
But they all knew the ways of hyenas well enough to be sure that this one was certain to return again before very long. So the dogs were tied up, and as there was still plenty of time before the moon rose, Selous took his rifle and waited under a bush outside the camp. After some time he fancied he saw something coming towards him, and when the creature was quite close he fired. It was too dark to tell clearly what had happened, but it seemed as if something fell, and then got up and walked off. Shouting for the dogs to be unfastened and for the Kaffirs to bring torches, Selous made ready to follow, and the hyena was tracked to some long grass a hundred yards away. It managed to beat off the attacks of the dogs, and reached the river, where it stood in a pool till an assegai from a Kaffir put an end to it, much to the joy of the natives, for the hyena was a well-known robber, and many were the goats and cattle that it had stolen for dinner.1
1 Steedman's Wanderings, and Selous' Travels passim.