196 HOW THE CAYMAN WAS KILLED
was baited the flesh of an acouri, a creature the size of a rabbit. The whole was then fastened to a post driven into the sand, and the attention of the cayman aroused to what was going on by some sharp blows on an empty tortoiseshell, which served as a drum.
About half-past five the Indian got up and stole out to look, and then he called triumphantly to the rest to come up at once, for on the hook was a cayman, ten feet and a half long.
But hard as it had been to secure him, it was nothing to the difficulty of getting him out alive, and with his scales uninjured, especially as the four Indians absolutely refused to help, and that left only two white men and a negro, to grapple with the huge monster. Of these, too, the negro showed himself very timid, and it was not easy to persuade him to be of any use.
The position was certainly puzzling. If the Indians refused their help, the cayman could not be taken alive at all, and if they gave it, it was only at the price of injuring the animal and spoiling its skin. At length a compromise occurred to Waterton. He would take the mast of the canoe, which was about eight feet long, and would thrust it down the cayman's throat, if it showed any signs of attacking him. On this condition, the Indians agreed to give their aid.
Matters being thus arranged, Waterton then placed his men — about seven in all — at the end of the rope and told them to pull till the cayman rose to the surface, while he himself knelt down with the pole about four yards from the bank, ready for the cayman, should he appear, roaring. Then he gave the signal, and slowly the men began to pull. But the cayman was not to be caught without a struggle. He snorted and plunged violently, till the rope was slackened, when he instantly dived below. Then the men braced all their strength for another effort, and this time out he came and made straight for Waterton.