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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XXIX. The Unexpected Anecdote Of The Lion
|Page 3 of 4||
"On the Karroo--was it called?"
"That's the term. Some of it was freehold though. Luckily. We got along very well in the old days.--But there's no ostriches on that farm now." He had a diamond mine in his head, just at the moment, but he stopped and left a little to the girl's imagination. Besides which it had occurred to him with a kind of shock that he was lying.
"What became of the ostriches?"
"We sold 'em off, when we parted with the farm. Do you mind if I have another cigarette? That was when I was quite a little chap, you know, that we had this ostrich farm."
"Did you have Blacks and Boers about you?"
"Lots," said Mr. Hoopdriver, striking a match on his instep and beginning to feel hot at the new responsibility he had brought upon himself.
"How interesting! Do you know, I've never been out of England except to Paris and Mentone and Switzerland."
"One gets tired of travelling (puff) after a bit, of course."
"You must tell me about your farm in South Africa. It always stimulates my imagination to think of these places. I can fancy all the tall ostriches being driven out by a black herd--to graze, I suppose. How do ostriches feed?"
"Well," said Hoopdriver. "That's rather various. They have their fancies, you know. There's fruit, of course, and that kind of thing. And chicken food, and so forth. You have to use judgment."
"Did you ever see a lion?" "They weren't very common in our district," said Hoopdriver, quite modestly. "But I've seen them, of course. Once or twice."
"Fancy seeing a lion! Weren't you frightened?"
Mr. Hoopdriver was now thoroughly sorry he had accepted that offer of South Africa. He puffed his cigarette and regarded the Solent languidly as he settled the fate on that lion in his mind. "I scarcely had time," he said. "It all happened in a minute."
"Go on," she said.
"I was going across the inner paddock where the fatted ostriches were."
"Did you EAT ostriches, then? I did not know--"
"Eat them!--often. Very nice they ARE too, properly stuffed. Well, we--I, rather--was going across this paddock, and I saw something standing up in the moonlight and looking at me." Mr. Hoopdriver was in a hot perspiration now. His invention seemed to have gone limp. "Luckily I had my father's gun with me. I was scared, though, I can tell you. (Puff.) I just aimed at the end that I thought was the head. And let fly. (Puff.) And over it went, you know."
"AS dead. It was one of the luckiest shots I ever fired. And I wasn't much over nine at the time, neither."
"_I_ should have screamed and run away."
"There's some things you can't run away from," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "To run would have been Death."
"I don't think I ever met a lion-killer before," she remarked, evidently with a heightened opinion of him.
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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