Chapter XXV. Dick and the Lion
 

When poor Dick came to his senses he was lying in a heap on the decayed leaves at the bottom of the hollow between the rocks. The stuff Josiah Crabtree had thrown down still lay on top, of him, and it was a wonder that he had not been smothered.

"Where in the world am I?" was the first thought which crossed his confused mind. He tried to sit up, but found this impossible until he had scattered the dead leaves and tree branches. Even then he was so bewildered that he hardly knew what to do, excepting to stare around at his strange surroundings. Slowly the truth dawned upon him -- how Josiah Crabtree had struck him down on the lake shore.

"He must have brought me here," he murmured. "Perhaps he thought I was dead!"

Although Dick did not know it, he had been at the bottom of the hollow all evening and all night. The sun was now up once more, but it was a day later than he imagined.

The hollow was damp and full of ants and other insects, and as soon as he felt able the youth got up. There was a big lump behind his left ear where the stick had descended, and this hurt not a little.

"I'll get square with him some day," he muttered, as he tried to crawl out of the hollow. "He has more courage to play the villain than I gave him credit for. Sometime I'll face him again, and then things will be different."

It was no easy matter to get out of the hollow. The sides were steep and slippery, and four times poor Dick tried, only to slip back to the bottom. He was about to try a fifth time, when a sound broke upon his ears which caused him great alarm. From only a short distance away came the muffled roar of a lion.

Dick had never heard, this sound out in the open before, but he had heard it a number of times at the circus and at the menagerie in Central Park, New York, and he recognized the roar only too well.

"A lion!" he thought. "My gracious! I trust he isn't coming this way!"

But he was coming that way, as Dick soon discovered. A few seconds of silence were followed by another roar which to, the alarmed youth appeared to come from almost over his head. Then came a low whine, which was kept up for fully a minute, followed by another roar. Dick hardly knew what was best -- to remain at the bottom of the hollow or try to escape to some tree at the top of the opening. "If I go up now he may nab me on sight," he thought dismally. "Oh, if only I had my -- thank Heaven, I have!"

Dick had felt for his pistol before, to find it gone. But now he spotted the glint of the shiny barrel among the leaves. The weapon had fallen from his person at the time Crabtree had pitched him into the hollow. He reached for it, and to his joy found that it was fully loaded and ready for use.

Presently he heard the bushes overhead thrust aside, and then came a half roar, half whine that made him jump. Looking up, he saw a lion standing on the edge of the hollow facing him.

The monarch of the forest was holding one of his forepaws up and now he sat down on his haunches to lick the limb. Then he set up another whine and shook the limb painfully.

"He has hurt that paw," thought Dick. "Wonder if he sees me?"

Yes, he did see, just at that instant, and started back in astonishment. Then his face took on a fierce look and he gave a roar which could be heard for miles around.

Crack! It was the report of Dick's pistol, but the youth was nervous, and the bullet merely glanced along the lion's body, doing little or no damage. The beast roared again, then crouched down and prepared to leap upon the youth.

But the wounded forepaw was a hindrance to the lion's movements, and he began to crawl along the hollow's edge, seeking a better point from which to make a leap.

Then Dick's pistol spoke up a second time.

This shot was a far better one, and the bullet passed directly through the knee-joint of the lion's left forepaw. He was now wounded in both fore limbs, and set up a roar which seemed to fairly make the jungle tremble. Twice he started to leap down into the hollow, but each time retreated to shake one wounded limb after another into the air with whines of pain and distress.

As soon as the great beast reappeared once more Dick continued his firing. Soon his pistol was empty, but the lion had not been hit again. In nervous haste the lad started to re-load only to find that his cartridge box was empty.

"Get out!" he yelled at the lion, and threw a stone at the beast. But the lion was now determined to descend into the hollow, and paused only to calculate a sure leap to the boy's head.

But that pause, brief as it was, was fatal to the calculations of the monarch of the jungle. From his rear came two shots in rapid succession, each hitting him in a vulnerable portion of his body. He leaped up into the air, rolled over on the edge of the hollow, and then came down, head first, just grazing Dick's arm, and landing at the boy's feet, stone dead.

"Hurrah! I reckon I hit him!" came in Tom Rover's voice.

"And so did I," came from Randolph Rover.

"But he has disappeared."

"This way, Tom!" cried Dick, with all the strength he could command. He was shaking like a reed in the wind and all of the color had deserted his face.

"It's Dick!" ejaculated Tom. "I told you that I had heard several pistol shots."

Soon Tom and Mr. Rover presented themselves at the top of the hollow, followed by Aleck and Cujo. The latter procured a rope made of twisted vines, and by this Dick was raised up without much difficulty.