Chapter XII. The Lion Fight
 

Crashing through the jungle the huge beasts turned against those who had, been driving them on toward the stockade. With wild shouts and yells, the hunters and their native helpers tried to turn back the elephant tide, but it was useless. The animals had been frightened by the airship, and were following their leader, a big bull, that went crashing against great trees, snapping them off as if they were pipe stems.

"Say, this is something like!" cried Ned, as he guided the airship over the closely packed body of elephants, so Tom could get good pictures, for the herd had divided, and a small number had gone off with one of the other bulls.

"Yes, I'll get some great pictures," agreed Tom, as he looked in through a red covered opening in the camera, to see how much film was left.

The airship was now so low down that Tom, and the others, could easily make out the faces of the hunters, and the native helpers. One of the hunters, evidently the chief, shaking his fist at our hero, cried:

"Can't you take your blooming ship out of the way, my man? It's scaring the beasts, and we've been a couple of weeks on this drive. We don't want to lose all our work. Take your bloody ship away!"

"I guess he must be an Englishman," remarked Mr. Nestor, with a laugh.

"Bless my dictionary, I should say so," agreed Mr. Damon. "Bloody, blooming ship! The idea!"

"Well, I suppose we have scared the beasts," said Tom. "We ought to get out of the way. Put her up, Ned, and we'll come down some distance in advance."

"Why, aren't you going to take any more views of the elephants?"

"Yes, but I've got enough of a view from above. Besides, I've got to put in a fresh reel of film, and I might as well get out of their sight to do it. Maybe that will quiet them, and the hunters can turn them back toward the stockade. If they do, I have another plan."

"What is it?" his chum wanted to know.

"I'm going to make a landing, set up my camera at the entrance to the stockade, and get a series of pictures as the animals come in. I think that will be a novelty.

"That certainly will," agreed Mr. Nestor. "I am sure Mr. Period will appreciate that. But won't it be dangerous, Tom?"

"I suppose so, but I'm getting used to danger," replied our hero, with a laugh.

Ned put the ship high into the air, as Tom shut off the power from the camera. Then the Flyer was sent well on in advance of the stampede of elephants, so they could no longer see it, or hear the throb of the powerful engines. Tom hoped that this would serve to quiet the immense creatures.

As the travelers flew on, over the jungle, they could still hear the racket made by the hunters and beaters, and the shrill trumpeting of the elephants, as they crashed through the forest.

Tom at once began changing the film in the camera, and Ned altered the course of the airship, to send it back toward the stockade, which they had passed just before coming upon the herd of elephants.

I presume most of my readers know what an elephant drive is like. A stockade, consisting of heavy trees, is made in the jungle. It is like the old fashioned forts our forefathers used to make, for a defense against the Indians. There is a broad entrance to it, and, when all is in readiness, the beaters go out into the jungle, with the white hunters, to round up the elephants. A number of tame pachyderms are taken along to persuade the wild ones to follow.

Gradually the elephants are gathered together in a large body, and gently driven toward the stockade. The tame elephants go in first, and the others follow. Then the entrance is closed, and all that remains to be done is to tame the wild beasts, a not very easy task.

"Are you all ready?" asked Ned, after a bit, as he saw Tom come forward with the camera.

"Yes, I'm loaded for some more excitement. You can put me right over the stockade now, Ned, and when we see the herd coming back I'll go down, and take some views from the ground."

"I think they've got 'em turned," said Mr. Damon. "It sounds as if they were coming back this way."

A moment later they had a glimpse of the herd down below. It was true that the hunters had succeeded in stopping the stampede, and once more the huge beasts were going in the right direction.

"There's a good place to make a landing," suggested Tom, as he saw a comparatively clear place in the jungle. "It's near the stockade, and, in case of danger, I can make a quick get-away."

"What kind of danger are you looking for?" asked Ned, as he shifted the deflecting rudder.

"Oh, one of the beasts might take a notion to chase me."

The landing was made, and Tom, taking Ned and Mr. Nestor with him, and leaving the others to manage the airship in case a quick flight would be necessary, made his way along a jungle trail to the entrance to the stockade. He carried his camera with him, for it was not heavy.

On came the elephants, frightened by the shouts and cries of the beaters, and the firing of guns. The young inventor took his place near the stockade entrance, and, as the elephants advanced through the forest, tearing up trees and bushes, Tom got some good pictures of them.

Suddenly the advance of the brutes was checked, and the foremost of them raised their trunks, trumpeted in anger, and were about to turn back again.

"Get away from that bloomin' gate!" shouted a hunter to Tom. "You're scaring them as bad as your airship did."

"Yes, they won't go in with you there!" added another man.

Tom slipped around the corner of the stockade, out of sight, and from that vantage point he took scores of pictures, as the tame animals led the wild ones into the fenced enclosure. Then began another wild scene as the gate was closed.

The terrified animals rushed about, trying in vain to find a way of escape. Tom managed to climb up on top of the logs, and got some splendid pictures. But this was nearly his undoing. For, just as the last elephant rushed in, a big bull charged against the stockade, and jarred Tom so that he was on the point of falling. His one thought was about his camera, and he looked to see if he could drop it on the soft grass, so it would not be damaged.

He saw Koku standing below him, the giant having slipped out of the airship, to see the beasts at closer range.

"Catch this, Koku!" cried Tom, tossing the big man his precious camera, and the giant caught it safely. But Tom's troubles were not over. A moment later, as the huge elephant again rammed the fence, Tom fell off, but fortunately outside. Then the large beast, seeing a small opening in the gate that was not yet entirely closed, made for it. A moment later he was rushing straight at Tom, who was somewhat stunned by his fall, though it was not a severe one.

"Look out!" yelled Ned.

"Take a tree, Tom!" cried Mr. Nestor.

The elephant paid no attention to any one but Tom, whom he seemed to think had caused all his trouble. The young inventor dashed to one side, and then started to run toward the airship, for which Ned and Mr. Nestor were already making. The elephant hunters at last succeeded in closing the gate, blocking the chance of any more animals to escape.

"Run, Tom! Run!" yelled Ned, and Tom ran as he had never run before. The elephant was close after him though, crashing through the jungle. Tom could see the airship just ahead of him.

Suddenly he felt something grasp him from behind. He thought surely it was the elephant's trunk, but a quick glance over his shoulder showed him the friendly face of Koku, the giant.

"Me run for you," said Koku, as he caught Tom up under one arm, and, carrying the camera under the other, he set off at top speed. Now Koku could run well at times, and this time he did. He easily outdistanced the elephant, and, a little later, he set Tom down on the deck of the airship, with the camera beside him. Then Ned and Mr. Nestor came up panting, having run to one side.

"Quick!" cried Tom. "We must get away before the elephant charges the Flyer."

"He has stopped," shouted Mr. Nestor, and it was indeed so. The big beast, seeing again the strange craft that had frightened him before, stood still for a moment, and then plunged off into the jungle, trumpeting with rage.

"Safe!" gasped Tom, as he looked at his camera to see if it had been damaged. It seemed all right.

"Bless my latch key!" cried Mr. Damon. "This moving picture business isn't the most peaceful one in the world."

"No, it has plenty of perils," agreed Mr. Nestor.

"Come on, let's get out of here while we have the chance," suggested Tom. "There may be another herd upon us before we know it."

The airship was soon ascending, and Tom and his companions could look down and see the tame elephants in the stockade trying to calm the wild ones. Then the scene faded from sight.

"Well, if these pictures come out all right I'll have some fine ones," exclaimed Tom as he carried his camera to the room where he kept the films. "I fancy an elephant drive and stampede are novelties in this line."

"Indeed they are," agreed Mr. Nestor. "Mr. Period made no mistake when he picked you out, Tom, for this work. What are you going to try for next?"

"I'd like to get some lion and tiger pictures," said the young inventor. "I understand this is a good district for that. As soon as those elephants get quieted down, I'm going back to the stockade and have a talk with the hunters."

This he did, circling about in the airship until nearly evening. When they again approached the stockade all was quiet, and they came to earth. A native showed them where the white hunters had their headquarters, in some bungalows, and Tom and his party were made welcome. They apologized for frightening the big beasts, and the hunters accepted their excuses.

"As long as we got 'em, it's all right," said the head man, "though for awhile, I didn't like your bloomin' machine." Tom entertained the hunters aboard his craft, at which they marvelled much, and they gave him all the information they had about the lions and tigers in the vicinity.

"You won't find lions and tigers in herds, like. elephants though," said the head hunter. "And you may have to photograph 'em at night, as then is when they come out to hunt, and drink."

"Well, I can take pictures at night," said Tom, as he showed his camera apparatus.

The next day, in the airship, they left for another district, where, so the natives reported, several lions had been seen of late. They had done much damage, too, carrying off the native cattle, and killing several Indians.

For nearly a week Tom circled about in his airship, keeping a sharp lookout down below for a sign of lions that he might photograph them. But he saw none, though he did get some pictures of a herd of Indian deer that were well worth his trouble.

"I think I'll have to try for a night photograph," decided Tom at last. "I'll locate a spring where wild beasts are in the habit of coming, set the camera with the light going, and leave it there."

"But will the lions come up if they see the light?" asked Ned.

"I think so," replied his chum. "I'll take a chance, anyhow. If that doesn't work then I'll hide near by, and see what happens."

"Bless my cartridge belt!" cried Mr. Damon. "You don't mean that; do you Tom?"

"Of course. Come to think of it, I'm not going to leave my camera out there for a lion to jump on, and break. As soon as I get a series of pictures I'll bring it back to the ship, I think."

By inquiry among the natives they learned the location of a spring where, it was said, lions were in the habit of coming nightly to drink.

"That's the place I want!" cried Tom.

Accordingly the airship was headed for it, and one evening it came gently to earth in a little clearing on the edge of the jungle, while Koku, as was his habit, got supper.

After the meal Tom and Ned set the camera, and then, picking out a good spot nearby, they hid themselves to wait for what might happen. The lens was focused on the spring, and the powerful electric light set going. It glowed brightly, and our hero thought it might have the effect of keeping the beasts away, but Tom figured that, after they had looked at it for a while, and seen that it did not harm them, they would lose their suspicions, and come within range of his machine.

"The camera will do the rest," he said. In order not to waste films uselessly Tom arranged a long electric wire, running it from the camera to where he and Ned were hid. By pressing a button he could start or stop the camera any time he wished, and, as he had a view of the spring from his vantage point, he could have the apparatus begin taking pictures as soon as there was some animal within focus.

"Well, I'm getting stiff," said Ned, after an hour or so had passed in silent darkness, the only light being the distant one on the camera.

"So am I," said Tom.

"I don't believe anything will come to-night," went on his chum. "Let's go back and--"

He stopped suddenly, for there was a crackling in the underbrush, and the next moment the jungle vibrated to the mighty roar of a lion.

"He's coming!" hoarsely whispered Tom.

Both lads glanced through the trees toward the camera, and, in the light, they saw a magnificent, tawny beast standing on the edge of the spring. Once more he roared, as if in defiance, and then, as if deciding that the light was not harmful, he stooped to lap up the water

Hardly had he done so than there was another roar, and a moment later a second lion leaped from the dense jungle into the clearing about the spring. The two monarchs of the forest stood there in the glare of the light, and Tom excitedly pressed the button that started the shutter to working, and the film to moving back of the lens.

There was a slight clicking sound in the camera, and the lions turned startedly. Then both growled again, and the next instant they sprang at each other, roaring mightily.

"A fight!" cried Tom. "A lion fight, and right in front of my camera! It couldn't be better. This is great! This will be a film."

"Quiet!" begged Ned. "They'll hear you, and come for us. I don't want to be chewed up!"

"No danger of them hearing me!" cried Tom. and he had to shout to be heard above the roaring of the two tawny beasts, as they bit and clawed each other, while the camera took picture after picture of them.