A Terrible Adventure with Hyenas by C.
There are many mighty hunters, and most of them can tell of many very
thrilling adventures personally undergone with wild beasts; but probably
none of them ever went through an experience equalling that which Arthur
Spencer, the famous trapper, suffered in the wilds of Africa.
As the right-hand man of Carl Hagenbach, the great Hamburg dealer in
wild animals, for whom Spencer trapped some of the finest and rarest
beasts ever seen in captivity, thrilling adventures were everyday
occurrences to him. The trapper's life is infinitely more exciting and
dangerous than the hunter's, inasmuch as the latter hunts to kill, while
the trapper hunts to capture, and the relative risks are not, therefore,
comparable; but Spencer's adventure with the "scavenger of the wilds,"
as the spotted hyena is sometimes aptly called, was something so
terrible that even he could not recollect it without shuddering.
He was out with his party on an extended trapping expedition, and one
day he chanced to get separated from his followers; and, partly overcome
by the intense heat and his fatigue, he lay down and fell asleep—about
the most dangerous thing a solitary traveller in the interior of Africa
can do. Some hours later, when the scorching sun was beginning to settle
down in the west, he was aroused by the sound of laughter not far away.
For the moment he thought his followers had found him, and were amused
to find him taking his difficulties so comfortably; but hearing the
laugh repeated he realised at once that no human being ever gave
utterance to quite such a sound; in fact, his trained ear told him it
was the cry of the spotted hyena. Now thoroughly awake, he sat up and
saw a couple of the ugly brutes about fifty yards away on his left. They
were sniffing at the air, and calling. He knew that they had scented
him, but had not yet perceived him.
In such a position, as sure a shot and one so well armed as Spencer was,
a man who knew less about wild animals and their habits would doubtless
have sent the two brutes to earth in double quick time, and thus
destroyed himself. But Spencer very well knew from their manner that
they were but the advance-guard of a pack. The appearance of the pack,
numbering about one hundred, coincided with his thought. To tackle the
whole party was, of course, utterly out of the question; to escape by
flight was equally out of the question, for hyenas are remarkably fast
His only possible chance of escape, therefore, was to hoodwink them, if
he could, by feigning to be dead; for it is a characteristic of the
hyena to reject flesh that is not putrid. He threw himself down again,
and remained motionless, hoping the beasts would think him, though dead,
yet unfit for food. It was an off-chance, and he well knew it; but there
was nothing else to be done.
In a couple of seconds the advance-guard saw him, and, calling to their
fellows, rushed to him. The pack answered the cry and instantly
followed. Spencer felt the brutes running over him, felt their foul
breath on his neck, as they sniffed at him, snapping, snarling,
laughing; but he did not move. One of them took a critical bite at his
arm; but he did not stir. They seemed nonplussed. Another tried the
condition of his leg, while many of them pulled at his clothes, as if in
impotent rage at finding him so fresh. But he did not move; in an agony
of suspense he waited motionless.
Presently, to his amazement, he was lifted up by two hyenas, which fixed
their teeth in his ankle and his wrist, and, accompanied by the rest,
his bearers set off with him swinging between them, sometimes fairly
carrying him, sometimes simply dragging him, now and again dropping him
for a moment to refix their teeth more firmly in his flesh. Believing
him to be dead, they were conveying him to their retreat, there to
devour him when he was in a fit condition. He fully realised this, buthe was powerless to defend himself from such a fate.
How far they carried him Spencer could not tell, for from the pain he
was suffering from his wounds, and the dreadful strain of being carried
in such a manner, he fell into semi-consciousness from time to time; but
the distance must have been considerable, for night was over the land
and the sky sparkling with stars before the beasts finally halted; and
then they dropped him in what he knew, by the horrible and overpowering
smell peculiar to hyenas, was the cavern home of the pack. Here he lay
throughout the awful night, surrounded by his captors, suffering acutely
from his injuries, thirst, and the vile smell of the place.
When morning broke he found that the pack had already gone out in search
of more ready food, leaving him in charge of two immense brutes, which
watched him narrowly all through the day; for, unarmed as he was, and
exhausted, he knew it would be suicide to attempt to tackle his
janitors. He could only wait on chance. Once or twice during the day the
beasts tried him with their teeth, giving unmistakable signs of disgust
at the poor progress he was making. At nightfall they tried him again,
and, being apparently hungry, one of them deserted its post and went
off, like the others, in search of food.
This gave the wretched man a glimmering of hope, for he knew that the
hyena dislikes its own company, and that the remaining beast would
certainly desert if the pack remained away long enough. But for hour
after hour the animal stayed on duty, never going farther than the mouth
of the cave. When the second morning broke, however, the hyena grew very
restless, going out and remaining away for brief periods. But it always
returned, and every time it did so Spencer naturally imagined it had
seen the pack returning, and that the worst was in store for him. But at
length, about noon, the brute went out and did not come back.
Spencer waited and waited, fearing to move lest the creature should only
be outside, fearing to tarry lest he should miss his only chance of
escaping. After about an hour of this suspense he crept to the mouth of
the cave. No living creature was within sight. He got upon his faltering
feet, and hurried away as fast as his weakness would permit; but his
condition was so deplorable that he had not covered a mile when he
collapsed in a faint.
Fortune, however, favours the brave; and although he fell where he might
easily have remained for years without being discovered, he was found
the same day by a party of Boers, who dressed his wounds, gave him food
and drink (which he had not touched for two days), and helped him by
easy stages to the coast.
Being a man of iron constitution, he made a rapid and complete recovery,
but his wrist, ankle, arms, and thigh still bear the marks of the
hideous teeth which, but for his marvellous strength of will, would have
torn him, living, to shreds.