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Few people have encountered a lion on its terms and lived to tell about it.

One who did was Beryl Markham. In her autobiography West with the Night she tells of the time as a little girl growing up in Africa in the early 1900’s when she came face to face with a lion. She was running playfully through the fields surrounding her family’s farm and suddenly came within twenty yards of the lion. The lion lay sprawled in the morning sun; it was huge, with a thick black-mane, his tail was moving slowly, stroking the rough grass like a knotted end of a rope. His body was sleek and easy; rusty-red, soft looking.. He wasn’t asleep, only idle. She stood there, scuffling her bare toes in the dust. Then the lion raised himself and began to look her over. She knew the rules about lions. She did not run. Trying not to look scared she walked away very slowly, and began to sing a song. Then she started to trot toward the rim of the low hill where she hoped some thick bushes would give her protection. She writes:

The country was gray-green and dry, and the sun lay on it closely, making the ground hot under my bare feet. There was no sound, no wind. Even the lion made no sound, coming swiftly behind me. What I remember most clearly of the moment that followed...a scream that was barely a whisper, a blow that struck me to the ground, and as I buried my face in my arms I felt the lion’s teeth close on [my flesh]. I remained conscious, but I closed my eyes and tried not to be. It was not so much the pain as it was the sound. The sound of the lion’s roar in my ears will only be duplicated… when the gates of hell slip their wobbly hinges one day, and give voice and authenticity to the...

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