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SPORTSMEN'S REVERIES.

Feeling grateful to the huge tortoise for the good service he had rendered, they shot a number of the great snakes that were gliding about on the ground, and placed them where he would find them on awaiting. They then picked their way carefully towards stretches on which the grass was shortest. When they had gone about two miles, and had already reached higher ground, they came to a ridge of rock running at right angles to their course. This they climbed, and on looking over the edge of the crest beheld a sight that made their hearts stand still. A monster, somewhat resembling an alligator, except that the back was arched, was waddling about perhaps seventy- five yards from them. It was sixty feet long, and to the top of its scales was at least twenty-five feet high. It was constantly moving, and the travellers noticed with some dismay that its motion was far more rapid than they would have supposed it could be.

"It is also a dinosaur," said the professor, watching it sharply, "and very closely resembles the Stegosaurus ungulatus restored in the museums. The question is, What shall we do with the living specimen, now that we have it?"

"Our chairman," said Ayrault, "must find a way to kill it, so that we may examine it closely."

"The trouble is," said Bearwarden, "our bullets will explode before they penetrate the scales. In the absence of any way of making a passage for an explosive ball by means of a solid one, we must strike a vital spot. His scales being no harder than the trunk of a tree, we can wound him terribly by touching him anywhere; but there is no object in doing this unless we can kill him, especially as there is no deep stream, such as would have delayed the mastodon in reaching us, to protect us here. We must spread out so as to divert his attention from one to another."

After some consultation it was decided that Cortlandt, who had only a shot-gun, should remain where they were, while Bearwarden and Ayrault moved some distance to the right and left. At a signal from Cortlandt, who was to attract the monster's attention, the wings were to advance simultaneously. These arrangements they carried out to the letter. When Bearwarden and Ayrault had gone about twenty-five yards on either side, the doctor imitated the peculiar grunting sound of an alligator, at which the colossal monster turned and faced him, while Bearwarden and Ayrault moved to the attack. The plan of this was good, for, with his attention fixed on three objects, the dinosaur seemed confused, and though Bearwarden and Ayrault had good angles from which to shoot, there was no possibility of their hitting each other. They therefore advanced steadily with their rifles half up. Though their own danger increased with each step, in the event of their missing, the chance of their shooting wild decreased, the idea being to reach the brain through the eye. Cortlandt's part had also its risks, for, being entirely defenceless with his shot-gun against the large creature, whose attention it was his duty to attract, he staked all on the marksmanship of his friends. Not considering this, however, he stood his ground, having the thumb-piece on his Winchester magazine shoved up and ready to make a noisy diversion if necessary in behalf of either wing. Having aroused the monster's curiosity, Cortlandt sprang up, waving his arms and his gun. The dinosaur lowered his head as if to charge, thereby bringing it to a level with the rifles, either of which could have given it the fatal shot. But as their fingers pressed the triggers the reptile soared up thirty feet in the air. Ayrault pulled for his first sight, shooting through the lower jaw, and shivering that member, while Bearwarden changed his aim and sighted straight for the heart. In an instant the monster was down again, just missing Ayrault's head as he stepped back, and Bearwarden's rifle poured a stream of explosive balls against its side, rending and blowing away the heavy scales. Having drawn the dinosaur's attention to himself, he retreated, while Ayrault renewed the attack. Cortlandt, seeing that the original plan had miscarried, poured showers of small shot against the huge beast's face. Finally, one of Ayrault's balls exploded in the brain, and all was over.

"We have killed it at last," said Bearwarden "but the first attack, though artistic, had not the brilliant results we expected. These creatures' mode of fighting is doubtless somewhat similar to that of the kangaroo, which it is said puts its forepaws gently, almost lovingly, on a man's shoulders, and then disembowels him by the rapid movement of a hind leg. But we shall get used to their method, and can do better next time."

They then reloaded their weapons and, while Cortlandt examined their victim from a naturalist's point of view, Bearwarden and Ayrault secured the heart, which they thought would be the most edible part, the operation being rendered possible by the amount of armour the explosive balls had stripped off.

"To-morrow," said Bearwarden, "we must make it a point to get some well-fed birds; for I can roast, broil, or fricassee them to a turn. Life is too short to live on this meat in such a sportsman's paradise. In any case there can be no end of mastodons, mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, moa birds, and all such shooting."

As the sun was already near the horizon, they chose a dry, sandy place, to secure as much immunity as possible from nocturnal visits, and, after procuring a supply of water from a pool, proceeded to arrange their camp for the night. They first laid out the protection- wires, setting them while the sun still shone. Next they built a fire and prepared their evening meal. While they ate it, twilight became night, and the fire-flies, twinkling in legions in the neighbouring valley, seemed like the lamps of a great city.

"Their lights," said Bearwarden, pointing to them, "are not as fine as the jelly-fish Will-o'-the wisps were last night, but they are not so dangerous. No gymnotus or electric eel that I have ever seen compared with them, and I am convinced that any one of us they might have touched would have been in kingdom come."

The balmy air soothed the travellers' brows as they reclined against mounds of sand, while the flowers in the valley sent up their dying notes. One by one the moons arose, till four--among them the Lilliputian, discovered by Prof. Barnard in 1893--were in the sky, flooding the landscape with their silvery light, and something in the surroundings touched a sympathetic cord in the men.

"Oh that I were young again," said Cortlandt, "and had life before me! I should like to remain here and grow up with this planet, in which we already perceive the next New World. The beauties of earth are barren compared with the scenes we have here."

"You remember," replied Bearwarden, "how Cicero defends old age in his De Senectute, and shows that while it has almost everything that youth has, it has also a sense of calm and many things besides."

"Yes," answered Cortlandt, "but, while plausible, it does not convince. The pleasures of age are largely negative, the old being happy when free from pain."

"Since the highest joy of life," said Ayrault, "is coming to know our Creator, I should say the old, being further advanced, would be the happier of the two. I should never regard this material life as greatly to be prized for itself. You remember the old song: "'O Youth! When we come to consider The pain, the toil, and the strife, The happiest man of all is The one who has finished his life.'

"I suspect," continued Ayrault, "that the man who reaches even the lowest plane in paradise will find far more beautiful visions than any we have here."

As they had but little rest the night before, they were all tired. The warm breeze swayed the long dry grass, causing it to give out a soft rustle; all birds except the flitting bats were asleep among the tall ferns or on the great trees that spread their branches towards heaven. There was nothing to recall a picture of the huge monsters they had seen that day, or of the still more to be dreaded terror these had borne witness to. Thus night closes the activities of the day, and in its serene grandeur the soul has time to think. While they thought, however, drowsiness overcame them, and in a little while all were asleep.

The double line of protection-wires encircled them like a silent guard, while the methodical ticking of the alarm-clock that was to wake them at the approach of danger, and register the hour of interruption, formed a curious contrast to the irregular cries of the night-hawks in the distance. Time and again some huge iguanodon or a hipsohopus would pass, shaking the ground with its tread; but so implicit was the travellers' trust in the vigilance of their mechanical and tireless watch, that they slept on as calmly and unconcernedly as though they had been in their beds at home, while the tick was as constant and regular as a sentry's march. The wires of course did not protect them from creatures having wings, and they ran some risk of a visitation from the blood-sucking bats. The far-away volcanoes occasionally sent up sheets of flame, which in the distance were like summer lightning; the torrents of lava and crashes that had sounded so thunderous when near, were now like the murmur of the ocean's ebb tide, lulling the terrestrials to deeper sleep. The pale moons were at intervals momentarily obscured by the rushing clouds in the upper air, only to reappear soon afterwards as serene as before. All Nature seemed at rest.

Shortly before dawn there was an unusually heavy step. A moment later the ever-vigilant batteries poured forth their current, and the clang of the alarm-bell made the still night ring. In an instant the three men were awake, each resting on one knee, with their backs towards the centre and their polished barrels raised. It was not long before they perceived the intruder by the moonlight. A huge monster of the Triceratops prorsus species had entered the camp. It was shaped something like an elephant, but had ten or twelve times the bulk, being over forty feet in length, not including the long, thick tail. The head carried two huge horns on the forehead and one on the nose.

"A plague on my shot-gun!" said Cortlandt. "Had I known how much of this kind of game we should see, I too should have brought a rifle."

The monster was entangled in the wires, and in another second would have stepped on the batteries that were still causing the bell to ring.

"Aim for the heart," said Bearwarden to Ayrault. "When you show me his ribs, I will follow you in the hole."

Ayrault instantly fired for a point just back of the left foreleg. The explosion had the same effect as on the mastodon, removing a half-barrel of hide, etc; and the next second Bearwarden sent a bullet less than an inch from where Ayrault's had stopped. Before the colossus could turn, each had caused several explosions in close proximity to the first. The creature was of course terribly wounded, and several ribs were cracked, but no ball had gone through. With a roar it made straight for the woods, and with surprising agility, running fully as fast as an elephant. Bearwarden and Ayrault kept up a rapid fire at the left hind leg, and soon completely disabled it. The dinosaur, however, supported itself with its huge tail, and continued to make good time. Knowing they could not give it a fatal wound at the intervening distance, in the uncertain light, they stopped firing and set out in pursuit. Cortlandt paused to stop the bell that still rang, and then put his best foot foremost in regaining his friends. For half a mile they hurried along, until, seeing by the quantity of blood on the ground that they were in no danger of losing the game, they determined to save their strength. The trail entered the woods by a narrow ravine, passed through what proved to be but a belt of timber, and then turned north to the right. Presently in the semi-darkness they saw the monster's head against the sky. He was browsing among the trees, tearing off the young branches, and the hunters succeeded in getting within seventy-five yards before being discovered. Just as he began to run, the two rifles again fired, this time at the right hind leg, which they succeeded in hamstringing. After that the Triceratops prorsus was at their mercy, and they quickly put an end to its suffering.

"The sun is about to rise," said Bearwarden; "in a few minutes we shall have enough light."

They cut out a dozen thick slices of tenderloin steak, and soon were broiling and eating a substantial breakfast.

"There are not as many spectators to watch us eat here," said Cortlandt, "as in the woods. I suggest that, after returning to camp for our blankets and things, we steer for the Callisto, via this Triceratops, to see what creatures have been attracted by the body."

On finishing their meal they returned to the place at which they had passed the night. Having straightened the protection-wires, which had become twisted, and arranged their impedimenta, they set out, and were soon once more beside their latest victim.