SI Vault
Miss Mary's Lion
Ernest Hemingway
December 20, 1971
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December 20, 1971

Miss Mary's Lion

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"It's awfully complicated," Miss Mary said.

"I won't try to explain it. I'll try to write something to show you how it works."

"Pop's very interested in it. He said you were a crazy and always had been but that he trusted you absolutely and I should trust you too. Sometimes it all gets discouraging. But I'm not discouraged and I love our life. Can I make you a drink? You read now. We don't have to talk."

"Do you want to read?"

"Yes. I'd love to. And us both have a drink and listen to the rain."

"We'll have a lovely time when it's over."

"We're having a lovely time now and I only worry about the animals getting so wet."

So I sat for a while and reread La Maison du Canal and I thought about the animals getting wet. The hippos would be having a good time today but it was no day for the other animals and especially for the cats. The game had so many things that bothered it that the rain would only be bad for those that never had known it and those would only be the beasts born since the last rain. I wondered if the big cats killed in the rain when it was as heavy as this. They must have to, to live. The game would be much easier to approach but the lion and leopard and cheetah must hate to get so wet when they hunted. Maybe the cheetah not so much because they seemed part dog and their coats were made for wet weather. The snakeholes would be full of water and the snakes would be out and this rain would bring the flying ants too.

I thought how lucky we were this time in Africa to be living long enough in one place so that we knew the individual animals and knew the snake-holes and the snakes that lived in them. When I had first been in Africa we were always in a hurry to move from one place to another to hunt beasts for trophies. If you saw a cobra it was an accident as it would be to find a rattler on the road in Wyoming. Now we knew many places where cobras lived. We still discovered them by accident but they were in the area where we lived and we could return to them afterwards and when by accident we killed a snake he was the snake who lived in a particular place and hunted his area as we lived in ours and moved out from it. It was G.C. who had given us this great privilege of getting to know and live in a wonderful part of the country and have some work to do that justified our presence there and I always felt deeply grateful to him.

The time of shooting beasts for trophies was long past with me. I still loved to shoot and to kill cleanly. But I was shooting for the meat we needed to eat and to back up Miss Mary and against beasts that had been outlawed for cause and for what is known as control of marauding animals, predators and vermin. I had shot one impala for a trophy and an oryx for meat at Magadi which turned out to have fine enough horns to make it a trophy and a single buffalo in an emergency which served for meat at Magadi when we were very short and which had a pair of horns worth keeping to recall the manner of the small emergency Mary and I had shared. I remembered it now with happiness and I knew I would always remember it with happiness. It was one of those small things that you can go to sleep with, that you can wake with happy in the night and that you could recall if necessary if you were ever tortured.

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