Death of a Gentleman

By Andreas Gerster

It had been a pleasant afternoon on the river. The air buzzing with the sound of lazy flies and joyful songbirds, as I let the current carry me along in my boat. A little punting had been all that was required to reach my private paradise, the eyot in the middle of the river, before the sky grew too dark to do some fishing.

After struggling with my tackle for a while, I finally caught a medium-sized catfish, which sufficed for my supper and left over some for the morrow. I lit a fire to roast my catch and to keep warm during the cool of the star-filled night. I had planned on roughing it, as I often did when I was on the island. It was a special treat that I allowed myself now and then, to get away from the society of my fellow men. For the very stillness, loneliness and remoteness of that place had always had an almost sacred aura for me.

The next morning I awoke to strange noises. A muffled sound, like the beating of drums in the distance, echoed in the forest. The beats were usually close together, with longer intervals between series of beats.

Much refreshed after a vigorous swim, I had almost forgotten the foreboding sounds, when, as I was getting dressed, a man appeared on the opposite riverbank. On seeing me, he retreated into the forest, though I halloed him. However, after seeing I meant him no harm, he returned to the riverbank, yet he still seemed to me to be quite apprehensive. There must have been something quite wrong with the fellow, for his complexion seemed most unnaturally pale.

As we stood there awkwardly eyeing one another, I became aware of an almost imperceptible movement from the corner of my eye. A black panther, not uncommon in these tropical parts, was stealing up on him in the cover of the dense foliage. Quick as a flash I had aimed and shot the brute dead. The shot must have gone right through its heart, for it was dead immediately. I’d never been an unskilled marksman, but that feat I would not forget in a long time. The stranger, however, seemed still unaware of the panther, or of the fact that I had saved his life, and started jumping up and down in alarm. He raised his voice to shout, but I must confess, that I could not understand a word he said, perhaps he could not speak in any civilised tongue.

The call must have been to his companions, who running hard arrived at the riverbank too. Yet neither were they capable of communicating with me, but shouted at each other in confused voices. They seemed to be discussing something, although what they were discussing was a mystery to me. Finally, they reached a conclusion, or so I assume, for the voices subsided.

The whole scene I took up in a few moments, I was still bodily rooted to the spot, the shock after such a near escape for the chap on the other side was still coursing through my veins. Then the group of strangers lined up in a row, each one peering through some kind of shaft held to his face. Something hit me and I heard that drum-like sound, but much clearer and then everything went black. I cannot be sure, if I died still clutching my bow and the second arrow I’d strung, but it fills me with pride, that my last deed in this world was an excellent piece of marksmanship.


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