(Sydney Clifton Or Vicissitudes in ... - Google Ksi)But why do I remain here to be caged like a wild beast; already the bloodhounds of the law are probably on my track, lapping their hungry jaws for the repast. By heavens! if they do come they shall not gain a bloodless victory. I can die but once, and I'll leave behind me gory evidences of the prowess of one against whom society has warred with unrelenting fury.
What is the meaning of "lap" here?
I imagined them opening their "snouts" and closing them abruptly, but the meaning is not in the dictionaries, so I thought I had to be wrong. But at this very moment, I looked up the Polish word for this kind of activity ("kłapać") and the dictionary translated it -- completely unexpectedly -- to "lap". This is a bit confusing.
I'm with 5jj. The author's histrionic tone led him to forgo the common "licking their chops."
The floppy folds of skin around some dogs' mouths are called 'dewlaps'. Maybe the writer had this in mind. (Conceivably the verb 'lap' - now reserved for animals scooping up liquid with their tongues - used to have a wider [or totally distinct] meaning, preserved in the word 'dewlap'; I don't have time right now to do the necessary research (although I imagine I will in due course, if nobody else does).
That is, they derive "dewlap" from "lap" meaning fold. And on this page the two verbal meanings of "lap" (fold and take in) are derived from different OE words.[Middle English dewlappe : dew, of unknown meaning (akin to Danish and Norwegian dog-, in Danish doglęb and Norwegian doglęp, dewlap) + lappe, fold; see lap2.]
To complicate things, the SOED says that dew comes from this:
dew /0ˈdju:/ noun. OE.
[ORIGIN Old English dēaw = Old Frisian dāw, Old Saxon dau (Dutch dauw), Old High German tou (German Tau), Old Norse dǫgg (genit. dǫggvar), from Germanic.]
1 The moisture deposited in minute drops on any cool surface by the condensation of atmospheric vapour between evening and morning. OE.
Wordsworth The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink. Lytton Arch and blooming faces bowed down to bathe in the May dew. M. Shadbolt The paddocks glittered with dew under the cool early sun.
2 fig. Something likened to dew as coming with refreshing power or with gentleness, or as characteristic of the morning. ME.
Shelley Sleep, that healing dew of heaven. Longfellow Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof.
3 Moisture, a liquid, esp. when formed in minute drops or glistening; esp. (a) tears; (b) sweat. ME.
Southey The dews of death Stood on his livid cheek. Sir W. Scott Those poor eyes that stream'd with dew.
mountain dew: see mountain.
4 An exudation or surface deposit on a plant etc. (Earlier in mildew.) Now rare exc. in honeydew, mildew. M16.
They give lap as fold, so they're wet folds to the SOED.dewlap /0ˈdju:lap/ noun. ME.
[ORIGIN from dew noun + lap noun¹, perh. after Old Norse (Old Danish doglęp).]
The fold of loose skin hanging from the neck of cattle; transf. a similar feature of another animal, bird, or man.
dewlapped adjective having a dewlap LME.