162 RECOLLECTIONS OF A LION TAMER
of tails against the floor and furniture. At last I found the door handle, and we were safe. But safety alone was not enough. I had paid more than 150l. for the brutes, and I could not afford to let one escape, nor to let them destroy each other. Taking a lighted torch in my hand I returned to the fray, and presently succeeded in im≠prisoning under a seat the monster, who measured no less than four yards long.
Shortly after this unpleasant incident we lost one of these costly pets by death; injured at the time of its capture, it suddenly fell ill and died at the end of twelve hours. Not only was this a great loss to usófor it was one of our finest, and had cost, alone, 80l.óbut we were due next day at Seyne, near Toulon, with all our beasts, and how could we appear without the advertised number ? A happy idea struck me : I went to a naturalist, whom I knew in the town, and asked him to come to my aid by stuffing the animal, and thus passing him off as a sleeping crocodile. What a night we spentócutting him up, cleaning him out, stuffing him, and putting him to≠gether again; but before the morning dawned our task was accomplished, and stretched on a little stage the creature had all the appearance of a bona-fide sleeping crocodile.
Taking one of the liveliest of the small ones, I made him furiously flap his tail and open wide his terrible jaws, purposely exaggerating his ferocity, and at the same time giving the usual explanations out of the natural history books. When I saw that I had sufficiently excited my audience I turned towards the stuffed crocodile, and said with trembling voice:
' Oh, what you have just seen is nothing ! Now if this sleeping crocodile would but awake, then you would see something really terrifying. One blow of his tail, and this shed would be shattered to atoms; as to his jaws, he has
only to open them----- But you shall see for yourselves ;
you have only to say the word and I will awake him at once.'