The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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To raise the bars and slip into the cage was the act of a second. How I was not torn in pieces myself I know not, for I was defenceless, with neither firearms, stick, whip, nor weapon of any kind, but my two powerful fists ; hitting out right and left with these I ordered the lions to their dens. They obeyed me, and slunk away submis­sively, letting fall their hapless victim, who was picked up almost lifeless and conveyed to the hospital, where, however, he recovered from his wounds. I asked him afterwards how he came to let himself be caught.
' Ah, sir,' he answered, ' am I not your pupil ? As I was passing near these gentlemen ' (for he always spoke very respectfully of the lions) ' I thought I would like to pat them ; three were sleeping, but the fourth awoke his comrades, and if you had not been there, sir, I should surely have been made mincemeat of.'
It was at Rochefort that I received my first wound: a lion in a sulky fit defied me, growling and showing his gleaming tusks. I lashed at him with my whip, and he sprang upon me. I darted aside, but not in time to avoid a blow from his heavy paw, the claws of which tore open my thigh. I punished him ; but he was, perhaps, to be excused, for the performance that evening took place under peculiar circumstances ; there being no gas we were obliged to light with candles, and no doubt this unusual illumination irritated and annoyed him, for no one can imagine how small a thing will put out a wild beast.
Lyons was the scene of a terrible disaster. While there I received from Africa a superb lion, recently captured and still untamed, packed in a solid cage, and that enclosed in a special van, on which was a label with a full description of its formidable contents; no risk need have been run by anyone coming in contact with it. But, unfortunately, while the train which bore the monster to its destination was being shunted in a siding, a cattle drover, named Picart, was foolhardy enough, in spite of
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