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

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

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Zambesi, he came to a whole district where the children were constantly being snapped up by these frightful creatures, when they went to play on the edge of the stream. A blow from the tail of an alligator would knock down a child or a calf that had come to drink, and then the great flat head would be thrust out of the water, and the victim was pulled in without any chance of escape. One day, a man in Livingstone's caravan was swimming across one of these rivers, when an alligator caught hold of his thigh, and dragged him below, but not before he had managed to get out a knife he carried with him ; and as he sank he stabbed the alli­gator in the shoulder. Smarting with the pain, the alli­gator loosened his hold, and the man came up to the surface, not very much the worse, but with marks on his thigh that he never got rid of. Luckily for him, his tribe had no superstitions about bitten people; but in some of the other places visited by Livingstone, any man who has received a bite from an alligator, or has been splashed by his tail, is considered unclean, and chased out from his fellows. They think that merely to look at the wound would cause a disease of the eyes. If the bite happens to be caused by a zebra, the sufferer is not only obliged to fly himself, but to take his wife and family into the desert. The Barotse tribe have no objection to eating alligators, which most people would find very ' strong ' meat; and Livingstone tells that one of them complained to him of an alligator carrying below a wounded antelope which had taken to the water. ' I called to it to let my meat alone,' said Mashuana, ' but it would not listen.' So, in revenge, Mashuana speared another alligator, and ate it himself.
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