RECOLLECTIONS OF A LION TAMER 161
At last my success was generally acknowledged. I paid off all my debts, and became absolutely my own master. Not till then did I dare to demand again the hand of Maria, which this time was granted me. We were soon married, and then we proceeded very humbly to start a menagerie of our own. We began at Lyons with a monkey named Simon—whose antics were a constant source of amusement—some serpents and some crocodiles, also two or three boas, which last we kept in our bed-room in the little hotel where we lodged; but as they continually slept the sleep of the just they disturbed no one. From time to time we received additions to our establishment. One evening there arrived a cargo of crocodiles, which, until they could be properly caged, were deposited, still in the cases in which they had travelled, in a kind of cellar opening on the courtyard. There Maria and I, accompanied by men with lighted lanterns, went to work to unpack them.
All creatures of the crocodile tribe are totally wanting in grace and charm, and cannot safely be recommended as household pets. Unlike all other creatures, they have the lower jaw immovable, while the upper one closes on its prey with a spring, both jaws being furnished with no less than 175 teeth. They are clothed in an invulnerable coat of mail, and their tail is a powerful weapon, that shatters, mangles, destroys, everything that comes in contact with it. Added to all these other attractions they are at no time of amiable disposition, particularly after ill-treatment or in confinement, and if they escape they become the most ferocious of creatures. Now ours had just undergone long imprisonment on board ship, and one of them escaped.
What a scrimmage then took place ! The men made for the door, all the lights went out, Maria and I climbed on a table, two of its legs gave way and we were hurled on to the floor beneath, vainly groping along the walls for the door, and pursued by terrible growlings and flappings B m