RECOLLECTIONS OF A LION TAMER 165
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