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- Rataplan - 10/27 -


But pride must have a fall, and Leo's fall came in a somewhat curious manner.

It happened that food was very scarce, and that the young cubs were growing more and more hungry as the days went on.

Leo was a proud father, and the fine, sturdy cubs which belonged to him were the admiration of all the other lions who had ever had the privilege of seeing them. He would go through almost anything for himself, but for his wife and cubs he cared not what he faced or what he dared, so that he obtained what he wanted.

They had eaten up most of the young things which had been thriving on the various farms, and there seemed to be nothing left but either a sheep or a bullock. Being lazy, Leo did not care to carry either a sheep or a bullock to his lair; he preferred something lighter.

And so it happened one evening that, as he made his way towards the village--making up his mind that if there was nothing else he must have a sheep--he suddenly came across the dead body of a little Kaffir boy lying by the wayside.

The Kaffirs very seldom bury their dead, and so the mother had laid her beloved one under a shady bank, and left him with a few leaves strewn over him.

At first Leo hesitated. He had never tasted Kaffir, and he also knew that it was a bad thing to eat. But he was very hungry himself, and his wife and family were hungry, too; and the little Kaffir boy would be light to carry.

After smelling and turning over the body, he decided first to taste it and see whether it would be good for his family to eat.

Alas! once having tasted it, Leo was done for. It was the most delicious food he had ever tasted, and he was unable to stop eating until he had made a full, heavy meal. Then he looked at the poor little carcass; there would still be enough for the cubs, and yet he hesitated.

He knew it would be bad for them; he knew that, once having given it to them, they would be spoilt for all other food; but he had eaten so heartily himself, and was already getting so lazy and sleepy from the effects of his meal, that he had no energy nor inclination to hunt for any other food that night. So, taking the remains of the little Kaffir boy in his strong mouth, he trotted swiftly off to his lair, and put it down temptingly in front of the cubs.

There were two of them, and they were ravenously hungry; without more ado they set to work, and tore and crunched with their sharp teeth and strong little jaws, until there was not a vestige of the little Kaffir boy left.

The lioness, seeing there was only sufficient food for the cubs, did not attempt to take any, but, hungry as she was, looked placidly on while the young ones satisfied their hunger.

[Illustration: "HE WOULD TAKE UP SOME SMALL ANIMAL AND WALK COOLLY OFF WITH IT."]

Leo looked at her guiltily, and expected reproaches. But, as it happened, his wife had not noticed what kind of food he had brought; it had been too much torn to be recognizable, and she concluded it was the remains of some small animal he had killed.

At any other time he would have gone out again to fetch some food for his wife, but he was so heavy and sleepy that, with one big yawn, he sank down, stretched out his huge paws in front of him, and, nestling his handsome head comfortably between them, sank into a deep sleep.

From that day Leo was no longer the same. He was restless and irritable, snappy and fierce even to his wife and children. He raced no more after buffaloes or giraffes, or even for antelopes or jaguars; all he wanted was human flesh.

Once having tasted it, he cared for and could eat no other. And as time went on his magnificent coat began to come off in great, unsightly patches, his eyes and mouth got sore and red, and his limbs grew weak and rickety. His roar was no longer the fierce, grand, triumphant roar that it had been; it resembled a hoarse cry of pain now, and his little ones--instead of being sturdy little cubs as they had been--had grown thin, miserable, and mangy.

Altogether Leo was in a miserable state; and, to add to his misery, his wife turned against him. The sight of his mangy coat and bloodshot eyes, not to speak of the sore, drooping mouth, filled her with disgust, and she growled fiercely whenever he came near her.

In vain he brought her food to eat; but the food was always dead Kaffir, and she would not touch it.

She appeared, too, to turn against the cubs, and, instead of fondling and caressing them as formerly, kept them aloof and chastised them severely with her heavy paws whenever they came too near.

Soon after this one of the cubs died, and Leo's grief was painful to witness. He licked it all over, put his huge paw on it, and turned it from one side to the other, uttering queer little sounds all the time, and, when he found it would neither move nor respond to his caresses, gave a prolonged howl of misery which struck terror into his wife's heart.

She had had enough of it by this time; she disliked a mangy husband and scrofulous children, and so the next evening quietly took her departure to some other place where the surroundings were more congenial.

Leo tottered back to his lair that night with staggering, uneven steps to find his wife had gone and that his last remaining cub had just died.

With a cry of pain, something between a roar and a deep growl, Leo stretched himself over the two little, dead bodies of his children and pined and fretted away.

He no longer went for food, not even for Kaffirs, and the villagers and animals in the neighborhood wondered what had become of him, and whether his absence meant some fresh daring on his part.

But there was no more daring for Leo. From the time he laid his long, warm body over the cold forms of his children he never rose again.

For three days he lay there, doing his best to bring them back to life; but on the third day his great head, with what remained of its magnificent beauty, sank for the last time on his heavy paws, and Leo, the king of lions, was dead.

And so this grand, strong, noble animal lost his life through eating human flesh, which he knew quite well he ought not to touch.

CHAFFER, THE CHAMOIS

On one of the craggy heights of the Alpine mountains, in Switzerland, Chaffer stood, one fine, clear day in October, looking out over the landscape, and wondering what he should do and where he should go.

For, sad to relate, he had just been turned out of the herd by an old chamois, who considered that he and those of his own age had a better right there than some of the young males. So, with a few others, Chaffer had been driven off, but not until he had made a good fight for it. He was fairly strong, and did not at all relish getting the worst of anything, but he was young yet and knew his time was coming-- the time when he would drive that old chamois out of the herd far quicker than he had been driven, and get the best of him in more ways than one.

He was a fine young animal, and as he stood there at that dizzy height, his four feet planted firmly on the peak, he showed to very best advantage. Chaffer stood about two feet high at the shoulders, and was about three feet in length, not counting his short, black tail; his yellowish-brown body was streaked down the back with a black line, which defined the spine, while his beautiful head--the face and throat a peculiar yellowish-white, with a brownish-black mark which went from his mouth to his eyes--was surmounted by a splendid pair of horns nearly come to perfection.

These horns were from six to eight inches long, black and shiny, slender and round, rising from the forehead perpendicularly, and curving sharply at the extremities into hooks. Very proud Chaffer was of them, for they meant; so much to him. They meant, for one thing, that he was now almost full grown, and that he would soon be of an age to take his place in the antelope world as a champion and fighter. He could hold his own now with some of the males, and, although he had just been driven out of the herd, several others had been forced out with him, so he did not trouble himself much about it.

The only thing he was puzzled about was what he should do next, but this little matter was decided for him in a manner he never dreamed of. He was some way from the herd now, but at that moment he heard the well-known whistle of the sentinel chamois.[Footnote: Each herd has a chamois who acts as a sentinel. At the slightest sign of danger this sentinel gives a peculiar whistle, not particularly shrill or piercing, but which has a curious, penetrating power and carries a great distance. Not only does this sentinel give warning of danger, but he indicates from which direction it is coming.--_Author._] In an instant Chaffer was off, leaping over wide chasms, climbing over crags and dizzy heights, sliding down dangerous, slippery places, but always going in the opposite direction to the approaching enemy.

For Chaffer knew now what the danger was--it was a man; and he could, with his wonderful power of scent, smell him, although he was still a great distance away. Once having realized that it was a man, Chaffer lost no time, but made his way at once up the steepest crag he could find. It was much easier for him to go up than down, for his legs were adapted for this purpose, The hind ones being much longer than the front ones.

His small, neat feet were formed for climbing; his forefeet had very sharp hoofs, which, when descending, Chaffer would dig into the ground to gain a foothold, and his hind feet had curious, false hoofs. That is to say, the outer hoofs were higher than the soles, and this enabled him to have a grip on the slightest notch or projection on the face of the rocks, so that it was almost impossible for him to slip. In descending the rocks, he would place his forefeet close together and push them in front of him; he could then slide down the face of an almost perpendicular cliff with the greatest ease and safety, and


Rataplan - 10/27

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