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cater for himself and her now, and bade him hurry on
with his breakfast.

His meal over, Renard sauntered about till he found
a cosy place in a spruce covert wherein to rest. He tried
this place and that, but none suited him : one was too
humpy, another too deep, and a third full of pine
needles ; but at last, after a great deal of thinking and
poking, he twisted himself into a round woolly ball, curled
his tail over his nose and slept soundly till dusk.

When he awoke, he remembered with a pang that he
would have to do the hunting all alone that night, and
for every night to come ; and that, if there were any
poachers' nets or gamekeepers' traps, he would be sure
to fall into them, as now he had no one to reconnoitre on

He thought over all the birds and beasts which he
liked best to eat, and decided that a nice fat chicken was
really dearest to his heart. So away he went, as soon as
it was dark, to a farmyard some five miles off. Arrived
there, he was not long in discovering the hen-house, and,
luckily for him, the hen-wife had left the small lower door
open to admit three stray ducks who had not made their
appearance at the usual locking-up hour. Eenard was
not slow to avail himself of this piece of good luck, and,
creeping slyly through the hole, stood quite still for a
minute or two to see if his entrance had been observed.
It had evidently not, for there was the silence of sleep
upon the unsuspecting fowls ; so, cautiously, and with
a beating heart, he softly scaled the ladder, and crept
towards an open coop which was standing on the floor.
There was a nice fat chicken inside, which stirred a little
as Eenard approached, and fearing it was going to wake


up and cackle, he made a dash and grabbed it by the neck.
The chicken struggled fiercely, one of its wings got caught
in the bars of the coop, and the scuffling that ensued soon
woke the whole roost. Then began such a cackling, and
screaming, and quacking as Benard had never heard
before, and he tugged at his chicken in a perfect frenzy
of despair, expecting the hen- wife to appear every minute.
At 'last he got free of the coop, and was just going to
descend the ladder when the door opened, and a woman
came in with a lantern. Benard saw in a moment that
escape by the door was impossible, and instantly his
fertile brain had planned a bold scheme. Still holding
the chicken in his mouth, he stumbled on the top step of
the ladder and rolled heavily to the bottom. The hen- wife
ran forward, stick in hand, to put an end to the thief ;
but seeing he lay quiet in a huddled-up heap, she seized
his tail, and dragged him towards the door. Imagine
the shock poor Benard experienced when he felt his
beautiful brush grasped by the sturdy hen-wife's fingers !
and the terrible longing which came over him to turn and
rend his captor. He restrained himself, however, when
he saw he was being dragged towards the door ; and when
the hen-wife, feeling his stiff and lifeless body somewhat
heavy, tumbled him into a thicket of nettles, he almost
barked with delight. True, he had lost his chicken, but
had gained in cunning, and cunning is honour among

Benard' s exploits are too many and various to mention ;
but there is just one more you must hear about, because
it shows he had pluck, as I think all foxes really have.

He was slinking along at dusk through some long
grass, close in to a wood, when, snap ! bang ! and Benard
was fast in a trap, caught by the leg. He tried dragging,
pulling, and shaking it all in vain ; the trap clung to his
flesh with its iron teeth, and would not let go. After
persevering for an hour or two, Benard gave up those
methods, and tried another, beginning deliberately to


gnaw off his own leg ! Who shall say now that foxes have
no courage ? In a few minutes he was free of the trap
and free of his own leg too ! He had to limp home as
best he could, and there lay for several days in great
pain, with the result that the larders became empty, and
he had to live on frogs and weasels anything, in fact,
that he could catch in his burrow.

So, now, if any of you come across a three-legged fox,
you will know why it is ; and if you happen to catch him,
don't keep him, for he is grown up, and grown-up foxes
never tame.



EVERY one has heard of snake charmers. There are
many of them in India, and not a few in Egypt too.
They Walked about the streets of Cairo or used to do
so, for I am speaking of a good many years ago with
boxes and baskets, which contained every imaginable kind
of reptile. Whenever they came to what seemed a con-
venient spot for a performance of their art, they would
sit down on the ground, and whilst two or three of them
beat on tambourines, a couple more would fill their
mouths with a herb, smelling rather like mint, and puff
out perfumed clouds of smoke on every side.

When these preparations had been duly made, the
sacks, boxes, or baskets were opened ; the snakes shook
themselves, hissing and wriggling, and began to dance a
kind of jig, balancing themselves on the lower part of
their bodies, in a way which delighted the spectators.

Besides giving these exhibitions, the snake charmers
often go to houses, and after poking all round, at last tell the
owners that they feel sure there are snakes hiding there.
This is quite enough to cause alarm, for, naturally, no one
likes to have such fellow-lodgers, and the snake charmer
is paid a certain sum for each reptile he may catch,
besides being given the snake itself. He pops it into a
bag, and in due time it forms part of his corps de ballet.

Now the chief snake charmer in Cairo, whose name
was Abd-el-Kerim, had for some time been prowling
about the French Consulate, peering in at the doors and


windows, and shaking his head in a manner which was far
from encouraging.

The French Consul just then was a Monsieur Dela-
porte, and after a time the report reached him that the
Consulate was infested by snakes.

Now, in the course of business, M. Delaporte had
come across a good many centipedes, and a certain
number of scorpions, but not even the tiniest little asp ;
so that he had considerable doubts as to the truth of the
snake charmer's story. However, at the wish of some
anxious friends who trembled at the dangers he might be
running, M. Delaporte at last consented to send for Abd-

The snake charmer was a man between fifty and sixty
years of age, clad in a green turban and black robe
grave and dignified as became his age and profession.

He saluted Delaporte by crossing his hands over his
breast, and bowing low before him. Then he waited to
be questioned.

' I have sent for you,' said the Consul, who spoke
Arabic like a native, ' because I hear a report that there
are several serpents in the house.'

The Arab turned his face to the wind, sniffed it up
several times, and answered gravely : ' It is true : there

' Oh, indeed ! There are serpents? '

' Yes.' And the snake charmer sniffed again, and
added, after a moment :

' I may even say that there are several six of them
at least.'

' You surprise me ! ' said Delaporte ; ' and you will
undertake to destroy them ? '

' I will call them, and they will come.'

' Do so ; I should like to see that.'

4 You shall see it.'

So Abd-el-Kerim went out from the Consul's room,
where this conversation had been held, and fetched iu his


three companions from the outer chamber. All four
men sat down silently on the floor, and after placing
their tambourines between their legs, filled their mouths
with herbs and began to puff out sweet-scented clouds of
smoke, crying : ' Allah ! Allah ! Allah ! ' all the time,
while Abd-el-Kerim made a hissing, whistling sort of
sound, which was intended to attract the serpents.

This went on for three or four minutes without any
apparent result ; but at the end of that time Delaporte
saw about a score of scorpions crawl down the walls
or from under the furniture and wriggle up to Abd-el-

The Consul's unbelief was rather staggered by the
sight of this strange procession. Some of the scorpions
came down the mosquito curtains, some down the
window blinds, others down the walls ; till the thought of
sleeping in such a haunted room was enough to make


anyone shudder. But wherever they might come from,
the scorpions all gathered round Abd-el Kerim, as sheep
round a shepherd, and he picked them up by handfuls,
and popped them in a goatskin sack.

'You see ? ' he asked Delaporte.

4 Certainly, I see ! I see scorpions, and a great many
scorpions, too ; but I don't see any snakes.'

' You will see some,' replied Abd-el- Kerim.

And he began whistling in another key, whilst his
companions re-doubled their clouds of smoke and their
cries of ' Allah ! '

And, true enough, to the extreme surprise of the Con-
sul, in a little time a hissing sound, very much like the one
Abd-el- Kerim was making, was heard from the sleeping
alcove, and from under his bed M. Delaporte beheld a
serpent more than four feet long advancing towards
the snake charmer, head erect and unrolling his green
coils as he glided along.

Delaporte had no difficulty in recognising the species.
It was one of those deadly reptiles which the Arabs
call taboric, and Europeans Cobra Capclla.

Abd-el- Kerim seized the snake without ceremony by
the throat, and was about to stuff it into his bag, when
Delaporte stopped him.

' One moment,' he cried.

' What is it ? ' asked Abd-el-Kerim.

' That serpent was really in my room ? '

' You saw it yourself.'

' Very good. Then, as whatever is found in my room
belongs to me, be so good, instead of putting the serpent
into your goatskin bag, to place it in this bottle.'

And he held out to Abd-el-Kerim a large, \vide-necked
glass jar filled with spirits of wine, of which he kept a
supply in a cupboard ready for the preservation of some
of the curious Nile fish sometimes brought him by the

' But ,' began Abd el-Kerim.


'There's no but in the matter,' said Delaporte.
' The serpent was in my house, consequently it is my
property, not to mention that I pay you thirty piastres
for it. Take care ! If you raise any difficulties in the
matter I shall begin to think that you put the creature
there beforehand, and that it only came to your call
because you had tamed it.'

Abd-el-Kerim saw that resistance was useless, and
let the serpent glide from his hands into the jar.

Delaporte had a cork and string ready at hand ; the
cork was firmly tied down on the jar, and the serpent
secured inside it.

' Any more ? ' asked Delaporte.

' Yes,' said Abd-el-Kerim, who did not choose to own
himself beaten, and sure enough, after renewed cries and
more clouds of smoke, a second serpent, a little smaller
than the first, issued from beneath the chest of drawers,
and came to Abd-el-Kerim.

Delaporte seized a second glass jar : ' Good/ said he,
' that will make a pair.'

Abd-el-Kerim drew a long face ; but he was caught,
and there was nothing for it but to give up the second
serpent as he had done the first.

' Any more still ? ' inquired Delaporte.

' No, not here.'

' Where then ? '

The snake charmer turned towards the next room.

' I smell one there,' said he.

The next room was the drawing-room.

' Let us go there, then,' said Delaporte. And taking
a glass jar under each arm, he gave two others to
his servant to carry, and led the way to the drawing-

There was one there. This one seemed to be a musi-
cal serpent, for he had taken refuge under the piano, and
in spite of Abd-el-Kerim's manifest reluctance, this snake
also promptly found its way into the jar.


' That is the third,' said Delaporte. ' And now, tell
me, where are the rest ? '

' There are three in the kitchen,' replied Abd-el-Kerini,
rather sadly.

' Very good,' said the Consul ; ' that will just make up
the half-dozen. Let us go to the kitchen.'

At the first call a serpent crawled from under the

Abd-el-Kerim placed it in the fourth jar, with a deep

' Come, come, courage ! I want my half-dozen ! ' said
the Consul cheerfully.

' Enta tafessed el senaa ! ' cried the enraged Arab in
reply, which, being translated, means ' Certainly you are a
spoil sport.' But it was no use.

The snake charmer had to own himself beaten, and in
order to save the last two serpents confessed his tricks.

Then Delaporte took pity on him and gave him forty
francs, which Abd-el-Kerim pocketed greedily, but could
not help murmuring : ' Four serpents which danced so
well ! They were worth more than that ! '



THE great interest taken in animals by Alexandre Dumas
is well known to all readers of the Animal Story Books,
but the stories told in them refer generally to tame or
tameable animals. The great novelist, however, was full of
interest in every kind of beast, tame or wild, and delighted
to hear thrilling stories of hunting adventures, and to
write them down afterwards for the benefit of his readers.

He was dining with some friends one evening, when
his servant asked to see him, and said : ' They have been
waiting for you this half-hour, sir.'

Dumas sprang to his feet, and would have hurried
from the room at once, but was stopped by the question :

' Who are waiting for you ? '

' Gerard, the lion hunter, and his orderly Amida,' was
the answer, as Dumas vanished through the doorway in
great haste.

In ten minutes he was at home, and there he found
the great hunter, and a few other friends all questioning
and listening to him.

Ge'rard, who was an officer in one of the Algerian
Begiments of Spahis, was about thirty years of age, with
a quiet, gentle face, and clear blue eyes. Amida was a
tall stately Arab, of five or six and twenty, and as he sat
in one corner of the library, wrapped in his white burnous,
he was a striking and picturesque figure.


After warm greetings, and some talk about general
subjects and various travels and mutual friends, Dumas
sat down to his writing table, drew a sbeet of paper
towards him, and taking up a pen, he said : ' Now, my dear
Gerard, a hunt, come ; anyone at haphazard from amongst
your twenty-five lions but a really fine lion, you know,
not one of those you went to see at the Gardens, and
which Amida took for sham lions ; but a great, roaring,
magnificent lion of the Atlas.'

Gerard smiled, and turning towards Amida said a few
words to him in his own language, as though consulting
him on the choice of the story. Amida bent his head in
assent. Then Gerard turned to Dumas, and in his calm,
gentle voice began his story :

I had killed the lioness on the 19th of July, and
from the 19th to the 27th I had searched in vain for the
lion. I was in my tent with eight or ten Arabs, some my
own men, the rest inhabitants of the settlement where I
was. We were talking

'Of what?'

' Why of lions, of course. When you are on a lion
hunt, you naturally talk of nothing but lions. An old
Arab was telling me a curious legend, several hundred
years old, and of which a young girl of his tribe was the

' And a lion the hero ? '

' Yes ; a lion.'

' Oh, pray let us hear the legend too,' cried Dumas.

' Very well, then,' said G6rard. ' Here it is : '-

Many centuries ago, there lived a young girl who was
very proud and haughty. Not that she was in any way
greater or richer than others. Her father had nothing but
his tent, his horse and his gun ; but she was very, very
beautiful, and it was her beauty that made her so dis-

One day, when she went to the neighbouring forest
to cut sticks, she saw a lion cominsr through the trees.



The only weapon she had was the little axe which she
used in her wood-cutting ; but if she had been armed with
a gun, a pistol and a dagger as well, she would have been
far too frightened to use them so majestic, proud and
powerful was this lion. Her limbs trembled under her,
and she would have screamed aloud for help, but her voice
died in her throat. She felt sure the lion was going to
make signs to her to follow him, so that he might devour
her at his ease, in some favourite spot, for lions are not
only greedy but dainty.

' I am quite willing to admit that, my dear Gerard,'
broke in Dumas ; ' but I did not quite understand one
remark you made.'

' You said she was sure the lion was going to make
signs to her to follow him? '
'Yes. Well?'

' Ask Amida whether, when a lion meets an Arab, he
takes the trouble to carry him off? '

Amida shook his head, and raised his eyes in a way
which clearly implied : ' Ah, indeed ! he's not such a fool
as that.'

Dumas pressed for further particulars, and was told
what he did not know before, that lions have magic
powers. A lion has only to gaze for a few moments at a
man, and he completely fascinates him, and the man has
to follow the lion wherever he pleases. This p 1 oint settled,
Gerard went on :

The girl then paused, trembling, and expecting a sign
from the lion to follow him, when, to her great surprise,
she saw him approach, gently, smiling, after his fashion,
and bowing in a polite manner.

She crossed her hands on her breast and said : ' What
does my lord desire of his humble servant ? '

The lion replied quite clearly, ' Anyone as lovely as
you are, A'issa, is a queen, not a servant.'

Aissa stared in astonishment at this answer, delighted


by the gentle tones of her formidable acquaintance, and
surprised that this strange and splendid lion should know
her name.

' Who can have told you what I am called, my lord ? '
she inquired.

' The breeze which loves you, and which, after play-
ing through your hair, carries its perfume to the roses
as it sighs " Aissa ! " The stream which loves you, and
which, after bathing your fair feet, waters the moss in
my cave as it murmurs " Ai'ssa ! " The bird which, since
it heard your voice, has been jealous of you, and died of
pique as it cried " Ai'ssa ! "

The girl blushed with pleasure, and began to arrange
her veil, taking great care, however, to do it in such a
way that the lion could see her all the better ; for whether
the flatterer is a lion or a fox, and the one flattered an
Arab maiden or a crow, you see the result of flattery is
always much the same everywhere, and with every one.

The lion, who had hitherto remained at a little distance,
now ventured to draw nearer to the girl, but seeing her
begin to tremble again, he asked, in his tenderest and most
anxious voice : What is the matter, Ai'ssa ? '

She longed to answer, ' I am afraid of you, my lord,'
but did not dare ; so said, ' The Touareg tribe is not far
off, and I am so afraid of the Touaregs.'

The lion smiled, after the fashion of lions. ' When
you are with me,' he said, ' you need fear nothing.'

' But,' replied Ai'ssa, ' I shall not always have the
honour of your company. It is getting late, and my
father's tent is some way from here.'

' I will escort you home,' said the lion.

Eefusal was impossible, and Ai'ssa had no choice but
to accept. The lion came up close, and held out his head
as a support, much as a gentleman might offer a lady his
arm ; the girl laid her hand on his mane, and, side by side,
they set out for the tent of Aissa's father.

On their way they met gazelles, who started away



scared ; hyaenas, who crouched down in fear ; and terrified
men and women, who fell on their knees.

But the lion said to the gazelles ' Do not flee ; ' to the
hyaenas ' Do not be afraid,' and to the. men and women
' Stand up ; for the sake of this young girl, whom I love,
I will not harm you.'

And all men, women and animals gazed with amaze-
ment at the lion and the girl, and asked each other, in


their various tongues, whether this strange pair could be
going on a pilgrimage to Mecca to worship at the tomb
of Mohammed.

At last Ai'ssa and her escort drew near the settlement,
and when they were only some yards from the tent of
Ai'ssa' s father, which was the first as you entered the
village, the lion stopped, and with the. utmost courtesy
asked the young girl's leave to kiss her.



Ai'ssa bent down her facs, and the lion lightly brushed
her lips with his.

Then he made a gesture of farewell, and sat down to
watch till she should have reached her father's house in

On her way there Ai'ssa turned two or three times,
and each time she saw the lion on the same spot. At
length she reached the tent.

' Ah ! there you are ! ' cried her father ; ' I have been
very uneasy.' The girl smiled. ' I was afraid you might
have met with some unlucky adventure.' She smiled
still more. ' But here you are, and I see I have been

' So you have, father,' said she : ' for, instead of an
unlucky adventure, 1 have had a very lucky one.'

' And what was that ? ' asked he.

' I met a lion ! '

At these words, seldom as Arabs show their feelings,
Ai'ssa's father turned pale.

' A lion ! ' he cried, ' and he has not devoured you ? '

'On the contrary, he paid me many compliments
on my beauty, offered to see me home, and escorted me

The Arab thought his daughter must be taking leave
of her senses. ' Impossible,' said he.

' How, impossible ? '

The father shook his head. ' Do you wish to make
me believe that a lion is capable of such attentions ? '

Ai'ssa smiled again. ' Do you wish to be convinced? '
asked she.

' Yes ; but how ? '

' Come to the door of the tent and you will see him,
either seated where I left him, or returning to the forest.'

' Wait till I get my gun,' said the father rising.
' What do you want a gun for ? ' asked the girl proudly ;
' are you not with me ? '

And drawing her father by his burnous, she led him


to the opening of the tent. But the lion was no longer
to be seen at the place where she had left him. She
looked all round but could see nothing of him.

' Bah, you have been dreaming ! ' said her father, as
they went back into the tent.

' Indeed I can assure you that I seem to see him still,'
replied Aissa.

' What was he like ? '

' He must have been between four and five feet high,
and nearly eight feet long,' replied the girl.

' Well ? '

' With a superb mane.'

' Yes ? '

' Eyes as bright and yellow as gold.'

' Well ? '

' Teeth like ivory, but -' and the girl hesitated.

' But ? ' repeated her father.

' But,' she resumed in a lower voice, ' he had not a
very nice smell.'

She had barely uttered these words when a fearful
roar was heard just behind the tent, then a second some
five hundred yards off, and a third at about half a mile
further still.

Then there was silence. Evidently the lion, who no
doubt wished to hear what Ai'ssa would say about him,
had made a circle so as to listen behind the tent, and
was now hastening away mortified by what he had over-

A month passed by, and Aissa had almost forgotten
her adventure, when one day she was told to go to the
forest again and cut sticks. Having got what she needed
and bound them together in a faggot, she was about to
leave, when she heard a slight noise behind her and
turned round.

There was the lion, seated a few paces off and looking
at her.

' Good morning, Aissa,' he said, in a dry tone.


' Good morning, my lord/ replied A'issa, rather
nervously, as she thought of the past. ' Can I do any-
thing for your lordship ? '

' You can do me a service.'

' What is it ? '

' Come near me.'

The girl drew near trembling inwardly.

' Here I am.'

' Good. Now lift up your axe.'

She obeyed.

' Now strike me with it on the head.'

'But, my lord, you you can't mean

' On the contrary, I do mean so.'

' But my lord

' Strike ! '

' Eeally, my lord ? '

' Will you strike ? '

' Oh, yes, my lord,' said A'issa, more f lightened iluui
ever. ' Hard or light ? '

' As hard as ever you can.'

' But I shall hurt you ! '

' What's that to you ? '

' And you really wish it ? '

' I really do.'

So the girl struck as she was bid, and the axe made a
deep cut between the lion's eyes. It is ever since then
that lions have that straight furrow in their faces which
is particularly noticeable when they frown.

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 4 of 22)