Andrew Lang.

The red book of animal stories online

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' Thank you, A'issa,' said the lion, and with three
great bounds he vanished into the depth of the forest.

' Dear me ! ' thought the girl, rather hurt at his dis-
appearance ; ' I wonder why he never offered to see me
home to-day ! '

Of course this second adventure of A'issa' s caused a
great deal of excitement, but the most ingenious brain
could make no guess as to what might be the intentions
of this strange and mysterious lion.



A month later A'issa once more leturned to the forest.
She had barely had time to cut a few sticks when the
lion emerged from behind some shrubs ; no longer
gracious and affectionate as at first, or melancholy as
at their second meeting, but looking gloomy and almost
threatening. A'issa longed to turn and flee, but the lion's
glance seemed to root her feet to the spot. He approached,
and she felt that if she attempted to take a step she
should certainly fall down.

' Look at my forehead,' said the lion sternly.

' Let my lord remember that it was only by his
express orders that I struck him with my axe.'

' I do remember, and I thank you. That is not what
I wish to discuss with you.'

' What does your lordship wish to discuss with me ? '

' I wish you to look at my wound.'

' I am looking.'

' How is it going on ? '

' Wonderfully well, my lord, it is nearly healed.'

' This proves, A'issa,' said the lion, ' that wounds given
to the body are very different from those inflicted on the
feelings. The former heal with time, but the latter never.'

This moral sentence was followed by a sharp cry
and then complete silence.

Three days later Aissa's father, searching everywhere
for his daughter, found her axe. But of A'issa herself
there was no trace, nor was anything ever heard of her

The Arab had barely concluded the legend (said
Gerard) when a well-known sound sent a thrill through
us all. It was the roar of a lion, probably of the one I
had been seeking the last eight or ten days. I sprang at
my gun, Amida seized his, and we both hurried towards
the spot from which the sound came. It seemed to be
more than a mile off. We counted three roars ; then the
lion ceased, and we marched on towards him.


When we had walked half a mile or so we heard the
shouts of men and barking of dogs. We quickened our
pace and fell in with a troop of armed men leading a
number of dogs of all kinds. The lion had passed that
way. He had entered the settlement next to ours, had
scaled the enclosure where the flock was kept, and had
carried off a sheep. He had secured his dinner ; and
that was why he had not roared again.

This was hardly the moment in which to attack him ;
lions do not like being disturbed at their meals. So I
begged the Arabs to follow up the track always an easy
matter when a sheep is the victim and I returned to my

' But why is it easier to track a lion when he carries
off a sheep than when he takes some other animal ? '
asked Dumas.

Gerard smiled. ' That is another story,' said he, ' and
if you want to hear it, here it is : '-

One day a lion was talking to the Marabout Sidi-
Moussa. Now if the lion is the most powerful of beasts,
the Marabout is the most holy of dervishes. So the two
were conversing very much on an equality.

' You are very strong,' said the Marabout to the lion.

' Very,' replied the lion.

'And what do you consider the measure of your
strength to be ? '

' My strength is as the strength of forty horses.'

'Then, you can seize a bullock, throw it over your
shoulder, and carry it off ? ' asked the Marabout.

' By the aid of Allah, I can,' said the lion.

' Or a horse, I suppose ? '

' By the aid of Allah, I can carry off a horse as easily
as a bullock.'

' Or a wild boar ? '

' By the help of Allah, I should do with the wild boar
as with the horse.'

' And a sheep ? '



The lion began to laugh ; ' I should think so ! ' said he.

But the first time the lion captured a sheep he was
much surprised to find that he could not throw it over
his shoulder, as he did with far larger and heavier
animals, but had to drag it along the ground. This was
the result of his proud boasting, and of forgetting to say,


as he did about the larger animals : ' By the aid of
Allah ! '

Ever since then the lions have been obliged to drag
any sheep they may capture along the ground, leaving a
track after them.

So you see why I felt sure of being able to track my
game later on. Well, I had hardly regained my tent


when the owner of the sheep arrived, hot and panting,
and told me that he had followed the traces of the lion
for a mile and a half, but had been unable to go further.
However, all his information was very precise, and I was
able to give orders to my two beaters, who, luckily, were
experienced men, for a track is far more difficult to follow
up in summer than in winter.

They were both Arabs, from thirty to thirty-five
years of age, strong, hardy, and cunning true sons of the

One was called Bilkassem, and the other Amar Ben-

They divided the work between them, Bilkassem
taking the animal from the time he left the settlement,
and Amar Ben-Sarah from the point where the owner of
the sheep had lost the track.

After a search of nearly two miles, Bilkassem found
the skin of the sheep for the lion is a dainty animal, and
does not eat hides ; and, on reaching the neighbouring
well, Bilkassem found a mark left by Amar Ben-Sarah.
It was needless for him to go any further. His comrade
was on the track, and he knew there was not much chance
of its being lost. So Bilkassem returned to the tent and
brought me his report.

Meantime Ben- Sarah followed the lion.

Towards mid-day Amar Ben-Sarah returned too. The
lion had retired into its lair. The Arab had described a
circle of a thousand paces round his den, and thus made
sure of finding the exact spot. It was nearly 4,000
yards off.

My mind was made up, in all probability we should
meet that very day.

The day wore on. I felt nervous and excited, and
could neither eat, read, nor occupy myself with anything,
in my feverish impatience, and shortly before sunset I
set out. It is the time when any natives who may
happen to have a lion in their neighbourhood invariablv


stop at home. From the first moment of the short twi-
light till the following day, any Arab who has heard that
warning roar feels the greatest reluctance to put a foot
outside his tent. But the very reason which kept them
safely indoors determined me to choose this particular
hour, for this is the time when the lion awakens from his
mid-day sleep and starts out in search of prey.

When I reached the place marked by Amar Ben-
Sarah I found I still had a quarter of an hour's daylight,
and might study the landscape.

It was the entrance to a mountain gorge. The
slopes on either side and the bottom of the gorge itself
were thickly wooded, the trees interspersed here and there
with bare rock, which stood out like gigantic bones, and
were still burning after the heat of the day.

We plunged into the gorge, Ben-Sarah acting as guide.
Behind him he dragged a goat, who was to serve as a
decoy for the lion.

About fifty paces from the lion's lair there was a
clearing, which I chose as my point of vantage. Amar
cut down a sapling, sharpened one end, and planted it
firmly in the middle of the clearing. Then he tied
the goat to it, leaving its rope a couple of yards

As he was completing his operations we heard a loud
and prolonged yawn at no great distance. It was the
lion, only half awake as yet, but who was looking at us,
and who yawned as he looked.

The bleatings of the goat had wakened him. He was
quietly sitting at the foot of a rock and deliberately lick-
ing his thick lips, looking all the time full of the most
magnificent contempt for us.

I hastened to order my men back, and they were not
sorry to take up a position some two or three hundred
yards behind me. Arnida alone insisted on remaining
close by me.

I carefully examined the spot. A ravine separated me


from the lion. The clearing might he forty-five paces
round, consequently fifteen paces across.

I was alone, and had to choose my place. I took up
a position at the very edge of the wood, so that the goat
was between the lion and me the goat was seven or
eight paces from me, the lion about sixty.

Whilst I had been making my little inspection the
lion had disappeared ; there was evidently no time to be
lost in preparing to receive him, as he might fall upon me
at any moment. An oak tree offered the support I always
look for on these occasions. I cut off the small boughs
which might have hindered my movements, and sat down
with my back against the trunk. I was hardly seated
before the signs of agitation shown by the goat told me
plainly that something was going on close to us. The
goat dragged at his cord with all his might towards me,
but kept his eyes fixed on the opposite side.

I understood that the lion had taken a roundabout
path to reach us, and was now approaching, following,
as he did so, the fold of the ravine.

I was not mistaken. At the end of ten minutes I saw
his huge head appear at the top of the ravine which had
at first divided us, then his shoulders, and then his whole
body. He walked slowly, not yet fully awake, and with
his eyes half closed, for the lion is a great sleeper and very

Having reached the top he found himself about seven
paces from the goat and fifteen from me. I remained
settled where I was, and took aim at him right between the
eyes. For a moment I felt tempted to pull the trigger, but
the fascination of watching the superb creature and noting
the movements and ways of my formidable antagonist
kept me motionless. For some moments I enjoyed such
an interview as few men can boast of. I felt I deserved
it, for it was two years since I had been actually face to
face with a lion, and this was one of the finest and largest
I had ever seen. At the end of a few minutes he



crouched down perfectly flat on the ground, then he
crossed his paws in the front of him and pillowed his head
upon them. His eye was fixed on me, and his glance
never wavered from mine for an instant. He seemed to be
wondering what this man could be doing in his kingdom
without even recognising his royalty. Five minutes more
passed. In the position he had taken up nothing would
have been easier for me than to have killed him.

All of a sudden he rose, and began to be agitated,
making a couple of steps forward, then one or two back-
wards to the right, to the left arid moving his tail like
a young cat who is getting angry.

No doubt he could not understand this goat with its
cord or this man who kept watching him, but his instinct
told him there was some trap.

Meantime I sat quite still, the gun at my shoulder
and my finger on the trigger, following every movement
with my eye. One spring, and I should be between his
claws. His anxiety increased every moment, and almost
infected me. His tail lashed against his sides, his move-
ments were more rapid and his eye kindled.

To hesitate longer would be suicidal. I seized the
moment w r hen he turned his left flank towards me, took
a steady aim and fired.

The lion staggered on his legs and uttered a frightful
roar, but did not fall.

I fired my second shot. Then, without looking, for I
was sure I had hit him, I threw down my first gun and
seized the second which was lying ready loaded beside me.
When I turned round again the lion had disappeared. I
remained motionless, fearing a surprise, and looking round
on all sides for a hidden foe.

I heard the lion roar. He had fled into the bed of the
ravine, and was hurrying back to his lair.

I w T aited a few minutes more, or perhaps they were
only seconds, for one does not measure time accurately in
such circumstances.



Then, hearing nothing, I rose cautiously and went to
inspect the spot where the lion had received my two shots.

The goat was panting on the ground, terrified, but
otherwise unhurt.

I soon realised that the lion had been hit by both my
balls, and they had pierced him right through. Every
hunter knows that an animal can go further with a wound
right through the body than if the ball is lodged in its
inside. I set off on the track. It was not difficult to

As I supposed, he had regained his lair. At this
moment I saw the heads of Amida, Amar Ben-Sarah, and
Bilkassem appear at the top of the ravine. They
approached with caution, not knowing whether I was
dead or alive, and prepared to fire. When they saw me
they shouted with joy and ran to join me. They
wanted to start at once in pursuit of the lion, but I
held them back ; for, in my opinion, the lion had been
dangerously, probably mortally, wounded, but the heart
had not been touched. He was still full of strength,
and his last struggles would be terrible.

As we were discussing this, eight or ten more men,
armed with guns, joined us. They had heard my two
shots, and, like Amida, Bilkassem, and Amar Ben-Sarah,
ran to see what had happened.

Their first cry was ' Let us follow him ! '

I assured them they would run great danger. But
no ; ' Stay there,' said they, ' and we'll bring him to you

It was useless to repeat that the lion, in my opinion,
was still very much alive indeed ; they insisted on
entering the wood.

Finding that nothing would turn them from their
project, I determined to go with them. But I took my
precautions. I reloaded my favourite gun, gave one to
Ben-Sarah and another to Amida, and, thus prepared, I
entered the wood on the track of the lion.


It was almost dark ; the wood was thick with shrubs
and undergrowth, and one had almost to crawl along.

My three Arabs followed me, and the men from the
settlement came behind them. It took us nearly a quarter
of an hour to walk fifty steps, and even that we did with
much difficulty.

After fifty steps more it was quite dark, and we had
lost the track.

There was a clearing close at hand, and we made for
it so as to reconnoitre.

Whilst we were scattered about in the clearing, trying
to make out some vestige of the track, either by acci-
dent or by awkwardness a gun suddenly went off.

Instantly a hoarse roar was heard, and the lion fell
amongst us as though he had literally dropped from the

There was an instant of intense terror. Every gun
except mine went off at the same moment, and it was
only a wonder that we did not all kill each other. Need-
less to say that not a ball touched the lion.

Through the fire and smoke I saw all the men
round me except Aroar Ben-Sarah. Then from the
other side of the clearing I heard a piercing cry.

I ran towards the spot from where the sound came,
and in the dusk only saw the man and the lion when
I was actually upon them.

Amar Ben-Sarah was lying on the ground, and the lion
standing over him.

I felt giddy, and thought my legs were going to bend
under me, but the weakness passed like a flash of light-

The lion, seeing the muzzle of my gun so near his head,
turned to me with a savage look. In another second he
would have been upon me ; but I was too near to miss
the fatal spot. I pulled the trigger, he staggered a few
paces to one side, and then dropped down dead beside
the man he was about to kill.

G 2


No one can have read Captain Mayne Eeid's stories about
America without being struck by the part played in them
by an animal called the ' painter,' which is of a tawny
colour, with a black stripe down its back. Now the
' painter ' is really the panther, and the panther is
the creature that we call the puma, which, next to the
jaguar, is the biggest of all the American cats, and has
a wider range than any other mammal. The puma
is to be met with in British Columbia, or in the Adiron-
dack mountains not far from New York State ; it is to
be seen in the hot unhealthy swamps that lie along
the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico ; it lies in
wait for its prey in the river forests of the Amazon and
the Orinoco ; it tracks the wild and cunning huanaco
ten thousand feet high on the Andes, and it is the
dreaded enemy of colts and sheep on the cattle runs of
the Argentine Republic. With wonderful skill it makes
the best of circumstances ; if horses, its favourite food,
are not to be had, it puts up with ostriches ; if it happens
to live in Mexico, or Arizona, it makes its dinner off wild
turkeys ; further north still, the puma will be content
with porcupines or even snails, while if its chosen haunts
along the river banks of the Amazon or the Orinoco are
overwhelmed by a sudden inundation, it takes to the trees
and feasts upon monkeys.

As sometimes occurs in families, the puma has a
particular hatred for its cousin the jaguar, and seldom


indeed does it fail to get the better in any fight. It also
has a violent dislike to dogs, and in South America can
never see one without flying out to attack it, while the
grizzly bear is its deadly foe. But, on the other hand, in
the great continent of South America it shows its best
qualities. Ifc loves man, and even when attacked by him
will not defend itself, while in puma-haunted districts
children may even sleep all night alone, without fear of
harm. And not only children, for travellers tell us a
puma has never been known to attack a sleeping man.

It is a great pity that pumas are so fond of killing
tame and useful beasts, as they have many delightful
qualities as pets. Pumas are very playful, and very affec-
tionate and gentle to people and children ; but they are
rapidly being hunted down, as farmers find it quite
impossible to keep any cattle in their neighbourhood.
Between their courage and their wonderful powers of
jumping, no animals are safe from them. Some witnesses
have declared that pumas have been seen, when pursued
by dogs, to spring a clear twenty feet into the air for shelter
in a tree, while another leap of forty feet was measured
on the ground. In Patagonia, a farmer who had suffered
much from a puma's appetite shut all his sheep into a
huge fold, surrounded by a wooden paling fifteen feet high.
The only entrance was by a six-foot gate, and, to make all
secure, men and dogs were told off to watch. But the puma
was too clever for them all ! He seized his chance when
any clouds came up to make the darkness thicker, and every
morning one sheep at least was found with a dislocated
neck, and its breast eaten, for this is the way a puma
always kills its prey, and, except when very hungry, it
never eats the whole carcass. One night, the naturalist l
who tells the story was passing by the gate, when the
robber sprang right over his head, but it was too dark to
give chase, so the puma got away safely. Afterwards, it

1 Hudson.


was found that it had been in the habit of hiding till dark
in the pen with some calves, which it never tried to touch,
as it knew it was sure of the sheep.

In many places in Patagonia, where horses are bred,
farmers have been obliged to turn their attention to
something else, as the colts invariably fall victims to the
pumas. They will lie patiently in wait for them to pass,
and, never caring for the man, or men, who may be
bringing the drove back from pasture, will spring out
from behind a bush right on the back of the colt, place
one paw on its head, and the other on its bosom, and
bring the head back with a jerk. Then, before the driver
has had time to come up, the puma is deep in the bushes

There is nothing mean about a puma ; it is all the
same to this great big cat whether the beast it is hunting
is large or small, fierce or tame. It will trot, or rather
bound, after a peccary, a jaguar, or a grizzly bear, quite
as cheerfully as if it w y ere stalking a colt or a sheep. Only
one animal has been known to get the better of a puma, and
that is the last you would ever expect a donkey. It is
the fable of the hare and the tortoise over again. The
puma may jump on his back as much as it likes, the
donkey puts down his head, so that the puma cannot seize
his neck, and kicks so hard that the puma is at last shaken
off ; or if that does not do, the donkey takes to bucking,
and anybody who has ridden much knows very well what
the end of bucking is likely to be.

But when pumas can be kept away from all other
beasts, and be seen only with man, or with each other, what
charming and graceful creatures they show themselves !
Fancy watching pumas chasing butterflies for the pure
fun of it ; or playing with their babies as if they were so
many kittens, rolling them over and stretching out their
tails for the little ones to catch, or having a game of hide
and seek behind the rocks and bushes. It seems almost
absurd to think that a puma could ever want to hurt any


living thing and if you had not seen a cat's eyes when
it looks at a bird, you might say the same about him !

But many are the stories told in South America of the
attachment of the puma to man, and the kindness it has
shown him. One day, a band of men went out to hunt,
and scattered in search of game all over the plains or
pampas. In the evening, when they all assembled to ride
home, one of the number was missing ; but on reaching the
farm, his horse was found quietly standing outside his
stable. It was too late and dark to do anything that
night, but at dawn next morning the rest set forth, and after
some hours they found their missing comrade, lying on
some ground, with his legs broken. The poor man had
spent a terrible night, for the voices of jaguars were often
heard in the distance, and most likely would have come
a good deal closer, had it not been for a puma, who had
never ceased walking about as if to guard him. When
the jaguar's voice became louder than usual, the puma
crawled silently and noiselessly away, and sounds of
battle came through the darkness. No more was known
of that jaguar.

There is an old legend which is to be found in every
history of the Spanish settlers in South America, that
seems almost like one of the stories of the early martyrs.
In the year 1536, says Euy Diaz de Guzman, the Spanish
settlers in the town of Buenos Ayres were closely besieged
by Indians, and, after suffering frightful hardships from
hunger and thirst and sickness, eighteen hundred of the
unfortunate people died, and were buried, by the six
hundred that were left, just outside the wooden palisade
that defended them from their enemies. The graves were
dug hardly below the surface of the ground, for the diggers
looked up with fear between the turning of every sod to
see if the Indians were approaching, and the smell of the
dead bodies soon attracted swarms of wild beasts from the
country round, so that on every side the Spaniards were
beset with dangers.


At last, most of the few who were left declared they
could bear this state of things no longer. It was a choice
of evils, and they made up their minds that they would
prefer to fall into the power of beasts rather than of men.
So, when the darkness had fallen, a little company crept
out from the palisade, and stole away to the woods.

How they fared we are not told ; but one girl, called
Maldonada, after wandering about till dawn, fell in with
some Indians, who carried her off to their village in the
heart of the forest, and treated her with great kindness.

Some months later, Euiz, the deputy-governor of
Buenos Ayres, heard where she was, and being by this
time free from his enemies sent to the friendly tribe to
beg of them to give Maldonada up to him. When the poor
girl was brought back to the city she found that it was
only to be accused as a traitor to her own people, and to
be condemned to be fastened to a tree in the forest, so that
savage beasts might devour her.

So Maldonada, who had passed unhurt amidst the
hungry animals, whose midnight wars she had heard when
flying from the besieged city, was now to be delivered
over to a fate from which no escape was possible. Hoio a girl
living quietly in an Indian village could have betrayed her
people, Sefior Euiz did not say, and it is not clear why he
was so anxious for her destruction ; but sentence was given,

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 5 of 22)