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Lions and their Ways, edited by Andrew Lang

Bingley’s Animal Biography.

Although it would not be safe to put one’s self into the power of a lion, trusting to its generosity to make friends, there are a great many stories of the kindness of lions to other creatures which are perfectly true. One day, more than a hundred years ago, a lion cub only three months old was caught in one of the great forests near the river Senegal, and brought to a Frenchman as a gift. The Frenchman, who was fond of animals, undertook to train it, and as the cub was very gentle and quiet this was easily done. He soon grew very fond of his master, and enjoyed being petted both by him and his friends, and what was more strange in a beast whose forefathers had passed all their lives in solitude, the lion hated being by himself. The more the merrier was clearly his motto, and whether the company consisted of dogs, cats, ducks, sheep, geese, or monkeys (which were his bedfellows), or men and women, did not matter to him; and you may imagine his joy, when one night as he went to bed he found two little new-born pups in his straw. He was quite as pleased as if he had been their mother; indeed he would hardly let the mother go near them, and when one of them died, he showed his grief in every possible way, and became still more attached to its brother.

After six months the lion, now more than a year old, was sent off to France, still with the little pup for company. At first his keepers thought that the strangeness of everything would make him frightened and savage,  but he took it quite calmly and was soon allowed to roam about the ship as he pleased. Even when he landed at Havre, he only had a rope attached to his collar, and so he was brought to Versailles, the pup trotting happily by his side. Unfortunately, however, the climate of Europe did not agree with the dog as with the lion, for he gradually wasted away and died, to the terrible grief of his friend. Indeed he was so unhappy that another dog was put into the cage to make up for the lost one, but this dog was not used to lions, and only knew that they were said to be savage beasts, so he tried to hide himself. The lion, whose sorrow, as often happens, only made him irritable and cross, was provoked by the dog’s want of confidence in his kindness, and just gave him one pat with his paw which killed him on the spot. But he still continued so sad, that the keepers made another effort, and this time the dog behaved with more sense, and coaxed the lion into making friends. The two lived happily together for many years, and the lion recovered some of his spirits, but he never forgot his first companion, or was quite the same lion again.

The lion roars at the man


Many hundreds of miles south of Senegal a Hottentot who lived in Namaqualand was one evening driving down a herd of his master’s cattle, to drink in a pool of water, which was fenced in by two steep walls of rock. It had been a particularly hot summer, and water was scarce, so the pool was lower than usual, and it was not until the whole herd got close to the brink, that the Hottentot noticed a huge lion, lying right in the water, preparing to spring. The Hottentot, thinking as well as his fright would let him think at all, that anything would serve as supper for the lion, dashed straight through the herd, and made as fast as he could for some trees at a little distance. But a low roar behind him told him that he had been wrong in his calculations, and that the lion was of opinion that man was nicer than bull. So he fled along as quickly as his trembling legs would let him, and just reached one of  the tree aloes in which some steps had been cut by the natives, as the lion bounded into the air. However the man swung himself out of his enemy’s range, and the lion fell flat upon the ground. Now the branches of the tree were covered with hundreds of nests of a kind of bird called the Sociable Grosbeak, and it was to get these nests that the natives had cut in the smooth trunk the steps which had proved the salvation of the Hottentot. Behind the shelter of the nests the Hottentot cowered, hoping that when he was no longer seen, the lion would forget him and go in search of other prey. But the lion seemed inclined to do nothing of the sort. For a long while he walked round and round the tree, and when he got tired of that he lay down, resolved to tire the man out. The Hottentot hearing no sound, peeped cautiously out, to see if his foe was still there, and almost tumbled down in terror to meet the eyes of the lion glaring into his. So the two remained all through the night and through the next day, but when sunset came again the lion could bear his dreadful thirst no longer, and trotted off to the nearest spring to drink. Then the Hottentot saw his chance, and leaving his hiding place he ran like lightning to his home, which was only a mile distant. But the lion did not yield without a struggle; and traces were afterwards found of his having returned to the tree, and then scented the man to within three hundred yards of his hut.