LIONS AND TIGERS
The Lioness was wide awake, but two of the little Lion Cubs were
rather sleepy. The third one however, who had perched himself on
his mother's back, was quite livety: he had not had quite so much
for dinner as the others.
"Mother," he began, "what do all these two-legged things come and
look at us for? And why have they got such funny skins? Do they
ever have anything to eat, mother—bones, and things like that?"
"Don't purr so loudly, my dear," said the Lioness, or you'll wake
your brother and sister. These two-legged things are people—the
big ones are called men and women, and the little ones are boys and
girls. They don't do us any harm; indeed, some of them are very
kind to us—they give us our dinner, and clean straw in our houses,
and help to make us comfortable. They do their best, poor things,
so you mustn't growl at them."
"Look, mother," said the Lion Cub, "that small thing with the white
skin has thrown something into our house! What does she think we
shall do with it?"
"Don't take any notice of her, my dear." said the Lioness, blinking
her eyes at the little girl (who was "the small thing with the
white skin"); "it's only something that they call bread—she
thinks that we shall eat it. But it's really only fit for elephants
or bears; we don't eat stuff like that. I tasted it once, I
remember, but that was a long time ago, when I was very, very
hungry, and glad to get anything I could."
"When was that, mother?" said the baby Lion. "Do tell me about it."
"Ah, I didn't always live in a house like this, my dear," replied
the Lioness. "I was born far away from here, in a place called
Africa, and I was quite grown-up before I saw a man at all. We used
to live very happily there in my young days—though it wasn't such
an easy life as that we have now. There was no one to bring you
your dinner regularly every day; no, you had to catch your dinner
first and then eat it, and sometimes we had to go a long time with
nothing but a very small antelope or perhaps a bird or two."
The Lion Cub's eyes opened wide with astonishment.
"What is Africa like, mother?" he said. "Did anyone else live
"Dear me, yes," answered the Lioness. "All sorts of creatures.
There were antelopes and snakes, and several of our own relations,
and hosts of others besides."
The Lion Cub thought for a little while. Then he said, "Why did you
come here, then, mother?"
The Lioness growled slightly. From the next cage there came a loud
roar, waking the two sleeping Lion Cubs, and startling the other so
much that he tumbled off his mother's back.
"Ho, ho, ho!" said a deep voice. "I remember! It seemed such a nice
fat young calf, didn't it?" It was the big Lion next door. The
Lioness seemed quite vexed; she had not known that the Lion was
listening. But he had been, and now he seemed to be in a very good
humor, and went on purring and talking to himself, but the little
Lion Cubs could easily hear what he was saying, and paid the
"Yes," he went on, "and it was a nice fat young calf, too; I
saw it first, and I remember thinking that it would make such a
fine dinner for us both. I never dreamed that there were hunters
about, and it was a trap to catch us; of course I was quite young
in those days. But it was a trap, and we were both caught."
"I needn't have been caught," growled the Lioness from the back of
her cage, "if I hadn't come to see what you were doing."
"Ah, well," said the Lion. "We were both of us deceived. And then
they put us into small, strong cages and took us over the great big
water and brought us here. I often think of the days when we were
free, but we get along very well here, don't we? It's no use making
a fuss about what you can't help, and really these two-legged
creatures are very amusing."
"Yes," said the Lioness, still with a little growl in her voice,
"but one needn't pretend that one wouldn't rather be free. Those
pumas, now, are always saying how much better it is always to live
in a cage."
The Lion shook his mane scornfully. "Pumas!" he said. "Who would
take any notice of what a puma would say? They call themselves
'friends of man!' They're only friendly because they daren't be
"Do they come from Africa, too, mother?" said the Lion Cub.
"No, they live in America, my dear," replied the Lioness. "But
come, it's time we went out into the garden at the back of the
house. You must have a little fresh air." So saying, she stalked
through the little door at the back of the cage and went out,
followed by her Cubs, into the open space beyond.
"Good afternoon," said a lazy, sleepy voice from the other side of
the bars. "It's quite a fine day, isn't it?"
The three little Cubs all turned with a start. There was the Tiger,
stretched out in the sun, looking at them with a sleepy sort of
Of course, it wasn't a garden really, it was just a large open-air
cage, but there were rocks and trees dotted about all over it, and
it certainly looked very pleasant in the warm afternoon sunshine.
He was a very handsome fellow, was the Tiger, and he evidently knew
it, too. The Lioness greeted him pleasantly, and said with a purr
as she stretched herself out on the ground, "These young people of
mine were just asking me all sorts of questions; perhaps you can
tell them something interesting that has happened to you?"
"Ee-yow!" yawned the Tiger.
"Do, please," begged the little Lion Cubs, poking their noses
against the bars. "Do you come from Africa, too?" added the first
"No," answered the Tiger, "I come from India. I used to live in the
"And were you caught in a trap, too?" said the eager little Lion
"Gr-r-r-!" said the Tiger, suddenly beginning to growl. "There he
goes!" It was an Elephant, which was slowly walking along in the
distance with a number of children on his back. The Tiger looked
after him with a very angry look in his eyes, and not until he was
quite out of sight did he become quiet again. Then he said to the
Lioness, "Excuse me, but I never see that fellow without thinking
how it was one of his relations that helped to capture me. Ah, I
shall never forget it. I wasn't full-grown then, and I used to
live with my father and mother and my young brother in a cosy
little home in the jungle. Most of the men-creatures who lived
near us over there were brown, you know, not white like the ones
we see over here. My father was getting old, and food had become
very scarce. One night my father paid a visit to one of the
men-creatures' villages and brought us home a goat, and the next
night he brought us a sheep. It seemed very easy to get food that
way, but the men-creatures didn't like it, I suppose."
"Oh, sir," said the smallest Lion Cub, "please tell me, did you
ever eat a man?"
The Tiger smiled. "No," he said, "I never did, but my father—".
"Don't you think we'd better get on with the story?" put in the
"Well," said the Tiger, "one day there was a dreadful
noise—shouting and banging of drums and all sorts of things, and
crowds of the brown men came into the jungle, waking us up out of
our afternoon nap. We were very much startled at first, but my
father told us not to be afraid, and said he would look after us.
Presently we saw one of those wretched elephants coming along, and,
would you believe it, he had actually allowed some of the white men
to get into a sort of castle on his back, where they could shoot at
us in safety! Of course, it was no good. My poor father was killed,
and so was my mother; they captured me, and I was brought here over
the water, and here I have been ever since."
The Tiger stretched himself out at full length and yawned again; he
seemed to be quite tired by his long speech.
"Don't you ever want to be back again in the jungle?" said one of
the Lion Cubs.
"Well," said the Tiger, "sometimes, when it's cold and damp and
foggy, I do. But it's fairly comfortable here, on the whole. Now, I
must wash myself." And he began to lick his coat, just as a cat
does, and the Lion Cubs, seeing that there was nothing more to be
got out of him, that afternoon, started a game between themselves.