LIONS AND TIGERS

by Anonymous

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 there?"

"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 greatest attention.

"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 anything else."

"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 smile.

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 one.

"No," answered the Tiger, "I come from India. I used to live in the jungle."

"And were you caught in a trap, too?" said the eager little Lion
Cub.

"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
Lioness.

"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.