Page images


The lion roams about in the forests, sometimes uttering a roar so loud that it sounds like distant thunder. He crouches in thickets, where buffaloes and other animals come for food and drink, and when one of them is near, he springs upon it with a furious bound, and, seizing it in his strong claws, tears it in pieces, and devours, sometimes, flesh and bones together. He usually seeks his prey in the night, and is sly and skulking, like the cat, in his method of pursuing other animals.

The lion is a native of most parts of Africa, and the southern parts of Asia. In the hottest climates he grows to the greatest size, and displays the fiercest qualities. He sometimes lives to the

age of seventy years or more. In the southern part of Africa, lions are very common, and the adventures of the inhabitants with them are very frequent. An anecdote is related of a settler in the back districts of the Cape of Good Hope, which illustrates the ferocity and courage of the lion, as well as the dangers to which those are exposed who live in the countries inhabited by this animal.

A hunter, returning one day with some friends from an excursion, suddenly came upon two large full-grown lions. Their horses were already jaded, and the utmost consternation for a moment seized them. They immediately saw that their only hope of safety lay in separation. They started in somewhat different directions at the top of their speed, holding their rifles on the cock.

Those who were most lightly loaded made good their escape, but our hunter was left behind, and, as his companions disappeared below the brow of the hill, the two beasts came directly after him. He quickly loosed a deer which was tied to his saddle, but the prey was not sufficient to distract them from their purpose.

Happily, as was his custom, both barrels of his piece were loaded, and he was a good marksman. Turning for a moment, he levelled his gun with as much precision as, at such a time, he could command, and fired. He waited not for the result, but again galloped off as quickly as his horse could carry him, but he heard behind him a deep, short, and savage roar, and, as was afterwards found, one of them was killed. His work, however, was but half done.

The time he had lost was sufficient to bring his enemy within reach, who, with a tremendous bound, leaped upon the horse's back, lacerating it in a dreadful manner, but missed his hold; for the poor creature, mad with agony and fear, kicked with all its force, and hurried on with increased rapidity. A second attempt was more successful, and the hunter was shaken from his seat; the horse, however, again escaped. The poor fellow gave himself


for lost; but he was a brave man, and he determined to sell his life as dearly as possible. Escape, he saw, was hopeless; so, planting himself with the energy of despair, he put his rifle hastily to his shoulder, and, just as the lion was stooping for his spring, he fired. He was a little too late; the beast had moved, and the ball did not prove so effective as he had hoped. It entered the side of the wild beast, though it did him no mortal harm, and he leaped at his victim. The shot had, nevertheless, delayed his bound for an instant, and the hunter avoided its effect by a rapid jump, and, with the butt end of his gun, struck at the lion with all his power as he turned


him. The dreadful creature seized it with his teeth, but with such force that, instead of twisting it out of the hunter's hand, he broke it short off by the barrel.

The hunter immediately attacked him again, but his weapon was too short, and the lion, fixing his claws in his breast, and tearing off his flesh, endeavored to gripe his shoulder with his mouth. The gun-barrel was of excellent service. Driving it into the mouth of the beast with all his strength, he seized one of the creature's jaws with his left hand, and what with the strength and energy given by the dreadful circumstances, and the purchase obtained by the gun-barrel, he succeeded in splitting the animal's mouth.

At the same time they fell together on their sides, and a struggle for several minutes ensued upon the ground. Blood flowed freely in the lion's mouth, and nearly choked him. His motions were thus so frustated, that the hunter was upon his feet first, and, aiming a blow with all his might, he knocked out one of the lion's eyes.

The lion roared terribly with pain and rage, and, during the moments of delay caused by the loss of his eye, the hunter got behind him, and, animated by his success, hit him a dreadful stroke upon the back of the neck, which he knew was the most tender part. The stroke, however, appeared to have no effect, for the lion immediately leaped at him again, but, it is supposed from a defect of vision occasioned by the loss of his eye, instead of coming down upon the hunter, he leaped on one side of him, and shook as if from excess of pain.

The hunter felt his strength rapidly declining, but the agony he endured enraged him, and, with new power, he struck the lion again across the eyes. The beast fell backward, but drew the hunter on him with his paw, and another struggle took place upon the ground. The gun-barrel was his only safeguard. Rising up from the ground in terrible pain, and with a powerful effort, he inanaged to thrust it into the throat of the lion with all his might.

That thrust was fatal, and the huge animal fell on his side powerless. The hunter dragged himself to a considerable distance, and then fell exhausted and senseless. His friends shortly afterwards returned to his assistance, and found the two lions dead at no great distance from each other. The hunter recovered from bis wounds, and lived, one of the most memorable instances of escape on record.


THE STORY OF FINE-EAR. TEN or twelve years ago, there was, in the prison at Brest, a man sentenced for life to the galleys. I do not know the exact nature of his crime, but it was something very atrocious. never heard, either, what his former condition in life had been; for even his name had passed into oblivion, and he was recognised only by a number. Although his features were naturally well formed, their expression was horrible : every dark and evil passion seemed to have left its impress there; and his character fully corresponded to its outward indications. Mutinous, gloomy, and revengeful, he had often hazarded his life in desperate attempts to escape, which hitherto had proved abortive. Once, during winter, he succeeded in gaining the fields, and supported, for several

days, the extremity of cold and hunger. He was found, at length, half frozen and insensible, under a tree, and brought back to prison, where, with difficulty, he was restored to life. The ward-master watched him more closely, and punished him more severely by far, than the other prisoners, while a double chain was added to his heavy fetters. Several times he attempted suicide, but failed, through the vigilance of his guards. The only results of his experiments in this line were an asthma, caused by a nail which he hammered into his chest, and the loss of an arm, which he fractured in leaping off a high wall. After suffering amputation, and a six months' sojourn in the hospital, he returned to his hopeless life-long task-work.

One day, this man’s fierce humor seemed softened. After the hours of labor, le seated himself, with the companion in misery to whom he was chained, in a corner of the court; and his repulsive countenance assumed a mild expression. Words of tenderness were uttered by the lips which heretofore had opened only to blaspheme; and with his head bent down, he watched some object concealed in his bosom.

The guards looked at him with disquietude, believing he had some weapon hidden within his clothes ; and two of them approaching him stealthily from behind, seized him roughly, and began to search him, before he could make any resistance. Finding himself completely in their power, the convict exclaimed: “Oh, don't kill him! Pray, don't kill him!”

As he spoke, one of the guards had gained possession of a large rat, which the felon had kept next his bosom.

“Don't kill him!” he repeated. “ Beat me; chain me; do what you like with me; but don't hurt my poor rat! Don't squeeze him so between your fingers ! If you will not give him back to me, let him go free! And while he spoke, for the first time, probably, since his childhood, tears filled his eyes, and ran down his cheeks.

Rough and hardened men as were the guards, they could not listen to the convict, and see his tears, without some feeling of compassion. He who was about to strangle the rat, opened his fingers and let it fall to the ground. The terrified animal fled with the speed peculiar to its species, and disappeared behind a pile of beams and rubbish.

The felon wiped away his tears, looked anxiously after the rat, and scarcely breathed until he had seen it out of danger. Then he rose, and silently, with the old savage look, followed his companion in bonds, and lay down with him on their iron bedstead, where a ring and chain fastened them to a massive bar of the same metal.

Next morning, on his way to work, the convict, whose pale face showed that he had passed a sleepless night, cast an anxious, troubled glance towards the pile of wood, and gave a low, peculiar call, to which nothing replied. One of his comrades uttered some harmless jest on the loss of his favorite; and the reply was a furious blow, which felled the speaker, and drew down on the offender a severe chastisement from the task-master.

Arrived at the place of labor, he worked with a sort of feverish ardor, as though trying to give vent to his pent-up emotion; and, while stooping over a large beam, which he and some others were trying to raise, he felt something gently tickle his cheek. He turned round, and gave a shout of joy. There, on his shoulder, was the only friend he had in the world—his rat! who, with marvellous instinct, had found him out, and crept gently up to his face. He took the animal in his hands, covered it with kisses, placed it within its nest, and then, addressing the head gaoler, who happened to pass by at the moment, he said :

“Sir, if you will allow me to keep this rat, I will solemnly promise to submit to you in everything, and never again to incur punishment."

The ruler gave a sign of acquiescence, and passed on. The convict opened his shirt, to give one more fond look at his faithful pet, and then contentedly resumed his labor.

That which neither threats nor imprisonment, the scourge nor the chain, could effect, was accomplished, and rapidly, by the influence of love, though its object was one of the most despised among animals. From the moment when the formidable convict was permitted to cherish his pet night and day in his bosom, he became the most tractable and well-conducted man in the prison. His extraordinary strength, and his moral energy, were both employed to assist the governors in maintaining peace and subordination. Fine-Ear, so he called his rat, was the object of his unceasing tenderness. He fed it before he tasted each meal, and

« PreviousContinue »