Leo, the Lion by
Leo was a full-grown, African lion, and one of the finest specimens of
his race. Not only was he the king of beasts, but he was the king of
all other lions for miles and miles around the country in which he
From a little, tawny cub, when he had played and frolicked with his
brother and sister, he had given proofs of his extraordinary strength.
His mother had at last decided he was too rough to play with the
others, so bruised and knocked about were they on more than one
occasion after romping with him.
The muscles of his thick paws and sturdy limbs stood out like knotted
cords even as a cub; his claws cut like little sickles, and his hard,
rope-like tail could give a blow that would knock his brother or
sister head over heels.
As he grew up he gave promise of the magnificent animal he eventually
became. Added to his wonderful strength he had marvelous daring, even
for a young lion, being absolutely fearless.
Long before his mane had fully grown the other lions stood in awe of
him; for, although at times he was indolent and lazy, like the rest of
his kind, and would not exert himself unless obliged to do so, there
were other times when he allowed nothing to stand in his way.
His favorite food happened to be buffalo and giraffe, and although
they were both extremely troublesome things to get hold of, Leo cared
not. He liked buffalo and giraffe, and he intended to have them. The
other lions would never go out of their way if they could get an
antelope or a jaguar, because they were easy to strike down and were
very good eating; but to obtain a buffalo or a giraffe meant running
long distances, and this is what a lion does not care to do.
With his great strength he can give tremendous springs, but, owing to
his indolent nature, he dislikes a long-continued race, which is apt,
before it is finished, to be somewhat tiring, even to a lion.
Buffaloes and giraffes are made for running and think nothing of it,
but the lion is built in a different manner, and, moreover, he knows
that these animals are so wonderfully quick of hearing that they
generally obtain a good start to begin with.
But Leo cared nothing for this: if he wanted a buffalo he had it, even
if he raced half the night through for it. As a matter of fact, the
longer the race the more he enjoyed the feast. What could be nicer
than, after racing for miles after a nice, fat buffalo, to pull it
down with his strong paws, to tear open its throat, and drink the warm
Sometimes he ate a part of the flesh, but not always; he was somewhat
fastidious, and so that he had the warm blood, he more often than not
left the carcass for the wolves and hyenas, or any other animal who
cared to have it.
There was perhaps even more delight in obtaining a giraffe than a
buffalo. For a giraffe can skim over the ground at an amazing pace—so
swiftly, so silently, that not a sound can be heard except the soft,
gentle swish of its funny little tail.
The stately carriage of the giraffe does not appeal to the lion, and
the graceful neck, with its pretty head and round, gentle eyes, has no
effect on him; all he thinks of is the tender flesh and delicate
flavor which belong peculiarly to a giraffe.
There is no struggle as with the buffalo when the lion springs upon
the giraffe. There is no roar or noise of any kind, for the giraffe is
absolutely dumb, and makes no sound even when dying.
But Leo was fastidious even about the giraffe: he only ate the parts
he liked best, and left the rest for the lower animals.
At other times, when the indolence of his nature overcame him, Leo
would content himself with a young antelope or any other animal which
was easy to capture. When food was scarce he would use the lion's
tactics to get it.
In the first place, he would be very careful to go against the wind,
so that the peculiar odor, which all animals that belong to the cat
tribe have, should be blown behind him, and so not convey any warning
to the animals he was approaching. If he failed to find anything, he
would resort to tactic number two. He would put his huge mouth close
to the ground and roar, moving his head in a half-circle all the time;
by doing this it was impossible for the animals to tell from which
direction the sound came, and, wild with terror, the foolish creatures
would rush out in all directions, very often into Leo's very mouth.
After this he would creep indolently back to his comfortable lair and
have a good, long sleep. For sleep is one of a lion's greatest
enjoyments. He sleeps after a night hunt; sleeps during the heat of
the day; in fact, when there is nothing else to do, and whenever he
has an opportunity. Belonging to the cat tribe, he has the cat's love
of sleep and ease very strongly developed, and is about as indolent an
animal on occasion as can be imagined.
When Leo was fully grown he was a magnificent animal, and even the
other male lions stood in awe of him. He looked what he was—a very
king of lions, when, after a long sleep, he rose up in all his majesty
of strength, shook his magnificent mane and lashed his tail, with its
curious little black tuft, to and fro as though eager for a fight.
He was acknowledged by all his brethren, almost before he had reached
his maturity, to be the king of them all; and Leo took the honor as a
matter of course, and kept up his reputation to the very letter.
He was the terror of the villagers by night, for he had already become
known, and the animal creation lived in deadly fear of him.
He would stalk into the villages in the coolest and most daring
manner, passing under the very noses of the guns, take up some lamb or
sheep or other small animal, and walk coolly off with it, growling in
his most impudent manner the while. In vain did the guns blaze forth
fire and smoke; in vain were traps set in all directions. Leo was not
to be caught: he eluded them all, and went his way, and became more
and more a living terror and a dread.
When he took unto himself a wife he grew fiercer still, and his rage
and passion at the slightest sign of any intruder kept all other
members of the tribe at a safe distance.
In due course of time he had a small family, and once in possession of
these precious cubs his strength and fierceness increased, and his
daring knew no bounds. His roars struck terror into all hearts, and
his craftiness and extraordinary cunning inspired a superstitious fear
among the natives, which made them speak of him with hushed breath.
But pride must have a fall, and Leo's fall came in a somewhat curious
It happened that food was very scarce, and that the young cubs were
growing more and more hungry as the days went on.
Leo was a proud father, and the fine, sturdy cubs which belonged to
him were the admiration of all the other lions who had ever had the
privilege of seeing them. He would go through almost anything for
himself, but for his wife and cubs he cared not what he faced or what
he dared, so that he obtained what he wanted.
They had eaten up most of the young things which had been thriving on
the various farms, and there seemed to be nothing left but either a
sheep or a bullock. Being lazy, Leo did not care to carry either a
sheep or a bullock to his lair; he preferred something lighter.
And so it happened one evening that, as he made his way towards the
village—making up his mind that if there was nothing else he must
have a sheep—he suddenly came across the dead body of a little Kaffir
boy lying by the wayside.
The Kaffirs very seldom bury their dead, and so the mother had laid
her beloved one under a shady bank, and left him with a few leaves
strewn over him.
At first Leo hesitated. He had never tasted Kaffir, and he also knew
that it was a bad thing to eat. But he was very hungry himself, and
his wife and family were hungry, too; and the little Kaffir boy would
be light to carry.
After smelling and turning over the body, he decided first to taste it
and see whether it would be good for his family to eat.
Alas! once having tasted it, Leo was done for. It was the most
delicious food he had ever tasted, and he was unable to stop eating
until he had made a full, heavy meal. Then he looked at the poor
little carcass; there would still be enough for the cubs, and yet he
He knew it would be bad for them; he knew that, once having given it
to them, they would be spoilt for all other food; but he had eaten so
heartily himself, and was already getting so lazy and sleepy from the
effects of his meal, that he had no energy nor inclination to hunt for
any other food that night. So, taking the remains of the little Kaffir
boy in his strong mouth, he trotted swiftly off to his lair, and put
it down temptingly in front of the cubs.
There were two of them, and they were ravenously hungry; without more
ado they set to work, and tore and crunched with their sharp teeth and
strong little jaws, until there was not a vestige of the little Kaffir
The lioness, seeing there was only sufficient food for the cubs, did
not attempt to take any, but, hungry as she was, looked placidly on
while the young ones satisfied their hunger.
[Illustration: "HE WOULD TAKE UP SOME SMALL ANIMAL AND WALK COOLLY OFF
Leo looked at her guiltily, and expected reproaches. But, as it
happened, his wife had not noticed what kind of food he had brought;
it had been too much torn to be recognizable, and she concluded it was
the remains of some small animal he had killed.
At any other time he would have gone out again to fetch some food for
his wife, but he was so heavy and sleepy that, with one big yawn, he
sank down, stretched out his huge paws in front of him, and, nestling
his handsome head comfortably between them, sank into a deep sleep.
From that day Leo was no longer the same. He was restless and
irritable, snappy and fierce even to his wife and children. He raced
no more after buffaloes or giraffes, or even for antelopes or jaguars;
all he wanted was human flesh.
Once having tasted it, he cared for and could eat no other. And as
time went on his magnificent coat began to come off in great,
unsightly patches, his eyes and mouth got sore and red, and his limbs
grew weak and rickety. His roar was no longer the fierce, grand,
triumphant roar that it had been; it resembled a hoarse cry of pain
now, and his little ones—instead of being sturdy little cubs as they
had been—had grown thin, miserable, and mangy.
Altogether Leo was in a miserable state; and, to add to his misery,
his wife turned against him. The sight of his mangy coat and bloodshot
eyes, not to speak of the sore, drooping mouth, filled her with
disgust, and she growled fiercely whenever he came near her.
In vain he brought her food to eat; but the food was always dead
Kaffir, and she would not touch it.
She appeared, too, to turn against the cubs, and, instead of fondling
and caressing them as formerly, kept them aloof and chastised them
severely with her heavy paws whenever they came too near.
Soon after this one of the cubs died, and Leo's grief was painful to
witness. He licked it all over, put his huge paw on it, and turned it
from one side to the other, uttering queer little sounds all the time,
and, when he found it would neither move nor respond to his caresses,
gave a prolonged howl of misery which struck terror into his wife's
She had had enough of it by this time; she disliked a mangy husband
and scrofulous children, and so the next evening quietly took her
departure to some other place where the surroundings were more
Leo tottered back to his lair that night with staggering, uneven steps
to find his wife had gone and that his last remaining cub had just
With a cry of pain, something between a roar and a deep growl, Leo
stretched himself over the two little, dead bodies of his children and
pined and fretted away.
He no longer went for food, not even for Kaffirs, and the villagers
and animals in the neighborhood wondered what had become of him, and
whether his absence meant some fresh daring on his part.
But there was no more daring for Leo. From the time he laid his long,
warm body over the cold forms of his children he never rose again.
For three days he lay there, doing his best to bring them back to
life; but on the third day his great head, with what remained of its
magnificent beauty, sank for the last time on his heavy paws, and Leo,
the king of lions, was dead.
And so this grand, strong, noble animal lost his life through eating
human flesh, which he knew quite well he ought not to touch.