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MISS SYBIL GOBBET
Author of 'Animal Land' 'Sybil's Garden of Pleasant Beasts'
and 'Epiotic Poems'
Sybil, the Beasts we bring to you
Are not so friendly, not so odd,
As those that all amazed we view,
The brutes created by your nod-
The Wuss, the Azorkon, and the Pod;
But then our tales are true!
Fauna of fancy, one and all
Obey your happy voice, we know;
A garden zoological
Is all around, where'er you go.
Mellys and Kanks walk to and fro,
And Dids attend your call.
We have but common wolves and bears,
Lion and leopard, hawk and hind,
Tigers, and crocodiles, and hares:
But yet they hope you will be kind,
And mark with sympathetic mind
These moving tales of theirs.
CHILDREN who read this book will perhaps ask
whether all the stories are true? Now all the
stories are not true; at least, we never meet the
Phoenix now in any known part of the world. To
be sure, there are other creatures, such as the
Mastodon and the Pterodactyl, which are not found
alive anywhere, but their bones remain, turned into
stones or fossils. It is unlikely that they were
changed into rocks by a witch, or by Perseus with
the Gorgon's Head, in the Greek story. It must
have been done in some other way. However, the
bones, now stones, show that there were plenty of
queer beasts that have died out. Possibly the sight
of the stone beasts and birds made people believe,
long ago, in such creatures as Dragons, and the
water-bulls that haunt the lochs in the Highlands.
One of these was seen by a shepherd about eighty
years since, and an account of it was sent to Sir
Walter Scott. There is also the Bunyip, a strange
creature which both white and black men say that
they have seen in the lakes of Australia. Then there
is the Sea Serpent; many people have seen him
alive, but no specimen of a dead Sea Serpent is in
any of the museums. About 1,300 years ago, more
or less, St. Columba saw a great water-beast, which
lived in the river Ness, and roared as it pursued men;
but the Saint put an end to its adventures. For my
part, I do not disbelieve that there may be plenty of
strange animals which scientific men have not yet
dissected and named by long names. Some of the
last of these may have been remembered and called
Dragons. For, if there were never any Dragons,
why did all sorts of nations tell stories about them ?
The Fire Drake, however, also the Ice Beast, or
Remora, do seem very unlikely creatures, and perhaps
they are only a sort of poetical inventions. The
stories about these unscientific animals are told by
Mr. H. S. C. Everard, who found them in very
curious old books.
The stories about Foxes are by Miss B. Grieve,
who is a great friend of Foxes, and takes their side
when they are hunted by the Duke of Buccleuch's
hounds. I am afraid she would not tell where the
Fox was hiding, if she knew (as she sometimes
does), just as you would not have told his enemies,
if you had known that Charles II. was hiding in the
oak tree. Not that it is wrong to hunt foxes, but
a person who is not hunting naturally takes the
weaker side. And, after all, the fun is to pursue the
fox, not to catch him. The same lady wrote about
sheep in 'Sheep Farming on the Border.'
The stories about 'Tom the Bear' are taken
from the French works on natural history by
M. Alexandre Dumas. We cannot be sure that
every word of them is true, for M. Dumas wrote
novels chiefly, which you must read when you are
older. One of these novels is about Charles I., and
it is certainly not all true, so we cannot believe every
word that M. Dumas tells us. He had a great deal
of imagination-enough for about thirteen thousand
Most of the other tales are written by Mrs.
Lang, and are as true as possible; while Miss Lang
took the adventures of a Lion Tamer, and A Boar
Hunt by Moonlight,' out of French and German
books. The story of greedy Squouncer, by Mrs.
Lang, is true, every word, and I wrote 'The Life
and Death of Pincher,' who belonged to a friend of
mine.' Squouncer's portrait is from a photograph,
and does justice to his noble expression.
Miss Blackley also did some of the stories. Most
of the tales of 'Thieving Dogs and Horses' were
published, about 1819, by Sir Walter Scott, in
Blackwood's Magazine,' from which they are taken
by Mrs. Lang.
I have tried to make it clear that this is not
altogether a scientific book; but a great deal of it is
more to be depended on than 'A Bad Boy's Book of
Beasts,' or Miss Sybil Corbet's books, 'Animal
Land,' and 'Sybil's Garden of Pleasant Beasts.'
From Longman's Magazine.
These are amusing, but it is not true that 'the
Garret Lion ate Sybil's mummy.' Indeed, I think
that when people, long ago, invented the Fire Drake,
and the Ice Beast, they were just like Miss Corbet,
when she invented the Kank, the Wuss, and other
animals. That is to say, they were children in their
minds, though grown up in their bodies. They
fancied that they saw creatures which were never
If this book has any moral at all, it is to be kind
to all sorts and conditions of animals-that will let
you. Most girls are ready to do this, but boys used
to be apt to be unkind to Cats when I was a boy.
There is no reason why an exception should be made
as to Cats, and a boy ought to think of this before
he throws stones or sets dogs at a cat. Now, in
London, we often see the little street boys making
friends with every cat they meet, but this is not so
common in the country. If anything in this book
amuses a boy, let him be kind to poor puss, and
protect her, for the sake of his obedient friend,
The Phenix 1
Griffins and Unicorns 4
About Ants, Amphisbclnas, and Basilisks 12
The Story of Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's Mother 33
The Story of Beowulf and the Fire Drake 43
A Fox Tale 49
An Egyptian Snake Charmer 55
An Adventure of Grrard, the Lion Hunter 61
Pumas and Jaguars in South America 84
Mathurin and Mathurine 98
Joseph: Whose proper name was Josephine .102
The Homes of the Vizcachas 108
Guanacos: Living and Dying 112
In the American Desert 117
The Story of Jacko 128
The Lion and the Saint 138
The Further Adventures of 'Tom,' a Bear, in Paris .143
Recollections of a Lion Tamer 154
Sheep Farming on the Border 171
When the World was Young 177
Bats and Vampires 196
The Ugliest Beast in the World 200
The Games of Orang-Outangs, and Kees the Baboon 206
Greyhounds and their Masters 224
The Great Father, and Snakes' Ways 232
Elephant Shooting 238
Hyenas and Children 252
A Fight with a Hippopotamus .257
Kanny, the Kangaroo 261
Collies, or Sheep Dogs 266
Two Big Dogs and a Little One 273
Crocodile Stories 280
Lion-Hunting and Lions 285
On the Trail of a Man-eater 304
Greyhounds and their Arab Masters 310
The Life and Death of Pincher 317
A Boar Hunt by Moonlight 321
Thieving Dogs and Horses 328
To the Memory of Squouncer 339
How Tom the Bear was born a Frenchman 344
Fairy Rings; and the Fairies who make them 364
How the Beindeer Live 370
The Cow and the Crocodile 376
The Lion falls in love with Aissa .
The Grifin .
How the Unicorn was Trapped
Finding a Mermaid .
Victor carried up the Chasm by the Dragon
Queen Waltheow and Beowulf
Grendel's Mother drags Beowulf to the bottom
the Lake .
to face p. 4
S ,, 8
The Death of Beowulf .
The Lion falls in love with7 Assa .
Aissa's Father finds her Axe .
The Lion appears at the top of the Ravine .
Maldonada guarded by the Puma .
The Jaguar besieged by Peccaries .
Joseph's Breakfast .
St. Jerome draws out the Thorn .
Tom frightens the Little Girl .
Just in time to save Tom ,,
Securing a Mammoth .
The Vamp]ire Bat .
How the Namaquas hunt the Rhinoceros .
Orang-Outangs eating Oysters on the Sea-shore .
The Orang determines to throw the rival Monkeys
When this Prize was laid at the feet of the Lady,
the Giver might ask in return for anything
he chose .
Baker shooting the Elephants at the Island
The Lion was in the air close to himn
The Woodman and the Lions get the best of the
The Highwayman's Horse
The Captain had a Strange Dream
The Bear instantly rose on its hind legs and began
Then a soft nose touched him
to face p. 224
The Phcenix 2
The Odenthos 13
The Demon of Cathay 15
Bagnar does battle with the Serpents 23
De Gozon and his Dogs fight the Dragon 31
The Snake Charmer 57
The Lion said to the Gazelles, Do not flee' 67
The Lion laughs at the Marabout's Question 75
Mathurin and Mathurine 99
Spaniards meeting a Caravan of Llamas 113
Watching the Combat 121
The Moccason Snake fascinates the Orioles 123
'Princess' and the Invalid .136
The Lion rescues the Ass from the Caravan 142
I seized him by the scruff of the neck . 159
The Lion Tamer offers to wake the (stuffed) Crocodile 163
Digging the imprisoned Sheep out of the Snow 175
Le Vaillant and Kees out hunting. 217
The Baboon who looked after the Goats 221
The Snakes found in the Lame Man's Bed 235
Oswell's narrow Escape 245
How the Hippopotamus attacked the Boat 259
The New Arrival 262
Kanny frightens the Carpenters 264
The Faithful Messenger 267
Finding the Necklace 283
The Lion in the Camp 301
Cumming's Cap frightens the Tiger 305
The Elephant tried to gore the Tiger with his Tsks 308
The Summons to the- Hunt 313
Vomhammel in Danger. 325
A Portrait of Greedy Squouncer 341
Hunting the Bison 367
IN former times, when hardly anybody thought of
travelling for pleasure, and there were no Zoological
Gardens to teach us what foreign animals and birds were
really like, men used to tell each other stories about all
sorts of strange creatures that lived in distant lands.
Sometimes these tales were brought by the travellers
themselves, who loved to excite the wonder of their friends
at home, and knew there was nobody to contradict them.
Sometimes they may have been invented by people to
amuse their children; but, anyway, the old books are full
of descriptions of birds and beasts very interesting to read
One of the most famous of these was the Phcenix,
a bird whose plumage was, according to one writer,
' partly red and partly golden,' while its size was almost
exactly that of the eagle.' Once in five hundred years
it' comes out of Arabia,' says one old writer, 'all the way
to Egypt, bringing the parent bird, plastered over with
myrrh, to the Temple of the Sun (in the city of Heliopolis),
and then buries the body. In order to bring the body, they
say, it first forms a ball of myrrh as big as it can carry,
puts the parent inside, and covers the opening with fresh
myrrh; the ball is then exactly the same weight as at
first; thus it brings the body to Egypt, plastered over as
I have said, and deposits it in the Temple of the Sun.'
This is all that the writer we have been quoting seems
to know about the Phoenix; but we are told by someone
else that its song was 'more beautiful than that of
any other bird,' and that it was 'a very king of the
feathered tribes, who followed it in fear, while it flew
swiftly along, rejoicing as a bull in its strength.' Flash-
ing its brilliant plumage in the sun, it went its way till it
reached the town of Heliopolis. 'In that city,' says
another writer, whose account is not quite the same as the
story told by the first--'in that city there is a temple
made round, after the shape of the Temple at Jerusalem.
The priests of that temple date their writings from the
visits of the Phoenix, of which there is but one in all the
world. And he cometh to burn himself upon the altar of
the temple at the end of five hundred years, for so long
he liveth. At the end of that time the priests dress up
their altar, and put upon it spices and sulphur, and other
things that burn easily. Then the bird Phoenix cometh
and burneth himself to ashes. And the first day after
men find in the ashes a worm, and on the second day
they find a bird, alive and perfect, and on the third day
the bird flieth away. He hath a crest of feathers upon
his head larger than the peacock hath, his neck is yellow
and his beak is blue; his wings are of purple colours, and'
his tail yellow and red in stripes across. A fair bird he is
to look upon when you see him against the sun, for he
shineth full gloriously and nobly.'
It is very hard to believe that the man who wrote
this had not actually seen this beautiful creature, he seems
to know it so well, and perhaps sometimes he really
fancied that one day it had dazzled his eyes as it darted
by. The Phcenix was a living bird to old travellers and
those to whom they told their stories, although they are
not quite agreed about its habits, or even about the
manner of its death. Sometimes, as we have seen, the
Phoenix has a father, sometimes there is only one bird. In
general it burns itself on a spice-covered altar; but,
according to one writer, when its five hundred years of life
are over it dashes itself on the ground, and from its
blood a new bird is born. At first it is small and helpless,
like any other young thing; but soon its wings begin
to show, and in a few days they are strong enough to
carry the parent to the city of Heliopolis, where, at sun-
rise, it dies. The new Phoenix then flies back home,
where it builds a nest of sweet spices-cassia, spikenard
and cinnamon; and the food that it loves is another spice,
drops of frankincense.
GRIFFINS AND UNICORNS
SOME of the creatures that we read about in the books
of the old travellers are quite easy to believe in, for,
after all, they are not very unlike the birds and beasts that
are to be seen to-day in different parts of the world. The
Phoenix, though bigger, was not more beautiful than
the tiny humming birds that dart through tropical forests,
nor more splendid than the noisy macaws, and we can
picture it to ourselves without any difficulty. But nobody
now will ever go in search of the gourd that grows on a
tree, and contains a little flesh-and-blood lamb; or expect,
in travelling through Scotland, to find a Barnacle-Goose
tree, with ducks instead of fruit, as a very clever gentle-
man who later became Pope did about four hundred and
fifty years ago!
To us, who can look at a giraffe or a rhinoceros
any day we choose, there is nothing so particularly
strange about a griffin, which had the body of a lion, and
the wings and head of an eagle, and was as strong as
ten lions, or a hundred eagles. 'He will carry,' we are
told, flying to his nest, a great horse, or two oxen yoked
together as they go at the plough, or a man in full
armour. For he hath his talons (claws) so long and so
large and great upon his feet, as though they were the
horns of great oxen, so that men make cups of them
to drink of : and of his ribs and wing-feathers they make
a very strong bow, to shoot with arrows and querrels.'
A 'querrel,' it is needful to explain, was a bolt shot from
GRIFFINS AND UNICORNS
Griffins were not to be met with every day, nor in
every country; but they roamed freely through the
Caucasus Mountains, in search of gold and precious
stones. Indeed, so fond of gold was the griffin, that
after he had dug out a large heap with his powerful
claws, he would roll about in it with delight, or sit and
look at it by the hour together.
But, unluckily, the griffin was not allowed to enjoy this
innocent pleasure undisturbed. The gold mines were the
property of an ugly one-eyed race, who dwelt near a cave
which is the home of the north wind, and when they
found they were being quietly robbed, they consulted
what they should do to punish the thief. It was not an
easy task, for the griffin was much cleverer and quicker
than his enemies, and, indeed, he nearly always got the
best of it. Whenever they went out to dig for gold and
emeralds, the griffin would hide until they had collected
a large store, and then jump on them, flapping his
great wings, and shaking his terrible claws, till' they ran
away in terror, dropping all their hard-earned treasure.
There was only one way in which they could revenge
themselves, and that was by carrying off the griffin's egg,
that had the power of curing every disease from which
mankind can suffer. But it was seldom that any one was
fortunate enough or clever enough to win this prize, for
the griffin is a very cunning creature, and more than a
match for the one-eyed race. Still, now and then, an egg
was discovered by some accident, and then how the
whole nation rejoiced and prospered, till the precious
thing got broken in some careless hands !
We all know about the battle, in 'Alice in Wonder-
land,' between the lion and the unicorn for the possession
of the crown, and how the unicorn was worsted, and
'beaten all round the town,' by the victorious lion. Since
that victory the lion has waved triumphantly from the
English flag; but he and the unicorn are deadly foes
still, and glare furiously at each other across the arms of
GRIFFINS AND UNICORNS
England. The unicorn and the lion being enemies by
nature,' says a man who wrote three hundred and fifty
years ago, 'as soon as the lion sees the unicorn, he
betakes himself to a tree; whereupon the unicorn, in his
fury, and with all the swiftness of his course, running at
him, sticks his horn fast in the tree, and then the lion
falls upon him and kills him.' The same story is told by
other people, and this is what Shakespeare means when
he says in one of his plays that unicorns may be betrayed
with trees. There was only one way by which a uni-
corn could be taken alive, for the greatness of his mind
is such that he chooseth rather to die,' one writer tells
us; but this was a way which has been tried ever since
the days of Samson, and even before him !
A beautiful young lady was dressed in her best clothes,
covered with jewels, and seated in a lonely place in the
middle of a forest to wait till the unicorn passed by; the
hunters meanwhile lying hidden in a neighboring thicket.
By-and-bye a crackling would be heard among the
branches, and after a little while the unicorn would come
in sight, his sharp horn thrust out from his nose. Directly
he saw the young lady he always went straight up to her,
and laying his head on her lap, fell fast asleep. Then
the hunters would steal out very softly, and throw ropes
round the sleeping unicorn, and carry him off to the
king's palace, sure of receiving much gold for their prize.
Living or dead the unicorn was held to be of great
value for many reasons, but chiefly because his horn was
used for drinking cups, and showed at once if any poison
mingled with the wine. This was an excellent quality in
times when people thought nothing of poisoning their
nearest relations, and after the tiniest quarrel both parties
went about in fear of their lives. The power of the
unicorn's horn sometimes went even further, and dis-
pelled the poison, for we read in an old chronicle of what
happened in the waters of Marah, which Moses made
sweet by striking them with his staff. 'Evil and unclean
,, Iti IF?
r j ~ i
00 C-rIE 'UNICORkN
VMAS tl PPFD J
GRIFFINS AND UNICORNS 11
beasts,' says the chronicler, poison it after the going
down of the sun; but in the morning, after the powers of
darkness have disappeared, the unicorn comes from the
sea and dips its horn into the stream, and thereby dis-
pels the poison, so that the other animals can drink of
it during the day.' A few unicorns would be very useful
on the banks of the rivers which water our manufactur-
ing towns nowadays.
ANTS, AMPHISBENAS, AND BASILISKS
IN the far-off country ruled by Prester John many
wonders were to be seen, and among them hills of gold,
'kept by ants full diligently.' Now anybody who has
studied the history of ants knows that there is no end
to their ingenuity and cleverness; but they are not usually
found as guardians of gold or precious stones. How-
ever, these ants were not at all like the little brown
creatures we are accustomed to see, but as big as dogs,
and very savage, thinking nothing of eating a man, and
gobbling him up in one mouthful. So the people of the
country found that if they wanted the gold they would have
to obtain it by a trick, and began to watch and plan how
to get the better of the careful ants.
Their chance came in the great heat of summer, as the
ants used sometimes to fall asleep in the middle of the day.
Then the people who had spies on the watch, day and
night, collected hastily all the camels, dromedaries, horses
and asses they could find, and loaded them with gold,
and were off and out of danger before the ants, who were
heavy sleepers, woke up. This did very well so long as
the weather was hot, but when it grew cooler the ants
worked hard all day, melting the gold in the fire; and
then some other stratagem had to be thought of. One
thing after another was proposed, but was rejected as
being unpractical, till at last a man, who was cleverer
than the rest, hit upon a way of turning a well-known
ANTS, AMPHISB-ENAS, BASILISKS 13
quality of all ants against themselves. The industrious
creatures could not bear to see anything standing empty
or useless, and the treasure seekers, being aware of this,
got together several mares, who had young foals, and
placed on their backs empty vessels, which were open at
the top, and reached nearly to the ground. As soon as
the mares approached the hill, and began to graze, out
came the ants and began to fill the vessels. While this
was going on, the foals had somehow been kept at a
distance by the men, but as soon as they guessed the
vessels to be almost full, they drove out the little creatures,
who began to whinny after their mothers. At the sound
of their cries, away galloped the mares, gold and all, and
however often this trick was repeated, it never failed to
14 ANTS, AMPHISBAUNAS, BASILISKS
There is no time to tell of all the strange monsters
that men used to invent just to frighten themselves with!
There was a creature called the Odenthos, which had
three horns instead of one, and felt a special hatred of
elephants. There was the little Amphisbena, which was
something between a lizard and a snake, and had a head
at each end of its body, so that it never needed to turn
round. This must have made it very creepy to meet, but
besides being horrid to look at it was very dangerous, as
both of its heads were equally poisonous. Then there were
yellow mice as large as ravens, and another kind as big
as dogs, that must have looked rather like kangaroos, and a
great many others, of which pictures may be found in
old books. But none, not even the griffin or the unicorn,
was as fierce as the small black basilisk, which was only
a foot long. It got its name from a white mark on its
forehead the shape of a crown, so they called it 'the
king,' from the Greek word basileus.' It seems odd that
such a tiny little animal could have caused such dread in
men as well as beasts, but it really was a terrible little
creature. It was enough for it to hiss for every living
thing that heard it to scamper away to its den. If it spat,
its venom was so deadly that rocks were rent by it, any
bird that flew over it fell down dead into its jaws, and by
merely looking at a man it killed the life within him. If
he happened to come across a basilisk for the first time,
and tried to cut off its head instead of running away, he
fared no better, for the poison from its mouth would fly
along the blade and cause his instant death.
We may wonder how, after a few years, there was
anything but basilisks left on the earth, and perhaps there
would not have been, but for the presence of weasels and
of crystals. Weasels and basilisks had a natural hatred of
each other, and rushed at each other's throats at every
opportunity. The battle always ended in the same way,
by the death of both combatants, for though 'the weasel
overcomes the basilisk with its strong smell, yet it dies
ANTS, AMPHISBAENAS, BASILISKS
withal.' The piece of crystal was more useful still, for if
you held it up between you and the basilisk and looked
DEEIMON OF CATEUC
through it the poison of the animal was driven back on
itself, and killed the monster instead of the victim.
16 ANTS, AMPHISBENAS, BASILISKS
There are no basilisks nowadays, but their re-
membrance still lives in many of our proverbs.
The Demon of Cathay and his proceedings recall
several of our old fairy tales, especially some of the
Arabian Nights. He could talk the language of man and
imitate any voice he chose, so that if he found a solitary
traveller walking through a forest he would call to him
by his name in the tones of some of his friends. The
traveller would leave the path and go in the direction of
the voice, when the Demon would spring out and devour
him. Or he would mimic the roll of drums, or the
blast of trumpets, and the poor man in surprise would
think he must be drawing near a city, or at any rate ap-
prpaching an army, so he would go in search of the
sounds, only to find, when it was too late, that it was a
trick of his deadly enemy's.
Quite as strange as the creatures on dry land were
those that dwelt in the sea, for every animal that lived on
earth had its fellow in the ocean. We read of sea-bears,
sea-foxes, sea-asses, even of sea-peacocks; and now
and then one might be found on the beach after a great
Once some Dutch women, going down to the shore
after a gale to see what they could pick up, were startled
at finding a beautiful girl, with a fish's tail, lying among
the shells and sea-weeds, beyond high-water mark. This
was a mermaid, as anybody else would have known-a
gentle creature, but without a soul. They took her home
and taught her to spin and weave, and to kneel before a
crucifix; but she was not happy, and always tried to
escape into the sea. The Dutch women did not mean
to be cruel, but they liked to have her there, and she was
useful to them, so they kept a close watch upon her, and
she lingered on in their house for fifteen years, fading
gradually away, and dying in the year 1418.
On the opposite side of the North Sea, in the Firth of
Forth, as well as in the Baltic and the Red Sea, sea-monks
FINDING A MERMAID
ANTS, AMPHISBANAS, BASILISKS 19
were at one time quite common, if we may believe a
Scotch historian. Like their land brothers, they had
a shaven spot on their heads, and wore robes and cowls ;
but instead of trying to help those who needed it, in one
way or another, as land monks were supposed to do, they
ate up everybody that came within reach. After this it is
a comfort to think that a pair of shoes made from the
skin of the sea-monk would last fifteen years !
Having once invented sea-monks, it was easy to go on
and invent a sea-bishop, and pictures of him may still be
seen in early books of travels with a crozier in his hand
and a mitre on his head, and splendid vestments over his
shoulders. He must have been a beautiful prize to catch,
but he was very rare, and did not flourish out of the water.
One was sent to the King of Poland as a present, but he
pined away, and at length, finding himself in the presence
of some bishops dressed like himself, he implored them
by signs to release him from captivity. Overcome with
pity for their brother in distress, they prevailed on the
King to grant him his freedom, and when he heard
the joyful news the sea-bishop at once made the sign
of the Cross by way of thanks. The bishops escorted
their brother solemnly to the sea-coast, and as he plunged
beneath the waves he turned and raised two fingers, in
the true form of episcopal blessing, and has never been
seen on earth again, as far as we know i
NEARLY a thousand years ago there lived a historian
who set down in his book not only accounts of real
battles and sieges, but also a strange medley of other
facts besides. Of course he thought all he wrote was
true, for history, as the dictionary tells us, is an account
of facts and events,' and the business of the historian is
to write about them. The stories in this old book about
magic, spells, dragons, and monsters may, perhaps, make
us smile nowadays, when we are taught that fairy rings
are not caused, as we should like to suppose, by the
good people, but by 'an agaric or fungus below the sur-
face which has seeded in a circular range.' But it must
be remembered that to the men of old time all these
matters were very real. Our historian, in common with
many wise men who lived hundreds of years after him,
believed without doubt that the world was full of strange
creatures which lived in pathless woods, in rivers, on
mountains, or in the sea. One of his tales is the descrip-
tion of a voyage by King Gorm Haraldson, under the
guidance of Thorkill the Icelander, in quest of treasure
supposed to be guarded by Giant Garfred, who lived in
a land where no light was, and where darkness reigned
eternally.' The whole way was beset with perils, and
hardly passable by mortal man;' nevertheless, three
hundred men declared their willingness to follow the
King and make the attempt. After many adventures the
wind took them to Utter Permland, a region of eternal
cold and deep snows, full of pathless forests, haunted by
dreadful beasts. King Gorm and his followers were met
by a huge man named Gudmund, the brother of Giant
Garfred, who gave himself out to be the guardian-the
most faithful guardian-of all men who landed in that
spot. In reality he was a treacherous scoundrel, but
at the outset he invited them to be his guests, and 'took
them up in carriages.' As they went forward they
saw a river which could be crossed by a bridge of gold.
They wished to go over it, but Gudmund restrained them,
telling them that, by this channel, Nature had divided
the world of men from the world of monsters, and that
no mortal track might go further.' Well, here we take
leave of King Gorm and Gudmund, and we will cross in
imagination that golden bridge into monster-land, though
they did not, nor does our historian, give any particular
description of the monsters which lived there; but, from
other ancient writers, we can get a pretty fair idea of
what he would have been likely to say about them if it
had suited his purpose. He would certainly have in-
cluded a stray dragon or two; indeed, elsewhere, he does
actually give us two dragon-slaying stories, the first of
which concerns King Fridleif, who was wrecked on an
He fell asleep, and dreamt that a man appeared before
him, and ordered him to dig up a buried treasure, and to
attack the dragon that guarded it. To withstand the
poison of the creature, he was told to cover himself and
his shield with an ox-hide. When he awoke he saw the
dragon coming out of the sea, but its scales were so hard
that the spears thrown by Fridleif had no effect, and the
only thing that happened was the uprooting of several
trees by the monster, which wound its tail round them
in a fit of temper. However, the King observed that by
constantly going down to the sea the dragon had worn a
path, hollowing the ground down to the solid rock to
such an extent that a bank rose sheer on each hand; so
Fridleif seems to have lain in ambush, as it were, in this
hollow channel, and to have attacked the creature from
beneath, where its armour was less proof against assault;
in this way he slew it, unearthed the money, and had it
taken off in his ships.
The second story concerns another King, called Ragnar
Lodbrog, which means Ragnar 'Shaggy-Breeches.' This
is how he came to be known by his nickname, which was
bestowed upon him by Herodd, King of the Swedes:
Ragnar was in love with Thora, Herodd's daughter, who
had received from her father two snakes to rear as pets.
They had given to them daily a whole ox upon which to
gorge themselves, so they ate and ate, and grew and grew,
until at length they became a public nuisance, so huge
were they, and so venomous withal that they poisoned the
whole country-side with their breath. The Swedish King
repented his unlucky gift, and proclaimed that whosoever
should remove the pests should marry his daughter.
Many tried and.perished; but Ragnar was now to prove
himself the hero. He asked his nurse for a woollen
mantle, and for some thigh-guards that were very hairy;
he also put on a dress stuffed with hair, not too cumber-
some, but one in which he could easily move about. He
took a sword and spear, and, thus accoutred, fared forth
to Sweden. When he arrived, he plunged into some
water, clothes and all, and allowed the frost to fashion for
him, as it were, a coat of mail, impervious to the venom
of the snakes. Leaving his companions, he went on to
the palace alone; then the combat began. An enormous
snake met him, and another, as big, crawled up to help
its companion ; they belaboured Ragnar with their tails,
and spat venom at him from poisonous jaws. Meantime,
the King and his courtiers betook themselves to safer
hiding, watching the struggle from afar, like affrighted
little girls.' Ragnar, however, persevered, his frozen dress
protecting him from the poison, and with his shield he
repelled the attacks of the snakes' teeth; at last, though
hard pressed, he thrust his spear through the creatures'
hearts, and his battle ended in victory. A great banquet
was held in the palace; Ragnar received at once his bride
and his nickname of Shaggy-Breeches,' as we have seen.
He did many other brave deeds, and was a successful
rover; but was cruelly put to death by an English King
called Ella, who threw him into a pit full of snakes.
Ragnar's device of freezing himself into a suit of ice
IRAGNAR DOES BATTLE WITH THE SERPENTS
armour recalls to us a similar plan adopted by a race of
monsters universally believed to have lived in Africa;
nearly all the old writers of marvels allude to them, under
the name of Cynocephali,' which means 'dog-headed,'
that is to say, their bodies were those of men and women,
but their heads were the heads of dogs. They lived upon
goat's milk; but although that seems to mean that they
dwelt quietly amongst flocks and herds, they seem never-
theless to have been fond of a fight whenever there was
the least chance of war with neighboring tribes. To pre-
pare for battle, like Ragnar, they jumped into water, and
then rolled themselves in the dust until their bodies were
covered with it; then they allowed the sun, which, of
course, is always very powerful in Africa, to bake it into
a sort of cake or mud-pie crust, which formed the first
layer of defensive armour; when that was sufficiently
dry and hard they repeated the process, not once or
twice only, but again and again, until they thought their
coat of mail, if we may so call it, strong enough to be
proof against the arrows of the enemy.
A very worthy writer, who lived about 1600, has told
us that he quite believes in the reality of winged dragons.
After giving us some wonderful stories about them, he
remarks that 'from these and similar tales we can easily
see that what we find in other authors about winged
dragons is all true.'
Switzerland, especially that part of it round about
the Lake of Lucerne, was famous for these creatures.
There is opposite to the town of Lucerne a mountain,
called Pilatus, from the tradition that Pontius Pilate,
when banished by the Roman Emperor Tiberius,
wandered there, and threw himself into a black lake at
the summit. His ghost is supposed to haunt the place;
once a year it appears, clothed in robes of office, and
whoever is unlucky enough to see it, will die before the
year is out. Mount Pilatus often has on a cap of clouds,
and it is said that the weather will be fine, or the reverse,
according as Pilatus has his cap off or on. We may well
imagine it, therefore, to be a wild, eerie sort of place, in
every way suitable for dragons to take up their abode.
Our old author then tells us that a peasant one morning
was mowing hay; he looked up, and at that moment
there issued from Pilatus a huge dragon, which flew
across the lake to a mountain on the other side. In its
flight there dropped from it something which the peasant
could not clearly distinguish, for he was too frightened
to observe accurately, and indeed was nearly fainting;
but when he recovered, he found in a meadow a mass of
what appeared to be solid blood. Enclosed in this was a
stone of many colours; this stone turned out to be of
priceless value, for it was a certain cure for every disease
under the sun ; and more especially for such as were
caused by poison or bad air of any kind; it was still in
Lucerne at the time the author wrote.
Another man of that city, called Victor, saw a still
stranger thing on Mount Pilatus. He was a cooper by
trade, and one day, when out looking for wood wherewith
to make his casks, he lost his way in the recesses of
these Alpine rocks and forests. All day long he wandered
about, until, at twilight, as he was just about to lie down
and rest, he fell into a deep chasm which, owing to the
failing light, he had not noticed. Fortunately he fell
into some soft mud at the bottom, but though he broke
no bones, he fainted. When he recovered, and began to
look round, he discovered that there were absolutely no
means of escape. The hole was as deep as a well, with
steep sides which could not be scaled. Stretching along
the whole length of this cavern, and on either side, were
other tunnel-like openings, a succession of smaller caves;
into one of which he was about to enter when, lo! two
dragons came forth from it, and he supposed that his last
hour was at hand. The creatures, however, offered him
no violence ; they were inquisitive, it is true, wondering,
no doubt, what sort of new companion this was, who had
found his way into their dwelling; but all they did was
to rub themselves against the man's body, caressing him,
as it were, with their long necks and with their tails, just
like a purring cat. For six months Victor lived in this
underground cavern. 'But what did he live on? you may
ask, with Alice, when the Dormouse told his story of
Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie in the well. These three sisters,
you may remember, lived upon treacle, which was
sweet, if unwholesome; but the Lucerne man's diet was
even less satisfying, being only the moisture which
trickled from the surface of the rock. Learned men have
certainly proved that it is possible to keep oneself alive
for many weeks without food, if a sufficient supply of
water be taken; but I do not remember to have met with
any other case where any one lived for six months
upon such provender. When spring came round the
dragons thought it time to leave their abode; unfolding
its wings, the first one flew up, and the second was
preparing to follow, when Victor, seizing at once his
opportunity and the tail of the dragon, was carried by
the creature into the upper world. He found his way
back to Lucerne; but a return to his ordinary food, of
which he had been for so long deprived, brought on an
illness, and in two months he died. His adventures were
embroidered upon an ecclesiastical vestment, which used
to be shown in the church of St. Leodegarus to any sight-
seers who might wish to see it.
Near the church of St. Stephen in the city of Rhodes
there was a vast rock, and a cavern in it from which
issued a stream of water.' In this subterranean cave
there lived, in the year 1345, a terrible dragon, which
devastated the whole island; not only did it devour sheep,
cattle, men, anything living, upon which it could seize,
but its breathing was so pestilential that the very
atmosphere was poisoned by it. Nobody could venture
to go near the part of the coast where it dwelt; in fact
the Grand Master of the Knights strictly forbade any-
body belonging to the Order to attempt it, under this
severe penalty: First, he was to suffer the disgrace of
I The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, or the Knights Hospi-
tallers, as they are sometimes called, were an Order founded in the
eleventh century, some time after the first crusade; in the fourteenth
century they took the Island of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean, and
held it against the Turks. It was during their life in this island
that the events occurred which are now to be described. The
account is taken from a history of the Order, which is quoted word
for word by the author who has told us the story of the Lucerne
VICTOR CARRIED UP THE CHASM BY THE DRAGON
- ~-1._ -
being deprived of the marks and dress of the Order; and,
secondly, his very life was to be forfeited. Nevertheless
there was a young Gascon Knight, of noble birth and
great courage, who was not to be deterred from his project
by this edict; on the contrary, he thought an opportunity
presented itself of winning much honour and renown.
His name was Deodatus de Gozon. He kept his own
counsel, telling nobody in the city of his plan, but he
went to the Grand Master and begged leave of absence
on the pretext of business at home. Having got leave
he went into the country to carry out his design; but he
was careful, before starting, to observe the dragon as
closely as possible, so as to remember every point in
its horrid carcass. What he saw is thus described: It
had a body as thick as that of a carthorse; its long and
prickly neck ended in a serpent's head, which was pro-
vided with long ears like those of a mule; its mouth
gaped widely open, and was furnished with the sharpest
of teeth; its enormous eyes shone so brightly that they
seemed to emit flames of fire; and its feet (of which it
had four) were. armed, like bears' feet, with sharp claws.
In its tail and other parts of its body it resembled a
crocodile, wearing an armour of the hardest scales
cunningly disposed; from its sides issued two gristly
wings, in colour not unlike a dolphin's gills-the upper
surface blue, the lower a sort of reddish yellow, this last
being the general hue of its entire body. Swifter than
a horse, when it moved abroad in search of food, it did
so partly by flying, partly by running; its scales, too,
made such a clattering, as of crockery, and its hissing
was so terrifying that people at a great distance were
almost frightened to death.
De Gozon, accordingly, having looked carefully at the
monster, as we said, withdrew into the country, where
he set to work and contrived a creature exactly like the
dragon in every respect; he made it of paper and stuffed
it with tow; then he bought a well-trained charger, and
a couple of English dogs-bull-dogs, in all probability.
He now taught his servants how to make the tow
dragon imitate the movements of the real dragon; that
is to say, they snapped its jaws, and made it lash its
tail about and flap its wings; all this they did by means
of ropes. Next he mounted his horse and brought his
dogs into action, setting them at the sham dragon, and
exciting them with cries, until their rage knew no bounds;
hardly did they set eyes upon it, when they flew at it to
tear it in pieces. These exercises went .on for the space
of two months, at the end of which De Gozon, consider-
ing his men and dogs sufficiently well drilled, returned
to the city. Arrived there he lost no time in carrying
out his project; arming himself with breastplate, lance
and sword, he went to the church of St. Stephen, which
was near the monster's den, and prayed, devout knight
as he was, that his enterprise might be crowned with
success. He then gave particular instructions to his
servants as to what they were to do : they were to watch
the battle from a lofty rock, and if the creature won, they
were to escape as best they could; but. if he slew the
dragon, they were to hasten to his aid, for it was only
too likely that even victory would cost him dear, and that
he would stand sadly in need of such remedies as they
All was now ready; so the Knight, entering the cave,
began to screech and yell lustily in order to wake up the
dragon and annoy it; then, rushing out himself, he
mounted his charger, and awaited the attack on a piece of
level ground. He did not have long to wait; scarcely
was he mounted when the sound of the well-known
hissing was heard, and the clattering of the huge plate-
like scales warned him that mne monster was after him in
full cry-and, indeed, as it came at him, partly running,
partly flying, the creature itself thought it saw in the bold
Knight an opportunity not lightly to be missed; for all
was grist that came to its mill-flocks, herds, horses, and
men, as we have already seen. De Gozon hurled his
spear at the beast, but the shaft shivered into a hun-
dred pieces against the hard scales, so that, thus early
in the fight, he lost the use of one of his best weapons.
But the dogs now made a diversion in his favour, for by
worrying the monster on this side and on that, they so
engaged its attention that the Knight had time to dis-
DE GOZON AND HIS DOGS FIGHT THE DRAGON
mount, and make ready with sword and shield for a
combat on foot. Rearing itself up on its hind legs, the
dragon endeavoured, as a bear will do, to hug its enemy
to death, but it now exposed the under surface of its neck
(which was comparatively unprotected by scales) to the
attack of De Gozon. In an instant he thrust his sword
into its throat; a deluge of blood gushed out; the
monster tottered, and fell; but in its fall crushed to the
ground the brave Knight, who was already sufficiently
wearied with the strife, and half poisoned besides by the
dragon's noisome breath. The servants, however, seeing
the dragon fall, rushed down from the neighboring
heights, and thinking they could discern some faint
signs of life in their master, filled their caps with water
from the stream hard by, and dashed it over him. He
soon recovered sufficiently to be able to mount his horse
and ride back to the city, where he told the Grand Master
of his splendid exploit, thinking, not unnaturally, that
honour, reward and glory would be his-who had freed
the country from such a dire pest. But, alas! the Grand
Master set the duty of obedience before even such deeds
as De Gozon's. The Knight had disobeyed the edict,
had been altogether far too foolhardy and presumptuous,
and must take the consequences; he was accordingly
degraded and imprisoned. Not for very long, however,
we are happy to think, for the tidings soon spread over
the whole island, and people were so strong in his favour,
that the Grand Master was induced to relent. De Gozon
was liberated from prison and reinstated. Shortly after-
wards all the people in the city assembled to do him
honour in a procession; nor were the brave dogs for-
gotten, for had it not been for their furious onslaught it is
not likely that the Knight would have lived to tell the tale.
They were led at the head of the procession, with the
dragon's skin bornebefore them, heralds proclaiming as
they went: These are the brave English dogs, the pre-
servers of the Knight, the conquerors of the dragon.'
Four years afterwards the Grand Master, Elio de Villa-
nova, died; and Deodatus de Gozon was unanimously
elected as his successor--in the year 1349.
THE STORY OF BEOWULF, GRENDEL,
AND GRENDEL'S MOTHER
LONG, long ago, perhaps nearly a thousand years before
the adventures of the Knight of Rhodes of whom you
have just heard, there lived a King of Denmark called
Hrothgar. That is a curious name, you may think;
but you can recognize it in our own word 'Roger,'
which, of course, is common enough. This King lived in
a palace, called Heorot, a princely abode, beyond what
the sons of men had ever heard of; he had a beautiful
wife called Waltheow, and gold, silver, and riches in
abundance were his; moreover as his knights, earls,
and retainers were all devotedly fond of him, he seemed
to have everything in the world which could make him
happy. In those days, when feasts were being held in the
great halls, it was customary for one who was called a
'skald'--thatis, a poet or minstrel-to sing or recite poems
before the assembled company. On one of these occa-
sions the 'skald' made poems about all sorts of evil
things, wicked spirits, demons who abode in darkness,
giants, ghosts, and sin and wickedness generally. It was,
perhaps, not quite the sort of song to make merry the
hearts of the feasters, and, in fact, it -had the opposite
effect, for they broke up ill at ease, as if some deadly peril
were in store; nor were their presentiments without
reason. That night there came to the Palace a monstrous
and superhuman being named Grendel, who was the very
incarnation of all cruelty and malice. He was a creature
34 BEOWULF, GBENDEL AND HIS MOTHER
of enormous strength and size; for we read later in the
story that it required four men to carry his head when
he was dead. He lived an evil life, and wandered
about, a lone dweller in moors, marshes, and in the
wilderness. Savage and fierce as he was, nothing
exasperated him more than that the King and his people
should be so happy; the sound of joy and revelry within
the Palace was to him as gall and wormwood. That
very night, therefore, when the skald recited his ominous
poem, Grendel left his fens and marshes, and came
silently to the Palace, where he found the Danes all asleep.
Thirty of them he killed, devouring fifteen in the hall
itself, and carrying off the rest to the marshes. Despair
there was and lamentation in the morning when the other
Danes arose from sleep; but none knew, or could even
suggest, what was best to be done. For twelve years
were the people grievously afflicted by the cruel Grendel,
'the grim stranger, the mighty haunter of the marshes,
the dwelling of this monster race.' He persecuted them
right sorely, nor would he have peace with any man of
the Danish power. A dark, deadly shadow, he attacked
alike tried warriors and youths, he ambushed and plotted,
roaming the night long over the misty moors, contriving
evil in his heart continually.
Matters, then, were at this pass, when a neighboring
King called Hygelac heard of the Danes' misfortunes.
Hygelac reigned over the Jutes in Gotland, and he had
a nephew called Beowulf, who, in common with the
King and the rest of the people, was distressed to
think of Hrothgar's troubles. So Beowulf made him ready
a good sea-boat, took fourteen of the bravest men-at-
arms as his comrades, and set sail to help Hrothgar and
the Danes. When the Danish King was told of Beowulf's
arrival, he was, as you may well suppose, only too de-
lighted, and hailed him as a heaven-sent champion, for
he already knew all about him, how valiant he was, and
how strong; 'for,' said Hrothgar to his people, 'it used to
& B O
BEOWULF, GRENDEL AND HIS MOTHER 37
be said by seafaring men that this fearless warrior had
in his grip the strength of thirty men.' When Beowulf
came before Hrothgar, he told him, what the King
already knew, that often before he had encountered sea-
monsters, destroyed the Jotun tribe and slain night
Nixes; and that hitherto all his deeds of prowess had been
successful. 'I hear,' he said, that Grendel, from the
thickness of his hide, cares not for weapons; I therefore
disdain to carry sword or shield into the combat, but with
hand-grips will I lay hold on the foe, and fight for life,
man to man.' Beowulf ended by asking that his 'gar-
ments of battle' might be sent back to his lord and kins-
man Hygelac, if Grendel proved victorious in the fight.
The King relied with steadfast faith upon his guest; there
was now joy in the Palace of Heorot, and Queen Wal-
theow herself, golden-wreathed, came forth to greet the
men in the hall; to each she gave a costly cup-to
each his several share-' until it befell that she, the neck-
laced Queen, gentle in manners and mind, bare the
mead-cup to Beowulf,' and thanked God that she might
find any to trust to for relief in her troubles. They all
retired to rest; but not one of Beowulf's comrades
thought that they would escape alive, or get them thence
in safety to their well-loved homes.
That night from the moor, under the misty slopes,
came Grendel prowling; in the gloom he came to the
Palace, where the men-at-arms slept, whose duty it
was to guard the battlemented hall; they slept, all
save one. With his vast strength the monster burst
open the door, and strode forward, his eyes blazing
like fire. With a grim smile of delight he saw the
sleepers, seized one of them and devoured him all but
the feet and hands. Then he reached out at Beowulf,
but the warrior clasped the extended hand and firmly
grappled with the enemy. A battle royal ensued ; the
hall resounded with cries and shrieks, for the Danes were
roused from their slumbers. They tried to help Beowulf
38 BEOWULF, GRENDEL AND HIS MOTHER
with swords and other weapons, not knowing that they
were of no avail against the monster. But the Jute
yielded never a whit, he pressed Grendel harder and
harder with that mighty hand-grip of his, and by sheer
strength tore off the monster's hand, arm, and shoulder.
Grendel fled; back to the lake he went, to the Nixes'
mere, where the water for days afterwards was troubled
and discoloured with blood.
As for Beowulf, the grateful King could hardly thank
him enough. A feast was prepared, the walls of the
great hall were covered with cloth of gold, and the hero
received a war-banner, helmet, and breastplate, besides
golden cups, a superb golden collar, and many other
precious things. When the banquet was over they all
retired to rest, as they supposed, in safety. But an
avenger was at hand, Grendel's mother, a monstrous
witch, ravenous, wrathful, and cruel as her son. She
burst into Heorot, seized the man who was the King's
favourite amongst all his nobles, and carried him off to
the lake. She also took with her Grendel's blood-stained
hand, which had been put up as a trophy. Beowulf was
not in the Palace at the time, for another lodging had
been given to him; but he was quickly summoned
after this new disaster. 'Never fear,' said he, 'I
promise thee she shall not escape, neither by water,
nor into the earth, nor into the mountain forest,
nor into the bottom of the sea, let her go where she
will.' So they made ready at once to go to the lake,
which was about a mile from the Palace; a gloomy
water it was, overhung with trees, and how deep
none had ever found out; every night, men said, a
strange fire was to be seen on its surface, so none
cared about going there. However, the King's horse
was now saddled, and his men-at-arms were ready;
Beowulf put on armour to protect his body from the
enemy's grip, and a white helmet guarded his head. One
of Hrothgar's men lent him a short sword that had never
IGRENDFIIS-OTHER*DRAGS 13EOWULFTO-Tii J3OTlbTo OM*ThTLAKEr
BEOWULF, GRENDEL AND HIS MOTHER 41
yet failed anyone who had used it in battle. Then the
expedition started: over a steep and stony rise through
narrow roads, past precipitous headlands they went, till
they came to a bare rock and a cheerless wood, below which
lay the water, dreary and troubled. They were maddened
with rage when they saw the head of Esschere lying on the
ground; he was the noble taken by Grendel's mother.
The water of the lake was bubbling with blood; many
strange creatures of the serpent kind glided over the
surface, and the men could also see Nixes lying on the
headland slopes. Beowulf shot at one of the horrid water
creatures with an arrow, wounding it only; but the King's
men pursued it with poles and battle-axes, and killed it.
Then Beowulf asked Hrothgar to send back all his
presents to Hygelac, if it should happen that he, Beowulf,
perished in the water. Hastening away, he plunged into
the lake, and it was not very long before Grendel's mother
found out that some man from above had invaded her
dwelling. She grappled with him in her dreadful grasp,
endeavouring to crush him to death, but his chain-mail
protected him. Then she dragged him down to her den
at the bottom; but meanwhile many strange beasts with
terrible tusks pressed him hard in those depths, one of
them even rent his war-shirt with its talons. Beowulf
found himself in some kind of dreadful hall, where
no water seemed to touch him; the light of a fire, a
glittering ray, lit up the cavern. He could now clearly
distinguish the mighty lake-witch, and thrust strongly at
her with his war sword, which rang out shrilly on her
head. But, alas! its edge would not bite; she had
probably bewitched it with spells, as often happened in old
days. So Beowulf threw away his sword, and came to close
grips with her, trusting in his mighty strength. He seized
her by the shoulder, but unluckily tripped and fell. In
a moment she was upon him, and seized her broad dagger
with deadly intent. Then, indeed, had it gone hard with
Beowulf but for his coat of chain-mail, which protected
42 BEOWULF, GRENDEL AND HIS MOTHER
his shoulder from the furious blow she gave. Suddenly
he saw lying on the floor a magic sword; a huge weapon
with finest edge, forged of old in the time of the Jotuns, or
giants, whose work it was. No ordinary man could have
wielded that blade, but Beowulf seized it, and smote the
witch a fearful blow, almost cleaving her body in twain.
A bright light shone up at once in the cavern, which the
warrior now began to explore; nor had he gone far before
he found Grendel lying on a couch, dead, so Beowulf cut
off his head. Meanwhile Hrothgar and the rest of the
Danes had been sitting watching the water, which
suddenly became thick and stained with blood; they had
no hope that Beowulf survived. What, then, was their
astonishment and delight to see him swimming towards
them, breasting the waves with mighty strokes, and
bearing the head of Grendel with him. And now a
marvel befell; the sword with which Grendel's mother
had been slain began slowly to melt away, just like
ice; for the hag's blood was of such power that it
consumed the blade, until nothing was left but the hilt,
which was of gold, richly chased, and carved with strange
characters called 'runes.' Beowulf swam ashore, and
gave an account of his adventures; four men, as we have
already said, bore Grendel's head to the Palace, where
the hilt of the magic sword was closely examined. The
characters graven upon it were found to be a description
of the battle between the Gods and the Frost-Giants, in
which the Giants were defeated and overwhelmed in a
flood. There is an account of it in an Icelandic poem,
called the 'Voluspa,' or the 'Song of the Prophetess,'
which describes the Northern ideas of the creation of the
world; and tells how evil and death came upon man,
predicts the destruction of the universe, and gives an
account of the future abodes of bliss and misery. Thus
did Beowulf deliver the Danes from their misfortunes,
after which he returned home, and on the death of his
uncle, Hygelac, became King of Gotland.
THE STORY OF BEOWULF AND THE
BEOWULF was a wise King, and had ruled his country
well for fifty years, during which nothing had happened
to mar the happiness of him or his subjects. But now
trouble was about to arise. Hidden away in a mound of
earth was a vast store of treasure, gold, silver, jewels
of great price, and this hoard for three hundred years had
been guarded by a monstrous Fire Drake. One night,
while this dragon slept, a man succeeded in entering
the storehouse, from which he stole a cup and many
valuable jewels. When the serpent awoke its rage knew
no bounds; it came forth from its cave, endeavouring to
track the man, whose footsteps it could see on the shore,
but without success. So it waited till evening, vowing
that many should pay dearly for that drinking-cup.
Then again it came forth, wandered all over the country
at night, setting every house it could see on fire, for its
scorching breath and the brands it carried with it were
irresistible. Beowulf's own home, in common with others,
was destroyed, whereupon he bethought him of vengeance,
remembering how of old he had been successful in quite
as dangerous undertakings, and how he had outlived
every quarrel, every perilous enterprise. Knowing well
that no ordinary defence would avail him anything
against the Fire Drake, he had fashioned for himself
a curious battle shield, all of iron. Choosing eleven
companions, he went to look for the. dragon; the way
44 BEOWULF AND THE FIRE DRAKE
was hard to find, so the man who had been the cause of
all the mischief went with the little band as a guide:
indeed, he was the only one who knew where the dragon's
hoard was to be found; besides, he was very much
ashamed of himself, and was anxious to do all in his
power to atone for the disasters which his theft had
When they arrived at the Fire Drake's lair, which
was near the sea, they saw an arch of stone, and a
stream issuing out of it from the mound. The water
was so hot, by reason of the dragon's flame continually
beating upon it, that a man could not bear his hand in it
for any length of time. Beowulf told his companions to
wait outside, whilst he himself went into the cave. The
Fire Drake, hearing his footfall and his voice, knew at once
that an enemy was near, so it coiled itself up ready to
spring to the attack. Blazing like a live coal, it advanced
with a rush, Beowulf defending himself as best he could
with his shield. He dealt the monster a terrible blow
with his sword, which, however, failed to hurt it, indeed, it
only roused it to greater fury. Breathing flames the Fire
Drake pressed the valiant King to the utmost extremity,
and it seemed as if it was to go ill with him that day.
His companions, too cowardly to help him, watched
the combat in terror, crouching down in the wood near
by to save their lives. Yet there was one among them,
Wiglaf by name, who plucked up courage to try to help
the King, for he remembered how kind Beowulf had been
to him in former days, in granting him a wealthy manor,
and other favours, and besides, he was in a way related
to him. So this brave young warrior grasped his shield
of yellow linden wood, and drew his sword, rushing
through the smoke to help his liege lord. 'Dear Beowulf,'
cried he, 'have courage; remember how thou did'st say
aforetime that glory should never depart from thee; now
must thou defend thy life to the uttermost-see, I come
to help thee.' On rushed the serpent against its new
BEOWULF AND THE FIRE DRAKE 47
adversary; from its body and mouth issued many coloured
flames, which burnt up Wiglaf's wooden shield, so that
for protection he crouched under the iron shield of
Beowulf. The King now struck with all his force at the
dragon, but, alas his good old sword shivered in pieces;
and now for the third time the monster rushed at him,
and succeeded in encircling his neck in its horrid coils.
Still, the King's hands were free, so that he could draw a
dagger which he bore on his corselet; Wiglaf, meanwhile,
was also hewing at the creature, and before long Beowulf
was able to stab it to death. Thus they slew the
Fire Drake; but Beowulf had received a deadly wound,
which soon began to burn and swell, and though Wiglaf
brought him water and tended him with all affection, the
King felt his end to be near. Anxious to know of what
the treasure consisted, he sent Wiglaf into the cave to
explore it. Riches of all descriptions were discovered-
jewels, ,gold, handsome bowls, helmets, armlets, and,
most curious of all, a gilded standard, which was flapping
over the hoard. From this standard there came a ray of
bright light, by which Wiglaf could easily see around
him. Nothing was to be seen of the dead Fire Drake,
so Beowulf's messenger plundered the hoard at will.
He piled up bowls and dishes in his bosom, took the
standard, and a sword shod with brass, hastening with
them back to the King, who, he was half afraid, might
die during his absence. Beowulf was alive, however,
though in sorry plight, so Wiglaf fetched more water
wherewith to refresh him. Then spake the brave old King
his last words on earth, the while he looked sadly on the
gold : 'I give thanks for these beautiful things, which here
I gaze on, to the Lord of all, to the King of Glory, the
eternal Lord, for that I have- been able before my death-
day to gain so much for my people. Fulfil ye now with
this hoard my people's needs, for here I may no longer
be. Let the warriors build a mound at the headland
which juts out into the sea. Rear it that it may tower
48 BEOWULF AND THE FIRE DRAKE
high up on Hronesness, and so perchance my people
may bear me in mind. Yea, let it be for a landmark
to seafaring men, who may call it Beowulf's Mound-
a beacon of safety for such as are in stress on the storm-
tossed sea.' Thus died Beowulf. When the news spread
the people flocked out in hundreds to the spot where the
fight took place. Sadly they looked on the lifeless body
of their chief lying on the sand, and with astonishment
they saw the carcass of the Fire Drake, full fifty feet long,
and the hoard of treasure beside it. They loaded the
treasure on -a wain and bore it away; the dragon's body
was pushed over the cliff into the sea. Then they made
ready a vast funeral-pyre for their beloved King, even as
he had wished. Black over the blaze rose the wood smoke;
while sad and dejected in spirit sat the people, mourning
their lord's fall, bewailing the death of him who among
world Kings had been the mildest, the kindest of men,
and the most gracious to his people.
A FOX TALE
WHEN I ask children to tell me what they know about a
fox, they almost always reply: He is a little red beast,
very cowardly and cunning: he kills hens, and has a very
This is all quite true; but Renard lives a very hard and
extremely uncertain life; yet all the while is so dashing
and gentlemanly, so quick and clever, that you must forgive
him one or two faults.
He begins his life in a nice warm nest of hay, dry
leaves and moss, at the bottom of a deep burrow, generally
in a sandy bank. His mother tends him, fondles him,
plays with him, as only a mother can; her one ambition
being to keep him concealed from human sight. Once a
man came by a particular burrow with his dog, hung
about for some time near by, and then went away again.
That night, Mother Fox took her little one up in her mouth
by the nape of his neck, and set off to find a safer home.
Hardly had she gone ten yards from her burrow when a
dog jumped out of some bushes and gave chase.
Mother Fox flew like the wind over hill and dale, on
and on, till her breath began to come in short, sharp
gasps, and she felt she would soon have to turn and
face her pursuer. But never once did she dream of
dropping her little one and thereby saving herself; oh,
no! cowardly as foxes are ever said to be, the mothers
will always die fighting for their young.
Happily for this mother, however, a long stretch of
A FOX TALE
whin bushes just then hove in sight, and, summoning up all
her strength, she made a last spurt, and crept into the
thick of them. The dog followed for a short distance,
but evidently found the thorns too sharp for his thick nose
and long flapping ears, for he soon retired, leaving Mother
Fox gasping, but triumphant, with her little one safe and
sound. She crept some way farther into the bushes to
guard against pursuit, and there lay hidden till nightfall,
when once more she stole stealthily out with her cub in
her mouth, and made tracks for a hollow tree which she
knew of in the neighbourhood. Reaching it in safety, she
soon had a warm nest made in the dark recesses of the
tree trunk, where little Renard lay for weeks eating and
sleeping by turns, till he grew into quite a respectable fox.
And what a merry little fellow he was As playful as a
kitten, and quite as active; gambolling all round and
over his poor patient mother, burying his face in the furry
depths of her brush, or, if she refused him that huge
enjoyment, flying round and round in a mad race after
his own, till he looked for all the world like a woolly
But life is not all play, even to little foxes, and young
Renard was awakened every night by a poke in the back
from his father, who wanted his company on all noc-
turnal expeditions; for, strange as it may seem to us,
foxes have lessons at night and sleep through the day,
instead of having lessons through the day and sleeping
at night. And sometimes little Renard was good at his
lessons, and sometimes he was not. Very often, on
catching sight of a pheasant or a partridge, instead of
trailing his hind legs out behind him, as his father did, he
would forget, and gallop full tilt at his prey, and yelp with
excitement, expecting the bird to sit still and be caught !
and not till the pheasant was whirring away high in the
air would he remember that stealth and cunning alone
will win a fox his daily bread.
Hitherto little Renard had known no sorrow, and it
A FOX TALE
came to him very suddenly one night when he was out
foraging with his father. They were creeping along
together, keeping as much under cover of the long grass
as possible, when Mr. Fox struck on a hare's trail, and
off the two set with their noiseless gliding motion, their
noses well to the ground, and their ears alive to every
sound under the moon. All at once, when Mr. Fox was
slinking under a gate, he began to back and wriggle as
if trying to escape from some unseen power. Young
Renard pulled up, watched the old fox anxiously for a
moment, and then, seeing a dark form approach, he fled,
thinking only of the safety of his own red skin.
Truth to tell, it was a poacher's net into which the old
fox had fallen, and the more he struggled to free himself
the tighter he became entangled. Instinctively feeling
this, and hearing the poacher himself approaching, the
cunning creature lay perfectly still in the hope, no doubt,
of escape by feigning death. But the wary old netter was
quite up to Renard's tricks; and seeing that his nets would
be torn to pieces if he did not free the animal at once, he
tried to loosen one end off the gate. Mr. Fox, however,
thought the trap had been set for him, and was determined
not to be taken in that way; so he snarled and bit at the
man every time he came near the gate. Again and again
the poacher tried, but at last, losing patience, he seized
some heavy stones off a dyke close by, and pelted Mr.
Fox till he died. 'And,' said the poacher afterwards,
when telling the tale to his friend, 'it went sore against me
killing that animal, for never a sound did it make from
first to last.'
Young Renard had witnessed his father's fate from
a safe distance, and ran off as soon as all was over to tell
his mother. He found her busily scratching up their
morning meal from the various larders round about: for
foxes, you know, always bury their prey, and never keep
more than one 'joint' (be it of bird or beast) in the same
larder at the same time; they have game safes scattered
A FOX TALE
for miles round in all directions, so that if one is dis-
covered, they still have two or three other breakfasts or
dinners waiting for them somewhere else.
Mrs. Fox did not seem to take her loss very much to
heart-merely told young Renard that he would have to
cater for himself and her now, and bade him hurry on
with his breakfast.
His meal over, Renard sauntered about till he found
a cosy place in a spruce covert wherein to rest. He tried
this place and that, but none suited him: one was too
humpy, another too deep, and a third full of pine
needles; but at last, after a great deal of thinking and
poking, he twisted himself into a round woolly ball, curled
his tail over his nose and slept soundly till dusk.
When he awoke, he remembered with a pang that he
would have to do the hunting all alone that night, and
for every night to come; and that, if there were any
poachers' nets or gamekeepers' traps, he would be sure
to fall into them, as now he had no one to reconnoitre on
He thought over all the birds and beasts which he
liked best to eat, and decided that a nice fat chicken was
really dearest to his heart. So away he went, as soon as
it was dark, to a farmyard some five miles off. Arrived
there, he was not long in discovering the hen-house, and,
luckily for him, the hen-wife had left the small lower door
open to admit three stray ducks who had not made their
appearance at the usual locking-up hour. Renard was
not slow to avail himself of this piece of good luck, and,
creeping slyly through the hole, stood quite still for a
minute or two to see if his entrance had been observed.
It had evidently not, for there was the silence of sleep
upon the unsuspecting fowls; so, cautiously, and with
a beating heart, he softly scaled the ladder, and crept
towards an open coop which was standing on the floor.
There was a nice fat chicken inside, which stirred a little
as Renard approached, and fearing it was going to .wake
A FOX TALE
up and cackle, he made a dash and grabbed it by the neck.
The chicken struggled fiercely, one of its wings got caught
in the bars of the coop, and the scuffling that ensued soon
woke the whole roost. Then began such a cackling, and
screaming, and quacking as Renard had never heard
before, and he tugged at his chicken in a perfect frenzy
of despair, expecting the hen-wife to appear every minute.
At last he got free of the coop, and was just going to
descend the ladder when the door opened, and a woman
came in with a lantern. Renard saw in a moment that
escape by the door was impossible, and instantly his
fertile brain had planned a bold scheme. Still holding
the chicken in his mouth, he stumbled on the top step of
the ladder and rolled heavily to the bottom. The hen-wife
ran forward, stick in hand, to put an end to the thief;
but seeing he lay quiet in a huddled-up heap, she seized
his tail, and dragged him towards the door. Imagine
the shock poor Renard experienced when he felt his
beautiful brush grasped by the sturdy hen-wife's fingers!
and the terrible longing which came over him to turn and
rend his captor. He restrained himself, however, when
he saw he was being dragged towards the door; and when
the hen-wife, feeling his stiff and lifeless body somewhat
heavy, tumbled him into a thicket of nettles, he almost
barked with delight. True, he had lost his chicken, but
had gained in cunning, and cunning is honour among
Renard's exploits are too many and various to mention;
but there is just one more you must hear about, because
it shows he had pluck, as I think all foxes really have.
He was slinking along at dusk through some long
grass, close in to a wood, when, snap bang and Renard
was fast in a trap, caught by the leg. He tried dragging,
pulling, and shaking it all in vain; the trap clung to his
flesh with its iron teeth, and would not let go. After
persevering for an hour or two, Renard gave up those
methods, and tried another, beginning deliberately to
54 A FOX TALE
gnaw off his own leg! Who shall say now that foxes have
no courage ? In a few minutes he was free of the trap-
and free of his own leg too! He had to limp home as
best he could, and there lay for several days in great
pain, with the result that the larders became empty, and
he had to live on frogs and weasels-anything, in fact,
that he could catch in his burrow.
So, now, if any of you come across a three-legged fox,
you will know why it is; and if you happen to catch him,
don't keep him, for he is grown up, and grown-up foxes
AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMER
EVERY one has heard of snake charmers. There are
many of them in India, and not a few in Egypt too.
They walked about the streets of Cairo-or used to do
so, for I am speaking of a good many years ago-with
boxes and baskets, which contained every imaginable kind
of reptile. Whenever they came to what seemed a con-
venient spot for a performance of their art, they would
sit down on the ground, and whilst two or three of them
beat on tambourines, a couple more would fill their
mouths with a herb, smelling rather like mint, and puff
out perfumed clouds of smoke on every side.
When these preparations had been duly made, the
sacks, boxes, or baskets were opened; the snakes shook
themselves, hissing and wriggling, and began to dance a
kind of jig, balancing themselves on the lower part of
their bodies, in a way which delighted the spectators.
Besides giving these exhibitions, the snake charmers
often go to houses, and after poking all round, atlasttell the
owners that they feel sure there are snakes hiding there.
This is quite enough to cause alarm, for, naturally, no one
likes to have such fellow-lodgers, and the snake charmer
is paid a certain sum for each reptile he may catch,
besides being given the snake itself. He pops it into a
bag, and in due time it forms part of his corps de ballet.
Now the chief snake charmer in Cairo, whose name
was Abd-el-Kerim, had for some time been prowling
about the French Consulate, peering in at the doors and
56 AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMED
windows, and shaking his head in a manner which was far
The French Consul just then was a Monsieur Dela-
porte, and after a time the report reached him that the
Consulate was infested by snakes.
Now, in the course of business, M. Delaporte had
come across a good many centipedes, and a certain
number of scorpions, but not even the tiniest little asp;
so that he had considerable doubts as to the truth of the
snake charmer's story. However, at the wish of some
anxious friends who trembled at the dangers he might be
running, M. Delaporte at last consented to send for Abd-
The snake charmer was a man between fifty and sixty
years of age, clad in a green turban and black robe-
grave and dignified-as became his age and profession.
He saluted Delaporte by crossing his hands over his
breast, and bowing low before him. Then he waited to
'I have sent for you,' said the Consul, who spoke
Arabic like a native, because I hear a report that there
are several serpents in the house.'
The Arab turned his face to the wind, sniffed it up
several times, and answered gravely : 'It is true : there
'Oh, indeed There are serpents? '
'Yes.' And the snake charmer sniffed again, and
added, after a moment:
'I may even say that there are several-six of them
'You surprise me!' said Delaporte; 'and you will
undertake to destroy them ? '
'I will call them, and they will come.'
Do so; I should like to see that.'
'You shall see it.'
So Abd-el-Kerim went out from the Consul's room,
where this conversation had been held, and fetched in his
AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMER
three companions from the outer chamber. All four
men sat down silently on the floor, and after placing
their tambourines between their legs, filled their mouths
with herbs and began to puff out sweet-scented clouds of
smoke, crying: 'Allah! Allah Allah! all the time,
while Abd-el-Kerim made a hissing, whistling sort of
sound, which was intended to attract the serpents.
This went on for three or four minutes without any
apparent result; but at the end of that time Delaporte
saw about a score of scorpions crawl down the walls
or from under the furniture and wriggle up to Abd-el-
The Consul's unbelief was rather staggered by the
sight of this strange procession. Some of the scorpions
came down the mosquito curtains, some down the
window blinds, others down the walls; till the thought of
sleeping in such a haunted room was enough to make
58 AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMER
anyone shudder. But wherever they might come from,
the scorpions all gathered round Abd-el Kerim, as sheep
round a shepherd, and he picked them up by handfuls,
and popped them in a goatskin sack.
'You see ?' he asked Delaporte.
'Certainly, I see !-I see scorpions, and a great many
scorpions, too; but I don't see any snakes.'
You will see some,' replied Abd-el-Kerim.
And he began whistling in another key, whilst his
companions re-doubled their clouds of smoke and their
cries of 'Allah !'
And, true enough, to the extreme surprise of the Con-
sul, in a little time a hissing sound, very much like the one
Abd-el-Kerim was making, was heard from the sleeping
alcove, and from under his bed M. Delaporte beheld a
serpent more than four feet long advancing towards
the snake charmer, head erect and unrolling his green
coils as he glided along.
Delaporte had no difficulty in recognizing the species.
It was one of those deadly reptiles which the Arabs
call taboric, and Europeans Cobra Capella.
Abd-el-Kerim seized the snake without ceremony by
the throat, and was about to stuff it into his bag, when
Delaporte stopped him.
'One moment,' he cried.
'What is it?' asked Abd-el-Kerim.
'That serpent was really in my room? '
You saw it yourself.'
'Very good. Then, as whatever is found in my room
belongs to me, be so good, instead of putting the serpent
into your goatskin bag, to place it in this bottle.'
And he held out to Abd-el-Kerim a large, wide-necked
glass jar filled with spirits of wine, of which he kept a
supply in a cupboard ready for the preservation of some
of the curious Nile fish sometimes brought him by the
'But --,' began Abd-el-Kerim.
AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMEB
'There's no but in the matter,' said Delaporte.
'The serpent was in my house, consequently it is my
property, not to mention that I pay you thirty piastres
for it. Take care! If you raise any difficulties in the
matter I shall begin to think that you put the creature
there beforehand, and that it only came to your call
because you had tamed it.'
Abd-el-Kerim saw that resistance was useless, and
let the serpent glide from his hands into the jar.
Delaporte had a cork and string ready at hand; the
cork was firmly tied down on the jar, and the serpent
secured inside it.
'Any more ?' asked Delaporte.
'Yes,' said Abd-el-Kerim, who did not choose to own
himself beaten, and sure enough, after renewed cries and
more clouds of smoke, a second serpent, a little smaller
than the first, issued from beneath the chest of drawers,
and came to Abd-el-Kerim.
Delaporte seized a second glass jar: Good,' said he,
'that will make a pair.'
Abd-el-Kerim drew a long face; but he was caught,
and there was nothing for it but to give up the second
serpent as he had done the first.
'Any more still?' inquired Delaporte.
'No, not here.'
Where then ?'
The snake charmer turned towards the next room.
I smell one there,' said he.
The next room was the drawing-room.
Let us go there, then,' said Delaporte. And taking
a glass jar under each arm, he gave two others to
his servant to carry, and led the way to the drawing-
There was one there. This one seemed to be a musi-
cal serpent, for he had. taken refuge under the piano, and
in spite of Abd-el-Kerim's manifest reluctance, this snake
also promptly found its way into the jar.
60 AN EGYPTIAN SNAKE CHARMER
That is the third,' said Delaporte. 'And now, tell
me, where are the rest?'
'There are three in the kitchen,'replied Abd-el-Kerim,
'Very good,' said the Consul; 'that will just make up
the half-dozen. Let us go to the kitchen.'
At the first call a serpent crawled from under the
Abd-el-Kerim placed it in the fourth jar, with a deep
Come, come, courage I want my half-dozen !' said
the Consul cheerfully.
Enta tafessed el senaa !' cried the enraged Arab in
reply, which, being translated, means Certainly you are a
spoil sport.' But it was no use.
The snake charmer had to own himself beaten, and in
order to save the last two serpents confessed his tricks.
Then Delaporte took pity on him and gave him forty
francs, which Abd-el-Kerim pocketed greedily, but could
not help murmuring: 'Four serpents which danced so
well! They were worth more than that! '
AN ADVENTURE OF GE ABD, THE
THE great interest taken in animals by Alexandre Dumas
is well known to all readers of the Animal Story Books,
but the stories told in them refer generally to tame or
tameable animals. The great novelist, however, was full of
interest in every kind of beast, tame or wild, and delighted
to hear thrilling stories of hunting adventures, and to
write them down afterwards for the benefit of his readers.
He was dining with some friends one evening, when
his servant asked to see him, and said: 'They have been
waiting for you this half-hour, sir.'
Dumas sprang to his feet, and would have hurried
from the room at once, but was stopped by the question:
'Who are waiting for you ? '
G6rard, the lion hunter, and his orderly Amida,' was
the answer, as Dumas vanished through the doorway in
In ten minutes he was at home, and there he found
the great hunter, and a few other friends all questioning
and listening to him.
G6rard, who was an officer in one of the Algerian
Regiments of Spahis, was about thirty years of age, with
a quiet, gentle face, and clear blue eyes. Amida was a
tall stately Arab, of five or six and twenty, and as he sat
in one corner of the library, wrapped in his white burnous,
he was a striking and picturesque figure.
62 G EBARD, THE LION HUNTER
After warm greetings, and some talk about general
subjects and various travels and mutual friends, Dumas
sat down to his writing table, drew a sheet of paper
towards him, and taking up a pen, he said : 'Now, my dear
G6rard, a hunt, come; anyone at haphazard from amongst
your twenty-five lions-but a really fine lion, you know,
not one of those you went to see at the Gardens, and
which Amida took for sham lions; but a great, roaring,
magnificent lion of the Atlas.'
Gerard smiled, and turning towards Amida said a few
words to him in his own language, as though consulting
him on the choice of the story. Amida bent his head in
assent. Then G6rard turned to Dumas, and in his calm,
gentle voice began his story:
I had killed the lioness on the 19th of July, and
from the 19th to the 27th I had searched in vain for the
lion. I was in my tent with eight or ten Arabs, some my
own men, the rest inhabitants of the settlement where I
was. We were talking-
'Why of lions, of course. When you are on a lion
hunt, you naturally talk of nothing but lions. An old
Arab was telling me a curious legend, several hundred
years old, and of which a young girl of his tribe was the
'And a lion the hero ?'
'Yes; a lion.'
'Oh, pray let us hear the legend too,' cried Dumas.
Very well, then,' said G6rard. 'Here it is:'-
Many centuries ago, there lived a young girl who was
very proud and haughty. Not that she was in any way
greater or richer than others. Her father had nothing but
his tent, his horse and his gun; but she was very, very
beautiful, and it was her beauty that made her so dis-
One day, when she went to the neighboring forest
to cut sticks, she saw a lion coming through the trees.
LLS IN LOVE W
GEBARD, THE LION HUNTER
The only weapon she had was the little axe which she
used in her wood-cutting; but if she had been armed with
a gun, a pistol and a dagger as well, she would have been
far too frightened to use them-so majestic, proud and
powerful was this lion. Her limbs trembled under her,
and she would have screamed aloud for help, but her voice
died in her throat. She felt sure the lion was going to
make signs to her to follow him, so that he might devour
her at his ease, in some favourite spot, for lions are not
only greedy but dainty.
'I am quite willing to admit that, my dear Gerard,'
broke in Dumas; 'but I did not quite understand one
remark you made.'
You said she was sure the lion was going to make
signs to her to follow him?'
'Ask Amida whether, when a lion meets an Arab, he
takes the trouble to carry him off? '
Amida shook his head, and raised his eyes in a way
which clearly implied: 'Ah, indeed he's not such a fool
Dumas pressed for further particulars, and was told
what he did not know before, that lions have magic
powers. A lion has only to gaze for a few moments at a
man, and he completely fascinates him, and the man has
to follow the lion wherever he pleases. This point settled,
G rard went on:
The girl then paused, trembling, and expecting a sign
from the lion to follow him, when, to her great surprise,
she saw him approach, gently, smiling, after his fashion,
and bowing in a polite manner.
She crossed her hands on her breast and said : 'What
does my lord desire of his humble servant ?'
The lion replied quite clearly, 'Anyone as lovely as
you are, Aissa, is a queen, not a servant.'
Aissa stared in astonishment at this answer, delighted
66 GARARD, THE LION HUNTER
by the gentle tones of her formidable acquaintance, and
surprised that this strange and splendid lion should know
Who can have told you what I am called, my lord ?'
'The breeze which loves you, and which, after play-
ing through your hair, carries its perfume to the roses
as it sighs Aissa The stream which loves you, and
which, after bathing your fair feet, waters the moss in
my cave as it murmurs Aissa The bird which, since
it heard your voice, has been jealous of you, and died of
pique as it cried Aissa "'
The girl blushed with pleasure, and began to arrange
her veil, taking great care, however, to do it in such a
way that the lion could see her all the better; for whether
the flatterer is a lion or a fox, and the one flattered an
Arab maiden or a crow, you see the result of flattery is
always much the same everywhere, and with every one.
The lion, who had hitherto remained at a little distance,
now ventured to draw nearer to the girl, but seeing her
begin to tremble again, he asked, in his tenderest and most
anxious voice: What is the matter, Aissa ?'
She longed to answer, 'I am afraid of you, my lord,'
but did not dare; so said, 'The Touareg tribe is not far
off, and I am so afraid of the Touaregs.
The lion smiled, after the fashion of lions. 'When
you are with me,' he said, you need fear nothing.
'But,' replied Alssa, 'I shall not always have the
honour of your company. It is getting late, and my
father's tent is some way from here.'
'I will escort you home,' said the lion.
Refusal was impossible, and Aissa had no choice but
to accept. The lion came up close, and held out his head
as a support, much as a gentleman might offer a lady his
arm; the girl laid her hand on his mane, and, side by side,
they set out for the tent of Aissa's father.
On their way they met gazelles, who started away
GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
scared; hyenas, who crouched down in fear; and terrified
men and women, who fell on their knees.
But the lion said to the gazelles 'Do not flee; to the
hyenas 'Do not be afraid,' and to the men and women
'Stand up; for the sake of this young girl, whom I love,
I will not harm you.'
And all-men, women and animals-gazed with amaze-
ment at the lion and the girl, and asked each other, in
THE LION SAID TO THE GAZELLES 'DO NOT FLEE '
their various tongues, whether this strange pair could be
going on a pilgrimage to Mecca to worship at the tomb
At last Aissa and her escort drew near the settlement,
and when they were only some yards from the tent of
Aissa's father, which was the first as you entered the
village, the lion stopped, and with the utmost courtesy
asked the young girl's leave to kiss her.
68 GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
Aissa bent down her face, and the lion lightly brushed
her lips with his.
Then he made a gesture of farewell, and sat down to
watch till she should have reached her father's house in
On her way there Aissa turned two or three times,
and each time she saw the lion on the same spot. At
length she reached the tent.
'Ah there you are !' cried her father; 'I have been
very uneasy.' The girl smiled. 'I was afraid you might
have met with some unlucky adventure.' She smiled
still more. 'But here you are, and I see I have been
'So you have, father,' said she:. 'for, instead of an
unlucky adventure, I have had a very lucky one.'
And what was that ? asked he.
'I met a lion !'
At these words, seldom as Arabs show their feelings,
Aissa's father turned pale.
'A lion !' he cried, 'and he has not devoured you ?'
'On the contrary, he paid me many compliments
on my beauty, offered to see me home, and escorted me
The Arab thought his daughter must be taking leave
of her senses. 'Impossible,' said he.
How, impossible? '
The father shook his head. 'Do you wish to make
me believe that a lion is capable of such attentions ?'
Aissa smiled again. 'Do you wish to be convinced ? '
'Yes; but how ?'
Come to the door of the tent and you will see him,
either seated where I left him, or returning to the forest.'
Wait till I get my gun,' said the father rising.
What do you want a gun for ? asked the girl proudly;
'are you not with me ?'
And drawing her father by his burnous, she led him
GEBRARD, THE LION HUNTER
to the opening of the tent. But the lion was no longer
to be seen at the place where she had left him. She
looked all round but could see nothing of him.
'Bah, you have been dreaming !' said her father, as
they went back into the tent.
'Indeed I can asu-re you that I seem to see him still,'
What was he like? '
'He must have been between four and five feet high,
and nearly eight feet long,' replied the girl.
'With a superb mane.'
'Eyes as bright and yellow as gold.'
Teeth like ivory, but-' and the girl hesitated.
'But ?' repeated her father.
'But,' she resumed in a lower voice, he had not a
very nice smell.'
She had barely uttered these words when a fearful
roar was heard just behind the tent, then a second some
five hundred yards off, and a third at about half a mile
Then there was silence. Evidently the lion, who no
doubt wished to hear what Aissa would say about him,
had made a circle so as to listen behind the tent, and
was now hastening away mortified by what he had over-
A month passed by, and Aissa had almost forgotten
her adventure, when one day she was told to go to the
forest again and cut sticks. Having got what she needed
and bound them together in a faggot, she was about to
leave, when she heard a slight noise behind her and
There was the lion, seated a few paces off and looking
'Good morning, Aissa,' he said, in a dry tone.
70 GtBARD, THE LION HUNTER
'Good morning, my lord,' replied Aissa, rather
nervously, as she thought of the past. Can I do any-
thing for your lordship ?'
You can do me a service.'
'What is it ?'
Come near me.
The girl drew near trembling inwardly.
Here I am.'
'Good. Now lift up your axe.
'Now strike me with it on the head.'
'But, my lord, you-you-can't mean--'
'On the contrary, I do mean so.'
'But my lord--
Really, my lord?'
'Will you strike ?'
Oh, yes, my lord,' said AYssa, more frightened than
ever. 'Hard or light?'
As hard as ever you can.'
'But I shall hurt you !'
What's that to you ? '
And you really wish it ?'
'I really do.'
So the girl struck as she was bid, and the axe made a
deep cut between the lion's eyes. It is ever since then
that lions have that straight furrow in their faces which
is particularly noticeable when they frown.
'Thank you, Aissa,' said the lion, and with three
great bounds he vanished into the depth of the forest.
'Dear me !' thought the girl, rather hurt at his dis-
appearance; 'I wonder why he never offered to see me
home to-day !'
Of course this second adventure of Aissa's caused a
great deal of excitement, but the most ingenious brain
could make no guess as to what might be the intentions
of this strange and mysterious lion.
AISSA'S FATHER FINDS HER AXE
GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
A month later Aissa once more returned to the forest.
She had barely had time to cut a few sticks when the
lion emerged from behind some shrubs; no longer
gracious and affectionate as at first, or melancholy as
at their second meeting, but looking gloomy and almost
threatening. Aissa longed to turn and flee, but the lion's
glance seemed to root her feet to the spot. He approached,
and she felt that if she attempted to take a step she
should certainly fall down.
Look at my forehead,' said the lion sternly.
'Let my lord remember that it was only by his
express orders that I struck him with my axe.
'I do remember, and I thank you. That is not what
I wish to discuss with you.'
'What does your lordship wish to discuss with me?'
SI wish you to look at my wound.'
I am looking.'
'How is it going on ? '
'Wonderfully well, my lord, it is nearly healed.'
'This proves, Aissa,' said the lion, 'that wounds given
to the body are very different from those inflicted on the
feelings. The former heal with time, but the latter never.
This moral sentence was followed by a sharp cry
and then complete silence.
Three days later Aissa's father, searching everywhere
for his daughter, found her axe. But of Aissa herself
there was no trace, nor was anything ever heard of her
The Arab had barely concluded the legend (said
G6rard) when a well-known sound sent a thrill through
us all. It was the roar of a lion, probably of the one I
had been seeking the last eight or ten days. I sprang at
my gun, Amida seized his, and we both hurried towards
the spot from which the sound came. It seemed to be
more than a mile off. We counted three roars; then the
lion ceased, and we marched on towards him.
74 GAEBABD, THE LION HUNTER
When we had walked half a mile or so we heard the
shouts of men and barking of dogs. We quickened our
pace and fell in with a troop of armed men leading a
number of dogs of all kinds. The lion had passed that
way. He had entered the settlement next to ours, had
scaled the enclosure where the flock was kept, and had
carried off a sheep. He had secured his dinner; and
that was why he had not roared again.
This was hardly the moment in which to attack him;
lions do not like being disturbed at their meals. So I
begged the Arabs to follow up the track-always an easy
matter when a sheep is the victim-and I returned to my
But why is it easier to track a lion when he carries
off a sheep than when he takes some other animal?'
Gerard smiled. 'That is another story,' said he, 'and
if you want to hear it, here it is :'
One day a lion was talking to the Marabout Sidi-
Moussa. Now if the lion is the most powerful of beasts,
the Marabout is the most holy of dervishes. So the two
were conversing very much on an equality.
You are very strong,' said the Marabout to the lion.
'Very,' replied the lion.
And what do you consider the measure of your
strength to be ?'
My strength is as the strength of forty horses.
'Then you can seize a bullock, throw it over your
shoulder, and carry it off ?' asked the Marabout.
By the aid of Allah, I can,' said the lion.
Or a horse, I suppose?'
'By the aid of Allah, I can carry off a horse as easily
as a bullock.'
'Or a wild boar?'
'By the help of Allah, I should do with the wild boar
as with the horse.
'And a sheep ?'
GEBARD, TRE LION HUNTER
The lion began to laugh; 'I should think so said he.
But the first time the lion captured a sheep he was
much surprised to find that he could not throw it over
his shoulder, as he did with far larger and heavier
animals, but had to drag it along the ground. This was
the result of his proud boasting, and of forgetting to say,
THE LION LAUGHS AT THE MARABOUT'S QUESTION
as he did about the larger animals: 'By the aid of
Ever since then the lions have been obliged to drag
any sheep they may capture along the ground, leaving a
track after them.
So you see why I felt sure of being able to track my
game later on. Well, I had hardly regained my tent
76 GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
when the owner of the sheep arrived, hot and panting,
and told me that he had followed the traces of the lion
for a mile and a half, but had been unable to go further.
However, all his information was very precise, and I was
able to give orders to my two beaters, who, luckily, were
experienced men, for a track is far more difficult to follow
up in summer than in winter.
They were both Arabs, from thirty to thirty-five
years of age, strong, hardy, and cunning-true sons of the
One was called Bilkassem, and the other Amar Ben-
They divided the work between them, Bilkassem
taking the animal from the time he left the settlement,
and Amar Ben-Sarah from the point where the owner of
the sheep had lost the track.
After a search of nearly two miles, Bilkassem found
the skin of the sheep-for the lion is a dainty animal, and
does not eat hides; and, on reaching the neighboring
well, Bilkassem found a mark left by Amar Ben-Sarah.
It was needless for him to go any further. His comrade
was on the track, and he knew there was not much chance
of its being lost. So Bilkassem returned to the tent and
brought me his report.
Meantime Ben-Sarah followed the lion.
Towards mid-day Amar Ben-Sarahreturned too. The
lion had retired into its lair. The Arab had described a
circle of a thousand paces round his den, and thus made
sure of finding the exact spot. It was nearly 4,000
My mind was made up, in all probability we should
meet that very day.
The day wore on. I felt nervous and excited, and
could neither eat, read, nor occupy myself with anything,
in my feverish impatience, and shortly before sunset I
set out. It is the time when any natives who may
happen to have a lion in their neighbourhood invariably
GERARD, THE LION HUNTER 77
stop at home. From the first moment of the short twi-
light till the following day, any Arab who has heard that
warning roar feels the greatest reluctance to put a foot
outside his tent. But the very reason which kept them
safely indoors determined me to choose this particular
hour, for this is the time when the lion awakens from his
mid-day sleep and starts out in search of prey.
When I reached the place marked by Amar Ben-
Sarah I found I still had a quarter of an hour's daylight,
and might study the landscape.
It was the entrance to a mountain gorge. The
slopes on either side and the bottom of the gorge itself
were thickly wooded, the trees interspersed here and there
with bare rock, which stood out like gigantic bones, and
were still burning after the heat of the day.
We plunged into the gorge, Ben-Sarah acting as guide.
Behind him he dragged a goat, who was to serve as a
decoy for the lion.
About fifty paces from the lion's lair there was a
clearing, which I chose as my point of vantage. Amar
cut down a sapling, sharpened one end, and planted it
firmly in the middle of the clearing. Then he tied
the goat to it, leaving its rope a couple of yards
As he was completing his operations we heard a loud
and prolonged yawn at no great distance. It was the
lion, only half awake as yet, but who was looking at -us,
and who yawned as he looked.
The bleatings of the goat had wakened him. He -was
quietly sitting at the foot of a rock and deliberately lick-
ing his thick lips, looking all the time full of the most
magnificent contempt for us.
I hastened to order my men back, and they were not
sorry to take up a position some two or three hundred
yards behind me. Amida alone insisted on remaining
close by me.
I carefully examined the spot. A ravine separated me
78 GE'BARD, THE LION HUNTER
from the lion. The clearing might be forty-five paces
round, consequently fifteen paces across.
I was alone, and had to choose my place. I took up
a position at the very edge of the wood, so that the goat
was between the lion and me-the goat was seven or
eight paces from me, the lion about sixty.
Whilst I had been making my little inspection the
lion had disappeared; there was evidently no time to be
lost in preparing to receive him, as he might fall upon me
at any moment. An oak tree offered the support I always
look for on these occasions. I cut off the small boughs
which might have hindered my movements, and sat down
with my back against the trunk. I was hardly seated
before the signs of agitation shown by the goat told me
plainly that something was going on close to us. The
goat dragged at his cord with all his might towards me,
but kept his eyes fixed on the opposite side.
I understood that the lion had taken a roundabout
path to reach us, and was now approaching, following,
as he did so, the fold of the ravine.
I was not mistaken. At the end of ten minutes I saw
his huge head appear at the top of the ravine which had
at first divided us, then his shoulders, and then his whole
body. He walked slowly, not yet fully awake, and with
his eyes half closed, for the lion is a great sleeper and very
Having reached the top he found himself about seven
paces from the goat and fifteen from me. I remained
settled where I was, and took aim at him right between the
eyes. For a moment I felt tempted to pull the trigger, but
the fascination of watching the superb creature and noting
the movements and ways of my formidable antagonist
kept me motionless. For some moments I enjoyed such
an interview as few men can boast of. I felt I deserved
it, for it was two years since I had been actually face to
face with a lion, and this was one of the finest and largest
I had ever seen. At the end of a few minutes he
THE LION APPEARS AT THE TOP OF THE RAVINE
GEBARD, THE LION HUNTER 81
crouched down perfectly flat on the ground, then he
crossed his paws in the front of him and pillowed his head
upon them. His eye was fixed on me, and his glance
never wavered from mine for an instant. He seemed to be
wondering what this man could be doing in his kingdom
without even recognizing his royalty. Five minutes more
passed. In the position he had taken up nothing would
have been easier for me than to have killed him.
All of a sudden he rose, and began to be agitated,
making a couple of steps forward, then one or two back-
wards-to the right, to the left-and moving his tail like
a young cat who is getting angry.
No doubt he could not understand this goat with its
cord or this man who kept watching him, but his instinct
told him there was some trap.
Meantime I sat quite still, the gun at my shoulder
and my finger on the trigger, following every movement
with my eye. One spring, and I should be between his
claws. His anxiety increased every moment, and almost
infected me. His tail lashed against his sides, his move-
ments were more rapid and his eye kindled.
To hesitate longer would be suicidal. I seized the
moment when he turned his left flank towards me, took
a steady aim and fired.
The lion staggered on his legs and uttered a frightful
roar, but did not fall.
I fired my second shot. Then, without looking, for I
was sure I had hit him, I threw down my first gun and
seized the second which was lying ready loaded beside me.
When I turned round again the lion had disappeared. I
remained motionless, fearing a surprise, and looking round
on all sides for a hidden foe.
I heard the lion roar. He had fled into the bed of the
ravine, and was hurrying back to his lair.
I waited a few minutes more, or perhaps they were
only seconds, for one does not measure time accurately in
82 GEARD, THE LION HUNTER
Then, hearing nothing, I rose cautiously and went to
inspect the spot where the lion had received my two shots.
The goat was panting on the ground, terrified, but
I soon realized that the lion had been hit by both my
balls, and they had pierced him right through. Every
hunter knows that an animal can go further with a wound
right through the body than if the ball is lodged in its
inside. I set off on the track. It was not difficult to
As I supposed, he had regained his lair. At this
moment I saw the heads of Amida, Amar Ben-Sarah, and
Bilkassem appear at the top of the ravine. They
approached with caution, not knowing whether I was
dead or alive, and prepared to fire. When they saw me
they shouted with joy and ran to join me. They
wanted to start at once in pursuit of the lion, but I
held them back; for, in my opinion, the lion had been
dangerously, probably mortally, wounded, but the heart
had not been touched. He was still full of strength,
and his last struggles would be terrible.
As we were discussing this, eight or ten more men,
armed with guns, joined us. They had heard my two
shots, and, like Amida, Bilkassem, and Amar Ben-Sarah,
ran to see what had happened.
Their first cry was Let us follow him '
I assured them they would run great danger. But
no; 'Stay there,' said they, and we'll bring him to you
It was useless to repeat that the lion, in my opinion,
was still very much alive indeed; they insisted on
entering the wood.
Finding that nothing would turn them from their
project, I determined to go with them. But I took my
precautions. I reloaded my favourite gun, gave one to
Ben-Sarah and another to Amida, and, thus prepared, I
entered the wood on the track of the lion.