Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/217

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183
TRAINING

In the middle of the cage, facing him, was one large lion, and at either end sat two others. Of course a big crowd had collected in front of the cage and was pressing heavily against the guard ropes. Suddenly a countryman of the smart kind was seized with a desire to distinguish himself and attract a little attention. Slipping inside the ropes, he stooped down and took up the ragged little dog that was crouching at his heels. The instant he lifted the cur up to the level of the cage every lion gave out a roar and made a wild leap for the yellow mongrel.

For a few moments the performer was completely lost to view, buried underneath the writhing bodies of the infuriated lions. Of course the animal men outside made a rush for the cage door, but before they could reach it with their irons in hand the plucky performer was on his feet again and fighting his own battle. A tooth or a claw had split his nose and upper lip, and the tattered condition of his clothing indicated that he had suffered severely. Although his face was bathed in blood, he stood his ground and plied his rod on the heads and noses of the growling beasts until they were momentarily driven back. But they had tasted blood and were furious. Be-