Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/280

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242
SAWDUST AND SPANGLES

this ferocious animal almost threw the crowd into hysterics—women screamed and men shouted; some of them made a hasty exit under the canvas wall. Meanwhile the leopard had crouched for a spring. All the wildness of the jungles seemed to have returned to his veins and shone out in the flashes from his cat-like eyes in a way to send terror to the heart of the veteran trainer. The crowd seemed to hold its breath for an instant as the critical moment came. With a peculiar scream the creature leaped into the air and landed squarely upon the back of the nearest pony. At this exciting juncture a drunken countryman was seen making his way toward the ring. People shouted to him, but to no avail; the fellow swaggered on into the ring and made straight for the leopard. The pony was rearing frantically and crying piteously. As the madman ran he grabbed up a whip which had been lying in the ring and approached the leopard with upraised hand. The creature was too busily engaged with the pony to take notice of its new enemy. Soon the air was filled with the sound of resounding blows, that fell upon the back of the leopard. Soon the creature was compelled to loosen its hold; but the man did not stop. With an awful frenzy he rained