Newspaper Page Text
cret of his past. He had been a lieu
tenant and had fought in the ill
starred Abyssinian expedition, where
he was cashiered for cowardice. The
sight of the yelling tribesmen had
been too much for his nerves; he had
ridden away, leaving his men to face
annihilation. That was a dark and
Yet he had never feared wild
beasts. In Abyssinia he had learned
to. handle lions; he had shot them at
20 paces without a tremor of fear. It
is easy -to be a lion-tamer. On his
arrival in America he had promptly
stepped into a position with no other
applicants, and graduated to a show
of his own by marrying the proprie
tress. A good man, Goldini, a worthy
citizen but he had never lived, since
his arrival in America, or loved, till
The girl's innocence, her beauty,
appealed to him strongly. A little,
b-If -starved thing when he met her,
a wild mountain girl with aspirations
above her station, he had taken her
in part in pity, part on account of a
business sense of her value. Now
thathe and she were thrown so much
together, he knew that he loved her.
And the girl loved him. She seized
this first love to her heart and lived
in it. No matter if Goldini was near
ly forty, and she but twenty-three.
The consciousness of each other's
love was in every word and gesture.
Only they and the lions knew, and
Goldini, noticing to his dismay that
his presence irritated them. He knew
the reason. So he left the lion-taming
to his pretty assistant, whom the
great beasts seemed to love and to
Nero, whom they feared.
Only the night before, when the
good, motherly woman had gone into
her tent, Goldini had told the girl of
his love. She had not shrunk away
from him. Her mind was practical
enough. She was thinking over his
proposal. Let them leave the circus
to Madame Goldini and go away to
gether, with his savings, to begin life
Then he had kissed her. Marvelous,
perhaps, but it was the girl's first kiss jj
of love. Her whole being thrilled jto '
it. She did not know what she had
answered. But afterward she had
not slept. She thought of the moth
erly woman who had befriended her,
of the rank and base ingratitude of .'
such a course; and yet she loved him. '
Suddenly a wild desire came to her
to leave everything and go home. 1
Her parents were hard country folks, ,
but they would welcome her with her
little money, and give her such af
fection as they had to bestow. They
would even be proud of her in a way.
There was none of that Puritanism in
Shawnee county which prevails in
the New England states. It was a
hard land where money alone
The following afternoon her mind
was not yet made up. It must be one
course or the other, she knew. Either
go off with her lover or go home.
She could not endure the delay of a
She stepped into the cage and at
once Rita began to act strangely.
Perhaps she knew; or perhaps the
unrest in the girl's soul communicat
ed itself to hers. The lioness lashed
her tail and retreated, growling, to
the opposite end of the cage. The
other three lions began to growl in
sympathy, and crouched beside her,
snarling at each flick of the girl's
whip and utterly ignoring the stands
on which they were supposed to
stand In a pyramid.
Nero was uneasy, too. Nero, at
his mistress' heels, growled back at
Rita, and crouched also, motionless,
watching her. The girl kept her eyes
on Rita; she knew that the other
lions would follow her example.
She saw, dimly, the crowd of
sight-seers outside the cage, seated
upon their wooden benches. But she
saw them askance, for her mind was
set on dominating the lioness, -and,
though it was easy to escape, she
knew that she would never be able to
do anything with Rita again.