"Good afternoon," said a lazy, sleepy voice from the other side of the bars. "It's quite a fine day, isn't it?"
The three little Cubs all turned with a start. There was the Tiger, stretched out in the sun, looking at them with a sleepy sort of smile.
Of course, it wasn't a garden really, it was just a large open-air cage, but there were rocks and trees dotted about all over it, and it certainly looked very pleasant in the warm afternoon sunshine.
He was a very handsome fellow, was the Tiger, and he evidently knew it, too. The Lioness greeted him pleasantly, and said with a purr as she stretched herself out on the ground, "These young people of mine were just asking me all sorts of questions; perhaps you can tell them something interesting that has happened to you?"
"Ee-yow!" yawned the Tiger.
"Do, please," begged the little Lion Cubs, poking their noses against the bars. "Do you come from Africa, too?" added the first one.
"No," answered the Tiger, "I come from India. I used to live in the jungle."
"And were you caught in a trap, too?" said the eager little Lion Cub.
"Gr-r-r-!" said the Tiger, suddenly beginning to growl. "There he goes!" It was an Elephant, which was slowly walking along in the distance with a number of children on his back. The Tiger looked after him with a very angry look in his eyes, and not until he was quite out of sight did he become quiet again. Then he said to the Lioness, "Excuse me, but I never see that fellow without thinking how it was one of his relations that helped to capture me. Ah, I shall never forget it. I wasn't full-grown then, and I used to live with my father and mother and my young brother in a cosy little home in the jungle. Most of the men-creatures who lived near us over there were brown, you know, not white like the ones we see over here. My father was getting old, and food had become very scarce. One night my father paid a visit to one of the men-creatures' villages and brought us home a goat, and the next night he brought us a sheep. It seemed very easy to get food that way, but the men-creatures didn't like it, I suppose."
"Oh, sir," said the smallest Lion Cub, "please tell me, did you ever eat a man?"
The Tiger smiled. "No," he said, "I never did, but my father--".
"Don't you think we'd better get on with the story?" put in the Lioness.
"Well," said the Tiger, "one day there was a dreadful noise--shouting and banging of drums and all sorts of things, and crowds of the brown men came into the jungle, waking us up out of our afternoon nap. We were very much startled at first, but my father told us not to be afraid, and said he would look after us.
Presently we saw one of those wretched elephants coming along, and, would you believe it, he had actually allowed some of the white men to get into a sort of castle on his back, where they could shoot at us in safety! Of course, it was no good. My poor father was killed, and so was my mother; they captured me, and I was brought here over the water, and here I have been ever since."
The Tiger stretched himself out at full length and yawned again; he seemed to be quite tired by his long speech.
"Don't you ever want to be back again in the jungle?" said one of the Lion Cubs.
"Well," said the Tiger, "sometimes, when it's cold and damp and foggy, I do. But it's fairly comfortable here, on the whole. Now, I must wash myself." And he began to lick his coat, just as a cat does, and the Lion Cubs, seeing that there was nothing more to be got out of him, that afternoon, started a game between themselves.
APES AND MONKEYS
"Who was it that pulled my tail?" said the cross old Monkey sitting in the corner of the cage. "I won't have my tail pulled, do you hear? If any one pulls my tail again, I'll--"
"Well, what will you do, Crosspatch?" said a small brown Monkey.
"Do tell us; we should like to know." And he threw a nut-shell at the cross old Monkey, hitting him on the nose and making him crosser than ever.
"Ill complain to the keeper," said the old Monkey. "I'll steal all your dinners. I'll--I'll--I'll do something dreadful to you."
"Oh, go along," said the little brown Monkey. "Let's have a game at Touch Tails. You're 'he'!" And he gave a hard tug at the cross old Monkey's tail, then darted away up to the top of the cage, with the old one after him and a number of other small Monkeys after _him_, giving a pull at his tail every now and then, till he didn't know which one to attack first, and finally gave it up as a bad job, and retired to his corner again, jabbering away to himself as to what he would do, while all the others danced about with delight and swung to and fro on the ropes, chuckling with enjoyment.
"What a noise those Monkeys do make, to be sure!" said the Chimpanzee to the Orang-Utangs. "I really think something should be done to stop them."
"Here comes some of these little men-things!" said one of the Orang-Utangs. "What queer things they are! Are they really relations of ours, do you suppose?"
"I don't know," replied the Chimpanzee, "but I must say they are very poor relations, if they are. Whatever do they put on all those ridiculous things for?"
"Yes," said the eldest Orang-Utang. "And what very short arms they have! I don't believe they'd be any good at swinging about on trees, do you?"
"I'm sure they wouldn't," answered the Chimpanzee. "And then their feet! Do you know they can't use their feet at all for holding on to anything as we can? Isn't it silly? They're so ashamed of them that they cover them up in things they call boots; it must be very uncomfortable."
"Have you noticed what they do with nuts?" said the smallest Orang-Utang. "There was a boy here once who wanted to eat a nut, and he was going to crack it in the ordinary way, when his mother said to him, 'Don't do that, my dear, you'll spoil your teeth!'
"Ah, but have you ever seen one of the very small men-things?" said the Chimpanzee. "The things they call 'long-clothes babies'! They are the most absurd creatures you ever saw in your life. They are covered with white things (which must get dreadfully in the way), and they can't do a single thing for themselves. They can't walk, and they can't talk, and they don't eat fruits--they just lie still, and sometimes they feebly kick about and wave their funny little arms, and the strange part of it is that their mothers and fathers seem quite proud of them. I'm very glad we're not like that."
"So am I," said the Orang-Utangs. "But why do these men-things wear such a lot of things over their skins?" said the eldest.
"Oh, they don't know any better," said the Chimpanzee. "You know they are not nearly so strong as we are."
"Ah, but they're very artful, some of them," said the eldest Orang-Utang. "I should think if they were caught young, you might be able to teach them to do quite a lot of tricks."
"I dare say," replied the Chimpanzee. "Only I expect it would take a lot of trouble and time."
"I'm glad I'm not a man-thing," said the youngest Orang-Utang. "It must be horrid to have to wear clothes."
"There are those Monkeys again," said the Chimpanzee. "I wonder what they are doing now. They are always up to some game or other.
I declare they are nearly as foolish as men."
The Monkeys seemed to be all running after each other, fighting and squabbling, and grabbing at lettuce and pieces of banana, and making grimaces at each other, and scolding away until the Chimpanzee could scarcely hear the sound of its own voice.
"Oh, no," said the small Orang-Utang, who was a kind-hearted little fellow, "they are very foolish, but I shouldn't say they were as bad as that!"
"Well, no, perhaps not," said the Chimpanzee.
THE HIPPOPOTAMUS AND THE RHINOCEROS
"Ugh!" grunted the big Hippopotamus. "I think I shall have a bath.
Oh, dear me, I feel so sleepy!" And he opened his mouth and gave a tremendous yawn.
"Well!" said a deep, gruff voice from the other side of the railings. "Well! If I had a mouth as large and as ugly as that I would keep it shut, at any rate."
It was the Rhinoceros, next door. The Hippopotamus and he didn't get on very well together; indeed, they were always quarreling, so that it was just as well that there were bars between them.
The Hippopotamus turned round angrily. "Ugly?" he said. "Who are you calling ugly? I am sure I'm just as pretty as you are, with that great horn sticking out of your nose. I don't think it looks at all nice."
"H'm!" said the Rhinoceros. "I don't care if it doesn't. It's been very useful to me, all the same."