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Excerpt from
The Greatest Lion
A Children's Book by Chilton Williamson, Jr.

Chapter 1


The Lion and The Lioness lived together on the edge of the African veldt below the slopes of Mount Kilamanjaro. It was a good life for them where they lived. The veldt and the brushy foothills above it were full of antelope and gazelle for The Lioness to hunt and bring home to The Lion to eat for their supper. The Lion, who preferred to sleep for twenty of the twenty-four hours in the day, allowed The Lioness to do most of the hunting. When he did hunt, The Lion made a point to look for a big zebra, because zebra was his favorite food and a little bit too large for The Lioness to handle by herself. Besides being a very great Lion, he was the only blue-eyed Lion ever heard of. (All other lions have amber-colored eyes.) The Lioness liked to say he got his blue eyes from staring at his reflection in a clear pool on sunny days with a blue sky overhead.

The Lioness had gone out one day looking for a tender gazelle to bring home for lunch when she came upon a clearing in the bush with a table and two gilt chairs in the middle of it. The table was covered with a pink table cloth and carefully set for two with knives, forks, spoons, napkins, plates, glasses, and a pair of silver candlesticks with tall pink candles in them. At the center of the table, a roasted zebra, smelling deliciously, rested on a silver platter. The dark brush on the end of The Lioness's tail twitched with pleasure. She could hardly believe her good luck! Now her work for the day was done. As fast as she could, she ran home to wake The Lion from his nap and tell him about the wonderful feast that had been laid for them in the bush.

The Lion was not happy at being disturbed in the middle of the day. He whuffled and grunted and growled the way lions do when they are annoyed by something, and the black pom-pom at the tip of his tail switched angrily. In the end, he got up from his bed and padded after The Lioness into the forest, groaning occasionally under his breath now and then but curious to see for himself the restaurant that had mysteriously opened in a place where no restaurant was supposed to be.

When they reached the clearing, The Lion could hardly believe his eyes (lions as a rule don't see very well), but he never questioned his nose. He sat down at once at the table and The Lioness, proud as punch with her discovery, took the chair opposite and waited for him to serve himself. (In lion society, the lion always eats first.) The Lion took up the silver carving knife and fork from beside the platter, and was just about to carve an enormous slice of smoking-hot zebra meat, when a huge net dropped suddenly from the sky and caught them--Lions, table, chairs, and all--in its heavy folds. Both Lions struggled in fury, lashing their tails and roaring hugely; the table collapsed and the zebra, together with its platter, fell into the dust; the gilt chairs were smashed to pieces. In the end, The Lions were taken prisoner by shouting, red-faced men dressed in Khaki clothes and carrying dart guns. They were tranquilized, dragged into a steel cage, and loaded onto the bed of a truck. By the time they were awake enough to know what was happening to them, night had fallen and the truck was bumping along cross-country over the dark veldt.

At dawn the truck arrived at the airport in Nairobi, where a jet cargo plane sat waiting for them on the runway. Its eight big engines whined until The Lioness's ears hurt her. When eight baggage-handlers in uniforms came to load the cage onto the airplane, The Lion lashed his tail and sprang against the bars, as if he would eat them. But they tranquilized him again and the next thing The Lion knew, he was waking up with a headache beside The Lioness. He recognized the cage, but the airport looked very different from the one in Nairobi. Two hours later, The Lions were released into their new home, a zoo surrounded by palm trees and tall slender towers in the heart of a great city in the middle of a desert in a place called Mesopotamia. The people in the city had brown faces rather than black ones, and most of the women wore veils, making it hard to see their faces at all.

 

Continue to Chapter 2 >>

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