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WHEN THE LION ROARED
AT daybreak on September 26, if I remember aright, we started to drive from the old farm to Portland with eighteen live hogs. There was a crisp frost that morning, so white that till the sun rose you might have thought there had been a slight fall of snow in the night.
We put eight of the largest hogs into one long farm wagon with high sideboards, drawn by a span of Percheron work horses, which I drove; the ten smaller hogs we put into another wagon that Willis Murch drove. By making an early start we hoped to cover forty miles of our journey before sundown, pass the night at a tavern in the town of Gray where the old Squire was acquainted, and reach Portland the next noon. Since we wished to avoid unloading the hogs, we took dry corn and troughs for feeding them in the wagons and buckets for fetching water to them. The old Squire went along with us for the first fifteen miles to see us well on our way, then left us and walked to a railroad station a mile or two off the wagon road, where he took the morning train into Portland, in order to make arrangements for marketing the hogs.
Everything went well during the morning, although the hogs diffused a bad odor along the highway. Toward noon we stopped by the wayside, near the Upper Village of the New Gloucester Shakers, to rest and feed the horses, and to give the hogs water. About one o'clock we went on down the hill to Sabbath Day Pond and into the woods beyond it. The loads were heavy and the horses were plodding on slowly, when, just round a turn of the road in the woods ahead, we heard a deep, awful sound, like nothing that had ever come to our ears before. For an instant I thought it was thunder, it rumbled so portentously: Hough — hough — hough — hough-er-er-er-er-hhh! It reverberated through the woods till it seemed to me that the earth actually trembled.
Willis's horses stopped short. Willis himself rose to his feet, and it seemed to me his cap rose up on his head. Other indistinct sounds also came to our ears from along the road ahead, though nothing was as yet in sight. Then again that awful, prolonged Hough — hough — hough! broke forth.
Close by, lumbermen had been hauling timber from the forest into the highway and had made a distinct trail across the road ditch. While Willis stood up, staring, the horses suddenly whirled half round and bolted for the lumber trail, hogs and all. They did it so abruptly that Willis had no time to control them, and when the wagon went across the ditch, he was pitched off headlong into the brush. Before I could set my feet, my span followed them across the ditch; but I managed to rein them up to a tree trunk, which the wagon tongue struck heavily. There I held them, though they still plunged and snorted in their terror.
Willis's team was running away along the lumber trail, but before it had gone fifty yards we heard a crash, and then a horrible squealing. The wagon had gone over a log or a stump and, upsetting, had spilled all ten hogs into the brushwood.
Willis now jumped to his feet and ran to help me master my team, which was still plunging violently, and I kept it headed to the tree while he got the halters and tied the horses. Just then we heard that terrible Hough — hough! again, nearer now. Looking out toward the road, we saw four teams dragging large, gaudily painted cages that contained animals. The drivers, who wore a kind of red uniform, pulled up and sat looking in our direction, laughing and shouting derisively. That exasperated us so greatly that, checking our first impulse to run in pursuit of the horses and hogs, we rushed to the road to remonstrate.
WHEN THE LION ROARED
It was not a full-fledged circus and menagerie, but merely a show on its way from one county fair to another. In one cage there was a boa constrictor, untruthfully advertised to be thirty feet long, which a Fat Lady exhibited at each performance, the monster coiled round her neck. In another cage were six performing monkeys and four educated dogs.
When we saw them that day on the road, the Fat Lady, said to weigh four hundred pounds, was journeying in a double-seated carriage behind the cages. Squeezed on the seat beside her, rode a queer-looking little old man, with a long white beard, whose specialty was to eat glass tumblers, or at least chew them up. He also fought on his hands and knees with one of the dogs. His barking, growling and worrying were so true to life that the spectators could scarcely tell which was the dog and which the man. On the back seat was a gypsy fortune teller and a Wild Man, alleged to hail from the jungles of Borneo and to be so dangerous that two armed keepers had to guard him in order to prevent him from destroying the local population. As we first saw him, divested of his "get-up," he looked tame enough. He was conversing sociably with the gypsy fortune teller.
But for the moment our attention and our indignation were directed mainly at the lion. He was not such a very large lion, but he certainly had a full-sized roar, and the driver of the cage sat and grinned at us.
"You've no right to be on the road with a lion roaring like that!" Willis shouted severely.
"Wal, young feller, you've no right to be on the road with such a hog smell as that!" the driver retorted. "Our lion is the best-behaved in the world; he wouldn't ha' roared ef he hadn't smelt them hogs so strong."
"But you have damaged us!" I cried. "Our horses have run away and smashed things! You'll have to pay for this!"
Another man, who appeared to be the proprietor, now came from a wagon in the rear of the cavalcade.
"What's that about damages?" he cried. "I'll pay nothing! I have a permit to travel on the highway!"
"You have no right to scare horses!" Willis retorted. "Your lion made a horrible noise."
"His noise wasn't worse than your hog stench!" the showman rejoined hotly. "My lion has as good a right to roar as your hogs have to squeal. Drive on!" he shouted to his drivers.
The show moved forward. The Fat Lady looked back and laughed, and the Wild Man pretended to squeal like a pig; but the gypsy fortune teller smiled and said, "Too bad!"
Having got no satisfaction, we returned hastily to chase our runaway team. We came upon it less than a hundred yards away, jammed fast between two pine trees. Parts of the harness were broken, the wagon body was shattered, and ten hogs were at large.
For some minutes we were at a loss to know what to do. How to catch the hogs and put them back into the wagon was a difficult matter, for many of them weighed three hundred pounds, and moreover a live hog is a disagreeable animal to lay hands on. But, taking an axe, we cut young pine trees and constructed a fence round the wagon to serve as a hogpen. Leaving a gap at one end that could be stopped when the hogs were inside, we then set near the wagon the troughs we had brought, poured the dry corn into them and called the hogs as if it were feeding time. Most of them, it seemed, were not far away. As soon as they heard the corn rattling into the troughs all except three came crowding in. Presently we drove two of the missing ones to the pen, but one we could not find.
None of the wagon wheels was broken, and in the course of an hour or two, Willis and I succeeded in patching up the shattered body sufficiently to hold the hogs. But how to get the heavy brutes off the ground and up into the wagon was a task beyond our resources. When you try to take a live hog off its feet, he is likely to bite as well as to squeal. We had no tackle for lifting them.
At last Willis set off to get help. He was gone till dusk and came back without any one; but he had persuaded two Shakers to come and help us/ early the next morning — they could not come that night on account of their evening prayer meeting. One of the Shaker women had sent a loaf of bread and a piggin half full of Shaker apple sauce to us.
The lantern and bucket that went with Willis's wagon had been smashed; but I had a similar outfit with mine. So we tied the horses to trees near our improvised hog pound, and fed and blanketed them by lantern light. Afterwards we brought water for them from a brook not far away.
It was nine o'clock before we were ready to eat our own supper of bread and Shaker apple sauce. The night was chilly; our lantern went out for lack of oil; we had only light overcoats for covering; and as. we had used our last two matches in lighting the lantern, we could not kindle a fire.
The night was so cold that we frequently had to jump up and run round to get warm. We slept scarcely at all. The hogs squealed. They, too, were cold as well as hungry, and toward morning they quarreled, bit one another and made piercing outcries.
"Oh, don't I wish 'twas morning!" Willis exclaimed again and again.
Fortunately, the Shakers were early risers, and long before sunrise three of them, clad in gray homespun frocks and broad-brimmed hats, appeared. They greeted us solemnly.
"Thee has met with trouble," said one of them, who was the elder of the village. "But I think we can give thee aid."
They proved to be past masters at handling hogs. From one of the halters they contrived a muzzle to prevent the hogs from biting us, and then with their help we caught and muzzled the hogs one by one and boosted them into the wagon. The good men stayed by us till the horses were hitched up and we were out of the woods and on the highway again. I had a little money with me and offered to pay them for their kind services, but the elder said:
"Nay, friend, thee has had trouble enough already with the lion." And at parting all three said "Fare thee well" very gravely.
We fared on, but not altogether well, for those hungry hogs were now making a terrible uproar. We drove as far as Gray Corners, where there was a country store, and there I bought a bushel of oats for the horses and a hundred-pound bag of corn for the hogs. The hogs were so ravenous that it was hard to be sure that each got his proper share; but we did the best we could and somewhat reduced their squealing.
The hastily repaired wagon body had also given us trouble, for it had threatened to shake to pieces as it jolted over the frozen ruts of the road; but we bought a pound of nails, borrowed a hammer and set to work to repair it better, with the hogs still aboard — much to the amusement of a crowd of boys who had collected. It was almost noon when we left Gray Corners, and it was after three o'clock before we reached Westbrook, five miles out of Portland. Here whom should we see but the old Squire, who, growing anxious over our failure to appear, had driven out to meet us. He could not help smiling when he heard Willis's indignant account of what had delayed us.
He thought it likely that we could recover the missing hog, and that evening he inserted a notice of the loss in the Eastern Argus. But nothing came of the notice or of the many inquiries that we made on our way home the next day. The animal had wandered off, and whoever captured it apparently kept quiet. Instead of blaming us, however, the old Squire praised us.
"You did well, boys, in trying circumstances," he said. "You do not meet a lion every day."
After what had happened, Willis and I felt much interest the following week in seeing the show that had discomfited us. It had established itself at the county fair in its big tent and apparently was doing a rushing business. Buying admission tickets, Willis and I went in and approached the lion's cage for a nearer view of the king of beasts. We hoped he would spring up and roar as he had done in the woods below the Shaker village; but he kept quiet. After all, he did not look very formidable, and he seemed sadly oppressed and bored.
I think the proprietor of the show recognized us, for we saw him regarding us suspiciously; and we moved on to the cage in which the Wild Man sat, with a big brass chain attached to his leg — ostensibly to prevent him from running amuck among the spectators. Two of his keepers were guarding him, with axes in their hands. He was loosely arrayed in a tiger's skin, and his limbs appeared to be very hairy. His skin was dark brown and rough with warts. His hair, which was really a wig, hung in tangled snarls over his eyes. He gnashed his teeth, clenched his fists, and every few moments he uttered a terrific yell at which timid patrons of the show promptly retired to the far side of the tent.
When Willis and I approached the cage, a smile suddenly broke across the Wild Man's face, and he nodded to us. "You were the fellows with the hogs, weren't you?" he said in very good English. I can hardly describe what a shock that gave us.
"Why, why — aren't you from the wilds of Borneo?" Willis asked him in low tones.
"Thunder, no!" the Wild Man replied confidentially. "I don't even know where it is. I'm from over in Vermont — Bellows Falls."
"But — but — you do look pretty savage!" stammered Willis in much astonishment.
"You bet!" said the Wild Man. "Ain't this a dandy rig? It gets 'em, too. But don't give me away; I get a good living out of this."
Just then a group of spectators came crowding forward, and the Wild Man let out a howl that brought them to an appalled halt. The keepers brandished their axes.
"Well, did you ever?" Willis muttered as we moved on. "Doesn't that beat everything?"
The Fat Lady was ponderously unwinding the coils of the boa constrictor from round her neck as we paused in front of her cage, but presently she recognized us and smiled. We asked her whether she wasn't afraid to let the snake coil itself round her neck.
"No, not when he has had his powders," she replied. "Sometimes, when he is waking up, I have to be a little careful not to let him get clean round me, or he'd give me a squeeze."
The old man and the educated dogs had just finished their performance when we came in, and so we went over to the platform on the other side of the tent, where the gypsy fortune teller was plying her vocation.
"Cross me palm, young gentlemen," she droned. "Cross me palm wi' siller, and I'll tell your fortunes and all that's going to happen to you." Then she, too, recognized us and smiled. "Did you find your hogs?" she asked.
"All but one," Willis told her.
"It was too bad," she said, "but you never will get anything out of the boss of this show. He's a brute! He cheats me out of half my contract money right along."
"Where do you come from?" Willis said with a knowing air. "You are no gypsy."
"No, indeed!" the girl replied, laughing, and, rubbing a place on the back of her left hand, she showed us that her skin was white under the walnut stain. "I'm from Albany. I live with my mother there, and I'm sending my brother to the Troy Polytechnic School."
"Well, did you ever!" Willis said again as, now completely disillusioned, we left the tent.