ONCE upon a time there was a Lion who lived in the mountains, and he used to drink water out of a beautiful lake. It so happened that, as he was drinking there one day, he saw a Boar feeding over on the opposite bank. Now he had just eaten a leg of elephant, and was not hungry; but he made a note of that Boar, thinking to himself what a nice meal the Boar would make some other day. So, after drinking his fill, he crawled quietly away through the bushes, hoping that the Boar could not see him. But the Boar had sharp eyes, and did see him. "Hullo!" said he to himself, "yon Lion is afraid of me, that's clear! Ah well, he need not think to get off so easy. If he wants to go, he must fight me first!" He puffed his chest out very big, and rubbed his tusks against a tree, then he called out:
"Stay, stay, runaway!
Let us have a fight to-day!
You have four feet, so have I!
If you fail, you can but try!"
The Lion could hardly believe his ears. What! a Boar challenge him to fight! He could break a Boar's back with a tap of his paw. Still, he hid his astonishment at this impertinent Boar and only said:
"Please, Mr. Boar, let me off to-day, as I'm rather tired; I have just been wrestling with a fox. But, if you like, I will meet you here this day week, and then we can fight it out between us."
He said this so humbly that the Boar became haughtier than ever. "Oh, very well," said he, "it shall never be said I took a mean advantage of any one. This day week, then! Good-day to you."
When he got home, his friends hardly knew him. Every bristle on his back was standing up straight; his little greedy eyes were gleaming; he ran into the house, knocking over the pots and pans, snarling at his wife, and making himself very disagreeable indeed. At last the other Boars protested, and said they would not stand it any longer. "Oho!" says he, "you defy a Boar that has killed a Lion! Come on, then!" and very fierce indeed he looked.
Killed a Lion! They did open their eyes. "Where is the Lion you have killed?" asked a pretty little sow, full of curiosity.
"Well, I haven't exactly killed him yet," said the Boar rather unwillingly. "He is coming to be killed this day week."
"What on earth do you mean?" his friends asked. He told them the story, but he did not feel quite so bold now as he had felt before. And when he finished, he felt worse than ever; for one and all they set up such a weeping and wailing that the whole forest resounded with it! "Oh dear, oh dear!" they cried, "you'll be the death of us! Kill a Lion? Why, he will crunch you up in a trice, and then he'll come here, and we are all dead Boars!"
By this time the poor Boar had lost all his conceit; you see he was an ignorant Boar, and did not know at all what the strength of a Lion is. So his heart was down in his toes, and all he wanted now was some way out of the mischief. Nobody could think of a way, until one very old and wise Boar advised him to roll in the mud till he was very dirty, because Lions are clean beasts and do not like dirt.
So every day he rolled and wallowed in the dirtiest places he could find; and by the appointed time he was like a big cake of dirt. So when he came to the lake where he was to meet the Lion, the wind took a whiff of him to the Lion, and the Lion gave a jump, and snuffed, and sneezed, and swished his tail, and cried out, "Get to leeward, get to leeward! Here's a pretty trick! Well, you have saved your life; I would not touch you with a pair of tongs now!" and, in great disgust he went away, saying, as he went, this little rhyme:
"Dirty Boar, I want no more,
You're saved from being eaten;
If you would fight, I yield me quite,
And own that I am beaten!"
You may be sure that our friend the Boar did not wait any longer, but scampered off home. But when he got there, I am sorry to say he told all his friends he had beaten the Lion, and the Lion had run away! He certainly had beaten the Lion in one way, but not in fair fight, so it was rather mean to pretend he had. However, nobody believed him, and the colony of Boars thought the best thing they could do was to get away from that place as fast as their four legs could carry them. "If he is beaten," said they with a wink, "still, after all, he is a Lion."