Then, leaping light as thistle-down, coughing harshly, the leopard went up the tree after the male genet, and appeared to have cut him off from life and liberty for ever.
The genet climbed beautifully, and dodged round the tree-bole, and in and out among the trails and the leaf-bunches of matted creepers, with amazing speed; but the whole time the leopard’s paw, all hooked claws bared, was whip-whip-whipping the air, only just behind that lovely, long, ringed tail of the genet, and more than once touched it.
Finally, hard driven, panting, at the end of his tether, it seemed, the genet was forced out upon a branch, farther and farther, slowly and more-slowly, the leopard creep, creep, creeping, almost flat, well spread and craftily, his paw, well out in front, hooking at the luckless little genet, till the twigs began to bend under the poor hunted creature, and all hope seemed gone from him, for the ground was sixteen feet below, and there was nothing between. And then—ah! but it was a fine effort!—just when it seemed that he could go no farther, and that the next terrible hooking round-arm stroke of the leopard must fish him into the annihilating scrunch of the terrible jaws, whose foul, hot breath already played upon him, the genet sprang.
It was a wonderful spring; the little beast had gathered every last ounce of his strength for it, and he literally seemed to sail out upon the air. Sixteen feet to the ground he bounded, and twenty-two feet out from the bole of the tree he landed, and—well, what d’you think of that?
Quick was the leopard—to our eyes he seemed to come down almost on the heels of the genet—but not quick enough, for he had first to gather himself on an uncertain, swaying footing. Wherefore, by the time he got to the ground, bounding like some great rubber ball, he had the pleasure of seeing the male genet’s tail vanishing also into the small hole in the hollow tree.
And there he left them, because perforce he could do nothing else. And there, too, we leave them, curled up side by side in the darkness and safety, reconciled, and a happy couple at last.
THE KING’S SON
They found the king’s son lying in a bed of reeds with his sister, the king’s daughter, and although the prince and princess fought royally, as befitted their rank, they were smothered up roughly in sacks and carried speedily—the queen might return at any moment and want the captors—to the Governor of all the Provinces, and the Governor spake thus:
“Oho! A royal pair, eh? They shall be sent to the capital, but first we must put them in an inclosure while we knock up some kind of a cage.”
And into “an inclosure” were they, therefore, cast, and it was small and bare, but for one box with dried grass in it; and the walls of the place were of corrugated iron nine feet high, so that escape looked impossible. Ransom was out of the question, and rescue a wild, but still faintly possible, dream—they could even then hear their father speaking in a mighty voice very far away, but their mother, they knew, would be following their trail in terrible silence.