In fact, he felt stiff all over, for the unnatural life, the different food, the cruel prison bars, and last, but not least, the cold, frosty night were too much for him, and quite suddenly he left off leaning against his little mother, and lay on the floor of his prison cold and stiff.
Poor Siccatee was in great distress. She ran round and round the cage, calling him, scolding him and beseeching him to speak to her. Her bright eyes were full of tears, and her poor little body shook with cold and distress.
In vain she put first one tiny paw through the cage and tried to arouse him, and then the other. It was no use. Graycoat neither moved nor answered, and at last with a pitiful little cry Siccatee lay down by the cage, put one little paw through the bars as though in a last appeal to her darling, and, shivering with cold and anguish, drew one long sobbing breath, and lay just as still as Graycoat.
And when the children came in the morning, they were greatly surprised and deeply distressed to find two dead squirrels—one baby squirrel inside the cage, and one mother squirrel outside.
But even then they did not seem to realize how dreadfully cruel they had been in suddenly taking away a wild, free creature from the fresh, open air, beautiful woods and trees, and, best of all, joyous freedom, and putting him in a tiny, narrow cage, where there was only just room enough for him to turn round.
They could not realize that nothing they could do or give him could ever make up to the active, little creature the loss of his beautiful, woodland home and his free life.
Leo was a full-grown, African lion, and one of the finest specimens of his race. Not only was he the king of beasts, but he was the king of all other lions for miles and miles around the country in which he lived.
From a little, tawny cub, when he had played and frolicked with his brother and sister, he had given proofs of his extraordinary strength. His mother had at last decided he was too rough to play with the others, so bruised and knocked about were they on more than one occasion after romping with him.
The muscles of his thick paws and sturdy limbs stood out like knotted cords even as a cub; his claws cut like little sickles, and his hard, rope-like tail could give a blow that would knock his brother or sister head over heels.
As he grew up he gave promise of the magnificent animal he eventually became. Added to his wonderful strength he had marvelous daring, even for a young lion, being absolutely fearless.
Long before his mane had fully grown the other lions stood in awe of him; for, although at times he was indolent and lazy, like the rest of his kind, and would not exert himself unless obliged to do so, there were other times when he allowed nothing to stand in his way.