Androcles And The Lion

It happened in the old days at Rome that a slave named Androcles

escaped from his master and fled into the forest, and he wandered

there for a long time till he was weary and well nigh spent with

hunger and despair. Just then he heard a lion near him moaning and

groaning and at times roaring terribly. Tired as he was Androcles rose

up and rushed away, as he thought, from the lion; but as he made his

way through the bushes he stumbled over the root of a tree and fell

down lamed, and when he tried to get up there he saw the lion coming

towards him, limping on three feet and holding his fore-paw in front

of him. Poor Androcles was in despair; he had not strength to rise and

run away, and there was the lion coming upon him. But when the great

beast came up to him instead of attacking him it kept on moaning and

groaning and looking at Androcles, who saw that the lion was holding

out his right paw, which was covered with blood and much swollen.

Looking more closely at it Androcles saw a great big thorn pressed

into the paw, which was the cause of all the lion's trouble. Plucking

up courage he seized hold of the thorn and drew it out of the lion's

paw, who roared with pain when the thorn came out, but soon after

found such relief from it that he fawned upon Androcles and showed, in

every way that he knew, to whom he owed the relief. Instead of eating

him up he brought him a young deer that he had slain, and Androcles

managed to make a meal from it. For some time the lion continued to

bring the game he had killed to Androcles, who became quite fond of

the huge beast.

But one day a number of soldiers came marching through the forest and

found Androcles, and as he could not explain what he was doing they

took him prisoner and brought him back to the town from which he had

fled. Here his master soon found him and brought him before the

authorities, and he was condemned to death because he had fled from

his master. Now it used to be the custom to throw murderers and other

criminals to the lions in a huge circus, so that while the criminals

were punished the public could enjoy the spectacle of a combat between

them and the wild beasts. So Androcles was condemned to be thrown to

the lions, and on the appointed day he was led forth into the Arena

and left there alone with only a spear to protect him from the lion.

The Emperor was in the royal box that day and gave the signal for the

lion to come out and attack Androcles. But when it came out of its

cage and got near Androcles, what do you think it did? Instead of

jumping upon him it fawned upon him and stroked him with its paw and

made no attempt to do him any harm. It was of course the lion which

Androcles had met in the forest. The Emperor, surprised at seeing such

a strange behaviour in so cruel a beast, summoned Androcles to him and

asked him how it happened that this particular lion had lost all its

cruelty of disposition. So Androcles told the Emperor all that had

happened to him and how the lion was showing its gratitude for his

having relieved it of the thorn. Thereupon the Emperor pardoned

Androcles and ordered his master to set him free, while the lion was

taken back into the forest and let loose to enjoy liberty once more.

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