THE LION AND THE GNAT





Far away in Central Africa, that vast land where dense forests and wild

beasts abound, the shades of night were once more descending, warning all

creatures that it was time to seek repose.



All day long the sun had been like a great burning eye, but now, after

painting the western sky with crimson and scarlet and gold, he had

disappeared into his fleecy bed; the various creatures of the forest had

sought their holes and resting-places; the last sound had rumbled its

rumble, the last bee had mumbled his mumble, and the last bear had

grumbled his grumble; even the grasshoppers that had been chirruping,

chirruping, through all the long hours without a pause, at length had

ceased their shrill music, tucked up their long legs, and given themselves

to slumber.



There on a nodding grass-blade, a tiny Gnat had made a swinging couch, and

he too had folded his wings, closed his tiny eyes, and was fast asleep.

Darker, darker, darker became the night until the darkness could almost be

felt, and over all was a solemn stillness as though some powerful finger

had been raised, and some potent voice had whispered, "HU--SH!"



Just when all was perfectly still, there came suddenly from the far away

depths of the forest, like the roll of thunder, a mighty ROAR--R--R--R!



In a moment all the beasts and birds were wide awake, and the poor little

Gnat was nearly frightened out of his little senses, and his little heart

went pit-a-pat. He rubbed his little eyes with his feelers, and then

peered all around trying to penetrate the deep gloom as he whispered in

terror--_"What--was--that?"_



What do _you_ think it was?... Yes, a LION! A great, big lion who, while

most other denizens of the forest slept, was out hunting for prey. He

came rushing and crashing through the thick undergrowth of the forest,

swirling his long tail and opening wide his great jaws, and as he rushed

he RO-AR-R-R-ED!



Presently he reached the spot where the little Gnat hung panting at the

tip of the waving grass-blade. Now the little Gnat was not afraid of

lions, so when he saw it was only a lion, he cried out--



"Hi, stop, stop! What are you making that horrible noise about?"



The Lion stopped short, then backed slowly and regarded the Gnat with

scorn.



"Why, you tiny, little, mean, insignificant creature you, how DARE you

speak to ME?" he raged.



"How dare I speak to you?" repeated the Gnat quietly. "By the virtue of

_right_, which is always greater than _might_. Why don't you keep to your

own part of the forest? What right have you to be here, disturbing folks

at this time of night?"



By a mighty effort the Lion restrained his anger--he knew that to obtain

mastery over others one must be master over oneself.



"What _right_?" he repeated in dignified tones. "_Because I'm King of the

Forest._ That's why. I can do no wrong, for all the other creatures of the

forest are afraid of me. I DO what I please, I SAY what I please, I EAT

whom I please, I GO where I please--simply because I'm King of the

Forest."



"But who told you you were King?" demanded the Gnat. "Just answer me

that!"



"Who told ME?" roared the Lion. "Why, everyone acknowledges it--don't I

tell you that everyone is afraid of me?"



"Indeed!" cried the Gnat disdainfully. "Pray don't say _all_, for I'm not

afraid of you. And further, I deny your right to be King."



This was too much for the Lion. He now worked himself into a perfect fury.



"You--you--YOU deny my right as King?"



"I _do_, and, what is more, you shall never be King until you have fought

and conquered me."



The Lion laughed a great lion laugh, and a lion laugh cannot be laughed at

like a cat laugh, as everyone ought to know.



"Fight--did you say fight?" he asked. "Who ever heard of a lion fighting a

gnat? Here, out of my way, you atom of nothing! I'll blow you to the other

end of the world."



But though the Lion puffed his cheeks until they were like great bellows,

and then blew with all his might, he could not disturb the little Gnat's

hold on the swaying grass-blade.



"You'll blow all your whiskers away if you are not careful," he said, with

a laugh--"but you won't move me. And if you dare leave this spot without

fighting me, I'll tell all the beasts of the forest that you are afraid of

me, and they'll make _me_ King."



"Ho, ho!" roared the Lion. "Very well, since you will fight, let it be

so."



"You agree to the conditions, then? The one who conquers shall be King?"



"Oh, certainly," laughed the Lion, for he expected an easy victory. "Are

you ready?"



"Quite ready."



"Then--GO!" roared the Lion.



And with that he sprang forward with open jaws, thinking he could easily

swallow a million gnats. But just as the great jaws were about to close

upon the blade of grass whereto the Gnat clung, what should happen but

that the Gnat suddenly spread his wings and nimbly flew--where do you

think?--right into one of the Lion's nostrils! And there he began to

sting, sting, sting. The Lion wondered, and thundered, and blundered--but

the Gnat went on stinging; he foamed, and he moaned, and he groaned--still

the Gnat went on stinging; he rubbed his head on the ground in agony, he

swirled his tail in furious passion, he roared, he spluttered, he sniffed,

he snuffed--and still the Gnat went on stinging.



"O my poor nose, my nose, my nose!" the Lion began to moan. "Come down,

come DOWN, come DOWN! My nose, my NOSE, my NOSE!! You're King of the

Forest, you're King, you're King--only come down. My nose, my NOSE, my





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