Far away on the other side of the world there lived, long ago, a lion and his younger brother, the wild cat, who were so fond of each other that they shared the same hut. The lion was much the bigger and stronger of the two — indeed, he was much bigger and stronger than any of the beasts that dwelt in the forest; and, besides, he could jump father and run faster than all the rest. If strength and swiftness could gain him a dinner he was sure never to be without one, but when it came to cunning, both the grizzly bear and the serpent could get the better of him, and he was forced to call in the help of the wild cat.
Now the young wild cat had a lovely golden ball, so beautiful that you could hardly look at it except through a piece of smoked glass, and he kept it hidden in the thick fur muff that went round his neck. A very large old animal, since dead, had given it to him when he was hardly more than a baby, and had told him never to part with it, for as long as he kept it no harm could ever come near him.
In general the wild cat did not need to use his ball, for the lion was fond of hunting, and could kill all the food that they needed; but now and then his life would have been in danger had it not been for the golden ball.
One day the two brothers started to hunt at daybreak, but as the cat could not run nearly as fast as the lion, he had quite a long start. At least he THOUGHT it was a long one, but in a very few bounds and springs the lion reached his side.
‘There is a bear sitting on that tree,’ he whispered softly. ‘He is only waiting for us to pass, to drop down on my back.’
‘Ah, you are so big that he does not see I am behind you,’ answered the wild cat. And, touching the ball, he just said: ‘Bear, die!’ And the bear tumbled dead out of the tree, and rolled over just in front of them.
For some time they trotted on without any adventures, till just as they were about to cross a strip of long grass on the edge of the forest, the lion’s quick ears detected a faint rustling noise.
‘That is a snake,’ he cried, stopping short, for he was much more afraid of snakes than of bears.
‘Oh, it is all right,’ answered the cat. ‘Snake, die!’ And the snake died, and the two brothers skinned it. They then folded the skin up into a very small parcel, and the cat tucked it into his mane, for snakes’ skins can do all sorts of wonderful things, if you are lucky enough to have one of them.
All this time they had had no dinner, for the snake’s flesh was not nice, and the lion did not like eating bear — perhaps because he never felt sure that the bear was REALLY dead, and would not jump up alive when his enemy went near him. Most people are afraid of SOME thing, and bears and serpents were the only creatures that caused the lion’s heart to tremble. So the two brothers set off again and soon reached the side of a hill where some fine deer were grazing.