Jack London. The Leopard Man’s Story (in English, adapted for intermediate)

This is one of the most unusual stories by Jack London. The text is adapted for the intermediate level.

Also you can read the original text of the story online  — The Leopard Man’s Story (in English, in the original). 

After you have read the story up to the end, please answer the question: «Why did the old tame Augustus crunch down?» If you can’t answer it, you had better read the story once more.

Enjoy reading best English stories in English!

The story is adapted by M. Gromova. Copyright © Englishstory.ru

The Leopard Man’s Story (in English, adapted for intermediate)

Part I

He had a dreamy look in his eyes and sad gentle voice. He was the Leopard Man, but he did not look it. His business in life was to appear in a cage of leopards before audiences.

For an hour I had been trying to get a story out of him, but he appeared to lack imagination. To him there was no romance in his gorgeous career — nothing but boredom.

Lions? Oh, yes! he had fought with them. It was nothing. Anybody could do that. He had fought one for half an hour once. Just hit him on the nose every time he rushed.

With the far-away look in his eyes he showed me his scars. There were many of them, and a recent one where a tigress had reached for his shoulder and cut it to the bone. But it was nothing, he said, only the old wounds bothered him somewhat when rainy weather came on.

  • lack – недоставать
  • gorgeous – блестящий
  • boredom – скука
  • rush – набрасываться
  • recent – недавний

Suddenly his face brightened, he really wanted to give me a story and I wanted to get it.

«I suppose you’ve heard of the lion-tamer who was hated by another man?» he asked.

He paused.

«Well, the lion-tamer’s big play to the audience was putting his head in a lion’s mouth. The man who hated him attended every performance in the hope of seeing that lion crunch down. He followed the show about all over the country. The years went by and he grew old, and the lion-tamer grew old, and the lion grew old. And at last one day, sitting in a front seat, he saw what he had waited for. The lion crunched down, and there wasn’t any need to call a doctor.»

The Leopard Man looked at his hands.

«Now, that’s what I call patience,» he continued, «and it’s my style. But it was not the style of a man I knew. He was a little Frenchman. De Ville, he called himself, and he had a nice wife.»

«De Ville had a quick character, as quick as his hand, and his hand was as quick as the paw of a tiger. One day the master called him a frog-eater or something like that and maybe a little worse… De Ville pushed him against the background that he used in his knife-throwing act, and he did it so quick the master didn’t have time to think. Then there before the audience De Ville started throwing knives into the wood all around the master so close that they passed through his clothes.»

«The clowns had to pull the knives out to free him. So, no one dared be more than barely polite to De Ville’s wife. They were afraid of De Ville».

  • tamer – укротитель
  • crunch down – захлопнуть пасть
  • dare – осмелиться

* * *

The Leopard Man’s Story. Part II

«But there was one man, Wallace, who was afraid of nothing. He was the lion-tamer, and he had the same trick of putting his head into the lion’s mouth. He could put it into the mouths of any of them, though he preferred Augustus, a big lion who could always be depended upon.»

«As I was saying, Wallace—’King’ Wallace we called him—was afraid of nothing, alive or dead. He was a king and no mistake. I saw him drunk, and on a wager he went into the cage of a lion that turned angry, and without a stick beat him to a finish. Just did it with his fist on the nose.»

  • wager – пари
  • fist – кулак

«Madame de Ville—»

At a noise behind us the Leopard Man turned around. It was a divided cage, and we saw that a big grey wolf captured a monkey by its paw and the unfortunate monkey’s mates were raising a terrible noise. There was no keeper nearby, so the Leopard Man hit the wolf on the nose with the light cane he carried, and returned to take up his unfinished sentence as though there had been no interruption.

  • keeper – смотритель
  • cane – трость

«—looked at King Wallace and King Wallace looked at her, while De Ville looked black. We warned Wallace, but it was no use. He laughed at us, as he laughed at De Ville one day when he pushed De Ville’s head into a bucket of paste because he wanted to fight.»

«De Ville was in a pretty mess — I helped to clean him; but he looked calm and made no threats at all. But I saw a look in his eyes which I had seen often in the eyes of wild beasts, and I went out of my way to give Wallace a final warning. He laughed, but he did not look so much in Madame de Ville’s direction after that.»

«Several months passed by. Nothing had happened and I was beginning to think there was nothing to be afraid of. It was during the afternoon performance, and the big tent was filled with women and children, when I went looking for Red Denny, who had walked off with my pocket-knife.»

«Passing by one of the dressing tents I glanced in through a hole to see if I could find him there. He wasn’t there, but directly in front of me was King Wallace, waiting for his turn to go on with his cage of performing lions. He was watching with much amusement a quarrel between a couple of artists. All the rest of the people in the dressing tent were watching the same thing, with the exception of De Ville whom I noticed looking at Wallace with hatred. Wallace and the rest were all too busy following the quarrel to notice this or what followed.»

«But I saw it through the hole in the tent. De Ville took his handkerchief from his pocket, as though to mop the sweat from his face with it (it was a hot day), and at the same time walked past Wallace’s back. The look troubled me at the time, for not only did I see hatred in it, but I saw triumph as well.»

«‘De Ville will be watching him,’ I said to myself, and I really breathed easier when I saw him go out from the circus and leave by an electric car for down town. A few minutes later I was in the big tent, where I found Red Denny. King Wallace was doing his turn and holding the audience amused. He was in a bad mood, and he kept the lions stirred up till they started to roar, that is, all of them except old Augustus, and he was just too fat and lazy and old to get stirred up over anything.»

  • bucket – ведро
  • threat – угроза
  • tent – палатка
  • sweat – пот
  • stir up – шевелиться

«Finally Wallace got the old lion into position. Old Augustus opened his mouth and Wallace put his head in it. Then, CRUNCH, and the lion shut his mouth with Wallace’s head in it, just like that.»

The Leopard Man smiled in a sweetly fashion, and the far-away look came into his eyes.

«And that was the end of King Wallace,» he went on in his sad low voice. «After the excitement cooled down I watched my chance and bent over and smelled Wallace’s head. Then I sneezed

«It . . . it was . . .?» I was anxious.

«Snuff—that De Ville dropped on his hair in the dressing tent. Old Augustus never meant to do it. He only sneezed.»

  • bend over – наклониться над
  • sneeze – чихнуть
  • snuff – нюхательный табак


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