Lord Morgan's Cannon

Lord Morgan's Cannon by MJ Walker Read Free Book Online

Book: Lord Morgan's Cannon by MJ Walker Read Free Book Online
Authors: MJ Walker
Perhaps being a bird, she was used to registering and calculating the trajectories of airborne objects. As Edward and the crowd shrieked in delight, Bessie swooped down as the second flaming stick bounced off Doris’s back, tumbling to the floor. She caught it within her tiny beak, the pink ridge between her eyes glowing, and dropped to the sawdust, landing next to Bear.
    Edward stood to milk the applause, his heart beating strong within his chest. Bessie’s heart too was aflutter, while Bear felt more exhilarated than perhaps an anteater had even been. The Ring Master stared at his charges, aghast.
    And then came the cat. For the first time ever, the cat was not on its leash. The old boy had already thrown his collar and was running naked. He looked young and lithe. He moved smooth and fast.
    He’d spent all afternoon working it out. He had planned to escape his collar in the ring, to dance the dance with the Ring Master, and then pace just below the barrier, where he’d be harder to see from row E. When the Ring Master withdrew his whip, he would bound over its edge and leap at the unsuspecting Lord Morgan.
    But the actions of Doris, Bear, Edward and Bessie had altered his calculus. Just like he was born to do, he had to improvise during the hunt. He first adjusted his approach, deciding to attempt a quick kill rather than stalking his prey. The old leopard burst through the canvass curtains and closed the space between himself and Lord Morgan.
    Then he corrected his course. He knew he had to first confront and confuse the strongest member of this human herd, before turning to strike at the newest, most naive member. He bound forward with such verve that the Ring Master staggered back and tripped over his own boots, falling on to his back. As his hat toppled from his head, the crowd cheered.
    The leopard pretended to strike at the Ring Master lying on the floor, then turned to his left and leaped up on to the side of the barrier. As he landed he paused. He hissed and calculated the distance to Lord Morgan sitting just a few rows higher. Only now did he spot that the white, black and tan dog was sitting in Lord Morgan’s lap.
    The old leopard had a thing about dogs. He loathed their pack mentality, how they ran with the humans that owned them. How you’d never see a dog brave enough to hunt alone, or at night. But much as he loathed them, he remembered the jackals and the African hunting dogs that once chased him down, stealing his kills. He knew they could be tenacious and they could bite.
    Lord Morgan’s terrier had already realised the threat. He was standing now, his paws upon his master’s knees, eyes keen. He was a fox-terrier, and feared no predator. Though his breed had become a popular show dog and family companion, he instinctively thought he had the measure of the cat. He would attack the lunging leopard’s throat, and throw him off balance before chasing him into the fields and running him to ground.
    The old leopard leaped, clearing the first row of scrawny kids. The terrier too committed to the fight, launching his small, stocky frame off his owner’s lap.
    Suddenly, the blast of a shotgun cracked the air.
    The sound whipped at the old leopard’s body, throwing him off balance. The dog, used to it, came at him, burying his teeth into the leopard’s belly.
    Jim the Strongman stood in the centre of the ring, a wisp of smoke rising from the Belgium-made gun in his hands. Knowing he couldn’t risk firing into the audience, he had shot high, puncturing the canvass behind and above Lord Morgan’s head.
    The crowd panicked. Those near the fighting animals fell off their benches, while mayhem spread around the tent, as gentlemen pushed past ladies and ladies pulled at the shoulders of the orphan children, all trying to flee the confines of Whyte and Wingate’s Big Top.
    The moment gone, the old leopard executed a fighting retreat. He scraped and he tried to claw. He almost caught the terrier’s leg in

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