As it happened we might have avoided both by staying at home Mademoiselle Delacourt, wearing her mobile lightening conductor, having accompanied us uninvited only to vanish into the ether somewhere between the entrance to the circus and the make shift public amenities erected at the rear of the field.
Breathing a sigh of relief at her ungainly departure and with Madame Grognonne instructed to keep a weather eye out for signs of our misplaced mad woman, we had settled ourselves in our ringside seats all prepared to be amazed and enthralled by the pathetic posing of the rather weak strongman and to endure the painful pantomime of the decidedly toothless lion cringing in its cage whilst the trainer, wearing a faded red tail coat and a top hat that had seen better days, attempted to cajole it into leaping through a ring of flames. When the petrified lion refused to perform the clowns were called in to distract the crowds who were getting a bit restive. Youngest for one was particularly disgruntled that the lion showed no sign of savaging the ring master.
The diminutive entertainers scuttled about the sawdust ring drawing the audiences attention away from the miserable big cat whilst a small person wearing a rather vivid green tutu and orange sparkling stockings attempted to tempt to lure the lamentable lion down from his star spangled perch by tempting him with morsels of sardine fillets. I remember thinking to myself that they might have done better with horse meat. After some difficulty the figure managed to attach a large blue ribbon about the neck of the reluctant Lion and finally dragged him down from his plinth. The beast however was patently not happy and was further more greatly agitated by the cavorting dwarf sized harlequins who seemed for some bizarre reason to be intent on the dangerous task of distracting the unlikely lion tamer, much to the amusement of the masses.
All at once, and quiet unexpectedly, the king of beasts found his spirit and, roaring a deep primeval roar , with one giant paw swatted the head of his captor ,knocking her finery askew and causing her to rock backwards and fall heavily amongst the scattering clowns.
The audience ceased to laugh.
All was frozen.
With one communal intake of breath all were transfixed by the enormity of what was unfolding before their eyes. Looking more surprised than hurt the small lion tamer raised her head and turned her face to the creature with a look of confusion and betrayal. In that instant each of our party recognized under the swathes of pink toile, purple ostrich feathers and sequins the unmistakable millinery of Mademoiselle Delacourt, her face painted in a terrifying parody of a smile and her voice ringing crystal clear in the silenced tent.
” Naughty Fleur must not hit mummykins” and smacked the lion hard across his nose.
By way of response the Lion ate her.