patriarch, a lanky, hulking beast of 550 pounds,had been detained. As soon as we stepped in, he loped up tothe bars of his cage and set off a full-throated snarl, ears
flatagainst his skull and round eyes fixed on Babu. The soundwas so loud and fierce it seemed to shake the whole cathouse. My knees started quaking. I got close to
Father seemed to pause and steadyhimself. Only Babu was indifferent
to the outburst and to thesearing stare that bored into him like a drill. He had a testedtrust in iron bars. Mahisha started
pacing to and fro againstthe limits
of his cage.
Father turned to us. “What animal is this?” he bellowedabove Mahisha’s
“It’s a tiger,” Ravi and I answered in unison, obedientlypointing out the blindingly obvious.
“Are tigers dangerous?””Yes, Father, tigers are dangerous.””Tigers are very dangerous,” Father shouted. “I want you
tounderstand that you are never – under any circumstances –to touch a tiger, to pet
a tiger, to put your hands through thebars of a cage, even to get close to a cage. Is that clear?
Nothing, thought Jon Snow, the same as me.
Halfway up the winding steps, he came upon Samwell Tarly, headed down. “Are you coming from the king?” Jon asked him.
“Maester Aemon sent me with a letter.”
“I see.” Some lords trusted their maesters to read their letters and convey the contents, but Stannis insisted on breaking the seals himself. “How did Stannis take it?”
“Not happily, by his face.” Sam dropped his voice to a whisper. “I am not supposed to speak of it.”
“Then don’t.” Jon wondered which of his father’s bannermen had refused King Stannis homage this time. He was quick enough to spread the word when Karhold
declared for him.
How are you and
stealing a cobra. He was a snake charmerwhose own snake had died. Both were saved: the cobra froma life of servitude and bad music, and the man from apossible death bite. We had to deal on occasion with stonethrowers,
who found the animals too placid and wanted areaction. And we had the lady whose sari was caught by alion. She spun like a yo-yo, choosing mortal
embarrassmentover mortal end. The thing was, it wasn’t even an accident.
She had leaned over, thrust her hand in the cage and wavedthe end of her sari in the lion’s face, with what intent wenever figured out. She was not injured;
there were manyfascinated men who came to her assistance. Her flusteredexplanation to Father was, “Whoever heard of a lion eating acotton
sari? I thought lions were carnivores.” Our worsttroublemakers were the visitors who gave food to the animals.
Despite our vigilance, Dr. Atal, the zoo veterinarian, co
uld tellby the number of animals with digestive disturbances which hadbeen the busy days at the zoo. He called “tidbit-itis” the casesof enteritis or gastritis due to too many carbohydrates,especially sugar. Sometimes we wished
people had stuck tosweets. People have a notion that animals can eat anythingwithout the least consequence to their health. Not so. One ofour
sloth bears became seriously ill with severe hemorrhagicenteritis after being given fish that had gone putrid by , a manwho was convinced he was doing a good deed.
Jon’s cloak hung on a peg by the door, his sword belt on another. He donned them both and made his way to the armory. The rug where Ghost slept was
empty, he saw. Two guardsmen stood inside the doors, clad in black cloaks and iron halfhelms, spears in their hands. “Will m’lord be wanting a tail?” asked Garse.
“I think I can find the King’s Tower by myself.” Jon hated having guards trailing after him everywhere he went. It made him feel
like a mother