But the unfortunate singer was no longer interested in educating the Roman mob. He dropped his lyre and began to run wildly around the mountain, screaming for help.
The crowd laughed until they were sick. It was well known that the elegant Greeks considered themselves superior to their Roman conquerors and here was one of the effeminate creatures putting on a typical exhibition of cowardice.
Also, this sudden twist had been completely unexpected, which is the basic element in all humor. A man shouted, "All right, you Greeks think you're so damn cultured, let's see you soothe these wild beasts with your high-toned music" and the crowd went into another roar of laughter.
The unhappy Orpheus dashed around a rock and ran head on into a leopard. The frightened animal sprang back and then struck at the man. His claws caught in the Greek's robe and both man and beast went down together, the leopard mad with terror trying to disengage himself.
At the sight of the struggling figures, two wolves rushed in and began to maul the man. Now one of the bears, a trained man-eater, saw the fight and began to shuffle forward. He stood swaying his long, snaky neck back and forth and then made a sudden rush.
He cuffed the nearest wolf away and grabbing the singer by the leg started to drag him off, snuffling and grunting to himself. The leopard, still caught by his claws, was pulled along also.
The wolves followed hopefully. Another bear came in from the other side and grabbed the screaming musician by the arm. The two animals pulled the man apart while the wolves rushed in to finish the job.
The leopard made another frenzied attempt to free himself, and this time succeeded. He dashed up the side of the hill and collided with another bear who was coming down to see what the trouble was. The two animals instantly began to fight while some of the ever-present wolves bounded up to pull down the loser.
The musician was dead and the animals were fighting for the parts of his body strewn over the hillside. The crowd was weak from laughter and the girls on the barge were laughing too. The Master of the Games gave another signal.
This time nothing seemed to happen. Then one of the girls on the barge suddenly gave a shriek of terror. She was seated on the gunwale and the water in the arena was washing against her bare feet.
The barge was sinking. The other girls took fright. Jumping up, they began screaming for help. A slave inside the barge had been watching through a knothole for the Master of the Game's signal. When it came, he gave orders to pull out the plugs and sink the vessel.
The paddlers inside the barge had escaped through a hatch and were now feverishly swimming for the podium wall, praying that they could reach it before the crocodiles and hippos got them.
Hippos are by no means the big, good-natured pig-like creatures that they seem. These animals were all bulls and in a very bad temper.
A slave happened to touch one of the creatures. Instantly the hippo swang around, making the water swirl around him, and plunged his great tusks into the man's body.
As the red dye spread, the crocs began to thrash around, sometimes seizing a hippo by the leg and sometimes each other. The crowd rose to its feet as one man at this new spectacle.
The barge full of screaming girls was now awash and some of the more determined girls had plunged into the water and were trying to swim to the mountain island or reach the podium.
Few of them made it for the Master of the Games had carefully selected girls who were non-swimmers. Those who reached the mountain were promptly attacked by the wild animals, now crazed by the scent of blood and the taste of the dead Greek.
A few reached the podium wall and clung to it, screaming for mercy. The water around the barge was churned white as the crocs attacked the girls that still clung to the wreck.
Two of the mighty reptiles seized one girl and began twisting in opposite directions. One wrung off a leg, the other an arm. One gigantic animal that must have weighed well over a ton reared out of the water and grabbed a girl standing on the gunwale. He submerged with her, carrying the shrieking girl as easily as an elephant carrying a carrot.
Others of the enormous saurians were trying to knock the girls into the water with their tails. The barge, being made of wood, did not sink completely, but there was no protection on it for the women.
Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Seven, Part 4 is next.
Roman Events: Those about to Die, Index or Table of Contents