Twisting the Lion's Tail
Seeing how far the “Britishers” will bear provocation. “To give the lion's tail another twist” is to tax the British forbearance a little further. No doubt the kingdom is averse to war with civilised nations, and will put up with a deal rather than apply to the arbitration of arms. Even victory may be bought too dearly. Such provocation may provoke a growl, but there will the matter end.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894