The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Every one has heard of snake charmers. There are many of them in India, and not a few in Egypt too. They Walked about the streets of Cairo—or used to do so, for I am speaking of a good many years ago—with boxes and baskets, which contained every imaginable kind of reptile. Whenever they came to what seemed a con­venient spot for a performance of their art, they would sit down on the ground, and whilst two or three of them beat on tambourines, a couple more would fill their mouths with a herb, smelling rather like mint, and puff out perfumed clouds of smoke on every side.
"When these preparations had been duly made, the sacks, boxes, or baskets were opened; the snakes shook themselves, hissing and wriggling, and began to dance a kind of jig, balancing themselves on the lower part of their bodies, in a way which delighted the spectators.
Besides giving these exhibitions, the snake charmers often go to houses, and after poking all round, at last tell the owners that they feel sure there are snakes hiding there. This is quite enough to cause alarm, for, naturally, no one likes to have such fellow-lodgers, and the snake charmer is paid a certain sum for each reptile he may catch, besides being given the snake itself. He pops it into a bag, and in due time it forms part of his corps de ballet.
Now the chief snake charmer in Cairo, whose name was Abd-el-Kerim, had for some time been prowling about the French Consulate, peering in at the doors and
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