The Animal Story Book - online children's book

Edited By Andrew Lang And With Numerous Illustrations By H. J. Ford

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206                        BEASTS BESIEGED
After coming from the streets where nothing was the same as it had been six months before, and everything was topsy-turvy, it was almost soothing to watch the animals going on in their usual way, quite regardless of what men might be doing outside. There was the white bear swinging himself from side to side and rubbing his nose against the bars, just as he had done on the day that he had first taken up his abode there. There was a camel still asking for cakes, and an elephant trumpeting with fury because he didn't get any. Nobody had cakes for themselves, and it would have been far easier to place a gold piece in the twirling proboscis. An elephant who is badly fed is not a pretty spectacle. Its skin is so large that it seems as if it would take in at least three or four extra bodies, and having only one shrunken skeleton to cover, it shrivels up into huge wrinkles and looks like the earth after a dry summer. On the whole, certain kinds of bears come off best, for they can sleep all tho winter through, and when they wake up, the world will seem the same as when they last shut their eyes, and unless their friend the white bear tells them in bear language all that has happened they will never be any the wiser.
Still it is not all the bears who are lucky enough to have the gift of sleep. Some remained broad awake, and stood idly about in the corners of their dens, not knowing how to get rid of the time that hung so heavily on their paws. What was the use for the big brown marten to go up to the top of his tree, when there was no one to tickle his nose with a piece of bread at the end of a string? Why should his brother take the trouble to stand up on his hind legs when there was nobody to laugh and clap him? Only one very young bear indeed, with bright eyes and a yellow skin, went on his own way, regardless of spectators, and he was busily engaged in looking at him­self in a pail of water and putting on all sorts of little airs and graces, from sheer admiration of his own beauty.
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