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

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

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acquired enough to stock a travelling wild beast show. Fortune seemed to smile upon him at last, and this venture was in a fair way to become a success, when his life was cut short in this sudden fashion.
My mother strove her utmost, for the sake of her little ones, to carry on the business ; but what can a woman do alone at the head of a menagerie ? how can she cope with coarse, rough grooms, and foul-tongued stable-men ? She soon married again, a painter from Nantes, and for two years we lived very happily together, till he, too, died suddenly, and we were left a second time fatherless.
Thinking she was doing the best for us, she took a third husband, an Italian, named Fa'imali; hot-tempered and fretful, he was a real household tyrant. For some years I had the good fortune to escape from his ill-humours, being brought up by an uncle near Mayence, and educated by the monks ; but, my education finished, I was obliged to return to my parents and travel about with the show, and then my miseries began. The ill-treatment I received at the hands of my step-father ! the blows, the cuffs he bestowed on me ! The chief cause of his displeasure was jealousy ; having been early accus­tomed to go freely in and out among the animals I had lost all fear. I had served my apprenticeship amongst them, beginning with the wolf and ending with the lion, and passing through all the progressive stages — each less amiable than the preceding—of jackal, leopard, hyena and panther. I had learnt to look upon them all as friends, and where another would see a menace in quivering lips, curling over jaws bristling with white and shining teeth, I saw nothing but a smile of welcome.
Being then fearless, young, slight and active, I inte­rested and attracted the public more than my step-father did, hence his ill-humour with me. When I appeared on the scene rounds of applause greeted me, to be repeated when I withdrew, the sounds following even into the
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