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

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

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dressing-room. All the applause my step-father ever bestowed on me was a box on the ear!
It was his way, and I suppose he meant well; still, as I did not appreciate that sort of playfulness, I decided that we must part. Useless to ask his permission, it would not have been granted, for if I was his rival, I was at the same time the attraction of the show. I drew the public, and thus increased the receipts.
Therefore it must be done silently, secretly. One fine day, accordingly, after an unusually severe beating, I slipped away to seek my fortune for myself, with the sum of 2 1/2d. in my pocket. It was not a large sum with which to begin the world, but I was fifteen, strong, and full of confidence in myself and in my good star.
The first day I spent wandering about on the hill-side, enjoying my liberty and the fresh air, and subsisting on a loaf of bread and a draught of water from a spring. Next day I spent in similar fashion ; but at the end of it even this frugal fare had exhausted my slender resources. After that I wandered about the country, getting a few scraps at one farm, a drink of milk at another, and sleeping at night in the stables of a third. At the end of a week, however, I had enough of this vagabond existence, and went down to the nearest town in search of work.
In the market-place a gaping crowd of rustics sur­rounded a strange sort of vehicle, whose owner, a quack dentist and vendor of miraculous ointment, was holding forth in praise of his wares. I immediately proffered my services in any capacity whatsoever, and was promptly engaged as head-groom and drum-major, being, needless to say, the sole and only occupant of both posts. I filled these functions with satisfaction to myself during about six months, for though badly paid, I was well fed and independent. One evening, however, my master informed me suddenly that he had no longer sufficient means to carry on the business, and therefore had no further need of my services. He sold his wretched screws of horses,
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