Andrew Lang.

The red book of animal stories online

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and Gazelle slowly dragged the salad to be enjoyed

1 For the various allusions to artists, authors, and animals in this
story, the reader is referred to the Blue Animal Story Book.


peacefully under a table, whilst each visitor provided
himself with a cup of tea and such cakes as he fancied.

At the end of twenty minutes the teapot was empty
and the cakes had vanished. The bell was rung, and
answered by the master of the caf6. ' More ! ' cried
Decamps, and the master of the caf6 bowed himself out
backwards, and hastened to obey orders.

Whilst waiting for ' more,' Janin read to the assembled
company that interesting account of the early days of
Jacko I., with which all readers of the ' Blue Animal
Story Book ' are doubtless familiar.

The applause which followed this history was suddenly
interrupted by a piercing shriek on the staircase. Every
one rushed out to see what was the matter, and found
the porter's little girl half-fainting in the arms of Tom,
who, startled by this sudden interruption, hurried off

A moment later another scream, even more shrill than
the first, was heard. An old lady, who had lived on the
third floor for the last thirty-five years, had come as far
as the landing to discern what all the noise was about,
and, finding herself face to face with the fugitive, fainted
instantly away.

Tom turned back, hurried up fifteen steps, found an
open door and burst into the midst of a wedding feast.
Here was a hullabaloo ! The whole party rose to their
feet, and, beaded by the newly married couple, rushed to
the stairs. In a moment the inhabitants of the house
from cellar to attic were standing out on the various
landings, all talking at once, and, as generally happens
in such cases, no one listening.

At last the story was traced back to its beginning.
The girl who gave the first alarm said that, as she was
bringing up the cream she felt some one seize her round
the waist. The staircase was dark, and thinking she had to
do with some impertinent lodger she promptly dealt him a
smart box on the ears. Tom had replied by a growl, which



revealed his identity, and the girl, horrified to find herself
in a bear's paws, uttered the scream which had given the
first note of warning. As already said, the sudden appear-
ance of D6camps and his guests had frightened Tom, and
Tom's fright had resulted in the fainting fit of the old
lady and the rout of the wedding party.

Alexandre D6camps, w 7 ho was a special friend of
Tom's, undertook to make his excuses to society in general,
and as a proof of his docility, to fetch Tom wherever he
might be, and bring him to make his own apologies. He
went into the dining-room, and there he found Tom
walking about the table with great dexterity, and in the
act of finishing his third tipsy-cake.

Unluckily this proved a climax. The bridegroom
shared Tom's tastes, and he appealed for sympathy to all
lovers of tipsy-cake. Loud murmurs arose, which not
even the docile air of Tom as he followed Alexandre
Decamps could subdue.

At the door Alexandre met the landlord, to whom the
old lady had just given notice to leave. The bridegroom
declared that nothing would induce him to stay in the
house another hour unless justice were done him, the
other lodgers chimed in as chorus.

The landlord grew pale, as he foresaw himself left
in an empty house, and, turning to Decamps, told him
that, much as he wished to retain him as a lodger, it would
be impossible to do so unless he lost no time in getting
rid of an animal which had caused such a disturbance at
such an hour in a respectable house.

Decamps, who, truth to say, was getting rather weary
of Tom's various scrapes, only hesitated long enough to
save appearances. He promised that Tom should leave
the premises the very next day, and, completely to re-
assure the lodgers, he at once took his bear down to the
yard, where he made him get into a large dog-kennel.
He then turned the opening to the wall, and heaped big
stones on the top.



The promise, and the immediate removal of Tom,
appeared to satisfy the complainants. The porter's little
girl dried her eyes, the old lady paused in the middle of
her third attack of hysterics, and the bridegroom nobly
declared his willingness to content himself with some
other delicacy for want of a tipsy-cake.

All retired to their own apartments, and an hour later
everything was as still as usual.

As for Tom, he first tried, like Enceladus, to get rid
of the mountain weighing on him ; but finding he could
not succeed, he made a hole in the wall and passed
through it into the garden of the adjoining house.


THE tenant of the ground-floor of No. 107 was not a
little surprised next morning at seeing a bear walking
about amidst his flower beds. He had just opened the
glass door leading to the garden steps with a view to
enjoying the same exercise, but he quickly shut it again,
and proceeded to examine the strange intruder through
its panes.

Unluckily the hole Tom had made in the wall was
hidden by some shrubs, so there appeared to be no clue
as to where he came from. The ground-floor tenant then
remembered having read lately in his newspaper an
account of a most remarkable shower of toads which had
fallen at Valenciennes, accompanied by thunder and
lightning. The toads, moreover, fell in such quantities
that the streets and roofs of the houses were covered
with them.

The ground-floor tenant raised his eyes, and seeing a
sky as black as ink overhead, and a bear, for which he
could in no way account, in his garden, he began to fear
that the Valenciennes phenomenon was about to be re-
peated on a larger scale, and that, in fact, Tom was but
the first drop of a heavy shower of bears.


One seemed no more marvellous than the other, the
hail was bigger and more dangerous, that was all. Full
of this idea he looked at his barometer, which stood at
' Eain. Very stormy.' At that moment a clap of thunder
was heard, and a vivid flash of lightning lit up the room.

The ground-floor tenant felt that not a moment must
be lost. More bears might fall, and he must protect him-
self against all emergencies. So he at once despatched
his valet for the Commissioner of Police, and his cook for
a corporal and nine men, so as to place himself under the
protection of both the civil and military authorities.

The passers-by, seeing the valet and cook run off in
haste, began to gather round the hall door, and to suggest
all sorts of improbable reasons for this excitement. They
questioned the hall porter, but he knew no more than
they did. The only apparent fact \vas that the alarm
came from that part of the house which lay betw r een the
courtyard and the garden.

At this moment the ground-floor tenant appeared at
the front door, pale, trembling, and calling for help. Tom
had spied him through the glass doors, and, accustomed
to the society of men, had trotted up to make acquaint-
ance. But the ground-floor tenant, mistaking his inten-
tions, looked on these friendly overtures as a declaration
of war, and hurriedly beat a retreat. As he reached
the front door he heard the panes of the garden door

Eetreat became flight, and he appeared, as I have
already said, before the idle crowd, with every sign of
distress, and calling for help at the top of his voice.

As usual on such occasions, the crowd, instead of
coming to the rescue, dispersed hurriedly, but a municipal
guard who was standing near held firm, and approaching
the ground-floor tenant asked how he could help him.

The poor man had neither voice nor words under
control, but pointed, speechless, to the door he had just
opened and the steps he had come down.


The municipal guard understood that the danger lay
on that side, and bravely drawing his sword ran up the
steps, through the door, and into the ground-floor apart-

The first thing which met his eye on entering the
drawing-room was the good-humoured face of Tom, who,
standing on his hind legs, had pushed his head and front
paws through one of the panes and was inspecting these
unknown regions with some curiosity.

The municipal guard paused uncertain, brave though
he was, whether to advance or retreat ; but no sooner did
Tom catch sight of him than with a kind of smothered
roar he hastily drew back his head and forepaws, and
made all possible haste to take refuge in the furthest
corner of the garden.

The fact was that Tom had never forgotten the beat-
ing given him by the municipal guards on the occasion of
that memorable visit of his to the masked ball at the
Odeon Theatre. He connected the sight of their uniform
with the treatment he had received at their hands, and
this being the case, it is not surprising that as soon as he
saw one of his enemies appear in the ground-floor draw-
ing-room he made haste to quit the premises.

Nothing is so inspiriting as to see your enemy in flight.
Besides, as already said, the guard was not wanting in
courage ; so he set off after Torn, who, after two or three
unsuccessful attempts to climb the wall, had placed him-
self in an angle, rose up on his hind legs and prepared to
defend himself in accordance with the lessons in boxing
given him by his friend Fan.

The guard, on his side, put himself into position, and
lost no time in attacking Tom according to every rule of

After a few rounds Tom dealt his opponent such a
blow on the arm that his wrist was dislocated, and the
gallant guard found himself at the mercy of the bear.

Luckily for him the Commissioner of Police arrived at


-* .-H*- ~^ 3^= &s^O


this moment, and seeing this act of open rebellion ordered
the corporal and his nine men to come down into the
garden, whilst he himself stood on the top step to give

Tom, interested in watching all these ceremonies, let
his antagonist escape, and remained standing upright
and immovable against the wall. Then began the
inquiry. Tom was accused of introducing himself
forcibly and by night into an inhabited house, and, further,
of having attempted to murder a public functionary. Not
being able to produce any witness to the contrary he was
condemned to death, and the corporal was desired to
proceed to immediate execution, and ordered his men to
load their guns.

Then, amidst a profound silence throughout the crowd
which had followed the soldiers into the garden, the
corporal's voice alone was heard. He made his men go
through the full number of evolutions, but when he came
to the word ' present ' he turned and looked towards the
Commissioner of Police.

A murmur of pity ran through the crowd, but the
Commissioner had been disturbed in the middle of his
breakfast, and was inexorable. He stretched out his

' Fi -' began the corporal ; but before the word w r as
out of his mouth or the bullets out of the guns, a man
hastily rushed through the crowd with a paper in his

It was Alexandra Decamps with an order from
Monsieur Cuvier for Tom's admission to the Zoological
Gardens, under the special care of one of the most
eminent keepers.

It came only just in time ; but Tom was safe, and
Alexandra led him off, amidst enthusiastic applause, to
spend his remaining years in dignified retirement.



AMONG my very earliest recollections is that of running and
playing, along with other little urchins, in front of a
heavy caravan, at whose horses' heads walked my father.
We were about to halt for the night, at Laval, which we
could see perched on the hill-side in front of us.

The weather was fine, the sun shone brightly, and we
ran gaily to and fro, like so many puppy-dogs let out
to play, shouting and laughing about nothing at all, as
delighted to arrive at a strange place for to-night as we
should be to set off to-morrow morning for a fresh one.

Suddenly there arose a cry a cry of anguish that still
echoes in my ears, mingled with a horrible sound as of
crunching bones. Swiftly I turned round ; in the place
where my father had been stood a group of men, some
stopping the horses, some kneeling round a formless mass
under the wheels. Terrified and weeping, I ran back as
fast as my little legs would carry me, to find that this dead
weight was all that remained of my father. In a jolt of the
waggon the shafts had struck and knocked him down :
one wheel had gone over his feet, the other had crushed
in his head ; life was extinct. We were fatherless, and
my mother was left in sole charge, not only of her little
children, but also of the menagerie.

My father had been, first, a travelling pedlar ; then,
after his marriage, he had started a panorama of scenes
from Napoleon's wars, and when the public grew tired of
that he obtained some curious animals, and by degrees

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

Thinking she was doing the best for us, she took a
third husband, an Italian, named Fai'mali ; 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 accus-
tomed 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 inte-
rested 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


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 teas 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|cZ. 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 sur-
rounded 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,


burst my big drum, and I was again turned adrift on the
world, with no larger fortune than before. This time,
however, I had gained experience and credit ; by means
of the latter I bought a pedlar's pack, and, like my father
before me, started on my travels.

These, however, did not last long, a woman who kept
a grocer's shop insisted on adopting me and taking me
into her business ; but I quickly wearied of that uncon-
genial occupation, and, thanks to my good looks, and to
my capacities as orator acquired while with my late
master, the dentist I was soon engaged as showman
in a travelling waxwork exhibition. My duties there were
light and easy, but the inactive life, in the midst of these
inanimate figures, was wearisome and monotonous to one
of my stirring nature.

The only break in the sameness of my existence was
on Sundays, when a young and charming girl named
Maria, an orphan, spent the day with my master and his
family. As the weeks rolled on into months, and these
in turn succeeded each other, little by little we fell in
love, and when at last circumstances separated us we
found how indispensable we had become to each other.
What caused us to part was the arrival in the neighbour-
hood of Bernaleo : s menagerie. It was a fine one, and the
animals it contained were not only numerous but for-
midable of aspect. All my old passion for wild beasts
instantly revived, and it was, at all events, an active,
stirring life, such as my nature required, I offered my
services, and these being promptly accepted, I thought I
had at last attained my desires. But no, I was not yet
satisfied. I soon found the animals to be so tamed, so
subdued, so docile, that there was no excitement, no risk in
going amongst them. They aroused themselves from their
sleep and went through their exercises so submissively,
so mechanically, that at times I had a mad desire to seize
them by the mane, and to cry out : ' Try to be fierce,
can't you ? '


And so we went on, slowly travelling towards the
south each day each performance exactly like the pre-
ceding ; till at last a red-letter day dawned in my career.
It happened at Bayonne, in this way : The performance
was just about to begin, one afternoon, the band was
tuning up, and the spectators were already assembling in
crowds at the foot of the wooden steps leading to the
arena, when the cry arose : ' Ather has escaped ! '

Now, Ather was a young royal tiger, noted, perhaps
with some slight exaggeration, for his ferocity ; the only
one, in fact, of all our animals not a sluggard. Everyone
had seen him prowling to and fro in his cage, rubbing him-
self against the bars, at times lashing his tail in a fury,
while his bloodshot eyes darted flame and fire. In the
menagerie he was tractable enough, but at liberty, out of
doors his prey all ready to hand who could answer for
the consequences ?

In one instant the public fled helter-skelter into the
houses, up on the roofs, some even climbing the nearest
trees. As for me, feeling that my long looked for
opportunity had now arrived, I straightway set off on
his track, under the burning afternoon sun. I had been
a considerable time in his pursuit, when a window was
cautiously opened, and a voice said, almost in a whisper ;
1 He is there ; ' while a hand pointed to the half-open
door of a locksmith's workshop, which, in contrast to the
brilliant sunshine outside, seemed a cavern of darkness.
In I plunged at first I saw nothing ; but after a few
seconds, becoming accustomed to the darkness, I per-
ceived the fugitive, with flaming eye and slavering jaws,
crouching in a corner all ready to spring. Another instant
and he would leap on me, seize, and rend me. I fore-
stalled him, however, and- it was I who leapt upon him !
What a combat ensued ! what roaring, raging, foaming,
scratching ! Fortunately it was of short duration, or it
would have been all over with me.

Seizing him with my large, strong hands by the scruff


of the neck, I slung him over my shoulder, and, neither
staggering nor stumbling under this enormous burden,
I bore him in triumph back to the menagerie. You may


imagine that I was pleased with myself, and will probably
suppose that my fortune was made and my position assured
for the rest of my life. Anything but that ; my master was
on his way into Spain, and, as I did not know Spanish, he


had no further need for my services. Here was I turned
adrift again, and not much further advanced than when
I received the same treatment at the hands of my late
master the quack dentist. At Bordeaux I gained a liveli-
hood for a while by making and selling little balloons.
Then a naturalist took me with him to Havre, where I
found another menagerie, Planet's, in which I succeeded
in obtaining a berth. My new employers treated me well,
and I threw myself ardently, passionately, into the study
of my work, observing, reflecting, and laying the founda-
tions of my future career. Now that I felt my prospects
becoming more assured I ventured to let my thoughts
return to Maria, who, I felt x had" become indispensable
to me. A fortunate chance bringing us with our re-
spective shows to the same place, I dared to tell my
secret to her, and to ask her to unite her lot to mine.
Her consent I readily obtained ; but her adopted parents
withheld theirs till I should have gained a position of
my own. I determined to conquer every obstacle in
order to win her. "With this end in view, I thought
to introduce a new element into the profession ;
to become, in fact, not an exhibitor of tamed and
subdued animals, but a real tamer of the fierce and
unvanquished. By one means and another, therefore, I
contrived to become the possessor of a cargo of freshly
caught forest-bred animals, whose ferocity had hitherto
daunted the courage of the most audacious. I dared
them, I defied them, and I quelled them. It was a real
battle, that might at any moment end in slaughter. When
I entered the cages it was often doubtful if I would
ever come out alive ; and frequently I have heard sighs
of relief from the spectators when I emerged safe and
sound. The expenses were heavy, if it were for the keep
of the animals alone ; and often I have gone without
dinner myself in order that they might fare well ; it was
better so to do, for if I had put them on short commons
they might have avenged themselves by devouring me !


At last my success was generally acknowledged. I
paid off all my debts, and became absolutely my own
master. Not till then did I dare to demand again the
hand of Maria, which this time was granted me. We
were soon married, and then we proceeded very humbly
to start a menagerie of our own. We began at Lyons with
a monkey named Simon whose antics were a constant
source of amusement some serpents and some crocodiles,
also two or three boas, which last we kept in our bed-room
in the little hotel where we lodged ; but as they continually
slept the sleep of the just they disturbed no one. From
time to time we received additions to our establishment.
One evening there arrived a cargo of crocodiles, which,
until they could be properly caged, were deposited, still
in the cases in which they had travelled, in a kind of
cellar opening on the courtyard. There Maria and I,
accompanied by men with lighted lanterns, went to work

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 9 of 22)