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|Curious Birds and Beasts --- English Stories
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|Author:||Pooja [ Thu May 20, 2010 6:50 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Curious Birds and Beasts --- English Stories|
Curious Birds and Beasts is Famousd and Most read topic of English Stories.
Being alone in London, yet wishing to celebrate the day, I decided to pay my respects to the lions at the Zoological Gardens. A lovely place it was, and I enjoyed myself immensely; for May-day in England is just what it should be, mild, sunny, flowery, and spring-like. As I walked along the well-kept paths, between white and rosy hawthorn hedges, I kept coming upon new and curious sights; for the birds and beasts are so skilfully arranged that it is more like travelling through a strange and pleasant country than visiting a menagerie.
The first thing I saw was a great American bison; and I was so glad to meet with any one from home, that I'd have patted him with pleasure if he had shown any cordiality toward me. He didn't, however, but stared savagely with his fiery eyes, and put down his immense head with a sullen snort, as if he'd have tossed me with great satisfaction. I did not blame him, for the poor fellow was homesick, doubtless, for his own wide prairies and the free life he had lost. So I threw him some fresh clover, and went on to the pelicans.
I never knew before what handsome birds they were; not graceful, but with such snowy plumage, tinged with pale pink and faint yellow. They had just had their bath, and stood arranging their feathers with their great bills, uttering a queer cry now and then, and nodding to one another sociably. When fed, they gobbled up the fish, never stopping to swallow it till the pouches under their bills were full; then they leisurely emptied them, and seemed to enjoy their lunch with the grave deliberation of regular Englishmen.
Being in a hurry to see the lions, I went on to the long row of cages, and there found a splendid sight. Six lions and lionesses, in three or four different cages, sitting or standing in dignified attitudes, and eyeing the spectators with a mild expression in their fine eyes. One lioness was ill, and lay on her bed, looking very pensive, while her mate moved restlessly about her, evidently anxious to do something for her, and much afflicted by her suffering. I liked this lion very much, for, though the biggest, he was very gentle, and had a noble face.
The tigers were rushing about, as tigers usually are; some creeping noiselessly to and fro, some leaping up and down, and some washing their faces with their velvet paws. All looked and acted so like cats that I wasn't at all surprised to hear one of them purr when the keeper scratched her head. It was a very loud and large purr, but no fireside pussy could have done it better, and every one laughed at the sound.
There were pretty spotted leopards, panthers, and smaller varieties of the same species. I sat watching them a long time, longing to let some of the wild things out for a good run, they seemed so unhappy barred in those small dens.
Suddenly the lions began to roar, the tigers to snarl, and all to get very much excited about something, sniffing at the openings, thrusting their paws through the bars, and lashing their tails impatiently. I couldn't imagine what the trouble was, till, far down the line, I saw a man with a barrowful of lumps of raw meat. This was their dinner, and as they were fed but once a day they were ravenous. Such roars and howls and cries as arose while the man went slowly down the line, gave one a good idea of the sounds to be heard in Indian forests and jungles. The lions behaved best, for they only paced up and down, with an occasional cry; but the tigers were quite frantic; for they tumbled one over the other, shook the cages, and tried to reach the bystanders, just out of reach behind the bar that kept us at a safe distance. One lady had a fright, for the wind blew the end of her shawl within reach of a tiger's great claw, and he clutched it, trying to drag her nearer. The shawl came off, and the poor lady ran away screaming, as if a whole family of wild beasts were after her.
When the lumps of meat were thrown in, it was curious to see how differently the animals behaved. The tigers snarled and fought and tore and got so savage I was very grateful that they were safely shut up. In a few minutes, nothing but white bones remained, and then they howled for more. One little leopard was better bred than the others, for he went up on a shelf in the cage, and ate his dinner in a quiet, proper manner, which was an example to the rest. The lions ate in dignified silence, all but my favourite, who carried his share to his sick mate, and by every gentle means in his power tried to make her eat. She was too ill, however, and turned away with a plaintive moan which seemed to grieve him sadly. He wouldn't touch his dinner, but lay down near her, with the lump between his paws, as if guarding it for her; and there I left him patiently waiting, in spite of his hunger, till his mate could share it with him. As I took a last look at his fine old face, I named him Douglas, and walked away, humming to myself the lines of the ballad,--
Tender and true.
As a contrast to the wild beasts, I went to see the monkeys, who lived in a fine large house all to themselves. Here was every variety, from the great ugly chimpanzee to the funny little fellows who played like boys, and cut up all sorts of capers. A mamma sat tending her baby, and looking so like a little old woman that I laughed till the gray monkey with the blue nose scolded at me. He was a cross old party, and sat huddled up in the straw, scowling at every one, like an ill-tempered old bachelor. Half-a-dozen little ones teased him capitally by dropping bits of bread, nut-shells, and straws down on him from above, as they climbed about the perches, or swung by their tails. One poor little chap had lost the curly end of his tail,--I'm afraid the gray one bit it off,--and kept trying to swing like the others, forgetting that the strong, curly end was what he held on with. He would run up the bare boughs, and give a jump, expecting to catch and swing, but the lame tail wouldn't hold him, and down he'd go, bounce on to the straw. At first he'd sit and stare about him, as if much amazed to find himself there; then he'd scratch his little round head and begin to scold violently, which seemed to delight the other monkeys; and, finally, he'd examine his poor little tail, and appear to understand the misfortune which had befallen him. The funny expression of his face was irresistible, and I enjoyed seeing him very much, and gave him a bun to comfort him when I went away.
The snake-house came next, and I went in, on my way to visit the rhinoceros family. I rather like snakes, since I had a tame green one, who lived under the door-step, and would come out and play with me on sunny days. These snakes I found very interesting, only they got under their blankets and wouldn't come out, and I wasn't allowed to poke them; so I missed seeing several of the most curious. An ugly cobra laid and blinked at me through the glass, looking quite as dangerous as he was. There were big and little snakes,--black, brown, and speckled, lively and lazy, pretty and plain ones,--but I liked the great boa best.
When I came to his cage, I didn't see anything but the branch of a tree, such as I had seen in other cages, for the snakes to wind up and down. 'Where is he, I wonder? I hope he hasn't got out,' I said to myself, thinking of a story I read once of a person in a menagerie, who turned suddenly and saw a great boa gliding towards him. As I stood wondering if the big worm could be under the little flat blanket before me, the branch began to move all at once, and with a start, I saw a limb swing down to stare at me with the boa's glittering eyes. He was so exactly the colour of the bare bough, and lay so still, I had not seen him till he came to take a look at me. A very villainous-looking reptile he was, and I felt grateful that I didn't live in a country where such unpleasant neighbours might pop in upon you unexpectedly. He was kind enough to take a promenade and show me his size, which seemed immense, as he stretched himself, and then knotted his rough grayish body into a great loop, with the fiery-eyed head in the middle. He was not one of the largest kind, but I was quite satisfied, and left him to his dinner of rabbits, which I hadn't the heart to stay and see him devour alive.
I was walking toward the camel's pagoda, when, all of a sudden, a long, dark, curling thing came over my shoulder, and I felt warm breath in my face. 'It's the boa;' I thought, and gave a skip which carried me into the hedge, where I stuck, much to the amusement of some children riding on the elephant whose trunk had frightened me. He had politely tried to tell me to clear the way, which I certainly had done with all speed. Picking myself out of the hedge I walked beside him, examining his clumsy feet and peering up at his small, intelligent eye. I'm very sure he winked at me, as if enjoying the joke, and kept poking his trunk into my pocket, hoping to find something eatable.
I felt as if I had got into a foreign country as I looked about me and saw elephants and camels walking among the trees; flocks of snow-white cranes stalking over the grass, on their long scarlet legs; striped Zebras racing in their paddock; queer kangaroos hopping about, with little ones in their pouches; pretty antelopes chasing one another; and, in an immense wire-covered aviary, all sorts of brilliant birds were flying about as gaily as if at home.
One of the curiosities was a sea-cow, who lived in a tank of salt water, and came at the keeper's call to kiss him, and flounder on its flippers along the margin of the tank after a fish. It was very like a seal, only much larger, and had four fins instead of two. Its eyes were lovely, so dark and soft and liquid; but its mouth was not pretty, and I declined one of the damp kisses which it was ready to dispense at word of command.
The great polar bear lived next door, and spent his time splashing in and out of a pool of water, or sitting on a block of ice, panting, as if the mild spring day was blazing midsummer. He looked very unhappy, and I thought it a pity that they didn't invent a big refrigerator for him.
These are not half of the wonderful creatures I saw, but I have not room to tell more; only I advise all who can to pay a visit to the Zoological Gardens when they go to London, for it is one of the most interesting sights in that fine old city.
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