Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 143 pages of information about Rataplan, a rogue elephant; and other stories.

Handsome as he was, he looked a little out of proportion—­like all of his kin.  He seemed to be too large in some places and too small in others; while some parts of his body were thickly covered with beautiful, flaky feathers, and other parts had no feathers at all, only a few, little bristles:  in some places the skin was quite bare.

His small, flat head and long neck were almost destitute of feathers or hair, and yet his quick, bright eyes were surrounded by long, thick eyelashes, that many a fashionable beauty might have envied.

His long legs, with only a few bristles on the thighs, had a curious effect under the rich feathers of his tiny wings, while the lower parts, covered with large, thick scales and ending in big feet, with only two toes each, were other details which added to his curious appearance.

Osra, at this time, was a very important bird indeed, for he possessed six wives, and, as all these wives had been laying eggs lately, he had had a very busy time.

For the wife of an ostrich considers if she lays the eggs that is all she can be expected to do.  The males do all the hatching, even making the nest in preparation for the eggs.

Osra, strong as he was, had a very busy time hollowing out that nest in the sand, and scraping up a small wall all round it so that his wives could, if they liked, place the eggs on end, and so not take up so much space.  For all his wives laid in the same nest, and as there were already over twenty eggs, and each egg was a large one, it needed a good big nest.

Not that Osra’s wives were over particular about the eggs being actually in the nest, as long as they laid them near it.  Ostriches don’t believe in being too fastidious; any eggs that happened to be outside the nest would be there for the young ostriches to eat when they were hatched.  For, as the wife of the ostrich considers she has done her duty when she has laid the eggs, so the father considers he has done his duty when he has hatched them with the help of the sun.  Once they are hatched he is practically done with them, for no ostrich ever made a good parent yet, although in time of danger they will do their very best to guard their young.

There had been a time when Osra had some very exciting fights, but this had been when he was selecting his wives.  He did not believe in allowing any other ostrich to get a wife that he wanted, and he had never yet been beaten.  More than one fully grown, male ostrich had he killed while having an argument on this point, and he always found that the wives which cost him the most fights and the greatest amount of trouble were the ones he liked the best.  This is something like the seal, who does not think any wife worth having unless he has to fight for her.

He had no time for fights now, and, moreover, having got as many wives as he wanted and the ones he wanted, there was no occasion for fighting.  And so he led a quiet, domestic life at this time; walked about with his wives by day and helped to get them food, and then, when the sun was no longer strong enough to help in the hatching, Osra went and sat on the eggs, where he stayed until the sun got up again.  And so it went on until the young ostriches came out.

Follow Us on Facebook