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Peeps At Many Lands: Belgium
by George W. T. Omond
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But two more changes were at hand. When Albert died Belgium went back to Spain; and once again, after long wars, during one of which Brussels was nearly all destroyed by fire, it was handed over to Austria. This was in the year 1714; and after that it was called the "Austrian Netherlands."

Thus, you see, the Belgians were constantly being passed from one set of masters to another, like a race of slaves. They had not stuck to the brave Dutch, and fought on till they were free, and so never could tell who were to be their next rulers.

This could not be good for the character of any people. However, they were, on the whole, happy under the House of Hapsburg till an Emperor called Joseph II. came to the Austrian throne. He was a good man, and wise in many ways, but he made the mistake of trying to bring in new laws and customs which the people did not like. Belgium had been sunk, ever since the time of Philip II., in poverty and ignorance. All the people wished for was to be let alone, to amuse themselves, and to have peace. But Joseph II. wanted to raise them up, and, most of all, to spread knowledge and education among them.

The Austrian Netherlands—that is, Belgium—were more Catholic than ever, and all the Bishops and priests were up in arms against the reforms proposed by Joseph; and there was a revolution, which had not finished when he died. It came to an end, however, soon after his death, when the Catholics got all they wanted, though the Austrians remained in power. But the country had become restless. Its restlessness was increased by the French Revolution, which was now in full progress; and all was ripe for another change of rulers, which soon came.

The French Republicans, who beheaded their own King and his Queen (who was, by-the-by, a sister of Joseph II.), invaded Belgium, driving out the Austrians, and made it a part of France.

One thing the French did was very popular with the Belgians. It was this: there was a treaty, called the Treaty of Muenster, made as long before as the year 1648, which declared that the Dutch were to have control of the Scheldt, and ever since then that splendid river, on which Antwerp stands, had been closed, so that the trade of Antwerp, the great Belgian seaport, had been entirely ruined. The French now declared the Scheldt a free river, to be used by all nations. This was tidings of great joy to the Belgians; but England would not allow the Treaty of Muenster to be torn up in this way, and a war began between England and France, which lasted till the fall of Napoleon in 1814.

During all that war Belgium was ruled by the French. When Napoleon gave up his throne, and was sent to the Island of Elba, the Great Powers met to settle Europe, which he had turned upside down. One of the things they had to decide was what should be done with the Austrian Netherlands, and the plan they arranged seemed a very good one.

Austria did not want Belgium, and the plan was to make that country, the Principality of Liege, and Holland, into one state, and call it the "Kingdom of the Netherlands." It was to be ruled over by one of the Orange family, a descendant of William the Silent.

And there was something more. The William of Orange who was to be King of the Netherlands had a son, and the English arranged that this son should marry our Princess Charlotte, who was heir to the throne of England; and so all the coasts of the Netherlands opposite England, with Antwerp and the Scheldt, were to be in the hands of a friendly nation allied by marriage to the English Royal Family. The proposed marriage was publicly announced in March, 1814, but it never took place. The Princess Charlotte married a German, called Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, and the young Prince of Orange married a Russian Grand Duchess.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, however, was set up; and at the Battle of Waterloo, which was fought in June, 1815, after Napoleon escaped from Elba, a force of Netherlanders, some of them Dutch and some of them Belgians, fought under the Duke of Wellington, when he gained the great victory which brought peace to Europe.

And now it was supposed that the Belgians would settle quietly down, and form one people with the Dutch, who spoke a language so like their own Flemish, and who came of the same race. But not a bit of it. The Dutch were mostly Protestants, and almost all the Belgians were Catholics. There were disputes about questions of religion from the very first. Disagreements followed on one subject after another; and, to make a long story short, in fifteen years there was a revolution in the Belgian provinces of the new kingdom.

The Belgians proclaimed their wish to make a kingdom of their own, and once more the Great Powers met to consider what was to be done with them this time. The meeting was in London, where five very shrewd and wily gentlemen, from England, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, sat and talked to each other for week after week about what they should do with this broken kingdom, which was, as it were, thrown on their hands. They were far too polite to quarrel openly; but Russia, Prussia, and Austria would have liked to force the Belgians to keep to what had been arranged in 1814, while England and France were on the side of the Belgians. On one thing, and one thing only, they all agreed, and that was not to have another European war.

In the long run England and France managed to persuade the others that the best thing was to let the Belgians have their own way, and choose a King for themselves. They first set their affections on a son of Louis Philippe, the King of France, and asked him to be their King. But England would not hear of this, so his father told him to refuse. Then the Belgians were advised to choose that Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg who had married Princess Charlotte. She was now dead, and he had been living in England ever since. They took this advice, and in 1831 he accepted the offer they made him, and was crowned at Brussels as Leopold I., King of the Belgians.

Thereafter he married a daughter of Louis Philippe, and reigned till the year 1865, when he died, and was succeeded by his son, Leopold II., who is the present King. This is how the southern provinces of the Netherlands were made into the little, independent kingdom of Belgium.

Since then the trade and commerce of Belgium have grown. Antwerp has become a huge seaport; Brussels flourishes. The industries of Ghent are prosperous. Throughout the Walloon country, from the busy forges of Liege to the coal-mines round Mons, there is a hard-working and, on the whole, successful people. Even fallen Bruges has lately been struggling to rise again.

But, unfortunately, there is another side to the picture. You have often heard it said that "as the twig is bent, the tree grows." It is the same with mankind. The character and manners of grown-up people depend on how they have been trained when young. If a child is bullied, and passed from one master to another, ill-treated and frightened, it is apt to grow up timid and untruthful. The same thing may be seen in nations. To this day the lower classes in Belgium bear traces of the long period of subjection, and the race has not recovered from the time when the Spaniards turned so many famous towns into dens of thieves and beggars. They are very often cunning, timid though boastful, and full of the small tricks and servile ways which are natural in a people which once had all manliness and courage crushed out of it.

Another unlucky thing for the Belgians is that they quarrel dreadfully among themselves about public questions. In all countries there are quarrels of this sort, but in Belgium these disputes poison the whole life of the country. They are divided into Catholics and Liberals, and the best interests of the State are lost sight of in the squabbling which goes on between these two parties. By the laws of Belgium all religions are equal. There is no Established Church. The Parliament each year finds money for the Catholic clergy, for the English Protestant chaplains, and for those of any other faith, if there are enough of them to form a congregation of a certain size. But this has not brought peace. In England, as you know, only some foolish people allow their political disputes to interfere with their private friendships, or with their amusements. But in Belgium the Catholics and the Liberals never forget their differences. It is like the time when the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. There are Catholic football clubs and Liberal football clubs; the public-houses are either Catholic or Liberal; and even children are taught at school to have feelings of this sort. One day a small girl was asked out to tea with some English children. When the hour came, her mother found her crying, and asked her what was the matter. "I'm afraid," she sobbed, "to go and play with these little heretics!"



The great quarrel is about education. The Liberals want to make a law that all children must go to school, but the Catholics will not agree to this. The priests have so much influence, and work so hard at the elections, that, except in Brussels, Liege, and a few more places, the people are frightened to vote against them. So there has always been a Catholic Government in power for the last twenty-five years.

The Great Powers, when they allowed the Belgians to have their own way and choose a King for themselves, took Belgium under their protection, and made it a "neutral state"—that is to say, a country which may not be attacked or entered by the armies of other nations which are fighting each other, and which is not permitted to make war on other countries. This was a great blessing for the Belgians, because their country is so small and weak, and so many battles used to be fought in it that it was called "the cock-pit of Europe." But whether the people of a neutral state are ever likely to be brave and self-sacrificing is another thing.



CHAPTER XV

THE BELGIAN ARMY: THE CONGO

Though Belgium is a neutral state, living under the protection of the Great Powers of Europe, the Belgians are afraid that some day, if these Powers quarrel with each other and begin to fight, armies may march into their country and turn it once more into a battle-field; or perhaps one of the Powers may wish to take a part of Belgium, or some Belgian town, such as Antwerp, and rule over it. So this little kingdom must have an army to defend itself till some powerful nation comes to help it.

The Belgian force actually under arms consists of only about 40,000 soldiers, but it can be raised to 200,000, if there is a danger of war, by calling out the "reserves," or men who have been trained, but are no longer with their regiments. In order to keep up this force of 40,000 it is necessary to find about 13,000 new men each year. But the Belgians do not like to be soldiers, and it is very difficult to persuade them to join the army. Last year only 1,000 would do so, which seems very few for a country in which there are 7,000,000 people. It has been the same for years. So there is a law called the Conscription, by which the necessary numbers are forced to serve.

This is how they manage the conscription: in February of each year all the boys who become nineteen in that year must go and draw lots to decide which of them are to enter the army.

The drawing generally takes place in the Hotel de Ville of the chief town in the part of the country to which the boys belong. On the appointed day all the families in which there are sons liable to serve flock into the town, and a great crowd gathers outside the building. The lads who are to draw lots go in, and find some officials waiting for them. Each boy has to put his hand into the ballot-box and draw out a paper on which there is a number. Suppose there are 150 boys, and 50 are wanted for the army, then those who draw the 50 lowest numbers are those who have to serve. Each boy draws out his paper, and gives it to an official, who calls out the number. If it is a number above 50, he is free, and runs out shouting with joy; but if it is one of the lower numbers, he goes out sadly to tell his family that he has drawn a "bad" number.

While the drawing goes on, the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and their friends, wait outside in the greatest anxiety. There are cheers and joyful greetings when a boy with a "good" number comes out, and groans of pity for those who have been unlucky. And when the drawing is done, and everyone knows his fate, they all go off to the public-houses. Those who have drawn lucky numbers get drunk from joy, while those who have to serve in the army try to forget their sorrow in drinking. Very often their families and friends do the same, and so it comes to pass that every February there are horrible scenes—men and women, boys and girls, reeling about the streets, shouting, singing, quarrelling, and behaving in the most disgraceful way. It is quite different from Germany, where every boy knows he must be trained to defend his country, and where almost everyone is proud of being a soldier.

If, however, the father of a boy who has drawn an unlucky number is rich enough to pay for another to take his place, he may do so. This system is called the Remplacement, and almost every father buys his son off if he can afford it. Many Belgians think this system unfair, and the officers of the army do not like it. Perhaps, before very long, there may be a change, and a new law made by which all boys will have to serve for a certain time. The Catholics have always been in favour of the Remplacement, while the Liberals have been against it. But it is said that the King wishes to abolish it, and try some new plan. So very likely the Catholics will give in, and there will be no more drawing of lots and buying off, but a system of universal service, which will be a very good thing for Belgium.

Though the trade of Belgium is very large indeed for the size of the country, the Belgians have no navy, and not many merchant-ships. But they have lately plunged into an adventure which may force them to have merchant-ships and men-of-war to defend them; for this small country has taken possession of a huge part of Central Africa, ever so many times bigger than Belgium itself.

About twenty-five years ago Leopold II., the present King of the Belgians, was made ruler over this part of Africa, which is called the Congo State, because of a magnificent river, the Congo, which flows through it. It was the Great Powers of Europe who made him ruler, and they made him promise that he would abolish slavery, allow all nations to trade freely there, and do all he could to civilize the natives. But after some time ugly stories began to reach Europe about what was being done by King Leopold's servants in that distant part of the world. The Congo is a country full of rich products, and it was said that the King was breaking his promises: that he was making heaps of money by forcing the natives to work as slaves, that all their lands were taken from them, that people were cruelly tortured, that whole villages were destroyed, that the soldiers hired by King Leopold were cannibals, and that he would not allow free trading.

There is no doubt whatever that the King was making a great deal of money, and that many shameful and wicked things were done in the Congo. The King never went there himself, but both he and his friends, who were also making money, said that the English (for it was the English who found most fault with him) were jealous, and that everything was going well. Nevertheless bad news kept arriving from the Congo, and many of the Belgians themselves became as angry as the English, and said something must be done to stop what was going on. At last the Belgian Parliament resolved that the only way to save the Congo was to make it a Belgian colony, and try if they could not govern it better than King Leopold.

So in the year 1908, after long debates and much curious bargaining between the King and his people, the Congo State became a Belgian colony. It remains to be seen whether they can govern it wisely, for as yet they have no experience in such matters. Few Belgians like to speak about the Congo. They shake their heads, and say it will cost a great deal of money, and bring danger to their country.

The scene when a ship sails from Antwerp for the Congo is unlike anything you will see at home. When a ship leaves an English port for India or the Colonies, the travellers go on board without any fuss, with perhaps a few private friends to see them off. But when a liner starts for the Congo, there is much excitement. A crowd assembles; flags fly; a band plays the Belgian National Anthem; hawkers go about selling photographs of le depart pour le Congo; and a steam-tug, decorated with flags, and with a band of music playing, accompanies the liner some distance down the Scheldt. The Belgians, you see, are so fond of hoisting flags and hearing bands of music on every possible occasion that they can't help doing it even when there is really nothing to get excited about.

And now, having taken this peep at Belgium, we shall leave these adventurers sailing away to their Congo, and, hoping they will find wisdom to steer wisely (in more ways than one) and so avoid shipwreck, wish them bon voyage.

* * * * *



LIST OF VOLUMES IN THE PEEPS AT MANY LANDS SERIES

EACH CONTAINING 12 FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR

BELGIUM INDIA BURMA IRELAND CANADA ITALY CHINA JAMAICA CORSICA JAPAN EGYPT MOROCCO ENGLAND NEW ZEALAND FINLAND NORWAY FRANCE SCOTLAND GERMANY SIAM GREECE SOUTH AFRICA HOLLAND SOUTH SEAS HOLY LAND SWITZERLAND ICELAND WALES

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AGENTS

AMERICA THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 64 & 66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

AUSTRALASIA OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 205 FLINDERS LANE, MELBOURNE

CANADA THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA, LTD. 27 RICHMOND STREET WEST, TORONTO

INDIA MACMILLAN & COMPANY, LTD. MACMILLAN BUILDING, BOMBAY 309 BOW BAZAAR STREET, CALCUTTA

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THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRY MEN

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By ASCOTT R. HOPE

BEASTS OF BUSINESS

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by G. VERNON STOKES and ALAN WRIGHT

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By FREDERIC W. FARRAR

ERIC; or, Little by Little

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by G. D. ROWLANDSON, and 78 in Black and White by GORDON BROWNE

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ST. WINIFRED'S; or, The World of School

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by DUDLEY TENNANT, and 152 in Black and White by GORDON BROWNE

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JULIAN HOME A Tale of College Life

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by PATTEN WILSON

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By Lieut. Col. A. F. MOCKLER-FERRYMAN

THE GOLDEN GIRDLE

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by ALLAN STEWART

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By JOHN FINNEMORE

THE WOLF PATROL

A Story of Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by H. M. PAGET

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JACK HAYDON'S QUEST

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by J. JELLICOE

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By STANLEY WATERLOO

A TALE OF THE TIME OF THE CAVE MEN

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by SIMON HARMON VEDDER

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ROBINSON CRUSOE

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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BY A SCHOOLBOY'S HAND

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by STRICKLAND BROWN

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FROM FAG TO MONITOR

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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By CAPTAIN COOK

VOYAGES OF DISCOVERY

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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By MUNGO PARK

TRAVELS IN AFRICA

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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By HUME NISBET

THE DIVERS

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by the Author

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By the DUCHESS OF BUCKINGHAM AND CHANDOS

WILLY WIND, AND JOCK AND THE CHEESES

57 Illustrations by J. S. ELAND (9 full-page in Colour)

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By ASCOTT R. HOPE

STORIES

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by DOROTHY FURNISS

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By ANDREW HOME

EXILED FROM SCHOOL

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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THE KINSFOLK AND FRIENDS OF JESUS

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THE BOOK OF THE RAILWAY

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THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF GARDENING

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by Mrs. CAYLEY-ROBINSON

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By Miss CONWAY and Sir MARTIN CONWAY

THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF ART

16 full-page Illustrations in Colour from Public and Private Galleries

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By ELIZABETH GRIERSON

CHILDREN'S TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by various Artists

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ADVENTURERS IN AMERICA

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by HENRY SANDHAM, R.C.A.

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By S. R. CROCKETT

RED CAP ADVENTURES

Being the Second Series of Red Cap Tales Stolen from the Treasure-Chest of the Wizard of the North

16 full-page Illustrations by ALLAN STEWART and others

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By S. R. CROCKETT

RED CAP TALES

Stolen from the Treasure-Chest of the Wizard of the North

16 full-page Illustrations in Colour by SIMON HARMON VEDDER

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Translated and Abridged by DOMINICK DALY

THE ADVENTURES OF DON QUIXOTE

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by STEPHEN BAGHOT DE LA BERE

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GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

16 full-page Illustrations in Colour by STEPHEN BAGHOT DE LA BERE

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By ASCOTT R. HOPE

THE ADVENTURES OF PUNCH

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by STEPHEN BAGHOT DE LA BERE

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THE BULL OF THE KRAAL

A Tale of Black Children

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WILLIAM TELL TOLD AGAIN

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THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour by GERTRUDE DEMAIN HAMMOND, R.I.

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By G. E. MITTON

THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF STARS

Preface by Sir DAVID GILL, K.C.B.

16 full-page Illustrations (11 in Colour) and 8 smaller figures in the text

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By G. E. MITTON

THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF LONDON

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF CELTIC STORIES

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THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF EDINBURGH

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by ALLAN STEWART

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Edited by G. E. MITTON

SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by HARRY ROUNTREE

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By ELIZABETH W. GRIERSON

CHILDREN'S TALES FROM SCOTTISH BALLADS

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by ALLAN STEWART

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By HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN

8 full-page Illustrations in Colour and many others in the text

* * * * *

ANIMAL AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

Edited by G. E. MITTON

Each volume deals entirely with the life story of some one animal, and is not merely a collection of animal stories. It is necessary to emphasize this, as the idea of the series has sometimes been misunderstood. Children who have outgrown fairy-tales undoubtedly prefer this form of story to any other, and a more wholesome way of stimulating their interest in the living things around them could hardly be found.

Though the books are designed for children of all ages, many adults have been attracted by their freshness, and have found in them much that they did not know before.

The autobiographical form was chosen after careful consideration in preference to the newer method of regarding an animal through the eyes of a human being, because it is the first aim of the series to depict the world as animals see it, and it is not possible to do this realistically unless the animal himself tells the story.

* * * * *

THE LIFE STORY OF A DOG

By G. E. MITTON

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by JOHN WILLIAMSON

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THE LIFE STORY OF A FOX

By J. C. TREGARTHEN

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by COUNTESS HELENA GLEICHEN

* * * * *

THE LIFE STORY OF A FOWL

By J. W. HURST

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by ALLAN STEWART and MAUDE SCRIVENER

* * * * *

THE LIFE STORY OF A BLACK BEAR

By H. PERRY ROBINSON

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by J. VAN OORT

* * * * *

THE LIFE STORY OF A RAT

By G. M. A. HEWETT

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by STEPHEN BAGHOT DE LA BERE

* * * * *

THE LIFE STORY OF A CAT

By VIOLET HUNT

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by ADOLPH BIRKENRUTH

* * * * *

THE LIFE STORY OF A SQUIRREL

By T. C. BRIDGES

12 full-page Illustrations in Colour by ALLAN STEWART

* * * * *

PUBLISHED BY A. AND C. BLACK, SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.

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THE END

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