A younger elephant had to follow. The first watched his ascent with the most intense interest, making motions all the while as though he was assisting him, by shouldering him up the declivity. As the latter neared the top, a difficult spot had to be passed, when the first, approaching, extended his trunk to the assistance of his brother in distress. The younger, entwining his round it, was thus led up to the summit in safety. The first on this evinced his delight by giving a salute something like the sound of a trumpet. The two animals then greeted each other as if they had been long separated, and had just met after accomplishing a perilous achievement. They mutually embraced, and stood face to face for a considerable time, as if whispering congratulations. The driver then made them salaam to the general, who ordered them five rupees each for sweetmeats. On this they immediately returned thanks by another salaam.
Can you, after reading this, ever refuse to help any human beings in distress? Imitate, too, that sagacious elephant, in never venturing on unsafe ground. Look before you leap.
THE ELEPHANT AND THE ROTTEN BRIDGE.
It is seldom that an elephant can be induced to pass over ground he considers unsafe. Sometimes, however, a driver obtains such a mastery over a timid animal, that he compels him to undertake what his better sense would induce him to decline.
An elephant of this character was owned by a person residing in the neighbourhood of Gyah. Between the house and the town was a small bridge, over which the elephant had frequently passed. One day, however, he refused to go over. He tried it with his trunk, evidently suspecting that its strength was not sufficient to bear his weight. Still, the obstinate driver urged him on with the sharp spear with which elephants are driven. At length, with cautious steps he began the passage, still showing an extreme unwillingness to proceed. As he approached the centre, loud cracks were heard, when the treacherous bridge gave way, and both elephant and rider were precipitated into the stream below; the latter being killed by the fall, and the former, who had proved himself the most sensible being of the two, being much injured.
Let no force induce you to do what is wrong. All bad ways are like that rotten bridge. When others attempt to goad you on to do evil, tell them the story of the elephant and the rotten bridge.
THE ELEPHANT TURNED NURSE.
Who would expect to see a huge elephant take care of a delicate little child? Yet more vigilant and gentle nurses cannot be found than are some of these animals.
The wife of a mahout, or elephant driver, was frequently in the habit of giving her baby in charge of an elephant. The child would begin, as soon as it was left to itself, to crawl about, getting sometimes under the elephant's huge legs, at others becoming entangled among the branches on which he was feeding. On such occasions the elephant would gently disengage the child, by lifting it with his trunk or removing the boughs. The elephant, it should be said, was himself chained by the leg to the stump of a tree. When the child had crawled nearly to the limits of his range, he would advance his trunk, and lift it back as tenderly as possible to the spot whence it had started. Indeed, no nurse could have attended an infant with more good sense and care than did this elephant his master's child.
THE WOUNDED ELEPHANT AND THE SURGEON.
To conclude my anecdotes about elephants, I must tell you two which show, even more than the other incidents I have mentioned, the wonderful sense they possess.
An elephant had been severely wounded, and submitting to have his wound dressed, used, after two or three times, to go alone to the hospital and extend himself, so that the surgeon could easily reach the injured part. Though the pain the animal suffered was so severe that he often uttered the most plaintive groans, he never interrupted the operation, but exhibited every token of submission to the surgeon, till his cure was effected.
Still more curious is the following:—A young elephant which had accompanied its mother to the battle-field received a severe wound in the head. Nothing could induce it to allow the injury to be attended to. At length, by certain signs and words, the keeper explained to the mother what was wanted. The sagacious animal immediately seized the young one with her trunk, and, though it groaned with agony, held it to the ground, while the surgeon was thus enabled to dress the wound. Day after day she continued to act in the same way, till the wound was perfectly healed.
The virtues of cows are more active than passive. I may sum them up by saying that they are very affectionate mothers, and will sometimes, like horses and dogs, find their way across the country to the spot where they have been bred.
THE PROUD COW.
Mrs F—told me the following anecdote:—Her father had four cows, which every evening, at milking-time, were driven from the field into their byre. On their way they had to pass through the farmyard, when they would endeavour to snatch as many mouthfuls of hay as they had time to secure from the hay-stacks. One especially, who was accustomed to take the lead of the other cows, was more particularly addicted to this trick. She was thus sometimes the last to be driven into the byre. When, however, she found that her three companions had entered before her, nothing would induce her to follow them. She would stand with her fore-legs just over the threshold, stretch forth her neck, and moo angrily; but further than this, neither coaxing, blows, nor the barking of the dog at her heels, would induce her to go. The contest always ended in the rest of the cows being driven out; when she would at once take the lead, and walk quietly into her stall without the least persuasion. The dairy-maid called her the Proud Cow.
Another Irish cow has been known to act in a similar manner.
So her pride brought Mistress Cow many a whack on the back. Depend on it, if you stand on your dignity, you may often suffer, as she did.
THE COW AND HER TORMENTOR.
In my younger days, I had a companion who used to catch our tutor's cow by the tail, and make her drag him at full speed round and round the field. One day, when he was quietly walking along the path to church, the cow espied him, and making chase, very nearly caught him with her horns as he leaped over the nearest gate.
I will tell you of another cow, which was frequently annoyed by a boy amusing himself with throwing stones at her. She had borne his mischief for some time, when at length, making after him, she hooked the end of her horns into his clothes, lifted him from the ground, carried him out of the field, and laid him down in the road. She then, satisfied with the gentle punishment she had inflicted, returned calmly to her pasture.
A COW SEEKING HER CALF.
Cows have as much affection for their young as have other animals, and it is piteous to hear them mooing when deprived of their calves.
A cow had her calf taken from her, and left at Bushy Park, while she was driven off to Smithfield to be sold. The following morning, when it was supposed the cow was in London, she appeared at the gate of the yard in which her calf was confined. Influenced by her love for her offspring, she had broken out of the pen, passed through all the streets of the suburbs without being stopped by the police, who naturally supposed, from her quiet demeanour, that the drover must be at her heels; and once in the country, had quickly traversed the twelve miles which took her to her former home. It is probable that she traversed the same road to Bushy which she had followed when being driven from that place to Smithfield.
In Africa, the Hottentot shepherds employ a species of cow to guard their flocks of sheep. They keep the animals together with all the sagacity of Scotch sheep-dogs, and will attack with the utmost bravery any enemy attempting to injure them.
What difficulties does true love overcome! If that poor dull cow could feel such love for her offspring as to overcome the usual apathy of her kind, what must be the feelings of a human mother towards her children! Can you, then, ever carelessly wound yours by your misconduct?
A SAVAGE BULL TAMED BY KINDNESS.
A savage bull was kept in a farmyard constantly chained on account of its fierceness. A gentleman who went to stay at the farm was an especial object of dislike to the animal. One night, during a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning, the bull was heard to roar piteously, evidently alarmed at the strife of the elements. The servants were ordered to lead the bull from its open shed into a close stable, where it would be less exposed; but they were afraid to go. The visitor, therefore, compassionating the animal, although it had shown itself his determined foe, went out into the yard. Here he found the bull lying on its back; having, in its struggles to get free, almost torn the ring through the gristle of its nose. No sooner did he appear than the creature rose, and by its fawning actions showed how delighted it was to obtain the companionship of a human being. Now quiet as a lamb, it allowed the stranger to lead it into the stable; and the next morning, when he went to visit it, it endeavoured to express its gratitude by rubbing its nose against him.
From that day forward it always treated him as a friend, while it remained as savage as before towards every one else.
There are times when the most savage hearts can be touched. Wait for them, and then apply the soothing balm of gentleness.
THE FAITHFUL BUFFALO.
Ferocious in aspect as is the long hairy-skinned buffalo—or properly the bison—of America, and savage when attacked, yet it is capable of devoted affection towards its own kind.
A party of hunters were riding on the prairies, when two fine buffalo-bulls were seen proceeding along the opposite side of a stream. One of the hunters took aim at the nearest buffalo, which was crossing with his haunches towards him. The ball broke the animal's right hip, and he plunged away on three legs, the other hanging useless. The hunter, leaping on his horse, put spurs to its flanks, and in three minutes he and his companions were close on the bull. To his astonishment, and the still greater surprise of two older hunters, the unhurt bull stuck to his comrade's side without flinching. He fired another shot, which took effect in the lungs of the first buffalo. The second sheered off for a moment, but instantly returned to his friend. The wounded buffalo became distressed, and slackened his pace. The unwounded one not only retarded his, but coming to the rear of his friend, stood with his head down, offering battle.
Here indeed was devotion! The sight was, to all three of the hunters, a sublime one. They could no more have accepted the challenge of this brave creature, than they could have smitten Damon at the side of Pythias. The wounded buffalo ran on to the border of the next marsh, and, in attempting to cross, fell headlong down the steep bank. Not till that moment, when courage was useless, did his faithful companion seek his own safety in flight. The hunters took off their hats, and gave three parting cheers, as he vanished on the other side of the wood.
THE AFFECTIONATE BUFFALO-BULL.
The cow-buffaloes are frequently attracted by a ruse of the Indians, which they call "making a calf." One of the party covers himself with a buffalo-skin, and another with the skin of a wolf. They then creep on all-fours within sight of the buffaloes, when the pretended wolf jumps on the back of the pretended calf, which bellows in imitation of the real one, crying for assistance.
A white man and an Indian were hunting together. At length a solitary bull and cow were seen in the distance. After the Indian personating the calf had bellowed a short time, the cow ran forward, and attempted to spring towards the hunters; but the bull, seeming to understand the trick, tried to stop her by running between them. The cow now dodged and got round him, and ran within ten or fifteen yards of them, with the bull close at her heels, when both men fired, and brought her down. The bull instantly stopped short, and bending over her, tried to help her up with his nose, evincing the most persevering affection for her; nor could they get rid of him, so as to cut up the cow, without shooting him also—a cruel reward to the noble animal for his conjugal affection.
This account, which is mentioned by Mr Kane the artist, and that previously given, show that these animals are capable of great affection for each other, though in general they leave their wounded comrades to shift for themselves.
THE KIND OX AND THE SHEEP.
I have to tell you of an instance of the benevolence of an ox. Oxen may possess many virtues, but are not in the habit of making a parade of them. Sheep are sometimes seized with fits, when they fall on their back, and are unable of themselves to regain their legs. While in this helpless position, they are sometimes attacked by birds of prey, which tear out their eyes, and otherwise injure them.
An unfortunate sheep had fallen in the way I have described, and was in vain endeavouring to struggle to its feet, when an ox, grazing near, observed what had happened. Going up to it, it carefully turned the animal over on its side; and when it had regained its feet, walked away, and went on feeding as before, satisfied that it had done what was wanted.
My young friends, try to help those in distress, though there may be as much difference between you and them as between that ox and the sheep.
THE COURAGEOUS BULL.
I remember meeting with an account of a bull, which fed on the savannahs of Central America. He had gored so many cattle, that he was at length caught with a lasso, and to prevent him doing further mischief, the tips of his horns were blunted. Some weeks after, a cow belonging to his herd was found killed by a jaguar, and from the state of the bull's head and neck, which were fearfully torn, it was evident that he had fought bravely for the animals under his care. It was now seen that it would have been wiser not to have deprived the defender of the herd of his weapons.
To enable him to do battle in future, he was secured, his wounds were dressed, and his horns made sharp again. The body of the cow having been preserved from the birds and beasts of prey during the day, the gallant bull was turned out again in the evening. The jaguar, as was expected, returned at night, when a furious battle took place. The next morning the jaguar was found dead, pierced through and through, close by the cow; while the bull, which stood near, bleeding from many a wound, was seen to rush, ever and anon, against his now helpless antagonist.
THE BRAVE BULL AND THE WISE PIG.
A pig had been stolen by two men, who were driving it at night along an unfrequented path in the neighbourhood of Rotherham. As the pig squeaked loudly, they feared they might be betrayed, and were about to kill it. The pig, however, struggled violently, and had already received a wound, when it managed to escape into a neighbouring field, squeaking still louder, and with the blood flowing from its wound. The robbers, pursuing the pig, found themselves face to face with a large bull, which had been till now grazing quietly. Apparently understanding the state of affairs, and compassionating, it may be presumed, the pig, he ran fiercely at the men, compelling them to fly for their lives. It was only, indeed, by leaping desperately over a hedge, that they escaped an ugly toss from the horns of the animal.
In vain did they wait, in the hope of recovering the pig. Piggy, having found a powerful friend, was too wise to desert him, and kept close to his heels, till the crowing of the cocks in the neighbouring farms warned the robbers to make their escape.
SAVAGE AND OTHER ANIMALS.
THE LION AND HIS KEEPER.
The majestic step, the bold look, the grace and strength of the lion, have obtained for him the title of "king of beasts." He is greatly indebted, however, to the imagination of the poet for the noble qualities which he is supposed to possess. He is, though capable of gratitude towards those from whom he has received kindness, often treacherous and revengeful, and Dr Livingstone considers him an arrant coward. The stories, however, which I have to narrate, describe his better qualities.
Mrs Lee tells us of a lion which was kept in the menagerie at Brussels. The animal's cell requiring some repairs, the keeper led him to the upper portion of it, where, after playing with him for some time, they both fell asleep. The carpenter, who was employed in the work below, wishing to ascertain whether it was finished as desired, called the keeper to inspect what he had done. Receiving no answer, he climbed up, when, seeing the keeper and lion thus asleep side by side, he uttered a cry of horror. His voice awoke the lion, which, gazing fiercely at him for a moment, placed his paw on the breast of his keeper, and lay down to sleep again.
On the other attendants being summoned, they aroused the keeper, who, on opening his eyes, appeared in no way frightened, but taking the paw of the lion, shook it, and quietly led him down to the lower part of the den.
THE GENEROUS LION AND HIS ASSAILANTS.
The custom existed till lately on the Continent of having combats between wild animals and dogs, although they were very different from the spectacles exhibited in the days of ancient Rome.
It had been arranged that a battle should take place between a lion and four large bull-dogs. The lion, released from his den, stood looking round him in the arena, when the dogs were let loose. Three of them, however, turned tail, one alone having the courage to attack him. The lion, crouching down as the dog approached, stretched him motionless with one stroke of his paw; then drawing the animal towards him, almost concealed him with his huge fore-paws. It was believed that the dog was dead. In a short time, however, it began to move, and was allowed by the lion to struggle up on to its feet; but when the dog attempted to run away, the lion, with two bounds, reached it, showing it how completely it was in his power.
Pity, or it may have been contempt, now seemed to move the heart of the generous lion. He stepped back a few paces, and allowed the dog to escape through the door opened for the purpose, while the spectators uttered loud shouts of applause.
THE GRATEFUL LION.
A remarkably handsome African lion was being sent to the coast, where it was to be placed on board ship, to be carried to France, when it fell ill. Its keepers, supposing that it would not recover, left it to die on the wild open side of the mountain which they were at the time crossing. There it lay, on the point of perishing, when a traveller, who had been shooting in the interior of the country, happened to pass that way. Seeing the condition of the noble-looking animal, he gave it some new milk from the goats which he had in his camp. The lion drank it eagerly, and at once began to revive, showing his gratitude by licking the hand of the benevolent stranger. The traveller continued his kind offices to the poor beast, which, in consequence of his care, completely recovered.
When the traveller moved on, the lion accompanied his camp, and became so attached to his benefactor that he followed him about everywhere, taking food from his hand, and being in every respect as tame as a dog.
THE TIGER AND HIS COMPANIONS.
On one of her voyages from China, the Pitt, East Indiaman, had on board, among her passengers, a young tiger. He appeared to be as harmless and playful as a kitten, and allowed the utmost familiarity from every one. He was especially fond of creeping into the sailors' hammocks; and while he lay stretched on the deck, he would suffer two or three of them to place their heads on his back, as upon a pillow. Now and then, however, he would at dinner-time run off with pieces of their meat; and though sometimes severely punished for the theft, he bore the chastisement he received with the patience of a dog. His chief companion was a terrier, with whom he would play all sorts of tricks— tumbling and rolling over the animal in the most amusing manner, without hurting it. He would also frequently run out on the bowsprit, and climb about the rigging with the agility of a cat.
On his arrival in England, he was sent to the menagerie at the Tower. While there, another terrier was introduced into his den. Possibly he may have mistaken it for his old friend, for he immediately became attached to the dog, and appeared uneasy whenever it was taken away. Now and then the dangerous experiment was tried of allowing the terrier to remain while the tiger was fed. Presuming on their friendship, the dog occasionally ventured to approach him; but the tiger showed his true nature on such occasions, by snarling in a way which made the little animal quickly retreat.
He had been in England two years, when one of the seamen of the Pitt came to the Tower. The animal at once recognised his old friend, and appeared so delighted, that the sailor begged to be allowed to go into the den. The tiger, on this, rubbed himself against him, licked his hands, and fawned on him as a eat would have done. The sailor remained in the den for a couple of hours or more, during which time the tiger kept so close to him, that it was evident he would have some difficulty in getting out again, without the animal making his escape at the same time. The den consisted of two compartments. At last the keeper contrived to entice the tiger to the inner one, when he closed the slide, and the seaman was liberated.
Great is the danger of associating with those of bad morals—pleasant and friendly as they may seem.
THE TIGRESS AND HER YOUNG.
The tigress generally takes much less care of her young than does the lioness of her whelps. Occasionally, however, she shows the same maternal affection.
Two young tiger cubs had been found by some villagers, while their mother had been ranging in quest of prey. They were put into a stable, where, during the whole night, they continued to make the greatest possible noise. After some days, during which it was evident that their mother had been searching for them in every direction, she at length discovered the place where they were confined, and replied to their cries with tremendous howlings. The keeper, fearing she would break into the stable, and probably wreak her vengeance on his head, set the cubs at liberty. She at once made her way to them, and before morning had carried them off to an adjoining jungle.
If that savage tigress could thus risk the loss of her life for the sake of her cubs, think what must be your mother's love for you. Do you try to repay her in some part for all her care and tenderness, by your affection, by doing all she wishes, and what you know is right, whether she sees you or not; trying not in any way to vex her, but to please her in all things?
THE WOLF AND HIS MASTER.
Even a wolf, savage as that animal is, may, if caught young, and treated kindly, become tame.
A story is told of a wolf which showed a considerable amount of affection for its master. He had brought it up from a puppy, and it became as tame as the best-trained dog, obeying him in everything. Having frequently to leave home, and not being able to take the wolf with him, he sent it to a menagerie, where he knew it would be carefully looked after. At first the wolf was very unhappy, and evidently pined for its absent master. At length, resigning itself to its fate, it made friends with its keepers; and recovered its spirits.
Fully eighteen months had passed by, when its old master, returning home, paid a visit to the menagerie. Immediately he spoke, the wolf recognised his voice, and made strenuous efforts to get free. On being set at liberty, it sprang forward, and leaped up and caressed him like a dog. Its master, however, left it with its keepers, and three years passed away before he paid another visit to the menagerie. Notwithstanding this lapse of time, the wolf again recognised him, and exhibited the same marks of affection.
On its master again going away, the wolf became gloomy and desponding, and refused its food, so that fears were entertained for its life. It recovered its health, however, and though it suffered its keepers to approach, exhibited the savage disposition of its tribe towards all strangers.
The history of this wolf shows you that the fiercest tempers may be calmed by gentleness.
FOXES: THEIR DOMESTIC HABITS.
Arrant thieves as foxes are, with regard to their domestic virtues Mrs F—assures me that they eminently shine.
Both parents take the greatest interest in rearing and educating their offspring. They provide, in their burrow, a comfortable nest, lined with feathers, for their new-born cubs. Should either parent perceive in the neighbourhood of their abode the slightest sign of human approach, they immediately carry their young to a spot of greater safety, sometimes many miles away. They usually set off in the twilight of a fine evening. The papa fox having taken a survey all round, marches first, the young ones march singly, and mamma brings up the rear. On reaching a wall or bank, papa always mounts first, and looks carefully around, rearing himself on his haunches to command a wider view. He then utters a short cry, which the young ones, understanding as "Come along!" instantly obey. All being safely over, mamma follows, pausing in her turn on the top of the fence, when she makes a careful survey, especially rearward. She then gives a responsive cry, answering to "All right!" and follows the track of the others. Thus the party proceed on their march, repeating the same precautions at each fresh barrier.
When peril approaches, the wary old fox instructs his young ones to escape with turns and doublings on their path, while he himself will stand still on some brow or knoll, where he can both see and be seen. Having thus drawn attention to himself, he will take to flight in a different direction. Occasionally, while the young family are disporting themselves near their home, if peril approach, the parents utter a quick, peculiar cry, commanding the young ones to hurry to earth; knowing that, in case of pursuit, they have neither strength nor speed to secure their escape. They themselves will then take to flight, and seek some distant place of security.
The instruction they afford their young is varied. Sometimes the parents toss bones into the air for the young foxes to catch. If the little one fails to seize it before it falls to the ground, the parent will snap at him in reproof. If he catches it cleverly, papa growls his approval, and tosses it up again. This sport continues for a considerable time.
As I have said, no other animals so carefully educate their young in the way they should go, as does the fox. He is a good husband, an excellent father, capable of friendship, and a very intelligent member of society; but all the while, it must be confessed, an incorrigible rogue and thief.
Do not pride yourself on being perfect because you possess some good qualities. Consider the many bad ones which counteract them, and strive to overcome those.
THE FOX AND THE WILD-FOWL.
Mrs F—gave me the following account of the ingenious stratagem of a fox, witnessed by a friend.
He was lying one summer's day under the shelter of some shrubs on the banks of the Tweed, when his attention was attracted by the cries of wild-fowl, accompanied by a great deal of fluttering and splashing. On looking round, he perceived a large brood of ducks, which had been disturbed by the drifting of a fir branch among them. After circling in the air for a little time, they again settled down on their feeding-ground.
Two or three minutes elapsed, when the same event again occurred. A branch drifted down with the stream into the midst of the ducks, and startled them from their repast. Once more they rose upon the wing, clamouring loudly, but when the harmless bough had drifted by, settled themselves down upon the water as before. This occurred so frequently, that at last they scarcely troubled themselves to flutter out of the way, even when about to be touched by the drifting bough.
The gentleman, meantime, marking the regular intervals at which the fir branches succeeded each other in the same track, looked for a cause, and perceived, at length, higher up the bank of the stream, a fox, which, having evidently sent them adrift, was eagerly watching their progress and the effect they produced. Satisfied with the result, cunning Reynard at last selected a larger branch of spruce-fir than usual, and couching himself down on it, set it adrift as he had done the others. The birds, now well trained to indifference, scarcely moved till he was in the midst of them, when, making rapid snaps right and left, he secured two fine young ducks as his prey, and floated forward triumphantly on his raft; while the surviving fowls, clamouring in terror, took to flight, and returned no more to the spot.
THE LABOURER AND THE SLY FOX.
A labourer going to his work one morning, caught sight of a fox stretched out at full length under a bush. Believing it to be dead, the man drew it out by the tail, and swung it about to assure himself of the fact. Perceiving no symptoms of life, he then threw it over his shoulder, intending to make a cap of the skin, and ornament his cottage wall with the brush. While the fox hung over one shoulder, his mattock balanced it on the other. The point of the instrument, as he walked along, every now and then struck against the ribs of the fox, which, not so dead as the man supposed, objected to this proceeding, though he did not mind being carried along with his head downward. Losing patience, he gave a sharp snap at that portion of the labourer's body near which his head hung. The man, startled by this sudden attack, threw fox and mattock to the ground, when, turning round, he espied the live animal making off at full speed.
THE FOX IN THE HEN-ROOST.
I cannot help fancying that Irish foxes are even more cunning than their brethren in other parts of the world, I have heard so many accounts of their wonderful doings.
Near Buttevant, where some of Mrs F—'s family resided, there happened to be a hole in the thatch of the fowl-house. A fox, finding it out, sprang down through the aperture, and slew and feasted all the night to his heart's desire. The intruder, however, had not reflected that he might be unable to secure his retreat by the way through which he had entered—facilis descensus averni.
To spring upward, especially after a heavy supper, was a laborious effort; and no doubt the villain had grown sufficiently uneasy in his mind before the early hour at which the farm-servant opened the door to liberate the fowls. When the door was opened, the man beheld the poacher in the midst of his slaughtered game. Cudgel in hand, he sprang in and fastened the door behind him, ready for a duel with Master Reynard at close quarters. But well the rascal knew that discretion is the better part of valour, and that "He who fights and runs away, May live to fight another day."
So, after being hunted about the house for some time, he seized an opportunity, when the man stooped to aim a decisive blow at him, to spring upon his assailant's back, and thence leap through the aperture in the roof, which he could not otherwise have reached. Thus he made his escape.
It would have been amusing to see the countenance or the man, when he found his fancied victim vanish from his sight like the wizard of a fairy tale.
Cunning rogues often get trapped, like the fox, when they hope to enjoy their spoil in security. Beware, when you have such an one to deal with, that he does not spring on your back, and leave you to be answerable for his crime.
To you, my young friend, I would say—You cannot be too cautious in dealing with what is wrong. You may fancy yourself able to cope with it, but it may prove too cunning for you. Better keep out of its way, till you have gained strength and wisdom.
THE FOX IN A PLOUGH FURROW.
The hero of Scotch story escaped from his foes by making his way down the course of a stream, that no trace of his footsteps might be found. Equally sagacious was an Irish fox, which, pursued by the hounds, was seen by a farmer, while he was ploughing a field, to run along in the furrow directly before him. While wondering how it was that the sly creature was pursuing this course, he heard the cry of dogs, and turning round, saw the whole pack at a dead stand, near the other end of the field, at the very spot where Reynard had entered the newly-formed trench. The fox had evidently taken this ingenious way of eluding pursuit; and the farmer, admiring the cleverness of the animal, allowed it to get off without betraying its whereabouts.
THE FOX AND THE BADGER.
Long live Old Ireland! A countryman was making his way along the bank of a mountain stream in Galway, when he caught sight of a badger moving leisurely along a ledge of rock on the opposite bank. The sound of the huntsman's horn at the same moment reached his ears, followed by the well-known cry of a pack of dogs. As he was looking round, to watch for their approach, he caught sight of a fox making his way behind the badger, among the rocks and bushes. The badger continued his course, while the fox, after walking for some distance close in his rear, leaped into the water. Scarcely had he disappeared, when on came the pack at full speed, in pursuit. The fox, however, by this time was far away, floating down the stream; but the dogs instantly set upon the luckless badger and tore him to pieces, before they discovered that they had not got Reynard in their clutches.
Evil-doers seldom scruple to let others suffer, so that they may escape. Keep altogether out of the places frequented by such.
THE FOX AND THE HARES.
I have still another story to tell about cunning Reynard. Daylight had just broke, when a well-known naturalist, gun in hand, wandering in search of specimens, observed a large fox making his way along the skirts of a plantation. Reynard looked cautiously over the turf-wall into the neighbouring field, longing evidently to get hold of some of the hares feeding in it, well aware that he had little chance of catching one by dint of running. After examining the different gaps in the wall, he fixed on one which seemed to be the most frequented, and laid himself down close to it, in the attitude of a cat watching a mouse-hole. He next scraped a small hollow in the ground, to form a kind of screen. Now and then he stopped to listen, or take a cautious peep into the field. This done, he again laid himself down, and remained motionless, except when occasionally his eagerness induced him to reconnoitre the feeding hares.
One by one, as the sun rose, they made their way from the field to the plantation. Several passed, but he moved not, except to crouch still closer to the ground. At length two came directly towards him. The involuntary motion of his ears, though he did not venture to look up, showed that he was aware of their approach. Like lightning, as they were leaping through the gap, Reynard was upon them, and catching one, killed her immediately. He was decamping with his booty, when a rifle-ball put an end to his career.
BIRDIE, THE ARCTIC FOX.
I must tell you one more story about a fox, and a very interesting little animal it was, though not less cunning than its relatives in warmer regions.
Mr Hayes, the Arctic explorer, had a beautiful little snow-white fox, which was his companion in his cabin when his vessel was frozen up during the winter. She had been caught in a trap, but soon became tame, and used to sit in his lap during meals, with her delicate paws on the cloth. A plate and fork were provided for her, though she was unable to handle the fork herself; and little bits of raw venison, which she preferred to seasoned food. When she took the morsels into her mouth, her eyes sparkled with delight. She used to wipe her lips, and look up at her master with a coquetterie perfectly irresistible. Sometimes she exhibited much impatience; but a gentle rebuke with a fork on the tip of the nose was sufficient to restore her patience.
When sufficiently tame, she was allowed to run loose in the cabin; but she got into the habit of bounding over the shelves, without much regard for the valuable and perishable articles lying on them. She soon also found out the bull's-eye overhead, through the cracks round which she could sniff the cool air. Close beneath it she accordingly took up her abode; and thence she used to crawl down when dinner was on the table, getting into her master's lap, and looking up longingly and lovingly into his face, sometimes putting out her little tongue with impatience, and barking, if the beginning of the repast was too long delayed.
To prevent her climbing, she was secured by a slight chain. This she soon managed to break, and once having performed the operation, she did not fail to attempt it again. To do this, she would first draw herself back as far as she could get, and then suddenly dart forward, in the hope of snapping it by the jerk; and though she was thus sent reeling on the floor, she would again pick herself up, panting as if her little heart would break, shake out her disarranged coat, and try once more. When observed, however, she would sit quietly down, cock her head cunningly on one side, follow the chain with her eye along its whole length to its fastening on the floor, walk leisurely to that point, hesitating a moment, and then make another plunge. All this time she would eye her master sharply, and if he moved, she would fall down on the floor at once, and pretend to be asleep.
She was a very neat and cleanly creature, everlastingly brushing her clothes, and bathing regularly in a bath of snow provided for her in the cabin. This last operation was her great delight. She would throw up the white flakes with her diminutive nose, rolling about and burying herself in them, wipe her face with her soft paws, and then mount to the side of the tub, looking round her knowingly, and barking the prettiest bark that ever was heard. This was her way of enforcing admiration; and being now satisfied with her performance, she would give a goodly number of shakes to her sparkling coat, then, happy and refreshed, crawl into her airy bed in the bull's-eye, and go to sleep.
Mr Hayes does not tell us what became of Birdie. I am afraid that her fate was a sad one.
THE POLAR BEAR AND HER CUBS.
The monarch of the Arctic regions, the monstrous white bear there reigns supreme. Savage and ferocious as is his consort, as well as he, she shows the utmost affection for her young. I have a sad tale to tell.
The crew of an exploring vessel in the Arctic Seas had killed a walrus, and set fire to part of the blubber. The steam of the flesh drew from afar towards it a she bear and her two cubs. Putting their noses to the tempting mess, they began to eat it eagerly. The seamen, seeing this, threw other pieces on the ice nearer to the ship. The bear incautiously approached, carrying off the pieces, which she bestowed on her cubs, and, though evidently famished, taking but a small portion herself. The thoughtless sailors shot the two cubs, and again firing, wounded the mother. Though she herself was barely able to crawl to the spot where they lay, she carried to them the last lump of blubber, endeavouring to make them eat it. Discovering that they were unable to do so, she endeavoured to raise first one, and then the other; but in vain. She now began to retreat; but her motherly feelings overcoming her, though conscious of the danger she was running, she returned to where they lay, moaning mournfully. Several times did she thus behave, when, seemingly convinced that her young ones were cold and helpless, she cast a reproachful glance towards the vessel whence the cruel bullets had proceeded, and uttered a low growl of angry despair which might have moved the hearts even of the most callous. A shower of musket bullets, however, laid her low between her two cubs, and she died licking their wounds.
You cry "Shame" on the rough sailors for their cruelty. Yes, they acted cruelly, because they were thoughtless of the feelings of the poor bear. Ask yourself, dear young friend, if you are ever thoughtless of the feelings of those who merit your tenderest love. If you are, cry "Shame" on yourself, and endeavour in future to regard them first of all things.
THE HONEY-SEEKER AND THE BEAR.
The Indian believes the bear to be possessed not only of a wonderful amount of sagacity, but of feelings akin to those of human beings. Though most species are savage when irritated, some of them occasionally exhibit good-humour and kindness.
A story is told of a man in Russia, who, on an expedition in search of honey, climbed into a high tree. The trunk was hollow, and he discovered a large cone within. He was descending to obtain it, when he stuck fast. Unable to extricate himself, and too far from home to make his voice heard, he remained in that uncomfortable position for two days, sustaining his life by eating the honey. He had become silent from despair, when, looking up, what was his horror to see a huge bear above him, tempted by the same object which had led him into his dangerous predicament, and about to descend into the interior of the tree!
Bears—very wisely—when getting into hollows of rocks or trees, go tail-end first, that they may be in a position to move out again when necessary. No sooner, in spite of his dismay, did the tail of the bear reach him, than the man caught hold of it. The animal, astonished at finding some big creature below him, when he only expected to meet with a family of bees, against whose stings his thick hide was impervious, quickly scrambled out again, dragging up the man, who probably shouted right lustily. Be that as it may, the bear waddled off at a quick rate, and the honey-seeker made his way homeward, to relate his adventure, and relieve the anxiety of his family.
THE GOOD-NATURED BEAR AND THE CHILDREN.
The brown bear, which lives in Siberia, may be considered among the most good-natured of his tribe. Mr Atkinson, who travelled in that country, tells us that some peasants—a father and mother—had one day lost two of their children, between four and six years of age. It was soon evident that their young ones had wandered away to a distance from their home, and as soon as this discovery was made they set off in search of them.
Having proceeded some way through the wilds, they caught sight in the distance of a large animal, which, as they got nearer, they discovered to be a brown bear; and what was their horror to see within its clutches their lost young ones! Their sensations of dismay were exchanged for astonishment, when they saw the children running about, laughing, round the bear, sometimes taking it by the paws, and sometimes pulling it by the tail. The monster, evidently amused with their behaviour, treated them in the most affectionate manner. One of the children now produced some fruit, with which it fed its shaggy playfellow, while the other climbed up on its back, and sat there, fearlessly urging its strange steed to move on. The parents gave way to cries of terror at seeing the apparent danger to which their offspring were exposed. The little boy, however, having slipped off the bear's back, the animal, hearing the sound of their voices, left the children, and retreated quietly into the forest.
THE WISE HARE AND HER PURSUERS.
I will now tell you a story of a very different animal—the timid little hare—which has to depend for safety, not, like the bear, on strength, but on speed and cunning.
A poor little hare was one day closely pursued by a brace of greyhounds, when, seeing a gate near, she ran for it. The bars were too close to allow the hounds to get through, so they had to leap over the gate. As they did so, the hare, perceiving that they would be upon her the next instant, turned round, and ran again under the gate, where she had just before passed. The impetus of the hounds had sent them a considerable distance, and they had now to wheel about and leap once more over the upper bar of the gate. Again she doubled, and returned by the way she had come; and thus, going backwards and forwards, the dogs followed till they were fairly tired out, while the little hare, watching her opportunity, happily made her escape.
You may learn a lesson even from this little hare, never to yield to difficulties. Persevere, and you will surmount them at last.
THE CUNNING WOLF.
Two hundred years ago there were wolves in Ireland, and it appears that they were as cunning as the foxes of the present day.
A man, travelling, as was the custom in those times, on horseback, with a sword by his side, was passing between two towns, some three miles from each other, when he was attacked by a wolf. He drove him off with his sword, but again and again the animal assaulted him. He had nearly reached the town to which he was going, when he met a friend who was unarmed, whom he told of the danger he had encountered; and, as he believed himself now safe from attack, he gave him the sword for his defence. The wolf had been watching this proceeding, evidently intent on attacking the person who was travelling without a sword. When he saw that the first he had attacked was now defenceless, he made after him at full speed, and overtaking him before he got into the town, leaped upon him, unarmed as he now was, and deprived him of life.
When striving for an object, continue your efforts and be cautious, as at the first, till you have gained it.
THE TIGER AND THE PARIAH-DOG.
I have told you of a friendship formed between a tiger and a dog. I will now narrate another tale, which speaks well for the good feeling of both animals.
In India it is the cruel custom, when a wandering dog is found, to throw it into a tiger's cage for the purpose of getting rid of it. It happened that one of these pariah-dogs was thrust into the den of the savage beast. The dog, however, instead of giving himself up for lost, stood on the defensive in the corner of the cage, and whenever the tiger approached, seized him by the lip or neck, making him roar piteously. The tiger, savage for want of food, continued to renew the attack, with the same result; till at length the larger animal began to show a respect for the courage of the smaller one, and an understanding was finally arrived at between them.
At last a mess of rice and milk was put into the cage of the tiger, when he invited the dog to partake of it, and instead of treacherously springing on him, as some human beings would have done on their foe, allowed him to feed in quiet. From that day the animals not only became reconciled, but a strong attachment sprang up between them. The dog used to run in and out of the cage, looking upon it as his home; and when the tiger died, he long evidently mourned the loss of his friend and former antagonist.
Observe how that poor outcast dog, by his courage and perseverance, preserved his life, and indeed gained a victory, in spite of the fierce assaults of his savage foe. Will you act less courageously when attacked by the ridicule, the abuse, or the persuasions of those who may try to drag you from the path of duty?
THE DOE-CHAMOIS AND HER YOUNG.
The agile inhabitant of the lofty Alps—the graceful chamois—shows the greatest affection for her young.
A Swiss hunter, while pursuing his dangerous sport, observed a mother chamois and her two kids on a rock above him. They were sporting by her side, leaping here and there around her. While she watched their gambols, she was ever on the alert lest an enemy should approach.
The hunter, climbing the rock, drew near, intending, if possible, to capture one of the kids alive. No sooner did the mother chamois observe him, than, dashing at him furiously, she endeavoured to hurl him with her horns down the cliff. The hunter, knowing that he might kill her at any moment, drove her off, fearing to fire, lest the young ones should take to flight.
He was aware that a deep chasm existed beyond them, by which he believed the escape of the animals to be cut off. What was his surprise, therefore, when he saw the old chamois approach the chasm, and, stretching out her fore and hind-legs, thus form with her body a bridge across it!
As soon as she had done this, she called on her young ones, and they sprang, one at a time, on her back, and reached the other side in safety! By a violent effort, she sprang across after them, and soon conducted her charges beyond the reach of the hunter's bullets.
Trust your mother: she, in most cases, will find means to help you out of trouble.
THE CAPTURED WOLF.
I have very little to say in favour of wolves. They are generally as cowardly in their adversity as they are savage when at liberty. I give you the following story, however, which I believe to be true.
An English sportsman had been hunting during the winter in Hungary. He was returning in a sleigh one evening to the village where he was to remain for the night, the peasant owning the sleigh sitting behind, and a boy driving. As they passed the corner of a wood, a wolf was seen to rush out of it and give chase. The peasant shouted to the boy, "A wolf, a wolf! Drive on, drive on!" Obeying the order, with whip and shout the boy urged the horses to full speed. One glance round showed him the savage animal close behind. The wolf was gaining upon them fast. The village was scarcely two hundred yards off! The owner, however, saw that the wolf would be upon them before they could reach it. Frantically they shouted, pursuing their impetuous career.
Taking another glance behind him, the peasant saw the fierce, panting beast about to make his fatal spring. A thought struck him. Seizing the thick sheep-skin which covered the sleigh, he threw it over his head. Scarcely had he done so when the wolf sprang upon his back, and gripped hold of the skin. In an instant more it would have been torn from him, when, raising both his hands, he grasped the wolf's head and neck with all his strength, hugging him with an iron clutch to his shoulders. "On—on!" he shouted to the almost paralysed driver. The courageous fellow still holding his fierce assailant in a death-gripe, the sleigh swept into the village. The inhabitants, hearing the shouts, rushed forth from their huts, and seeing the perilous condition of their friends, gave chase with axes in their hands. No sooner had the boy slackened the speed of his horses, than the men rushed at the savage animal, still held captive, and quickly despatched it. Not without difficulty, however, could the brave peasant, after the exertion he had undergone, loosen his arms from the neck of the wolf.
THE TAME OTTER.
The otter, although not so expert an architect as the beaver, appears to possess more sagacity. A fine one, caught in Scotland, became so tame, that whenever it was alarmed it would spring for protection into the arms of its master.
It had also been taught to fish for his benefit; and so dexterous was it at this sport, that it would catch several fine salmon during the day, in a stream near his house. It could fish as well in salt water as in fresh. Bravely it would buffet the waves of the ocean, and swim off in chase of cod-fish, of which it would in a short time catch large numbers.
When fatigued by its exertions, nothing would induce it to re-enter the water. On such occasions it received a part of the produce of the sport for its own share; and after having satisfied itself, it would fall asleep, and was generally in that condition carried home, to resume its labours on another day.
Though you may be very young and small, you may, if you try, help those much older and bigger than yourself.
THE OTTER AND HER YOUNG ONES.
I have another story about an otter, which lived in the Zoological Gardens in London. The otter-pond, surrounded by a wall, was on one occasion only half-full of water, when the otter for whose use it was intended had a pair of young ones. They, happening to fall into the water, were unable to climb up its steep sides. The mother, afraid that they would be drowned, endeavoured in vain, by stooping over the wall, to drag them out. At last she jumped in, and after playing with them for a short time, was seen to put her head to the ear of one of the little creatures. This was to tell her child what she wanted it to do. Directly after, she sprang out of the pond, while her young one caught hold of the fur at the root of her tail; and while it clung tightly to her, she dragged it out, and placed it safely on the dry ground. She then again plunged in, and in the same way dragged out her other young one.
I am very sure that your parents will help you out of any difficulty into which you may fall; but then you must do as they tell you, thus following the example of the young otters.
THE WISE BEAVER.
You have often heard of the wonderful way in which beavers in America construct their habitations and dams. They seem, however, in these operations, to be influenced by instinct rather than by reason. I will tell you of a beaver which lived in captivity in France.
To supply him with nourishment, all sorts of things—fruits, vegetables, and small branches of trees—were thrown to him. His keepers, knowing that he came from a cold climate, bestowed little care, however, in keeping him warm. Winter coming on, one night large flakes of snow were driven by the wind into a corner of his cage. The poor beaver, who, in his own country, forms a remarkably warm house for himself, almost perished with the cold. If man would not help him, he must try and help himself to build a cell which would shelter him from the icy blast. The materials at his disposal were the branches of trees given him to gnaw. These he interwove between the bars of his cage, filling up the interstices with the carrots and apples which had been thrown in for his food. Besides this, he plastered the whole with snow, which froze during the night; and next morning it was found that he had built a wall of considerable height, which perfectly answered his purpose.
Make the best of the means at your disposal, as well as of the talents you possess.
THE RAT AND THE SWAN.
Rats, in their ferocity, partake of the character of the wolf, and in their cunning, of that of the fox.
A great flood occurred some years ago in the north of England; and as a number of people were collected on the banks of the Tyne, whose waters had risen to an unusual height, a swan was seen swimming across the flood. On its back was a black spot, visible among its white plumage. As the swan came nearer, this was found to be a live rat. No sooner had the swan, after bravely breasting the foaming torrent, reached the shore, than the rat leaped off and scampered away. Probably it had been carried into the water, and, unable to swim to land, on seeing the swan had sought refuge on its back, thus escaping a watery grave.
As the swan did, help those incapable of helping themselves, though you dislike their appearance and character. They may not have had the advantages you possess.
THE RATS AND THE WINE-CASK.
An old lady, wealthy and hospitable, lived in a large house, with several servants to attend on her. Although no terrific murder or other dark deed was ever known to have been perpetrated in the house, report said it was haunted. Undoubtedly, noises were heard in the lower part of the mansion. Night after night unearthly sounds arose after the domestics had retired to their chambers. At last the old lady, determined to resist this invasion of her domestic peace, told her servants to arm themselves with such weapons as they could obtain, she herself sitting up with a brace of loaded pistols before her. This proceeding had the desired effect. The ghostly visitants, if such they were, ceased from their nocturnal revels. All remained silent till cock-crow. Night after night the brave old dame heroically watched, but no ghosts came.
To celebrate her victory, she invited a number of guests, and determined to broach a cask of long-hoarded Madeira. With keys in hand, attended by the butler, she entered the cellar; the spill was pulled out from the cask, the cock duly inserted, but no wine came. The butler tapped; a hollow sound was the return. On applying a light, teeth-marks were visible at the very lowest part of the staves.
By rats alone could such marks have been made. What a band of thirsty topers must have been employed in the nefarious burglary! No doubt it was the rats, inebriated by such unusual potations, which had caused the mysterious uproar. Be that as it may, the lady lost her wine; and the cask was placed in the museum of Mr Buckland, who tells the tale, and there it stands to corroborate its truth.
It is said that rats will insert their tails into oil-flasks, and allow each other in turn to suck off the liquid thus obtained.
THE MOUSE AND THE HONEY-POT.
Mice, I suspect, are fully as sagacious as rats; perhaps they are more so. In their foraging expeditions what cleverness do they exhibit! When one or two have been caught in a trap, how careful are the rest of the community not to be tempted by the treacherous bait.
A honey-pot had been left in a closet, from the wall of which some of the loose plaster had fallen down. In the morning, the honey being wanted, the pot was found with a considerable portion abstracted. Outside of it was a heap of mortar reaching to the edge, forming an inclined plane, while inside a similar structure had been raised with the loose plaster. From the marks on the shelf, it was clearly the work of a mouse; which had thus, by means of a well-designed structure, obtained entrance and exit.
If a little mouse, to gain its object, which you deem a wrong one, can employ so much intelligence, how much more should you exert your superior faculties to attain a right object.
THE EWE WHICH RETURNED TO HER OLD HOME.
I have told you of dogs making their way from one end of the country to the other in search of their masters, and of horses traversing wide districts to the pastures where they were bred, but you would scarcely expect to hear of a sheep performing a long journey to return to the home of her youth.
A ewe, bred in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, was driven into Perthshire, a distance of upwards of one hundred miles. She remained some time at the place, and there became the mother of a lamb. She took a dislike to her new home, and thoughts of her early days stealing upon her, she came to the resolution of returning to the scenes of her youth.
Calling her lamb, she one night set off southward. Often she was compelled to hurry on her young one with impatient bleatings. She took the highroad, along which she had been driven. Reaching Stirling early in the morning, she discovered that an annual fair was taking place, and that the town was full of people. Unwilling to venture among them for fear of being caught, or losing her lamb, she waited patiently outside till the evening, lying close by the roadside. Many people saw her, but believing her owner was near, did not molest her. During the early hours of the morning she got safely through, observed by several people, and evidently afraid lest the dogs prowling about the town might injure her young one.
Arriving at length at the toll-bar of Saint Ninians, she was stopped by the toll-keeper, who supposed her to be a stray sheep. She escaped him, however, and several times when the gate was opened endeavoured, with the lamb at her heels, to make her way through. He each time drove her back. She at length turned round, and appeared to be going the way she came. She had, however, not abandoned her intention, for she either discovered a more circuitous road to the south side of the gate, or made her way through; for on a Sabbath morning early in June she arrived at the farm where she had been bred,—having been nine days on her journey.
So delighted was her former owner with this exhibition of affection for the farm, and with her wonderful memory, that he offered her purchaser the price he had received; and to the day of her death—when she had reached the mature age, for a sheep, of seventeen years—she remained a constant resident on her native farm.
THE EWE AND HER LAMB.
There is another story about a ewe which I should like to tell you, and which shows the affection she had for her young.
A lamb, frisking about near its mother, contrived to spring into a thick hedge, in which its coat was so firmly held that it could not escape. The ewe, after vainly trying to rescue her young one, ran off with violent bleatings towards a neighbouring field, breaking in her way through several hedges, to where there was a ram, and communicated to him the disaster. He at once returned with her, and by means of his horns quickly pushed the young creature out of the thorny entanglement in which it had been entrapped.
THE TWO WISE GOATS.
On the crumbling walls of the romantic ruins of Caernarvon Castle, some years ago, two agile goats were seen,—now leaping over a rugged gap, now climbing some lofty pinnacle, now browsing on the herbage overhanging the perilous paths. Presently they approached each other from opposite ends of one of the narrow intersecting walls. When they met, finding that there was no room to pass, they surveyed each other face to face for some minutes in perfect stillness. Each had barely standing ground for his own feet. However, they tossed their heads with menacing looks, often making slight feints of butting or pushing forward; but they took care not to come into actual contact, knowing well that the slightest force might precipitate one or both from their perilous position. Neither could they attempt to walk backward or turn round on so narrow a spot. Thus they again stood quite still for above an hour, occasionally uttering low sounds, but neither of them moving.
At length they appeared to have settled the difficult point as to which of the two should give way. The one which appeared the youngest lay quietly down, while the other walked calmly over him, and pursued his path contentedly.
Their example might well be followed by human beings in many of the affairs of life, where a contest must prove destructive to both. Many a bloody war might be averted, did nations imitate the example of these two animals. Not, however, by bowing the neck to the yoke of a conqueror, but by amicably settling differences. How many law-suits might also be avoided by the same means.
And you, my young friends, understand that there is far more true magnanimity and courage exhibited in giving way to others than in battling for doubtful rights and privileges.
THE AFFECTIONATE SEAL.
If you have ever examined the head of a seal, with its large gentle eyes, you will readily believe that the animal possesses a certain amount of intellect, and is capable of very affectionate feelings.
The story I am about to tell you is a very sad one. Perhaps you will recollect the seal in the Zoological Gardens, which used to come out of its pond at the call of the French sailor to whom it belonged, and, climbing up while he sat on a chair, put its fins round his neck and give him a kiss. How it immediately obeyed him when he told it to go back to the water, and how adroitly it used to catch the fish which he threw to it. I remember also hearing of a seal in Shetland which would return with its prey in its mouth on being summoned by the owner.
But the seal I am going to tell you about belonged to a gentleman in the west of Ireland, near the sea. This seal was so tame, and so attached to its master, that it would follow him about like a dog, and seemed much pleased whenever allowed to lick his hand.
People in that part of the country are sadly ignorant and superstitious. Two bad harvests having succeeded each other, the foolish inhabitants took it into their heads that the disaster was caused by the innocent seal. So many were the complaints they made, some people even threatening the owner, that, fearing the life of his favourite would be endangered, he was obliged to consent to its being sent away. Having been put on board a boat, it was taken to some distance and then thrown into the sea. Very shortly afterwards, however, it found its way back to its beloved master. Still anxious to preserve the animal's life, he consented to its being again carried away to a greater distance; but once more it returned. This made the ignorant people more certain than ever that the poor seal was some evil being.
Again it was put on board a boat, the crew of which rowed to a much greater distance than before, determining that the poor seal should trouble them no more. Though following the injunctions of their master not to kill it, they cruelly put out its eyes, and then threw it overboard, to perish in the wide ocean, as they believed. Some time passed, when one stormy night the gentleman heard above the moaning sounds of the gale the plaintive cry of his favourite close to his house. He went to the door, and, opening it, there lay the body of the affectionate animal quite dead. Though deprived of its sight, it had found its way back to the shore on which its master's house stood, and exerting all its strength, had crawled up to the door; thus exhibiting an amount of affection for its human friend such as can scarcely exist in a greater degree in the breast of any animal.
When we observe the small heads and unmeaning eyes of birds, we do not expect to find any great amount of intellect among them. They are, however, moved by the same passions and feelings as larger animals, and occasionally exhibit thought and reasoning power. I suspect, indeed, could we understand their language, that we should find they can talk to each other, and express their meaning as well as others of the brute creation.
THE GANDER AND THE BANTAM-COCK.
A goose was seated on her eggs in a quiet corner, not far from a horse-pond, in a farmyard. Up and down before her strode a game-cock, which, watching the calm looks and contented manner of the goose, which contrasted so greatly with his own fiery disposition, began to get angry,—just as human beings who are out of sorts sometimes do with those who appear happy and smiling. At last, working himself into a downright passion, he flew at the poor goose, pecked out one of her eyes, and while she was attempting to defend herself, trampled on and destroyed several of her eggs. The gander, which was waddling about on the other side of the pond, on seeing what was taking place hastened to the aid of his consort, and attacked the savage cock. The cock of course turned upon him, and a desperate battle ensued. The two combatants, after a time, drew off from each other, both probably claiming the victory.
For some days after this, the cock, taught prudence, allowed the goose to remain in quiet, the gander watching him narrowly. The latter at last, trusting to the lesson he had given the cock, wandered away for provender to a distant part of the yard. No sooner was he gone than the cock, which had all the time been waiting for an opportunity, again assaulted the poor goose. Her loud cries were fortunately heard by the gander, which came tearing along with outstretched wings to her assistance, and seizing the cock by the neck, before the angry bird could turn his head, he hauled him along to the pond. In he plunged, and soon had him in deep water. "I am more than your master now," thought the gander, as he ducked the cock under the surface; "I will take care you shall never more interfere with my dear goose." And again and again, he ducked the cock, keeping his head each time longer under water, till at last his struggles ceased, and he was drowned.
It is sinful to harbour the slightest feeling of revenge in our hearts; yet those who attack others unable to defend themselves, either by word or deed, must expect to receive deserved punishment from the more powerful friends of their victims.
THE FARMER AND HIS GOOSE.
A Cheshire farmer had a large flock of geese. As he was passing through the yard one day, one of the geese quitted its companions and stalked after him. Why it did so he could never tell, as he had shown it no more attention than the rest of the flock. The following day the goose behaved in the same way; and at length, wherever he went—to the mill, the blacksmith's shop, or even through the bustling streets of the neighbouring town—the goose followed at his heels. When he went to church, he was obliged to shut up the goose.
While ploughing his fields, the goose would walk sedately before him, with firm step, and head and neck erect—frequently turning round and fixing its eyes upon him. One furrow completed, and the plough turned, the goose, without losing step, would adroitly wheel about; and would thus behave, till it followed its master home.
Even in the house, as he sat by the fire in the evening, it would mount on his lap, nestle its head in his bosom, and preen his hair with its beak, as it was wont to do its own feathers.
Even when he went out shooting, the goose followed like a dog, getting over the fences as well as he could himself.
It is sad to think that gross superstition was the cause of the death of the faithful bird. The ignorant farmer afterwards killed it, fancying that the mysterious affection of the goose boded him some evil.
Take warning from the fate of the poor goose, and do not bestow your affection on those who seem unworthy of it, however clever or powerful they may be.
THE BLIND WOMAN AND HER GANDER.
Bishop Stanley, who mentions the story, heard of an aged blind woman who used to be led every Sunday to church by a gander, which took hold of her gown with its bill. When she had seated herself, it retired to graze in the churchyard till she came out again, and then it would lead her safely home.
One day the clergyman called at her house, and expressed his surprise to the daughter that the mother should venture abroad. She replied: "O sir, we are not afraid of trusting her out of sight, for the gander is with her."
When a poor despised goose can thus make itself of so much use, how much more should you try to become useful.
THE PRISONER SET FREE.
Mrs F—, who has had much experience with poultry, considers them very sensible and kind-hearted birds. The leg of a young duck had been broken by an accident. She placed it in splints, and put the bird under a small crate, on a patch of grass, to prevent its moving about till it had recovered. It was one of a large family; and in a short time its relatives gathered round the prisoner, clamouring their condolence in every variety of quacking intonation. They forced their necks under the crate, evidently trying to raise it, and thus liberate the captive; but the effort was beyond their strength. Convinced, at length, of this, after clamouring a little more they marched away in a body, while the prisoner quietly sat down and appeared resigned.
A short time afterwards a great deal of quacking was heard, and a regiment of upwards of forty ducks was seen marching into the yard, headed by two handsome drakes, known by the names of Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. Evidently with a preconceived purpose, they all marched up to the crate and surrounded it. Every neck was thrust beneath the lowest bar of the prison; every effort was made to raise it,—but in vain. At length a parley ensued. Then the noise ceased. Only the deep-toned quacking of Robin Hood was heard, when their object became clear. All the tribe gathered together on one side of the crate, the strongest in front; and as many as could reach it thrust their necks beneath the crate, while the rest pushed them forward from behind. Thus they succeeded in overturning the crate, and setting free their imprisoned friend. With clamourous rejoicings from the whole troop, the liberated duck limped off in their midst.
These sensible ducks teach us the important lesson that union is strength. Not that they, you will agree with me, showed their wisdom exactly in liberating their companion, who was placed in confinement for his benefit. However, remember through life how much you may effect in a good cause by sinking all minor differences, and uniting with others like-minded with yourself.
THE TWO SPORTING FRIENDS.
My children have a black dog and a jackdaw; and though the bird shows a preference for human companionship, when he cannot obtain that he hops off to the dog's kennel, on the top of which he sits, talking to his four-footed friend in his own fashion; and the dog seems well-pleased to receive his visits. I fully expect, some day, to have some curious tale to tell about them.
In the meantime, I will tell you of a raven which had been brought up with a dog in Cambridgeshire. They had formed an alliance, offensive and defensive, and could certainly interchange ideas. The dog was fond of hares and rabbits, and the raven had no objection to a piece of game for his dinner. Being both at liberty, they used to set out together into the country to hunt. The dog would enter a cover and drive out the hares or rabbits, when the raven, which was watching outside, would pounce down on the animals as they rushed from the thicket, and hold them till the dog came to its assistance. They thus managed to obtain their desired feast—indeed, they were probably more successful than many human sportsmen.
THE TWO HENS.
In Mrs F—'s poultry-yard, some duck-eggs had been placed under a Dorking hen. A few days afterwards, a bantam began to sit on her own eggs—the nests being close together. In the accustomed twenty-one days the bantams were hatched and removed; but after the usual thirty days required for hatching the duck-eggs had passed, none appeared, and so the Dorking hen was taken away and the nest destroyed. Although ten days had elapsed since the hatching of the bantam's eggs, the Dorking hen remembered her neighbour's good fortune, and tried to get possession of her brood—calling the little ones, feeding them, and fighting to keep them; but the true mother would by no means consent to resign her rights. To prevent the interference of the Dorking, she was shut up for several days; but directly she was liberated, she again flew to the little chickens and acted as before.
Two Muscovy ducklings having just been hatched under another hen, they were offered, as a consolation for her disappointment, to the Dorking; and such was her desire for maternity that she instantly adopted them. To prevent further trouble, she and her charges were sent to a neighbouring house. A fortnight later other ducks were hatched, and as it seemed a pity to waste the time of the banished hen with two ducklings only, they were sent for home. The little Muscovies were placed with their own brethren, and the hen turned loose among the rest of the poultry, it being supposed impossible that she would still recollect the past. Her memory, however, was more tenacious than any one fancied. Once more she hastened to the bantams, and lavished her care on the tiny things, of whom only three were surviving. The bantam mother, on this, appeared satisfied to regard her as a friend. They disputed no longer, but jointly and equally lavished their cares and caresses on the three chicks.
Here is not only a curious example of tenacity of memory, but it is the only instance of friendship Mrs F—has ever known to exist amongst gallinaceous fowl.
Do not be jealous of another's success, but try rather to assist and support a rival, if your services are acceptable.
THE WILD TURKEY AND THE DOG.
Audubon, the American naturalist, whose statements we can thoroughly trust, once possessed a fine male turkey of the wild breed common in the Western States. He had reared the bird till it became so tame that it would follow any one who called it. He had also a favourite spaniel, which became thoroughly intimate with the turkey, and the two might constantly have been seen running side by side. When the bird was about two years old, it would fly into the forest, and occasionally remain away for several days together.
It happened one day, after it had been absent for some time, that as Audubon was walking through the forest at some distance from his home, he saw a turkey get up before him, but he did not recognise it as his own. Wishing to secure it for the table, he ordered his dog to make chase. Off went the spaniel at full speed; but the bird, instead of flying away, remained quietly on the ground till its pursuer came up. The dog was then about to seize it, when Audubon saw the former suddenly stop, and turn her head towards him. On hastening up, he discovered, greatly to his surprise, that the turkey was his own. Recognising the spaniel, it had not flown away from her, as it would have done from a strange dog.
Unhappily, the turkey, again leaving home to range through the forest, was mistaken for a wild one, and accidentally shot. Audubon recognised it by a red ribbon being brought him which he had placed round its neck. Do not forget old friends or former worthy companions, however humble, but treat them with kindness and consideration.
THE BRAVE HEN.
A Spanish hen, in Mrs F—'s poultry-yard, was sitting on her nest in the hatching-house, which had a small window, through which a person might look to see that all was right. As the hens were usually fed upon their nests, the ground was strewed with corn, which tempted the rats and mice. The hens used frequently to punish the mice by a sharp tap on the head with their beak, which laid them to rest for ever.
One day Mrs F—was looking through the window, when she saw a middle-sized rat peering forth from its hole. The rat scrambled into the upper range of boxes, where sat the Spanish hen, and then remained awhile still as a mouse. The hen evidently saw him, but she sat close, her head drawn back and kept low on the shoulder, her eyes nearly closed. She clearly feigned to be asleep. The rat, deceived, advanced a few steps, and then sat on his haunches, looking and listening with all his might. Again he moved, again paused, then sprang into one corner of the nest, grappling an egg with his fore-paws at the same instant. The hen had never stirred all the time; but now, suddenly throwing forward her head, she seized her foe by the nape of the neck; then, without withdrawing her bill, she pressed down his head repeatedly with all her force. She then gave an extra peck or two, half rose, settled her eggs beneath her again, and seemed happy; and before her lay a half-grown rat, quite dead.
This was, indeed, calm courage. Imitate, if you can, this brave hen. Endeavour to be cool and collected when danger approaches.
THE GALLANT SWAN AND HIS FOE.
Swans show much bravery, especially in defending their young; indeed, from their size, they are able to do battle with the largest of the feathered tribe. They have been known also to attack people who have ventured nearer their cygnets than they liked.
I remember a lady being attacked by a swan on the banks of a lake, in the grounds of a relative of mine. She had to take to flight, and was met running along the path crying for aid, with the swan, its wings outstretched, in full chase after her.
THE RAVEN AND THE BIRD-TRAP.
Only lately, a person paddling in a canoe near Chelmsford approached a nest of cygnets, when the parent swan swam out, and seizing the bow of the canoe, nearly upset it. The paddler had to back out of the way, with difficulty escaping the violent assaults of the enraged bird.
One morning, as a family of cygnets were assembled on the banks of one of the islands in the Zoological Gardens of London, and the parent birds were swimming about watching their little ones, a carrion-crow, thinking that the old birds were too far off to interfere with him, pounced down on one of the cygnets. The father swan, however, had his eye on the marauder, and, darting forward, seized him with his bill. The crow in vain struggled to get free. The swan, like the gander I before mentioned, dragged the felon towards the lake, and plunging him under water, held him there till his caws sounded no longer.
Be brave and bold in defence of the helpless, especially of those committed to your charge.
THE RAVEN AND THE BIRD-TRAP.
Ravens are supposed to be the most cunning and sagacious of birds. They are knowing fellows, at all events.
Some schoolboys in Ireland used frequently to set traps for catching birds. A tame raven belonging to their family frequently watched the proceedings of the young gentlemen, and it occurred to him that he had as much right to the birds as they had. When, therefore, they were out of the way, he would fly down to the trap and lift the lid; but as he could not hold it up and seize his prey at the same time, the bird invariably escaped.
Not far off lived another tame raven, with which he was on visiting acquaintance. After having vainly attempted on frequent occasions to get the birds out of the trap by himself, he one day observed another poor bird caught. Instead, however, of running the risk of opening the trap as before, he hastened off to his acquaintance. The two ravens then came back to the trap, and while one lifted the lid, the other seized the poor captive. They then divided their prize between them.
When you see rogues like these two ravens agree, do you not feel ashamed when you take so little pains to assist your companions in doing what is right? We are placed in this world to help one another.
THE FACETIOUS RAVEN.
A large dog was kept chained in a stable-yard, in the roof of one of the out-buildings of which a raven had his abode. The dog and bird had become great friends. Yet the latter could not help amusing himself at the expense of his four-footed companion. Sometimes he would snatch a piece of food from the dog's pan, often when he did not wish to eat it himself. As the dog submitted without complaint at first, the raven would come again and take another piece away, then bring it back just within reach, and dangle it over the dog's nose. As soon as he opened his mouth to catch it, the raven would dart off again out of his reach.
At other times he would hide a piece just beyond the length of the dog's chain, and then, with a cunning look, perch upon his head.
Yet, mischievous as he was, the bird would never altogether run away with the quadruped's food, but would after a while return it, with the exception of any small bit which he might wish to keep for himself. These tricks in no way offended the good-natured dog. He showed a remarkable instance of his affection, when on one occasion the raven happened to tumble into a tub of water, just beyond his range. Seeing the poor bird struggling, he exerted all his strength, and dragged his heavy kennel forward till he could put his head over the edge of the tub, when he took the raven up in his mouth and laid him gently on the ground to recover.
THE ARCTIC RAVEN.
Ravens vie with our brave Arctic explorers in the wide circuit they make in their wanderings.
When Captain McClure was frozen up in the ice, during his last expedition to the North Pole, two ravens settled themselves near his ship, for the sake of obtaining the scraps of food thrown to them by the seamen. A dog belonging to the ship, however, regarding their pickings as an encroachment on his rights, used, as they drew near, to rush forward and endeavour to seize them with his mouth; but the ravens were too cunning to be entrapped in that manner. No sooner were the mess-tins cleared out than they would approach, and as he sprang after them, would fly a few yards off, and there keep a sharp eye on his movements. Having enticed him to a distance, they would fly rapidly towards the ship, with a chuckle of satisfaction; and before the dog arrived, all the best bits had been secured by his cunning rivals.
THE EAGLE'S NEST.
Magnificent as the eagle is in appearance, he certainly does not, on the score of intellect, deserve the rank he holds as king of birds. Except that he will fight bravely now and then for his young, I know of no good quality he possesses.