Transcriber's Note: A number of typographical errors found in the original text have been maintained in this version. A list of these errors is found at the end of this book.
The illustration originally used as the frontispiece has been moved to the page to which it refers.
INSTINCT OF ANIMALS,
THEIR CHARACTERS, AND HABITS.
BY THOMAS BINGLEY.
EMBELLISHED WITH ENGRAVINGS, FROM DRAWINGS BY T. LANDSEER.
NEW YORK: C.S. FRANCIS & CO., 252 BROADWAY.
BOSTON: J.H. FRANCIS, 128 WASHINGTON STREET. 1851.
Uncle Thomas resumes his Stories about the Instinct of Animals.—Tells about the Horse, and of the Immense Herds which are to be found on the Plains of South America; of their Capture by means of the Lasso; the Arab and his Mare; the Gadshill Robber; the Benevolent Planter; the Lawyer-Highwayman; as well as several other Curious Stories about the Intelligence, Affection, and Docility of the Horse Page 9
Uncle Thomas tells about the Beaver, and the Singular Manner in which it constructs a Dam to confine the Waters of the River; and about the Hut which it builds for its Habitation. He tells also about the Curious Nests of the Sociable Grosbeak; and gives a Long and Entertaining Account of the White Ant of Africa; its Extraordinary Nest; and the Important Part which it acts in the Economy of Nature 29
Uncle Thomas describes the Manner in which Wild Elephants are caught, and relates some Curious Stories of the Cunning, Affection, and Intelligence of the Elephant 54
Uncle Thomas introduces to the Notice of the Young Folks the Ettrick Shepherd's Stories about Sheep; and tells them some Interesting Stories about the Goat, and its Peculiarities 71
Uncle Thomas relates some Very Remarkable Stories about the Cat; points out to the Boys the Connexion subsisting between the Domestic Cat and the Lion, Tiger, &c., and tells them some Stories about the Gentleness, as well as the Ferocity of these Animals 89
Uncle Thomas tells about the Tiger; its Ferocity and Power; and of the Curious Modes which are adopted for its Capture and Destruction.—Also about the Puma or American Lion, and introduces some Hunting Scenes in North and South America, with other Interesting and Entertaining Adventures 123
Uncle Thomas tells about the Migrating Instinct of Animals.—Of the House Swallow of England; and the Esculent Swallow, whose Nest is eaten by the Chinese.—He tells also about the Passenger Pigeon of America; of the Myriads which are found in various parts of the United States; of the Land-Crab and its Migrations, and of those of the Salmon and the Common Herring 144
Uncle Thomas tells about the Baboons, and their Plundering Excursions to the Gardens at the of Good Hope, Calsoaep about Le Vaillant's Baboon, Kees, and his Peculiarities; the American Monkeys; and relates an Amusing Story about a Young Monkey deprived of its Mother, putting itself under the Fostering Care of a Wig-Block 174
Uncle Thomas concludes Stories about Instinct with several Interesting Illustrations of the Affections of Animals, particularly of the Instinct of Maternal Affection, in the course of which he narrates the Story of the Cat and the Black-Bird; the Squirrel's Nest; the Equestrian Friends; and points out the Beneficent Care of Providence in implanting in the Breasts of each of his Creatures the Instinct which is necessary for its Security and Protection 193
ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE
INSTINCT OF ANIMALS.
Uncle Thomas resumes his Stories about the Instinct of Animals.—Tells about the Horse, and of the Immense Herds which are to be found on the Plains of South America; of their Capture by means of the Lasso; the Arab and his Mare; the Gadshill Robber; the Benevolent Planter; the Lawyer-Highwayman; as well as several other Curious Stories about the Intelligence, Affection, and Docility of the Horse.
"Come away, boys, I am glad to see you again! Since I last saw you I have made an extensive tour, and visited some of the most romantic and picturesque scenery in England. One day I may give you an account of what I saw, and describe to you the scenes which I visited; but I must deny myself this pleasure at present. I promised, at our next meeting, to tell you some TALES ABOUT THE INSTINCT OF ANIMALS; and I propose to begin with the Horse. I like to interest you with those animals with which you are familiar, and to draw out your sympathies towards them. After the STORIES ABOUT DOGS which I told you, some of them exhibiting that fine animal in such an amiable and affectionate character, I am sure it must assume a new interest in your mind. Such instances of fidelity and attachment could not fail to impress you with a higher opinion of the animal than you before possessed, and show that kindness and good treatment even to a brute are not without their reward.
"I wish to excite the same interest towards the other animals which, I hope, I have effected towards the Dog. Each, you will find, has been endowed by its Creator with particular instincts, to fit it for the station which it was intended to occupy in the great system of Nature. Some of them are wild and ferocious, while others are quiet and inoffensive; the former naturally repel us, while those of the latter class as naturally attract our regard, although, properly speaking, each ought equally to interest us, in as far as it fulfils the object of its being.
"But I know you like stories better than lectures, so I will not tire you by lecturing, but will at once proceed to tell some stories about Horses, which I have gathered for you."
"Oh no, Uncle Thomas, we never feel tired of listening to you; we know you have always something curious to tell us."
"Well, then, Frank, to begin at once with THE HORSE.
"In several parts of the world there are to be found large herds of wild horses. In South America, in particular, the immense plains are inhabited by them, and, it is said, that so many as ten thousand are sometimes found in a single herd. These flocks are always preceded by a leader, who directs their motions; and such is the regularity with which they perform their movements, that it seems almost as if they could not be surpassed by the best trained cavalry.
"It is extremely dangerous for travellers to encounter a herd of this description. When they are unaccustomed to the sight of such a mass of creatures, they cannot help feeling greatly alarmed at their rapid and apparently irresistible approach. The trampling of the animals sounds like the loudest thunder; and such is the rapidity and impetuosity of their advance, that it seems to threaten instant destruction. Suddenly, however, they sometimes stop short, utter a loud and piercing neighing, and, with a rapid wheel in an opposite course, altogether disappear. On such occasions, however, it requires all the care of the traveller to prevent his horses from breaking loose, and escaping with the wild herd.
"In those countries where horses are so plentiful, the inhabitants do not take the trouble to rear them, but, whenever they want one, mount upon an animal which has been accustomed to the sport, and gallop over the plain towards the herd, which is readily found at no great distance. Gradually he approaches some stragglers from the main body, and, having selected the horse which he wishes to possess, he dexterously throws the lasso (which is a long rope with a running noose, and which is firmly fixed to his saddle,) in such a manner as to entangle the animal's hind legs; and, with a sudden turn of his horse, he pulls it over on its side. In an instant he jumps off his horse, wraps his poncho, or cloak, round the captive's head, forces a bit into its mouth, and straps a saddle upon its back. He then removes the poncho, and the animal starts on its feet. With equal quickness the hunter leaps into the saddle; and, in spite of the contortions and kickings of his captive, keeps his seat, till, having wearied itself out with its vain efforts, it submits to the discipline of its captor, who seldom fails to reduce it to complete obedience."
"That is very dexterous indeed, Uncle Thomas; but surely all horses are not originally found in this wild state. I have heard that the Arabians are famous for rearing horses."
"Arabia has, for a long time, been the country noted for the symmetry and speed of its horses: so much attention has been paid to the breeding of horses in our own country, however, for the race-course as well as the hunting-field, that the English horses are now almost unequalled, both for speed and endurance.
"It is little wonder, however, that the Arabian horse should be the most excellent, considering the care and attention which it receives, and the kindness and consideration with which it is treated. One of the best stories which I ever heard of the love of an Arabian for his steed, is that related of an Arab from whom one of our envoys wished to purchase his horse.
"The animal was a bright bay mare, of extraordinary shape and beauty; and the owner, proud of its appearance and qualities, paraded it before the envoy's tent until it attracted his attention. On being asked if he would sell her, 'What will you give me?' was the reply. 'That depends upon her age; I suppose she is past five?' 'Guess again,' said he. 'Four?' 'Look at her mouth,' said the Arab, with a smile. On examination she was found to be rising three. This, from her size and symmetry, greatly enhanced her value. The envoy said, 'I will give you fifty tomans' (a coin nearly of the value of a pound sterling). 'A little more, if you please,' said the fellow, somewhat entertained. 'Eighty—a hundred.' He shook his head and smiled. The officer at last came to two hundred tomans. 'Well,' said the Arab, 'you need not tempt me farther. You are a rich elchee (nobleman); you have fine horses, camels, and mules, and I am told you have loads of silver and gold. Now,' added he, 'you want my mare, but you shall not have her for all you have got.' He put spurs to his horse, and was soon out of the reach of temptation.
"Swift as the Arabian horses are, however, they are frequently matched by those of our own country. I say nothing about race horses, because, though some of them are recorded to have run at an amazing speed, the effort is generally continued for but a short time. Here is an instance of speed in a horse which saved its unworthy master from the punishment due to his crime.
"One morning about four o'clock a gentleman was stopped, and robbed by a highwayman named Nicks, at Gadshill, on the west side of Chatham. He was mounted on a bay mare of great speed and endurance, and as soon as he had accomplished his purpose, he instantly started for Gravesend, where he was detained nearly an hour by the difficulty of getting a boat. He employed the interval to advantage however in baiting his horse. From thence he got to Essex and Chelmsford, where he again stopped about half an hour to refresh his horse. He then went to Braintree, Bocking, Weathersfield, and over the Downs to Cambridge, and still pursuing the cross roads, he went by Fenney and Stratford to Huntingdon, where he again rested about half an hour. Proceeding now on the north road, and at a full gallop most of the way, he arrived at York the same afternoon, put off his boots and riding clothes, and went dressed to the bowling-green, where, among other promenaders, happened to be the Lord Mayor of the city. He there studied to do something particular, that his lordship might remember him, and asking what o'clock it was, the mayor informed him that it was a quarter past eight. Notwithstanding all these precautions, however, he was discovered, and tried for the robbery; he rested his defence on the fact of his being at York at such a time. The gentleman swore positively to the time and place at which the robbery was committed, but on the other hand, the proof was equally clear that the prisoner was at York at the time specified. The jury acquitted him on the supposed impossibility of his having got so great a distance from Kent by the time he was seen in the bowling-green. Yet he was the highwayman."
"So that he owed his safety to the speed of his horse, Uncle Thomas."
"He did so, Harry. The horse can on occasion swim about as well as most animals, yet it never takes to the water unless urged to do so. There is a story about a horse saving the lives of many persons who had suffered shipwreck by being driven upon the rocks at the Cape of Good Hope, which, I am sure, will interest you as much for the perseverance and docility of the animal, as for the benevolence and intrepidity of its owner.
"A violent gale of wind setting in from north and north-west, a vessel in the roads dragged her anchors, was forced on the rocks, and bilged; and while the greater part of the crew fell an immediate sacrifice to the waves, the remainder were seen from the shore struggling for their lives, by clinging to the different pieces of the wreck. The sea ran dreadfully high, and broke over the sailors with such amazing fury, that no boat whatever could venture off to their assistance. Meanwhile a planter, considerably advanced in life, had come from his farm to be a spectator of the shipwreck; his heart was melted at the sight of the unhappy seamen, and knowing the bold and enterprizing spirit of his horse, and his particular excellence as a swimmer, he instantly determined to make a desperate effort for their deliverance. He alighted, and blew a little brandy into his horse's nostrils, and again seating himself in the saddle, he instantly pushed into the midst of the breakers. At first both disappeared, but it was not long before they floated on the surface, and swam up to the wreck; when taking with him two men, each of whom held by one of his boots, he brought them safe to shore. This perilous expedition he repeated no seldomer than seven times, and saved fourteen lives; but on his return the eighth time, his horse being much fatigued, and meeting a most formidable wave, he lost his balance, and was overwhelmed in a moment. The horse swam safely to land, but his gallant rider sank to rise no more."
"That was very unfortunate, Uncle Thomas. I suppose the planter had been so fatigued with his previous exertions, that he had not strength to struggle with the strong waves."
"Very likely, indeed, Harry. I dare say the poor animal felt the loss of his kind owner very much, for the horse soon becomes attached to his master, and exhibits traits of intelligence and fidelity, certainly not surpassed by those of any other animal: for instance,—A gentleman, who was one dark night riding home through a wood, had the misfortune to strike his head against the branch of a tree, and fell from his horse stunned by the blow. The noble animal immediately returned to the house they had left, which stood about a mile distant. He found the door closed,—the family had retired to bed. He pawed at it, however, till one of them, hearing the noise, arose and opened it, and, to his surprise, saw the horse of his friend. No sooner was the door opened than the horse turned round as if it wished to be followed; and the man, suspecting there was something wrong, followed the animal, which led him directly to the spot where its wounded master lay on the ground.
"There is another story of a somewhat similar description in which a horse saved his master from perishing among the snow. It happened in the North of Scotland.
"A gentleman connected with the Excise was returning home from one of his professional journies. His way lay across a range of hills, the road over which was so blocked up with snow as to leave all trace of it indiscernible. Uncertain how to proceed, he resolved to trust to his horse, and throwing loose the reins, allowed him to choose his course. The animal proceeded cautiously, and safely for some time, till coming to a ravine, horse and rider sunk in a snow-wreath several fathoms deep.
"Stunned by the suddenness and depth of the descent, the gentleman lay for some time insensible. On recovering, he found himself nearly three yards from the dangerous spot, with his faithful horse standing over him and licking the snow from his face. He accounts for his extrication, by supposing that the bridle must have been attached to his person, but so completely had he lost all sense of consciousness, that beyond the bare fact as stated, he had no knowledge of the means by which he made so remarkable an escape."
"It was at any rate very kind in the horse to clear away the snow, Uncle Thomas."
"No doubt of it, John, and perhaps he owed his life quite as much to this act of kindness as to being pulled out of the ravine. He might have been as certainly choked by the snow out of it as in it. Sometimes the horse becomes much attached to the animals with which it associates, and its feelings of friendship are as powererful as those of the dog. A gentleman of Bristol had a greyhound which slept in the same stable, and contracted a very great intimacy with a fine hunter. When the dog was taken out, the horse neighed wistfully after him, and seemed to long for its return; he welcomed him home with a neigh; the greyhound ran up to the horse and licked him; the horse, in return, scratched the greyhound's back with his teeth. On one occasion, when the groom had the pair out for exercise, a large dog attacked the greyhound, bore him to the ground, and seemed likely to worry him, when the horse threw back his ears, rushed forward, seized the strange dog by the back, and flung him to a distance, which so terrified the aggressor, that he at once desisted and made off."
"That was very kind, Uncle Thomas. I like to hear of such instances of friendship between animals."
"Such a docile animal as the horse can readily be trained to particular habits, and does not readily forget them, however disreputable. There is an odd story to illustrate this.
"About the middle of last century, a Scottish lawyer had occasion to visit the metropolis. At that period such journies were usually performed on horseback, and the traveller might either ride post, or, if willing to travel economically, he bought a horse, and sold him at the end of his journey. The lawyer had chosen the latter mode of travelling, and sold the animal on which he rode from Scotland as soon as he arrived in London. With a view to his return, he went to Smithfield to purchase a horse. About dusk a handsome one was offered, at so cheap a rate that he suspected the soundness of the animal, but being able to discover no blemish, he became the purchaser.
"Next morning, he set out on his journey, the horse had excellent paces, and our traveller, while riding over the few first miles, where the road was well frequented, did not fail to congratulate himself on his good fortune, which had led him to make so advantageous a bargain.
"They arrived at last at Finchley Common, and at a place where the road ran down a slight eminence, and up another, the lawyer met a clergyman driving a one-horse chaise. There was nobody within sight, and the horse by his conduct instantly discovered the profession of his former owner. Instead of pursuing his journey, he ran close up to the chaise and stopt it, having no doubt but his rider would embrace so fair an opportunity of exercising his calling. The clergyman seemed of the same opinion, produced his purse unasked, and assured the astonished lawyer that it was quite unnecessary to draw his pistol, as he did not intend to offer any resistance. The traveller rallied his horse, and with many apologies to the gentleman he had so innocently and unwillingly affrighted, pursued his journey.
"They had not proceeded far when the horse again made the same suspicious approach to a coach, from the window of which a blunderbuss was levelled, with denunciations of death and destruction to the hapless and perplexed rider. In short, after his life had been once or twice endangered by the suspicions to which the conduct of his horse gave rise, and his liberty as often threatened by the peace-officers, who were disposed to apprehend him as a notorious highwayman, the former owner of the horse, he was obliged to part with the inauspicious animal for a trifle, and to purchase one less beautiful, but not accustomed to such dangerous habits."
"Capital, Uncle Thomas! I should have liked to have seen the perplexed look of the poor lawyer, when he saw the blunderbuss make its appearance at the carriage window!"
"There is one other story about the horse, showing his love for his master, and the gentleness of his character. A horse which was remarkable for its antipathy to strangers, one evening, while bearing his master home from a jovial meeting, became disburthened of his rider, who, having indulged rather freely, soon went to sleep on the ground. The horse, however, did not scamper off, but kept faithful watch by his prostrate master till the morning, when the two were perceived about sunrise by some labourers. They approached the gentleman, with the intention of replacing him on his saddle, but every attempt on their part was resolutely opposed by the grinning teeth and ready heels of the horse, which would neither allow them to touch his master, nor suffer himself to be seized till the gentleman himself awoke from his sleep. The same horse, among other bad propensities, constantly resented the attempts of the groom to trim its fetlocks. This circumstance happened to be mentioned by its owner in conversation, in the presence of his youngest child, a very few years old, when he defied any man to perform the operation singly. The father next day, in passing through the stable-yard, beheld with the utmost distress, the infant employed with a pair of scissors in clipping the fetlocks of the hind-legs of this vicious hunter—an operation which had been always hitherto performed with great danger even by a number of men. Instead, however, of exhibiting his usual vicious disposition, the horse, in the present case, was looking with the greatest complacency on the little groom, who soon after, to the very great relief of his father, walked off unhurt."
Uncle Thomas tells about the Beaver, and the Singular Manner in which it Constructs a Dam to confine the Waters of the River; and about the Hut which it builds for its Habitation. He tells also about the Curious Nests of the Sociable Grosbeak; and gives a Long and Entertaining Account of the White Ant of Africa; its Extraordinary Nest; and the Important Part which it acts in the Economy of Nature.
"Good evening, Boys! I am going to tell you about a very singular animal to-night—singular both in its conformation and its habits. I allude to the Beaver."
"Oh, we shall be so glad to hear about the Beaver, Uncle Thomas. I have sometimes wondered what sort of an animal it is. It is of its skin that hats are made—is it not?"
"It is so, Harry—at least it is of the fur with which its skin is covered. I must tell you about the manufacture of hats at some other time. Our business at present is with the Beaver itself. I think we shall get on better by confining our attention to the animal now, and examine into its habits and instincts."
"Very well, Uncle Thomas, we are all attention."
"The Beaver, which is now only to be found in the more inaccessible parts of America, and the more northern countries of Europe, affords a curious instance of what may be called a compound structure. It has the fore-feet of a land animal, and the hind ones of an aquatic one—the latter only being webbed. Its tail is covered with scales like a fish, and serves to direct its course in the water, in which it spends much of its time.
"On the rivers where they abound, they form societies sometimes consisting of upwards of two hundred. They begin to assemble about the months of June and July, and generally choose for the place of their future habitation the side of some lake or river. If a lake, in which the water is always pretty nearly of a uniform level, they dispense with building a dam, but if the place they fix upon be the banks of a river, they immediately set about constructing a pier or dam, to confine the water, so that they may always have a good supply."
"That is an instance of very singular sagacity Uncle Thomas. I suppose it is their instinct which teaches them to act in this manner."
"You are right, Frank. Well, the mode in which they set about constructing the dam is this: having fixed upon the spot, they go into the neighbouring forest, and cut quantities of the smaller branches of trees, which they forthwith convey to the place selected, and having fixed them in the earth, interweave them strongly and closely, filling up all the crevices with mud and stones, so as soon to make a most compact construction."
"That must be a work of very great labour, Uncle Thomas."
"The labour is very considerable, Boys; but the power which, for want of a better name, we call Instinct, comes wonderfully to their aid. For instance, it has been observed that they seek all the branches which they want on the banks of the river, higher up than their construction, so that having once got them conveyed to the water, they are easily floated to it."
"Very good, Uncle Thomas."
"When the beavers have finished the dam, they then proceed to construct a house for themselves. First they dig a foundation of greater or less capacity, in proportion to the number of their society. They then form the walls of earth and stones, mixed with billets of wood crossing each other, and thus tying the fabric together just in the same way as you sometimes see masons do in building human dwellings. Their huts are generally of a circular form, something like the figure of a haycock, and they have usually several entrances—one or more opening into the river or lake, below the surface of the water, and one communicating with any bushes and brushwood which may be at hand, so as to afford the means of escape in case of attack either on the land or water side."
"They must be pretty safe then, Uncle Thomas, since they can so readily escape."
"They are pretty secure so long as they have only unreasoning animals to contend with, Frank; but when man, armed with the power, before which mere Instinct must at all times bow, attacks them, they are very easily overcome. Shall I tell you how the hunters capture them?"
"If you please, Uncle Thomas."
"Very well. I must first tell you that the skin of the Beaver is most valuable during winter, as the fur is then thicker and finer than during the summer. They are therefore very little if at all molested during summer by the hunters. When winter sets in, however, and the lakes and rivers are frozen over, a party of hunters set out to seek for the beaver colonies, and, having found them, they make a number of holes in the ice. Having done this and concerted measures, they break down the huts, and the animals instantly get into the water as a place of safety. As they cannot remain long under water, however, they have soon occasion to come to the surface to breathe, and of course make for the holes which the hunters have formed in the ice, when the latter, who are waiting in readiness, knock them on the head."
"But, Uncle Thomas, don't you think it is very cruel to kill the beaver so? I believe it feeds entirely on vegetables, and does no harm to any one."
"You might say the same, John, of the sheep on the downs; the one is not more cruel than the other: both are useful to man, and furnish him with food as well as raiment, and both were, of course, included in the 'dominion' which God originally gave to man 'over the beasts of the field.'"
"Is the beaver used for food, then, Uncle Thomas?"
"It is, and except during a small part of the year, when it feeds on the root of the water-lily, which communicates a peculiar flavour to the flesh of the animal, it is said to be very palatable. It is, however, principally for its fur that it is hunted; the skin, even, is of little value, being coarser and looser in texture, and of course less applicable to general uses, than that of many other animals. I dare say you have often seen it made into gloves.
"I will now read to you an account of a tame beaver, which its owner, Mr. Broderip, communicated to 'the Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society.'
"The animal arrived in this country in the winter of 1825, very young, being small and woolly, and without the covering of long hair, which marks the adult beaver. It was the sole survivor of five or six which were shipped at the same time, and was in a very pitiable condition. Good treatment soon made it familiar. When called by its name, 'Binny,' it generally answered with a little cry, and came to its owner. The hearth rug was its favourite haunt, and thereon it would lie, stretched out, sometimes on its back, and sometimes flat on its belly, but always near its master. The building instinct showed itself immediately after it was let out of its cage, and materials were placed in its way,—and this, before it had been a week in its new quarters. Its strength, even before it was half grown, was great. It would drag along a large sweeping-brush, or a warming-pan, grasping the handle with its teeth, so that the load came over its shoulder, and advancing in an oblique direction, till it arrived at the point where it wished to place it. The long and large materials were always taken first, and two of the longest were generally laid crosswise, with one of the ends of each touching the wall, and the other ends projecting out into the room. The area formed by the crossed brushes and the wall he would fill up with hand-brushes, rush baskets, books, boots, sticks, cloths, dried turf, or any thing portable. As the work grew high, he supported himself on his tail, which propped him up admirably: and he would often, after laying on one of his building materials, sit up over against it, apparently to consider his work, or, as the country people say, 'judge it.' This pause was sometimes followed by changing the position of the material 'judged,' and sometimes it was left in its place. After he had piled up his materials in one part of the room (for he generally chose the same place), he proceeded to wall up the space between the feet of a chest of drawers, which stood at a little distance from it, high enough on its legs to make the bottom a roof for him; using for this purpose dried turf and sticks, which he laid very even, and filling up the interstices with bits of coal, hay, cloth, or any thing he could pick up. This last place he seemed to appropriate for his dwelling; the former work seemed to be intended for a dam. When he had walled up the space between the feet of the chest of drawers, he proceeded to carry in sticks, cloths, hay, cotton, and to make a nest; and, when he had done, he would sit up under the drawers, and comb himself with the nails of his hind feet. In this operation, that which appeared at first to be a malformation, was shown to be a beautiful adaptation to the necessities of the animal. The huge webbed hind feet often turn in, so as to give the appearance of deformities; but if the toes were straight, instead of being incurved, the animal could not use them for the purpose of keeping its fur in order, and cleansing it from dirt and moisture.
"Binny generally carried small and light articles between his right fore leg and his chin, walking on the other three legs; and large masses, which he could not grasp readily with his teeth, he pushed forwards, leaning against them with his right fore paw and his chin. He never carried anything on his tail, which he liked to dip in water, but he was not fond of plunging in his whole body. If his tail was kept moist, he never cared to drink, but, if it was kept dry, it became hot, and the animal appeared distressed, and would drink a great deal. It is not impossible that the tail may have the power of absorbing water, like the skin of frogs, though it must be owned that the scaly integument which invests that member has not much of the character which generally belongs to absorbing surfaces.
"Bread, and bread and milk, and sugar, formed the principal part of Binny's food; but he was very fond of succulent fruits and roots. He was a most entertaining creature; and some highly comic scenes occurred between the worthy, but slow beaver, and a light and airy macauco, that was kept in the same apartment."
"I think I have read, Uncle, that beavers use their tails as trowels to plaster their houses, and as sledges to carry the materials to build huts."
"I dare say, you have, Frank; but I believe such stories are mere fables, told by the ignorant to excite wonder in the minds of the credulous. No such operations have been observed by the most accurate observers of the animal's habits. The wonderful instinct which they display in building their houses is quite sufficient to excite our admiration, without having recourse to false and exaggerated statements."
"The building instinct of the beaver is very curious, Uncle Thomas. Is it displayed by any other animal?"
"All animals exhibit it more or less, Harry, and birds in particular, in the construction of their nests, some of which are very curious indeed; perhaps one of the most striking instances is that of the Sociable Grosbeak, a bird which is found in the interior of the Cape of Good Hope. They construct their nests under one roof, which they form of the branches of some tall and wide-spreading tree, thatching it all over, as it were, with a species of grass.
"When they have got their habitation fairly covered in they lay out the inside, according to some travellers, into regular streets, with nests on both sides, about a couple of inches distant from each other. In one respect, however, they differ from the beaver, they do not appear to lay up a common store of food, the nature of the climate not rendering such a precaution necessary.
"Here is the account of one of these erections furnished by a gentleman who minutely examined the structure.
"I observed on the way a tree with an enormous nest of those birds, to which I have given the appellation of republicans; and, as soon as I arrived at my camp, I despatched a few men, with a waggon, to bring it to me, that I might open the hive, and examine the structure in its minutest parts. When it arrived, I cut it in pieces with a hatchet, and found that the chief portion of the structure consisted of a mass of Boshman's grass, without any mixture, but so compact and firmly basketed together as to be impenetrable to the rain. This is the commencement of the structure; and each bird builds its particular nest under this canopy. But the nests are formed only beneath the eaves of the canopy, the upper surface remaining void, without, however, being useless; for, as it has a projecting rim, and is a little inclined, it serves to let the rain-water run off, and preserves each little dwelling from the rain. Figure to yourself a huge irregular sloping roof, and all the eaves of which are completely covered with nests, crowded one against another, and you will have a tolerably accurate idea of these singular edifices.
"Each individual nest is three or four inches in diameter, which is sufficient for the bird. But as they are all in contact with one another, around the eaves, they appear to the eye to form but one building, and are distinguishable from each other only by a little external aperture, which serves as an entrance to the nest; and even this is sometimes common to three different nests, one of which is situated at the bottom, and the other two at the sides. According to Paterson, the number of cells increasing in proportion to the increase of inhabitants, the old ones become 'streets of communication, formed by line and level.' No doubt, as the republic increases, the cells must be multiplied also; but it is easy to imagine that, as the augmentation can take place only at the surface, the new buildings will necessarily cover the old ones, which must therefore be abandoned.
"Should these even, contrary to all probability, be able to subsist, it may be presumed that the depth of their situation, by preventing any circulation and renewal of the air, would render them so extremely hot as to be uninhabitable. But while they thus become useless, they would remain what they were before, real nests, and change neither into streets nor sleeping-rooms.
"The large nest which I examined was one of the most considerable which I had seen any where on my journey, and contained three hundred and twenty inhabited cells."
"Well, Uncle Thomas, that is very curious; I don't know which most to admire. I rather incline to the beaver however, because of the winter store of food which he lays up."
"There is another animal which displays the building instinct so remarkably, that I must tell you something about it before we part."
"Which is it, Uncle Thomas?"
"It is the white ant of Africa; it is a little animal, scarcely, if at all, exceeding in size those of our own country, yet they construct large nests of a conical or sugar loaf shape, sometimes from ten to twelve feet in height; and one species builds them so strong and compact, that even when they are raised to little more than half their height, the wild-bulls of the country use them as sentinel posts to watch over the safety of the herd which grazes below.
"Mr. Smeathman, a naturalist fully capable to do justice to the nature of these erections, states, that on one occasion he and four men stood on the top of one of them. So you may guess how strong they are."
"Of what are they made, Uncle Thomas? They must be very curious structures. How very different from the ant hills of England!"
"Very different, indeed, John. They are made of clay and sand, and as in such a luxuriant climate they soon become coated over with grass, they quickly assume the appearance of hay-cocks. They are indeed very remarkable structures, whether we consider them externally or internally, and are said to excel those of the beaver and the bee in the same proportion as the inhabitants of the most polished European nation excel the huts of the rude inhabitants of the country where the Termites or white ants abound; while in regard to mere size, Mr. Smeathman calculates that, supposing a man's ordinary height to be six feet, the nests of these creatures may be considered, relative to their size and that of man's, as being raised to four times the height of the largest Egyptian pyramids."
"That is enormous, Uncle Thomas?"
"It is indeed, Frank; but strange though it is, the interior of the nest is even more remarkable, many parts of its construction falling little short of human ingenuity. I need not attempt to describe all its arrangements, which, without a plan, would be nearly unintelligible; but there is one device so admirable that I must point it out to you. The nest is formed of two floors, as it were, and all round the walls are galleries perforated in various winding directions, and leading to the store-houses of the colony, or to the nurseries where the eggs are deposited. As it is sometimes convenient to reach the galleries which open from the upper roof without threading all the intricacies of these winding passages, they construct bridges of a single arch, and thus at once reach the upper roof, from which these diverge. They are thus also saved much labour, in transporting provisions, and in bearing the eggs to the places where they remain till they are hatched."
"That is indeed admirable, Uncle Thomas; they must be very curious animals."
"They are divided into various classes, in the same way as bees; choosing a queen, and some of them acting as workers, &c. But the white ants have a class to which there is nothing similar among any other race of insects. These are what Smeathman calls soldiers, from the duties which they perform. They are much less numerous than the workers, being somewhat in the proportion of one in one hundred. The duty of the soldier-insects is to protect the nest when it is attacked. They are furnished with long and slender jaws, and when enraged bite very fiercely, and sometimes even drive off the negroes who may have attacked them, and even white people suffer severely,—the bite bleeding profusely even through the stocking. Some one who observed the colony alarmed, by having part of the nest broken down, gives the following account of the subsequent operations. One of the soldiers first makes his appearance, as if to see if the enemy be gone, and to learn whence the attack proceeds. By and by two or three others make their appearance, and soon afterwards a numerous body rushes out, which increases in number so long as the attack is continued. They are at this time in a state of the most violent agitation; some employed in beating upon the building with their mandibles, so as to make a noise which may be distinctly heard at the distance of three or four feet. Whenever the attack is discontinued, the soldiers retire first, and are quickly followed by the labourers, which hasten in various directions towards the breach, each with a burden of mortar ready tempered, and thus they soon repair the chasm. Besides the duty of protecting the colony, the soldiers seem to act as overseers of the work, one being generally in attendance on every six or eight hundred; and another, who may be looked upon as commander in chief, takes up his station close to the wall which they are repairing, and frequently repeats the beating which I just mentioned, which is instantly answered by a loud hiss from all the labourers within the dome,—those at work labouring with redoubled energy."
"But, Uncle Thomas, what can be the use of such animals as white ants? I really cannot see what use they are for."
"Well, John, I confess I do not much wonder at your question, though, in putting it, you have forgotten that God makes nothing in vain. Mr. Smeathman, who tells us so much about these curious animals, has answered you by anticipation; and his answer is in such a spirit that I cannot do better than read it to you.
"It may appear surprising how a Being perfectly good should have created animals which seem to serve no other end but to spread destruction and desolation wherever they go. But let us be cautious in suspecting any imperfection in the FATHER OF THE UNIVERSE. What at first sight may seem only productive of mischief, will, upon mature deliberation, be found worthy of that wisdom which planned the most beautiful parts of the world. Many poisons are valuable medicines, Storms are beneficial; and diseases often promote life. These Termites are indeed frequently pernicious to mankind, but they are also very useful and even necessary. One valuable purpose which they serve is, to destroy decayed trees and other substances which, if left on the surface of the ground in hot climates, would in a short time pollute the air. In this respect they resemble very much the common flies, which are regarded by mankind in general as noxious and, albeit, as useless beings in creation. But this is certainly for want of consideration. There are not probably in all nature animals of more importance, and it would not be difficult to prove that we should feel the want of one or two large quadrupeds much less than of one or two species of these despicable-looking insects. Mankind in general are sensible that nothing is more disagreeable or more pestiferous than putrid substances; and it is apparent to all who have made observation, that those little insects contribute more to the quick dissolution and dispersion of putrescent matter than any other. They are so necessary in all hot climates, that ever in the open fields a dead animal or small putrid substance cannot be laid upon the ground two minutes before it will be covered with flies and their maggots, which, instantly entering, quickly devour one part, and perforating the rest in various directions, expose the whole to be much sooner decomposed by the elements. Thus it is with the Termites. The rapid vegetation in hot climates, of which no idea can be formed by any thing to be seen in this, is equalled by as great a degree of destruction from natural as well as accidental causes. It seems apparent that when anything whatever has arrived at its last degree of perfection, the Creator has decreed that it shall be wholly destroyed as soon as possible, that the face of nature may be speedily adorned with fresh productions in the bloom of spring, or the pride of summer; so when trees and even woods are in part destroyed by tornadoes or fire, it is wonderful to observe how many agents are employed in hastening the total dissolution of the rest. But in hot climates there are none so expert, or who do their business so expeditiously and effectually, as these insects, which in a few weeks destroy and carry away the bodies of large trees, without leaving a particle behind; thus clearing the place for other vegetables which soon fill up every vacancy: and in places where two or three years before there has been a populous town, if the inhabitants, as is frequently the case, have chosen to abandon it, there shall be a very thick wood, and not a vestige of a post to be seen, unless the wood has been of a species which from its hardness is called iron wood."
"Thank you, Uncle Thomas. I see, I was quite wrong in supposing that the ants are of no use. I really did not imagine that they could have been so serviceable."
Uncle Thomas describes the Manner in which Wild Elephants are caught, and relates some Curious Stories of the Cunning, Affection, and Intelligence of the Elephant.
"Well, Boys, you are once more welcome!—I am going to tell you some stories about the Elephant to-night, which I hope will interest you quite as much as those which I told you about the dog. Next to the dog the elephant is one of the most intelligent animals; some of his actions, indeed, seem to be rather the result of reason than mere instinct. But I must first tell you about the animal in its native forests.
"In the luxuriant forests with which a large portion of Asia is covered, this huge animal reigns supreme. Its size and strength easily enable it to overcome the most formidable opponents. The intelligence with which it has been endowed by its Creator would make it a most formidable enemy to man, but that the same All-wise Being has graciously endowed it with peaceful and gentle feelings. In its native forests it roams about without seeking to molest any one, and even when caught and tamed it very soon becomes gentle and obedient.
"In the East Indies the elephant is in very general use as a beast of burden. For this purpose it is hunted and caught in great numbers by the Natives, who employ some very ingenious devices to deceive them, and to drive them into the ambuscades which they form for them. The manner in which whole herds are captured is as follows:—
"When the herd is discovered by parties who are sent out for the purpose of reconnoitering, they take notice of the direction in which it is ranging, and as, if their food is plentiful, they generally continue to advance in one direction for miles together, the hunters construct, at a considerable distance in front, a series of enclosures, into which it is their object to drive them.
"When every thing is prepared, the hunters, sometimes to the number of several hundreds, divide themselves into small parties, and form a large circle, so as to surround the herd. Each party generally consists of three men, whose duty it is to light a fire and to clear a footpath between their station and that of their neighbours, so that in this way a communication is kept up by the whole circle, and assistance can at once be afforded at any given point.
"New circles are constantly formed at short distances in advance, so as gradually to drive the animals in the required direction. The hunters are all the while concealed by the luxuriant jungle, and do not show themselves to the elephants at all, but urge them forward by the use of drums, rattles, &c. &c., from the noise of which the animals seek to escape, and thus wander on, feeding as they proceed toward the toils which are prepared for them.
"The keddah, or trap, as it may be called, consists of three enclosures, each formed of strong stockades on the outside of deep ditches; the innermost one being the strongest, because by the time they arrive in it, the elephants are generally in a state of great excitement, and would soon break down a fragile enclosure, and make their escape.
"As soon as the herd has entered the first enclosure, strong barricades are erected across the entrance; and as there is no ditch at this point, the hunters take advantage of the remarkable dread which the animal has of fire, to scare them from this most vulnerable part of the fortification. Fires are gradually lit all round the first enclosure, so that the only way of escape which is left is by the entrance to the second.
"At first, as if profiting by their former experience, they generally shun the entrance to the second of the series, but at last, seeing no other chance of escape, the leader of the herd ventures forward, and the rest follow. The gate is instantly shut, and they are in the same manner driven into the third enclosure. Finding no outlet from this they become desperate, scream with tremendous power, and seek to escape by violently attacking the sides of the stockade. At all points, however, they are repulsed by lighted fires, and the tumultuous and exulting shouts of the triumphant hunters.
"In this place of confinement they remain for several days. When their excitement has somewhat subsided, they are enticed one by one to enter a narrow passage leading to the second enclosure. As soon as one enters in, the entrance is closed, and as the passage is so narrow that it cannot turn round, it soon fatigues itself by unavailing exertions to beat down the barrier. Strong ropes with running nooses are now laid down, and no sooner does the animal put his foot within one of them, than the rope is drawn tight by some of the hunters who are stationed on a small scaffold which has been raised over the gateway. In the same manner his other feet are secured. When this has been effected, some of the hunters venture to approach, and tie his hind legs together. Having thus secured him, they can with comparative safety complete their capture. When he is completely secured he is placed between two tame elephants, and led away to the forest and fastened to a tree; and the same operation is repeated, till the whole herd has been secured. At first the rage of the captive is extreme; so long as the animals between which he is led away prisoner remain with him he is comparatively quiet, but when he sees them depart, he is agitated with all the horrors of despair, and makes the most extravagant attempts to regain his liberty. For some time he refuses to eat, but gradually becomes resigned, and feeds freely.
"A keeper is appointed to each animal, as they are secured. His first object is to gain its confidence; supplying it regularly with food, pouring water over its body to keep it cool, and gradually accustoming it to caresses. In the course of five or six weeks he generally obtains a complete ascendency over it; its fetters are removed by degrees, it knows his voice and obeys him, and is then gradually initiated into the objects of its future labours."
"Thank you, Uncle Thomas. I now understand all about elephant-hunting. I could not think how the hunters managed to secure such a huge animal. It seems to be no such difficult task after all."
"It seems easy enough from description, Frank; but it sometimes happens that they break loose, and, irritated by their efforts to escape, they range about in the most furious manner, and as they are very cunning animals, it requires all the circumspection of the hunter to counteract their schemes. I recollect a story which displays this quality in a very strong light.
"During the seige of Bhurtpore, in the year 1805, when the British army, with its countless host of followers and attendants, and thousands of cattle, had been for a long time before the city, the approach of the warm season and of the dry hot winds caused the quantity of water in the neighbourhood of the camps to begin to fail; the ponds or tanks had dried up, and no more water was left than the immense wells of the country could furnish. The multitude of men and cattle that were unceasingly at the wells, occasioned no little struggle for priority in procuring the supply, and the consequent confusion on the spot was frequently very considerable. On one occasion, two elephant-drivers, each with his elephant, the one remarkably large and strong, and the other comparatively small and weak, were at the well together; the small elephant had been provided by his master with a bucket for the occasion, which he carried at the end of his proboscis; but the larger animal being destitute of this necessary vessel, either spontaneously, or by desire of his keeper, seized the bucket, and easily wrested it away from his less powerful fellow-servant. The latter was too sensible of his inferiority openly to resist the insult, though it is obvious that he felt it; and great squabbling and abuse ensued between the keepers.
"At length, the weaker animal, watching the opportunity when the other was standing with his side to the well, retired backwards a few paces, in a very quiet unsuspicious manner, and then rushing forward with all his might, drove his head against the side of the other, and fairly pushed him into the well. It may easily be imagined that great inconvenience was immediately experienced, and serious apprehensions quickly followed, that the water in the well, on which the existence of so many seemed in a great measure to depend, would be spoiled by the unwieldy brute which was precipitated into it; and as the surface of the water was nearly twenty feet below the common level, there did not appear to be any means that could be adopted to get the animal out by main force, without the risk of injuring him. There were many feet of water below the elephant, who floated with ease on its surface, and, experiencing considerable pleasure from his cool retreat, he evinced but little inclination even to exert what means of escape he might himself possess.
"A vast number of fascines (bundles of wood) had been employed by the army in conducting the siege; and at length it occurred to the elephant-keeper, that a sufficient number of these might be lowered into the well, on which the animal might be raised to the top, if it could be instructed as to the necessary means of laying them in regular succession under its feet. Permission having accordingly been obtained from the engineers to use the fascines, the keeper had to teach the elephant the lesson, which, by means of that extraordinary ascendency these men attain over their charge, joined with the intellectual resources of the animal itself, he was soon enabled to do; and the elephant began quickly to place each fascine, as it was lowered, successively under him, until, in a little time, he was enabled to stand upon them. By this time, however, the cunning brute, enjoying the pleasure of his situation, after the heat and partial privation of water to which he had been lately exposed, was unwilling to work any longer; and all the threats of his keeper could not induce him to place another fascine. The man then opposed cunning to cunning, and began to caress and praise the elephant; and what he could not effect by threats he was enabled to do by the repeated promise of plenty of arrack, a spirituous beverage composed of rum, of which the elephant is very fond. Incited by this, the animal again set to work, raised himself considerably higher, until, by a partial removal of the masonry round the top of the well, he was enabled to step out, after having been in the water about fourteen hours."
"That was very cunning, Uncle Thomas. The keepers seem to attain great ascendency over the animals."
"The attachment of the elephant to its keeper, and the command which some of these men acquire over the objects of their care by appealing to their affections is very extraordinary. The mere sound of the keeper's voice has been known to reclaim an animal which escaped from domestication and resumed its original freedom:—
"A female elephant, belonging to a gentleman in Calcutta, who was ordered from the upper country to Chittagong, in the route thither, broke loose from her keeper, and, making her way to the woods, was lost. The keeper made every excuse to vindicate himself, which the master of the animal would not listen to, but branded the man with dishonesty; for it was instantly supposed that he had sold the elephant. He was tried for it, and condemned to work on the roads for life, and his wife and children sold for slaves.
"About twelve years afterwards, this man, who was known to be well acquainted with breaking elephants, was sent into the country with a party to assist in catching wild ones. They came upon a herd, amongst which the man fancied he saw the long-lost elephant for which he had been condemned. He resolved to approach it, nor could the strongest remonstrances of the party dissuade him from the attempt. As he approached the animal, he called her by name, when she immediately recognised his voice; she waved her trunk in the air as a token of salutation, and kneeling down, allowed him to mount her neck. She afterwards assisted in taking other elephants, and decoyed three young ones, to which she had given birth since her escape. The keeper returned to his master, and the singular circumstances attending the recovery of the elephant being told, he regained his character; and, as a recompense for his unmerited sufferings, had a pension settled on him for life."
"That was an instance of rare good fortune, Uncle Thomas. How very curious that he should fall in with the herd in which his own elephant was!"
"It was very fortunate indeed, Frank. It was not a little curious too that the elephant should recognise him after so long a period. But the attachment which they show to their keepers is sometimes very great. One which in a moment of rage killed its keeper a few years ago, adopted his son as its carnac or driver, and would allow no one else to assume his place. The wife of the unfortunate man was witness to the dreadful scene, and, in the frenzy of her mental agony, took her two children, and threw them at the feet of the elephant, saying, 'As you have slain my husband, take my life also, as well as that of my children!' The elephant became calm, seemed to relent, and as if stung with remorse, took up the eldest boy with its trunk, placed him on its neck, adopted him for its carnac, and never afterwards allowed another to occupy that seat."
"That was at least making all the reparation in its power, Uncle Thomas."
"There is one or two other stories about the elephant, showing that he knows how to revenge an insult, which I must tell you before you go.
"A merchant at Bencoolen kept a tame elephant, which was so exceedingly gentle in his habits, that he was permitted to go at large. This huge animal used to walk about the streets in the most quiet and orderly manner, and paid many visits through the city to people who were kind to him. Two cobblers took an ill will to this inoffensive creature, and several times pricked him on the proboscis with their awls. The noble animal did not chastise them in the manner he might have done, and seemed to think they were too contemptible to be angry with them. But he took other means to punish them for their cruelty. He filled his trunk with water of a dirty quality, and advancing towards them in his ordinary manner, spouted the whole of the puddle over them. The punishment was highly applauded by those who witnessed it, and the poor cobblers were laughed at for their pains."
"Ha! ha! ha! He must have been a very knowing animal, Uncle Thomas. I dare say, the cobblers behaved better in future."
"I dare say they would, Boys. Here is another story of the same description, but the trickster did not escape so easily."
"A person in the island of Ceylon, who lived near a place where elephants were daily led to water, and often sat at the door of his house, used occasionally to give one of these animals some fig leaves, a food to which elephants are very partial. Once he took it into his head to play one of the elephants a trick. He wrapped a stone round with fig leaves, and said to the carnac, 'This time I will give him a stone to eat, and see how it will agree with him.' The carnac answered, 'that the elephant would not be such a fool as to swallow a stone.' The man, however, reached the stone to the elephant, who, taking it with his trunk, immediately let it fall to the ground. 'You see,' said the keeper, 'that I was right;' and without further words, drove away his elephants. After they were watered, he was conducting them again to their stable. The man who had played the elephant the trick was still sitting at his door, when, before he was aware, the animal ran at him, threw his trunk around his body, and, dashing him to the ground, trampled him immediately to death."
Uncle Thomas introduces to the Notice of the Young Folks the Ettrick Shepherd's Stories about Sheep; and tells them some Interesting Stories about the Goat, and its Peculiarities.
"I dare say, Boys, you have not forgotten the Ettrick Shepherd's wonderful stories about his dogs. Some of those which he relates about sheep are equally remarkable, and as he tells them in the same pleasing style, I think I cannot do better than read to you the chapter in 'The Shepherd's Calendar' which he devotes to this animal."
"Thank you, Uncle Thomas. We remember very well his stories about Sirrah and Hector and Chieftain, and the old Shepherd's grief at parting with his dog."
"That's right, Boys; I am pleased to think that you do not forget what I tell you. But listen to the Ettrick Shepherd."
"The sheep has scarcely any marked character save that of natural affection, of which it possesses a very great share. It is otherwise a stupid indifferent animal, having few wants, and fewer expedients. The old black-faced, or forest breed, have far more powerful capabilities than any of the finer breeds that have been introduced into Scotland, and, therefore, the few anecdotes that I have to relate shall be confined to them.
"So strong is the attachment of the sheep to the place where they have been bred, that I have heard of their returning from Yorkshire to the Highlands. I was always somewhat inclined to suspect that they might have been lost by the way, but it is certain, however, that when once one or a few sheep get away from the rest of their acquaintances, they return homeward with great eagerness and perseverance. I have lived beside a drove-road the better part of my life, and many stragglers have I seen bending their steps northward in the spring of the year. A shepherd rarely sees these journeyers twice; if he sees them, and stops them in the morning, they are gone long before night; and if he sees them at night they will be gone many miles before morning. This strong attachment to the place of their nativity is much more predominant in our old aboriginal breed than in any of the other kinds with which I am acquainted.
"The most singular instance that I know of, to be quite well authenticated, is that of a black ewe, that returned with her lamb from a farm in the head of Glen-Lyon, to the farm of Harehope, in Tweeddale, and accomplished the journey in nine days. She was soon missed by her owner, and a shepherd was despatched in pursuit of her, who followed her all the way to Crieff, where he turned, and gave her up. He got intelligence of her all the way, and every one told him that she absolutely persisted in travelling on,—she would not be turned, regarding neither sheep nor shepherd by the way. Her lamb was often far behind, and she had constantly to urge it on by impatient bleating. She unluckily came to Stirling on the morning of a great annual fair, about the end of May, and judging it imprudent to venture through the crowd with her lamb, she halted on the north side of the town the whole day, where she was seen by hundreds, lying close by the road-side. But next morning, when all became quiet, a little after the break of day, she was observed stealing quietly through the town, in apparent terror of the dogs that were prowling about the street. The last time she was seen on the road was at a toll-bar near St. Ninian's; the man stopped her, thinking she was a strayed animal, and that some one would claim her. She tried several times to break through by force when he opened the gate, but he always prevented her, and at length she turned patiently back. She had found some means of eluding him, however, for home she came on a Sabbath morning, early in June; and she left the farm of Lochs, in Glen-Lyon, either on the Thursday afternoon, or Friday morning, a week and two days before. The farmer of Harehope paid the Highland farmer the price of her, and she remained on her native farm till she died of old age, in her seventeenth year.
"With regard to the natural affection of this animal, the instances that might be mentioned are without number. When one loses its sight in a flock of sheep, it is rarely abandoned to itself in that hapless and helpless state. Some one always attaches itself to it, and by bleating calls it back from the precipice, the lake, the pool, and all dangers whatever. There is a disease among sheep, called by shepherds the Breakshugh, a deadly sort of dysentery, which is as infectious as fire, in a flock. Whenever a sheep feels itself seized by this, it instantly withdraws from all the rest, shunning their society with the greatest care; it even hides itself, and is often very hard to be found. Though this propensity can hardly be attributed to natural instinct, it is, at all events, a provision of nature of the greatest kindness and beneficence.
"Another manifest provision of nature with regard to these animals is, that the more inhospitable the land is on which they feed, the greater their kindness and attention to their young. I once herded two years on a wild and bare farm called Willenslee, on the border of Mid-Lothian, and of all the sheep I ever saw, these were the kindest and most affectionate to their lambs. I was often deeply affected at scenes which I witnessed. We had one very hard winter, so that our sheep grew lean in the spring, and the thwarter-ill (a sort of paralytic affection) came among them, and carried off a number. Often have I seen these poor victims, when fallen down to rise no more, even when unable to lift their heads from the ground, holding up the leg, to invite the starving lamb to the miserable pittance that the udder still could supply. I had never seen aught more painfully affecting.
"It is well known that it is a custom with shepherds, when a lamb dies, if the mother have a sufficiency of milk, to bring her from the hill, and put another lamb to her. This is done by putting the skin of the dead lamb upon the living one; the ewe immediately acknowledges the relationship, and after the skin has warmed on it, so as to give it something of the smell of her own progeny, and it has sucked her two or three times, she accepts and nourishes it as her own ever after. Whether it is from joy at this apparent reanimation of her young one, or because a little doubt remains on her mind which she would fain dispel, I cannot decide; but, for a number of days, she shows far more fondness, by bleating and caressing over this one, than she did formerly over the one that was really her own. But this is not what I wanted to explain; it was, that such sheep as thus lose their lambs must be driven to a house with dogs, so that the lamb may be put to them; for they will only take it in a dark confined place. But at Willenslee, I never needed to drive home a sheep by force, with dogs, or in any other way than the following: I found every ewe, of course, standing hanging her head over her dead lamb; and having a piece of twine with me for the purpose, I tied that to the lamb's neck or foot, and trailing it along, the ewe followed me into any house or fold that I choose to lead her. Any of them would have followed me in that way for miles, with her nose close on the lamb, which she never quitted for a moment, except to chase my dog, which she would not suffer to walk near me. I often, out of curiosity, led them in to the side of the kitchen fire by this means, into the midst of servants and dogs; but the more that dangers multiplied around the ewe, she clung the closer to her dead offspring, and thought of nothing whatever but protecting it. One of the two years, while I remained on this farm, a severe blast of snow came on by night, about the latter end of April, which destroyed several scores of our lambs; and as we had not enow of twins and odd lambs for the mothers that had lost theirs, of course we selected the best ewes, and put lambs to them. As we were making the distribution, I requested of my master to spare me a lamb for a hawked ewe which he knew, and which was standing over a dead lamb in the head of the Hope, about four miles from the house. He would not do it, but bid me let her stand over her lamb for a day or two, and perhaps a twin would be forthcoming. I did so, and faithfully she did stand to her charge; so faithfully, that I think the like never was equalled by any of the woolly race. I visited her every morning and evening, and for the first eight days never found her above two or three yards from the lamb; and always, as I went my rounds, she eyed me long ere I came near her, and kept tramping with her feet, and whistling through her nose, to frighten away the dog; he got a regular chase twice a day as I passed by: but, however excited and fierce a ewe may be, she never offers any resistance to mankind, being perfectly and meekly passive to them. The weather grew fine and warm, and the dead lamb soon decayed, which the body of a dead lamb does particularly soon: but still this affectionate and desolate creature kept hanging over the poor remains with an attachment that seemed to be nourished by hopelessness. It often drew the tears from my eyes to see her hanging with such fondness over a few bones, mixed with a small portion of wool. For the first fortnight she never quitted the spot, and for another week she visited it every morning and evening, uttering a few kindly and heart-piercing bleats each time; till at length every remnant of her offspring vanished, mixing with the soil, or wafted away by the winds."
"Poor creature! Uncle Thomas, that was very affecting."
"So much for the Ettrick Shepherd. I will now tell you a story about a remarkable instance of sagacity in a sheep, of which I myself was an eye-witness.
"One evening, as I was enjoying a walk through some verdant pastures, which were plentifully dotted with sheep, my attention was attracted by the motions of one which repeatedly came close up to me, bleating in a piteous manner, and after looking expressively in my face, ran off towards a brook which meandered through the midst of the pastures. At first I took little notice of the creature, but as her entreaties became importunate, I followed her. Delighted at having at length attracted my notice, she ran with all her speed, frequently looking back. When I reached the spot, I discovered the cause of all her anxiety; her lamb had unfortunately fallen into the brook, whose steep banks prevented it from making its escape. Fortunately the water, though up to the little creature's back, was not sufficient to drown it. I rescued it with much pleasure, and to the great gratification of its affectionate mother, who licked it with her tongue to dry it, now and then skipping about, and giving vent to her joy and gratitude in most expressive gambols.
"Though differing in many respects from the sheep, the goat bears so strong a resemblance to that animal, that, now that I am speaking of it, I may as well tell you a story or two about the goat. It will save my returning to it afterwards."
"Very well, Uncle Thomas."
"The goat is in every respect more fitted for a life of savage liberty than the sheep. It is of a more lively disposition, and is possessed of a greater degree of instinct. It readily attaches itself to man, and seems sensible of his caresses. It delights in climbing precipices, and going to the very edge of danger, and it is often seen suspended upon an eminence overhanging the sea, upon a very little base, and sometimes even sleeps there in security. Nature has in some measure fitted it for traversing these declivities with ease; the hoof is hollow underneath, with sharp edges, so that it walks as securely on the ridge of a house as on the level ground.
"When once reduced to a state of domestication, the goat seldom resumes its original wildness. A good many years ago, an English vessel happening to touch at the island of Bonavista, two negroes came and offered the sailors as many goats as they chose to take away. Upon the captain expressing his surprise at this offer, the negroes assured him that there were but twelve persons on the island, and that the goats had multiplied in such a manner as even to become a nuisance: they added, that far from giving any trouble to capture them, they followed the few inhabitants that were left with a sort of obstinacy, and became even troublesome by their tameness. The celebrated traveller Dr. Clarke gives a very curious account of a goat, which was trained to exhibit various amusing feats of dexterity.
"We met, (says he,) an Arab with a goat which he led about the country to exhibit, in order to gain a livelihood for itself and its owner. He had taught this animal, while he accompanied its movements with a song, to mount upon little cylindrical blocks of wood, placed successively one above another, and in shape resembling the dice-box belonging to a backgammon table. In this manner the goat stood, first, on the top of two; afterwards, of three, four, five, and six, until it remained balanced upon the summit of them all, elevated several feet above the ground, and with its four feet collected upon a single point, without throwing down the disjointed fabric on which it stood. The diameter of the upper cylinder, on which its four feet alternately remained until the Arab had ended his ditty, was only two inches, and the length of each six inches. The most curious part of the performance occurred afterwards; for the Arab, to convince us of the animal's attention to the turn of the air, interrupted the Da Capo; and, as often as he did this, the goat tottered, appeared uneasy, and, upon his becoming suddenly silent, in the middle of his song, it fell to the ground.
"Like the sheep, the goat possesses great natural affection for its young. In its defence it boldly repels the attacks of the most formidable opponents. I remember a little story which finely illustrates this instinctive courage.
"A person having missed one of his goats when his flock was taken home at night, being afraid the wanderer would get among the young trees in his nursery, two boys, wrapped in their plaids, were ordered to watch all night. The morning had but faintly dawned, when they set out in search of her. They at length discovered her on a pointed rock at a considerable distance, and hastening to the spot perceived her standing watching her kid with the greatest anxiety, and defending it from a fox. The enemy turned round and round to lay hold of his prey, but the goat presented her horns in every direction. The youngest boy was despatched for assistance to attack the fox, and the eldest, hallooing and throwing up stones, sought to intimidate it as he climbed to rescue his charge. The fox seemed well aware that the child could not execute his threats; he looked at him one instant, and then renewed the assault, till, quite impatient, he made a sudden effort to seize the kid. The whole three suddenly disappeared, and were found at the bottom of the precipice. The goat's horns were darted into the back of the fox; the kid lay stretched beside her. It is supposed that the fox had fixed his teeth in the kid, for its neck was lacerated; but that when the faithful mother inflicted a death wound upon her mortal enemy he probably staggered, and brought his victims with him over the rock.
"There is another story of the goat, which places its gratitude and affection in such an interesting light, that I am sure it will delight you:—
"After the final suppression of the Scottish Rebellion of 1715, by the decisive Battle of Preston, a gentleman who had taken a very active share in it escaped to the West Highlands to the residence of a female relative, who afforded him an asylum. As in consequence of the strict search which was made after the ringleaders, it was soon judged unsafe for him to remain in the house of his friend, he was conducted to a cavern in a sequestered situation, and furnished with a supply of food. The approach to this lonely abode consisted of a small aperture, through which he crept, dragging his provisions along with him. A little way from the mouth of the cave the roof became elevated, but on advancing, an obstacle obstructed his progress. He soon perceived that, whatever it might be, the object was a living one, but unwilling to strike at a venture with his dirk, he stooped down, and discovered a goat and her kid lying on the ground. The animal was evidently in great pain, and feeling her body and limbs, he ascertained that one of her legs had been fractured. He bound it up with his garter, and offered her some of his bread; but she refused to eat, and stretched out her tongue, as if intimating that her mouth was parched with thirst. He gave her water, which she drank greedily, and then she ate the bread. At midnight he ventured from the cave, pulled a quantity of grass and the tender branches of trees, and carried them to the poor sufferer, which received them with demonstrations of gratitude.
"The only thing which this fugitive had to arrest his attention in his dreary abode, was administering comfort to the goat; and he was indeed thankful to have any living creature beside him. It quickly recovered, and became tenderly attached to him. It happened that the servant who was intrusted with the secret of his retreat fell sick, when it became necessary to send another with provisions. The goat, on this occasion, happening to be lying near the mouth of the cavern, opposed his entrance with all her might, butting him furiously; the fugitive, hearing a disturbance, went forward, and receiving the watchword from his new attendant, interposed, and the faithful goat permitted him to pass. So resolute was the animal on this occasion, that the gentleman was convinced she would have died in his defence."
Uncle Thomas relates some Very Remarkable Stories about the Cat; points out to the Boys the Connexion subsisting between the Domestic Cat and the Lion, Tiger, &c., and tells them some Stories about the Gentleness, as well as the Ferocity of these Animals.
"Though far from being so general a favourite as the dog, the domestic cat has many qualities to recommend it to attention and regard, and some of the stories which I am going to tell you exhibit instances of instinctive attachment and gentleness which cannot be surpassed.
"Here is one of attachment, which will match with the best of those of the dog.
"A cat which had been brought up in a family became extremely attached to the eldest child, a little boy, who was very fond of playing with her. She bore with the most exemplary patience any maltreatment which she received from him—which even good-natured children seldom fail, occasionally, to give to animals in their sports with them—without ever making any attempt at resistance. As the cat grew up, however, she daily quitted her playfellow for a time, from whom she had formerly been inseparable, in order to follow her natural propensity to catch mice; but even when engaged in this employment, she did not forget her friend; for, as soon as she had caught a mouse, she brought it alive to him. If he showed an inclination to take her prey from her, she anticipated him, by letting it run, and waited to see whether he was able to catch it. If he did not, the cat darted at, seized it, and laid it again before him; and in this manner the sport continued as long as the child showed any inclination for the amusement.
"At length the boy was attacked by smallpox, and, during the early stages of his disorder, the cat never quitted his bed-side; but, as his danger increased, it was found necessary to remove the cat and lock it up. The child died. On the following day, the cat having escaped from her confinement, immediately ran to the apartment where she hoped to find her playmate. Disappointed in her expectation, she sought for him with symptoms of great uneasiness and loud lamentation, all over the house, till she came to the door of the room in which the corpse lay. Here she lay down in silent melancholy, till she was again locked up. As soon as the child was interred, and the cat set at liberty, she disappeared; and it was not till a fortnight after that event, that she returned to the well-known apartment, quite emaciated. She would not, however, take any nourishment, and soon ran away again with dismal cries. At length, compelled by hunger, she made her appearance every day at dinner-time, but always left the house as soon as she had eaten the food that was given her. No one knew where she spent the rest of her time, till she was found one day under the wall of the burying-ground, close to the grave of her favourite; and so indelible was the attachment of the cat to her deceased friend, that till his parents removed to another place, five years afterwards, she never, except in the greatest severity of winter, passed the night any where else than at the above-mentioned spot, close to the grave. Ever afterwards she was treated with the utmost kindness by every person in the family. She suffered herself to be played with by the younger children, although without exhibiting a particular partiality for any of them.
"There is another story of the cat's attachment, of a somewhat less melancholy cast, which I lately saw recorded in a provincial newspaper.
"A country gentleman of our acquaintance, who is neither a friend to thieves nor poachers, has at this moment in his household a favourite cat, whose honesty, he is sorry to say, there is but too much reason to call in question. The animal, however, is far from being selfish in her principles; for her acceptable gleanings she regularly shares among the children of the family in which her lot is cast. It is the habit of grimalkin to leave the kitchen or parlour, as often as hunger and an opportunity may occur, and wend her way to a certain pastrycook's shop, where, the better to conceal her purpose, she endeavours slily to ingratiate herself into favour with the mistress of the house. As soon as the shopkeeper's attention becomes engrossed in business, or otherwise, puss contrives to pilfer a small pie or tart from the shelves on which they are placed, speedily afterwards making the best of her way home with her booty. She then carefully delivers her prize to some of the little ones in the nursery. A division of the stolen property quickly takes place; and here it is singularly amusing to observe the cunning animal, not the least conspicuous among the numerous group, thankfully mumping her share of the illegal traffic. We may add that the pastrycook is by no means disposed to institute a legal process against the delinquent, as the children of the gentleman to whom we allude are honest enough to acknowledge their four-footed playmate's failings to papa, who willingly compensates any damage the pastrycook may sustain from the petty depredations of the would-be philanthropic cat.
"I remember how highly pleased you were with the story which I told you about the dog discovering the murderers of his master. There is one of a very similar description of a French cat, which I am sure will equally interest you.
"In the beginning of the present century a woman was murdered in Paris. The magistrate who went to investigate the affair was accompanied by a physician; they found the body lying upon the floor, and a greyhound watching over it, and howling mournfully. When the gentleman entered the apartment, it ran to them without barking, and then returned with a melancholy mien to the body of his murdered mistress. Upon a chest in a corner of the room sat a cat, motionless, with eyes expressive of furious indignation, stedfastly fixed upon the body. Many persons now entered the apartment, but neither the appearance of such a crowd of strangers, nor the confusion that prevailed in the place, could make her change her position. In the mean time, some persons were apprehended on suspicion of being the murderers, and it was resolved to lead them into the apartment. Before the cat got sight of them, when she only heard their footsteps approaching, her eyes flashed with increased fury, her hair stood erect, and so soon as she saw them enter the apartment, she sprang towards them with expressions of the most violent rage, but did not venture to attack them, being probably alarmed by the numbers that followed. Having turned several times towards them with a peculiar ferocity of aspect, she crept into a corner, with an air indicative of the deepest melancholy. This behaviour of the cat astonished every one present. The effect which it produced upon the murderers was such as almost to amount to an acknowledgment of guilt. Nor did this remain long doubtful, for a train of accessory circumstances was soon discovered which proved it to complete conviction.