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Title: History of my pets

Author: Grace Greenwood

Illustrator: Hammatt Billings

Release date: August 30, 2023 [eBook #71523]

Language: English

Original publication: Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1871

Credits: David E. Brown and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Keturah the kitten


title page





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(Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co.)

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850,
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co.,







TOM 98




The first pet, in whose history you would take any interest, came into my possession when I was about nine years old. I remember the day as plainly as I remember yesterday. I was going home from school, very sad and out of humor with myself, for I had been marked deficient in Geography, and had gone down to the very foot in the spelling-class. On the way I was obliged to pass a little old log-house, which stood near the road, and which I generally ran by in a great hurry, as the woman who lived there had the name of being a scold and[2] a sort of a witch. She certainly was a stout, ugly woman, who drank a great deal of cider, and sometimes beat her husband,—which was very cruel, as he was a mild, little man, and took good care of the baby while she went to mill. But that day I trudged along carelessly and slowly, for I was too unhappy to be afraid, even of that dreadful woman. Yet I started, and felt my heart beat fast, when she called out to me. “Stop, little girl!” she said; “don’t you want this ’ere young cat?” and held out a beautiful white kitten. I ran at once and caught it from her hands, thanking her as well as I could, and started for home, carefully covering pussy’s head with my pinafore, lest she should see where I took her, and so know the way back. She was rather uneasy, and scratched my arms a good deal;—but I did not mind that, I was so entirely happy in my new pet. When I reached home, and my mother looked more annoyed than pleased with[3] the little stranger, and my father and brothers would take no particular notice of her, I thought they must be very hard-hearted indeed, not to be moved by her beauty and innocence. My brother William, however, who was very obliging, and quite a mechanic, made a nice little house, or “cat-cote,” as he called it, in the back-yard, and put in it some clean straw for her to lie on. I then gave her a plentiful supper of new milk, and put her to bed with my own hands. It was long before I could sleep myself that night, for thinking of my pet. I remember I dreamed that little angels came to watch over me, as I had been told they would watch over good children, but that, when they came near to my bedside, they all turned into white kittens and purred over my sleep.

The next morning, I asked my mother for a name for pussy. She laughed and gave me “Keturah,”—saying that it was a good Sunday name, but that I might call her Kitty, for short.

[4]Soon, I am happy to say, all the family grew to liking my pet very much, and I became exceedingly fond and proud of her. Every night when I returned from school, I thought I could see an improvement in her, till I came to consider her a kitten of prodigious talent. I have seen many cats in my day, and I still think that Keturah was very bright. She could perform a great many wonderful exploits,—such as playing hide and seek with me, all through the house, and lying on her back perfectly still, and pretending to be dead. I made her a little cloak, cap, and bonnet, and she would sit up straight, dressed in them, on a little chair, for all the world like some queer old woman. Once, after I had been to the menagerie, I made her a gay suit of clothes, and taught her to ride my brother’s little dog, as I had seen the monkey ride the pony. She, in her turn, was very fond of me, and would follow me whenever she could.

It happened that when Kitty was about[5] a year old, and quite a sizable cat, I became very much interested in some religious meetings which were held on every Wednesday evening in the village church, about half a mile from our house. I really enjoyed them very much, for I loved our minister, who was a good and kind man, and I always felt a better and happier child after hearing him preach, even though I did not understand all that he said. One evening it chanced that there were none going from our house; but my mother, who saw that I was sadly disappointed, gave me leave to go with a neighbouring family, who never missed a meeting of the sort. But when I reached Deacon Wilson’s, I found that they were already gone. Yet, as it was not quite dark, I went on by myself, intending, if I did not overtake them, to go directly to their pew. I had not gone far before I found Kitty at my heels. I spoke as crossly as I could to her, and sent her back,—looking after her till she was out[6] of sight. But just as I reached the church, she came bounding over the fence, and went trotting along before me. Now, what could I do? I felt that it would be very wicked to take a cat to meeting, but I feared that, if I left her outside, she might be lost, or stolen, or killed. So I took her up under my shawl, and went softly into church. I dared not carry her to Deacon Wilson’s pew, which was just before the pulpit, but sat down in the farther end of the first slip, behind a pillar, and with nobody near.

I was very sorry to find that it was not our handsome, young minister that preached, but an old man and a stranger. His sermon may have been a fine one, for the grown-up people, but it struck me as rather dull. I had been a strawberrying that afternoon, and was sadly tired,—and the cat in my lap purred so drowsily, that I soon found my eyes closing, and my head nodding wisely to every thing the minister said. I tried every way to keep awake,[7] but it was of no use. I finally fell asleep, and slept as soundly as I ever slept in my life.

When I awoke at last, I did not know where I was. All was dark around me, and there was the sound of rain without. The meeting was over, the people had all gone, without having seen me, and I was alone in the old church at midnight!

As soon as I saw how it was, I set up a great cry, and shrieked and called at the top of my voice. But nobody heard me,—for the very good reason that nobody lived anywhere near. I will do Kitty the justice to say, that she showed no fear at this trying time, but purred and rubbed against me, as much as to say,—“Keep a good heart, my little mistress!”

O, ’twas a dreadful place in which to be, in the dark night!—There, where I had heard such awful things preached about, before our new minister came, who loved children too well to frighten them but who chose rather to talk about our[8] good Father in Heaven, and the dear Saviour, who took little children in his arms and blessed them. I thought of Him then, and when I had said my prayers I felt braver, and had courage enough to go and try the doors; but all were locked fast. Then I sat down and cried more bitterly than ever, but Kitty purred cheerfully all the time.

At last I remembered that I had seen one of the back-windows open that evening,—perhaps I might get out through that. So I groped my way up the broad aisle, breathing hard with awe and fear. As I was passing the pulpit, there came a clap of thunder which jarred the whole building, and the great red Bible, which lay on the black velvet cushions of the desk, fell right at my feet! I came near falling myself, I was so dreadfully scared; but I made my way to the window, which I found was open by the rain beating in. But though I stretched myself up on tiptoe, I could not quite reach the[9] sill. Then I went back by the pulpit and got the big Bible, which I placed on the floor edgeways against the wall, and by that help I clambered to the window. I feared I was a great sinner to make such use of the Bible, and such a splendid book too, but I could not help it. I put Kitty out first, and then swung myself down. It rained a little, and was so dark that I could see nothing but my white kitten, who ran along before me, and was both a lantern and a guide. I hardly know how I got home, but there I found myself at last. All was still, but I soon roused the whole house; for, when the danger and trouble were over, I cried the loudest with fright and cold. My mother had supposed that Deacon Wilson’s family had kept me for the night, as I often stayed with them, and had felt no anxiety for me.

Dear mother!—I remember how she took off my dripping clothes, and made me some warm drink, and put me snugly[10] to bed, and laughed and cried, as she listened to my adventures, and kissed me and comforted me till I fell asleep. Nor was Kitty forgotten, but was fed and put as cosily to bed as her poor mistress.

The next morning I awoke with a dreadful headache, and when I tried to rise I found I could not stand. I do not remember much more, except that my father, who was a physician, came and felt my pulse, and said I had a high fever, brought on by the fright and exposure of the night previous. I was very sick indeed for three or four weeks, and all that time my faithful Kitty stayed by the side of my bed. She could be kept out of the room but a few moments during the day, and mewed piteously when they put her in her little house at night. My friends said that it was really very affecting to see her love and devotion; but I knew very little about it, as I was out of my head, or in a stupor, most of the time. Yet I remember how the good creature frolicked about[11] me the first time I was placed in an arm-chair, and wheeled out into the dining-room to take breakfast with the family; and when, about a week later, my brother Charles took me in his strong arms and carried me out into the garden, how she ran up and down the walks, half crazy with delight, and danced along sideways, and jumped out at us from behind currant-bushes, in a most cunning and startling manner.

I remember now how strange the garden looked,—how changed from what I had last seen it. The roses were all, all gone, and the China-asters and marigolds were in bloom. When my brother passed with me through the corn and beans, I wondered he did not get lost, they were grown so thick and high.

It was in the autumn after this sickness, that one afternoon I was sitting under the shade of a favorite apple-tree, reading Mrs. Sherwood’s sweet story of “Little Henry and his Bearer.” I remember how I cried[12] over it, grieving for poor Henry and his dear teacher. Ah, I little thought how soon my tears must flow for myself and my Kitty! It was then that my sister came to me, looking sadly troubled, to tell me the news. Our brother William, who was a little mischievous, had been amusing himself by throwing Kitty from a high window, and seeing her turn somersets in the air, and alight on her feet unhurt. But at last, becoming tired or dizzy, she had fallen on her back and broken the spine, just below her shoulders. I ran at once to where she lay on the turf, moaning in her pain. I sat down beside her, and cried as though my heart would break. There I stayed till evening, when my mother had Kitty taken up very gently, carried into the house, and laid on a soft cushion. Then my father carefully examined her hurt. He shook his head, said she could not possibly get well, and that she should be put out of her misery at once. But I begged that she might be[13] allowed to live till the next day. I did not eat much supper that night, or breakfast in the morning, but grieved incessantly for her who had been to me a fast friend in sickness as in health.

About nine o’clock of a pleasant September morning, my brothers came and held a council round poor Kitty, who was lying on a cushion in my lap, moaning with every breath; and they decided that, out of pity for her suffering, they must put her to death. The next question was, how this was to be done. “Cut her head off with the axe!” said my brother Charles, trying to look very manly and stern, with his lip quivering all the while. But my brother William, who had just been reading a history of the French Revolution, and how they took off the heads of people with a machine called the guillotine, suggested that the straw-cutter in the barn would do the work as well, and not be so painful for the executioner. This was agreed to by all present.

[14]Weeping harder than ever, I then took a last leave of my dear pet, my good and loving and beautiful Kitty. They took her to the guillotine, while I ran and shut myself up in a dark closet, and stopped my ears till they came and told me that all was over.

The next time I saw my poor pet, she was lying in a cigar-box, ready for burial. They had bound her head on very cleverly with bandages, and washed all the blood off from her white breast; clover-blossoms were scattered over her, and a green sprig of catnip was placed between her paws. My youngest brother, Albert, drew her on his little wagon to the grave, which was dug under a large elm-tree, in a corner of the yard. The next day I planted over her a shrub called the “pussy-willow.”

After that I had many pet kittens, but none that ever quite filled the place of poor Keturah. Yet I still have a great partiality for the feline race. I like nothing[15] better than to sit, on a summer afternoon or in a winter evening, and watch the graceful gambols and mischievous frolics of a playful kitten.

For some weeks past we have had with us on the sea-shore a beautiful little Virginian girl,—one of the loveliest creatures alive,—who has a remarkable fondness for a pretty black and white kitten, belonging to the house. All day long she will have her pet in her arms, talking to her when she thinks nobody is near,—telling her every thing,—charging her to keep some story to herself, as it is a very great secret,—sometimes reproving her for faults, or praising her for being good. Her last thought on going to sleep, and the first on waking, is this kitten. She loves her so fondly, that her father has promised that she shall take her all the way to Virginia. We shall miss the frolicsome kitten much, but the dear child far more.

O, we’ll be so sad and lonely
In the dreary autumn weather,
For the birds and little Mary
Are going South together!
When upon the flowers of summer
Falls the cruel autumn blight,
And the pretty face of Mary
Has faded from our sight.

Sam the rooster




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The next pet which I remember to have had was a handsome cockerel, as gay and gallant a fellow as ever scratched up seed-corn, or garden-seeds, for the young pullets.

Sam was a foundling; that is, he was cast off by an unnatural mother, who, from the time he was hatched, refused to own him. In this sad condition my father found him, and brought him to me. I took and put him in a basket of wool, where I kept him most of the time, for a week or two, feeding him regularly and taking excellent care of him. He grew and thrived, and finally became a great house-pet and favorite. My father was[18] especially amused by him, but my mother, I am sorry to say, always considered him rather troublesome, or, as she remarked, “more plague than profit.” Now I think of it, it must have been rather trying to have had him pecking at a nice loaf of bread, when it was set down before the fire to raise, and I don’t suppose that the print of his feet made the prettiest sort of a stamp for cookies and pie-crust.

Sam was intelligent, very. I think I never saw a fowl turn up his eye with such a cunning expression after a piece of mischief. He showed such a real affection for me, that I grew excessively fond of him. But ah, I was more fond than wise! Under my doting care, he never learnt to roost like other chickens. I feared that something dreadful might happen to him if he went up into a high tree to sleep; so when he grew too large to lie in his basket of wool, I used to stow him away very snugly in a leg of an old pair of pantaloons, and lay him in a warm place under[19] a corner of the wood-house. In the morning I had always to take him out; and as I was not, I regret to say, a very early riser, the poor fellow never saw daylight till two or three hours after all the other cocks in the neighbourhood were up and crowing.

After Sam was full-grown, and had a “coat of many colors” and a tail of gay feathers, it was really very odd and laughable to see how every evening, just at sundown, he would leave all the other fowls with whom he had strutted and crowed and fought all day, and come meekly to me, to be put to bed in the old pantaloons.

But one morning, one sad, dark morning, I found him strangely still when I went to release him from his nightly confinement. He did not flutter, nor give a sort of smothered crow, as he usually did. The leg of which I took hold to pull him out, seemed very cold and stiff. Alas, he had but one leg! Alas, he had no head at all! My poor Sam had been murdered[20] and partly devoured by a cruel rat some time in the night!

I took the mangled body into the house, and sat down in a corner with it in my lap, and cried over it for a long time. It may seem very odd and ridiculous, but I really grieved for my dead pet; for I believed he had loved and respected me as much as it is in a cockerel’s heart to love and respect any one. I knew I had loved him, and I reproached myself bitterly for never having allowed him to learn to roost.

At last, my brothers came to me, and very kindly and gently persuaded me to let Sam be buried out of my sight. They dug a little grave under the elm-tree, by the side of Keturah, laid the body down, wrapped in a large cabbage-leaf, filled in the earth, and turfed over the place. My brother Rufus, who knew a little Latin, printed on a shingle the words, “Hic jacet Samuelus,”—which mean, Here lies Sam,—and placed it above where the[21] head of the unfortunate fowl should have been.

I missed this pet very much; indeed, every body missed him after he was gone, and even now I cannot laugh heartily when I think of the morning when I found him dead.

A short time after this mournful event, my brother Rufus, who was something of a poet, wrote some lines for me, which he called a “Lament.” This I then thought a very affecting, sweet, and consoling poem, but I have since been inclined to think that my brother was making sport of me and my feelings all the time. I found this same “Lament” the other day among some old papers, and as it is quite a curiosity, I will let you see it:—

“Full twenty suns have risen and set
And eke as many moons,
Since I found thee dead, without a head,
In the bloody pantaloons!
“As thy foe did rob thee of a leg
In his hunger and despite,
An L. E. G. I give to thee,
In song, dear Sam, to-night.
“Thy tail was full of feathers gay;
Thy comb was red and fine;
I hear no crow, where’er I go,
One half so loud as thine.
“O, I mourn thee still, as on the morn
When cold and stiff I found thee,
And laid thee dead, without a head,
The cabbage-leaf around thee!”

Toby the hawk




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About the queerest pet that I ever had was a young hawk. My brother Rufus, who was a great sportsman, brought him home to me one night in spring. He had shot the mother-hawk, and found this young half-fledged one in the nest. I received the poor orphan with joy, for he was too small for me to feel any horror of him, though his family had long borne rather a bad name. I resolved that I would bring him up in the way he should go, so that when he was old he should not destroy chickens. At first, I kept him in a bird-cage, but after a while he grew too large for his quarters, and had to have a house built for him expressly. I[24] let him learn to roost, but I tried to bring him up on vegetable diet. I found, however, that this would not do. He eat the bread and grain to be sure, but he did not thrive; he looked very lean, and smaller than hawks of his age should look. At last I was obliged to give up my fine idea of making an innocent dove, or a Grahamite, out of the poor fellow, and one morning treated him to a slice of raw mutton. I remember how he flapped his wings and cawed with delight, and what a hearty meal he made of it. He grew very fat and glossy after this important change in his diet, and I became as proud of him as of any pet I ever had. But my mother, after a while, found fault with the great quantity of meat which he devoured. She said that he eat more beef-steak than any other member of the family. Once, when I was thinking about this, and feeling a good deal troubled lest some day, when I was gone to school, they at home might take a fancy to cut off the head of my pet[25] to save his board-bill, a bright thought came into my mind. There was running through our farm, at a short distance from our house, a large mill-stream, along the banks of which lived and croaked a vast multitude of frogs. These animals are thought by hawks, as well as Frenchmen, very excellent eating. So, every morning, noon, and night, I took Toby on my shoulder, ran down to the mill-stream, and let him satisfy his appetite on all such frogs as were so silly as to stay out of the water and be caught. He was very quick and active,—would pounce upon a great, green croaker, and have him halved and quartered and hid away in a twinkling. I generally looked in another direction while he was at his meals,—it is not polite to keep your eye on people when they are eating, and then I couldn’t help pitying the poor frogs. But I knew that hawks must live, and say what they might, my Toby never prowled about hen-coops to devour young chickens. I taught him[26] better morals than that, and kept him so well fed that he was never tempted to such wickedness. I have since thought that, if we want people to do right, we must treat them as I treated my hawk; for when we think a man steals because his heart is full of sin, it may be only because his stomach is empty of food.

When Toby had finished his meal, he would wipe his beak with his wing, mount on my shoulder, and ride home again; sometimes, when it was a very warm day and he had dined more heartily than usual, he would fall asleep during the ride, still holding on to his place with his long, sharp claws. Sometimes I would come home with my pinafore torn and bloody on the shoulder, and then my mother would scold me a little and laugh at me a great deal. I would blush and hang my head and cry, but still cling to my strange pet; and when he got full-grown and had wide, strong wings, and a great, crooked beak that every body else was[27] afraid of, I was still his warm friend and his humble servant, still carried him to his meals three times a day, shut him into his house every night, and let him out every morning. Such a life as that bird led me!

Toby was perfectly tame, and never attempted to fly beyond the yard. I thought this was because he loved me too well to leave me; but my brothers, to whom he was rather cross, said it was because he was a stupid fowl. Of course they only wanted to tease me. I said that Toby was rough, but honest; that it was true he did not make a display of his talents like some folks, but that I had faith to believe that, some time before he died, he would prove himself to them all to be a bird of good feelings and great intelligence.

Finally the time came for Toby to be respected as he deserved. One autumn night I had him with me in the sitting-room, where I played with him and let[28] him perch on my arm till it was quite late. Some of the neighbours were in, and the whole circle told ghost-stories, and talked about dreams, and warnings, and awful murders, till I was half frightened out of my wits; so that, when I went to put my sleepy hawk into his little house, I really dared not go into the dark, but stopped in the entry, and left him to roost for one night on the hat-rack, saying nothing to any one. Now it happened that my brother William, who was then about fourteen years of age, was a somnambulist,—that is, a person who walks in sleep. He would often rise in the middle of the night, and ramble off for miles, always returning unwaked. Sometimes he would take the horse from the stable, saddle and bridle him, and have a wild gallop in the moonlight. Sometimes he would drive the cows home from pasture, or let the sheep out of the pen. Sometimes he would wrap himself in a sheet, glide about the house, and appear at our bedside like[29] a ghost. But in the morning he had no recollection of these things. Of course, we were very anxious about him, and tried to keep a constant watch over him, but he would sometimes manage to escape from all our care. Well, that night there was suddenly a violent outcry set up in the entry. It was Toby, who shrieked and flapped his wings till he woke my father, who dressed and went down stairs to see what was the matter. He found the door wide open, and the hawk sitting uneasily on his perch, looking frightened and indignant, with all his feathers raised. My father, at once suspecting what had happened, ran up to William’s chamber and found his bed empty; he then roused my elder brothers, and, having lit a lantern, they all started off in pursuit of the poor boy. They searched through the yard, garden, and orchard, but all in vain. Suddenly they heard the saw-mill, which stood near, going. They knew that the owner never worked there at night, and supposed that[30] it must be my brother, who had set the machinery in motion. So down they ran as fast as possible, and, sure enough, they found him there, all by himself. A large log had the night before been laid in its place ready for the morning, and on that log sat my brother, his large black eyes staring wide open, yet seeming to be fixed on nothing, and his face as pale as death. He seemed to have quite lost himself, for the end of the log on which he sat was fast approaching the saw. My father, with great presence of mind, stopped the machinery, while one of my brothers caught William and pulled him from his perilous place. Another moment, and he would have been killed or horribly mangled by the cruel saw. With a terrible scream, that was heard to a great distance, poor William awoke. He cried bitterly when he found where he was and how he came there. He was much distressed by it for some time; but it was a very good thing for all that, for he never walked in his sleep again.

[31]As you would suppose, Toby, received much honor for so promptly giving the warning on that night. Every body now acknowledged that he was a hawk of great talents, as well as talons. But alas! he did not live long to enjoy the respect of his fellow-citizens. One afternoon that very autumn, I was sitting at play with my doll, under the thick shade of a maple-tree, in front of the house. On the fence near by sat Toby, lazily pluming his wing, and enjoying the pleasant, golden sunshine,—now and then glancing round at me with a most knowing and patronizing look. Suddenly, there was the sharp crack of a gun fired near, and Toby fell fluttering to the ground. A stupid sportsman had taken him for a wild hawk, and shot him in the midst of his peaceful and innocent enjoyment. He was wounded in a number of places, and was dying fast when I reached him. Yet he seemed to know me, and looked up into my face so piteously, that I sat down by him, as I[32] had sat down by poor Keturah, and cried aloud. Soon the sportsman, who was a stranger, came leaping over the fence to bag his game. When he found what he had done, he said he was very sorry, and stooped down to examine the wounds made by his shot. Then Toby roused himself, and caught one of his fingers in his beak, biting it almost to the bone. The man cried out with the pain, and tried to shake him off, but Toby still held on fiercely and stoutly, and held on till he was dead. Then his ruffled wing grew smooth, his head fell back, his beak parted and let go the bleeding finger of his enemy.

I did not want the man hurt, for he had shot my pet under a mistake, but I was not sorry to see Toby die like a hero. We laid him with the pets who had gone before. Some were lovelier in their lives, but none more lamented when dead. I will venture to say that he was the first of his race who ever departed with a clean[33] conscience as regarded poultry. No careful mother-hen cackled with delight on the day he died,—no pert young rooster flapped his wings and crowed over his grave. But I must say, I don’t think that the frogs mourned for him. I thought that they were holding a jubilee that night; the old ones croaked so loud, and the young ones sung so merrily, that I wished the noisy green creatures all quietly going brown, on some Frenchman’s gridiron.



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When I was ten or eleven years of age, I had two pets, of which I was equally fond, a gentle bay pony and a small pointer dog. I have always had a great affection for horses, and never knew what it was to be afraid of them, for they are to me exceedingly obliging and obedient. Some people think that I control them with a sort of animal magnetism. I only know that I treat them with kindness, which is, I believe, after all, the only magnetism necessary for one to use in this world. When I ride, I give my horse to understand that I expect him to behave very handsomely, like the gentleman I[35] take him to be, and he never disappoints me.

Milly the pony and Carlo the dog

MILLY the pony & CARLO the dog.

Our Milly was a great favorite with all the family, but with the children especially. She was not very handsome or remarkably fleet, but was easily managed, and even in her gait. I loved her dearly, and we were on the best terms with each other. I was in the habit of going into the pasture where she fed, mounting her from the fence or a stump, and riding about the field, often without saddle or bridle. You will see by this that I was a sad romp. Milly seemed to enjoy the sport fully as much as I, and would arch her neck, and toss her mane, and gallop up and down the little hills in the pasture, now and then glancing round at me playfully, as much as to say, “Aint we having times!”

Finally, I began to practise riding standing upright, as I had seen the circus performers do, for I thought it was time I should do something to distinguish myself.[36] After a few tumbles on to the soft clover, which did me no sort of harm, I became quite accomplished that way. I was at that age as quick and active as a cat, and could save myself from a fall after I had lost my balance, and seemed half way to the ground. I remember that my brother William was very ambitious to rival me in my exploits; but as he was unfortunately rather fat and heavy, he did a greater business in turning somersets from the back of the pony than in any other way. But these were quite as amusing as any other part of the performances. We sometimes had quite a good audience of the neighbours’ children, and our schoolmates, but we never invited our parents to attend the exhibition. We thought that on some accounts it was best they should know nothing about it.

In addition to the “ring performances,” I gave riding lessons to my youngest brother, Albert, who was then quite a little boy. He used to mount Milly behind[37] me, and behind him always sat one of our chief pets, and our constant playmate, Carlo, a small black and white pointer. One afternoon, I remember, we were all riding down the long, shady lane which led from the pasture to the house, when a mischievous boy sprang suddenly out from a corner of the fence, and shouted at Milly. I never knew her frightened before, but this time she gave a loud snort, and reared up almost straight in the air. As there was neither saddle nor bridle for us to hold on by, we all three slid off backward into the dust, or rather the mud, for it had been raining that afternoon. Poor Carlo was most hurt, as my brother and I fell on him. He set up a terrible yelping, and my little brother cried somewhat from fright. Milly turned and looked at us a moment to see how much harm was done, and then started off at full speed after the boy, chasing him down the lane. He ran like a fox when he heard Milly galloping fast behind him, and when he looked[38] round and saw her close upon him, with her ears laid back, her mouth open, and her long mane flying in the wind, he screamed with terror, and dropped as though he were dead. She did not stop, but leaped clear over him as he lay on the ground. Then she turned, went up to him, quietly lifted the old straw hat from his head, and came trotting back to us, swinging it in her teeth. We thought that was a very cunning trick of Milly’s.

Now it happened that I had on that day a nice new dress, which I had sadly soiled by my fall from the pony; so that when I reached home, my mother was greatly displeased. I suppose I made a very odd appearance. I was swinging my bonnet in my hand, for I had a natural dislike to any sort of covering for the head. My thick, dark hair had become unbraided and was blowing over my eyes. I was never very fair in complexion, and my face, neck, and arms had become completely browned by that summer’s exposure.[39] My mother took me by the shoulder, set me down in a chair, not very gently, and looked at me with a real frown on her sweet face. She told me in plain terms that I was an idle, careless child! I put my finger in one corner of my mouth, and swung my foot back and forth. She said I was a great romp! I pouted my lip, and drew down my black eyebrows. She said I was more like a wild, young squaw, than a white girl! Now this was too much; it was what I called “twitting upon facts”; and ’twas not the first time that the delicate question of my complexion had been touched upon without due regard far my feelings. I was not to blame for being dark,—I did not make myself,—I had seen fairer women than my mother. I felt that what she said was neither more nor less than an insult, and when she went out to see about supper, and left me alone, I brooded over her words, growing more and more out of humor, till my naughty heart became so hot[40] and big with anger, that it almost choked me. At last, I bit my lip and looked very stern, for I had made up my mind to something great. Before I let you know what this was, I must tell you that the Onondaga tribe of Indians had their village not many miles from us. Every few months, parties of them came about with baskets and mats to sell. A company of five or six had been to our house that very morning, and I knew that they had their encampment in our woods, about half a mile distant. These I knew very well, and had quite a liking for them, never thinking of being afraid of them, as they always seemed kind and peaceable.

To them I resolved to go in my trouble. They would teach me to weave baskets, to fish, and to shoot with the bow and arrow. They would not make me study, nor wear bonnets, and they would never find fault with my dark complexion.

I remember to this day how softly and slyly I slid out of the house that evening.[41] I never stopped once, nor looked round, but ran swiftly till I reached the woods. I did not know which way to go to find the encampment, but wandered about in the gathering darkness, till I saw a light glimmering through the trees at some distance. I made my way through the bushes and brambles, and after a while came upon my copper-colored friends. In a very pretty place, down in a hollow, they had built them some wigwams with maple saplings, covered with hemlock-boughs. There were in the group two Indians, two squaws, and a boy about fourteen years old. But I must not forget the baby, or rather pappoose, who was lying in a sort of cradle, made of a large, hollow piece of bark, which was hung from the branch of a tree, by pieces of the wild grape-vine. The young squaw, its mother, was swinging it back and forth, now far into the dark shadows of the pine and hemlock, now out into the warm fire-light, and chanting to the child some Indian lullaby.[42] The men sat on a log, smoking gravely and silently; while the boy lay on the ground, playing lazily with a great yellow hound, which looked mean and starved, like all Indian dogs. The old squaw was cooking the supper in a large iron pot, over a fire built among a pile of stones.

For some time, I did not dare to go forward, but at last I went up to the old squaw, and looking up into her good-humored face, said, “I am come to live with you, and learn to make baskets, for I don’t like my home.” She did not say any thing to me, but made some exclamation in her own language, and the others came crowding round. The boy laughed, shook me by the hand, and said I was a brave girl; but the old Indian grinned horribly and laid his hand on my forehead, saying, “What a pretty head to scalp!” I screamed and hid my face in the young squaw’s blue cloth skirt. She spoke soothingly, and told me not to be afraid, for nobody would hurt me. She then took[43] me to her wigwam, where I sat down and tried to make myself at home. But somehow I did’nt feel quite comfortable. After a while, the old squaw took off the pot, and called us to supper. This was succotash, that is, a dish of corn and beans, cooked with salt pork. We all sat down on the ground near the fire, and eat out of great wooden bowls, with wooden spoons, which I must say tasted rather too strong of the pine. But I did not say so then,—by no means,—but eat a great deal more than I wanted, and pretended to relish it, for fear they would think me ill bred. I would not have had them know but what I thought their supper served in the very best style, and by perfectly polite and genteel people. I was a little shocked, however, by one incident during the meal. While the young squaw was helping her husband for the third or fourth time, she accidentally dropped a little of the hot succotash on his hand. He growled out like a dog, and struck her across the[44] face with his spoon. I thought that she showed a most Christian spirit, for she hung her head and did not say any thing. I had heard of white wives behaving worse.

When supper was over, the boy came and laid down at my feet, and talked with me about living in the woods. He said he pitied the poor white people for being shut up in houses all their days. For his part, he should die of such a dull life, he knew he should. He promised to teach me how to shoot with the bow and arrows, to snare partridges and rabbits, and many other things. He said he was afraid I was almost spoiled by living in the house and going to school, but he hoped that, if they took me away and gave me a new name, and dressed me properly, they might make something of me yet. Then I asked him what he was called, hoping that he had some grand Indian name, like Uncas, or Miantonimo, or Tushmalahah; but he said it was Peter. He was a pleasant[45] fellow, and while he was talking with me I did not care about my home, but felt very brave and squaw-like, and began to think about the fine belt of wampum, and the head-dress of gay feathers, and the red leggins, and the yellow moccasons I was going to buy for myself, with the baskets I was going to learn to weave. But when he left me, and I went back to the wigwam and sat down on the hemlock-boughs by myself, somehow I couldn’t keep home out of my mind. I thought first of my mother, how she would miss the little brown face at the supper-table, and on the pillow, by the fair face of my blue-eyed sister. I thought of my young brother, Albert, crying himself to sleep, because I was lost. I thought of my father and brothers searching through the orchard and barn, and going with lights to look in the mill-stream. Again, I thought of my mother, how, when she feared I was drowned, she would cry bitterly, and be very sorry for what she had[46] said about my dark complexion. Then I thought of myself, how I must sleep on the hard ground, with nothing but hemlock-boughs for covering, and nobody to tuck me up. What if it should storm before morning, and the high tree above me should be struck by lightning! What if the old Indian should not be a tame savage after all, but should take a fancy to set up the war-whoop, and come and scalp me in the middle of the night!

The bell in the village church rang for nine. This was the hour for evening devotions at home. I looked round to see if my new friends were preparing for worship. But the old Indian was already fast asleep, and as for the younger one, I feared that a man who indulged himself in beating his wife with a wooden spoon would hardly be likely to lead in family prayers. Upon the whole, I concluded I was among rather a heathenish set. Then I thought again of home, and doubted whether they would have any family worship that night,[47] with one lamb of the flock gone astray. I thought of all their grief and fears, till I felt that my heart would burst with sorrow and repentance, for I dared not cry aloud.

Suddenly, I heard a familiar sound at a little distance,—it was Carlo’s bark! Nearer and nearer it came; then I heard steps coming fast through the crackling brushwood, then little Carlo sprang out of the dark into the fire-light, and leaped upon me, licking my hands with joy. He was followed by one of my elder brothers, and by my mother! To her I ran. I dared not look in her eyes, but hid my face in her bosom, sobbing out, “O mother, forgive me! forgive me!” She pressed me to her heart, and bent down and kissed me very tenderly, and when she did so, I felt the tears on her dear cheek.

I need hardly say that I never again undertook to make an Onondaga squaw of myself, though my mother always held that I was dark enough to be one, and I[48] suppose the world would still bear her out in her opinion.

I am sorry to tell the fate of the faithful dog who tracked me out on that night, though his story is not quite so sad as that of some of my pets. A short time after this event, my brother Charles was going to the city of S——, some twenty miles away, and wished to take Carlo for company. I let him go very reluctantly, charging my brother to take good and constant care of him. The last time I ever saw Carlo’s honest, good-natured face, it was looking out at me through the window of the carriage. The last time, for he never came back to us, but was lost in the crowded streets of S——.

He was a simple, country-bred pointer, and, like many another poor dog, was bewildered by the new scenes and pleasures of the city, forgot his guide, missed his way, wandered off, and was never found.



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The pet which took little Carlo’s place in our home and hearts was a pretty, chestnut-colored water-spaniel, named Cora. She was a good, affectionate creature, and deserved all our love. The summer that we had her for our playmate, my brother Albert, my sister Carrie, and I, spent a good deal of time down about the pond, in watching her swimming, and all her merry gambols in the water. There grew, out beyond the reeds and flags of that pond, a few beautiful, white water-lilies, which we taught her to bite off and bring to us on shore.

Cora seemed to love us very much, but there was one whom she loved even more.[50] This was little Charlie Allen, a pretty boy of about four or five years old, the only son of a widow, who was a tenant of my father, and lived in a small house on our place. There grew up a great and tender friendship between this child and our Cora, who was always with him while we were at school. The two would play and run about for hours, and when they were tired, lie down and sleep together in the shade. It was a pretty sight, I assure you, for both were beautiful.

It happened that my father, one morning, took Cora with him to the village, and was gone nearly all day; so little Charlie was without his playmate and protector. But after school, my sister, brother, and I called Cora, and ran down to the pond. We were to have a little company that night, and wanted some of those fragrant, white lilies for our flower-vase. Cora barked and leaped upon us, and ran round and round us all the way. Soon as she reached the pond, she sprang in[51] and swam out to where the lilies grew, and where she was hid from our sight by the flags and other water-plants. Presently, we heard her barking and whining, as though in great distress. We called to her again and again, but she did not come out for some minutes. At last, she came through the flags, swimming slowly along, dragging something by her teeth. As she swam near, we saw that it was a child,—little Charlie Allen! We then waded out as far as we dared, met Cora, took her burden from her, and drew it to the shore. As soon as we took little Charlie in our arms, we knew that he was dead. He was cold as ice, his eyes were fixed in his head, and had no light in them. His hand was stiff and blue, and still held tightly three water-lilies, which he had plucked. We suppose the poor child slipped from a log, on which he had gone out for the flowers, and which was half under water.

Of course we children were dreadfully[52] frightened. My brother was half beside himself, and ran screaming up home, while my sister almost flew for Mrs. Allen.

O, I never shall forget the grief of that poor woman, when she came to the spot where her little dead boy lay!—how she threw herself on the ground beside him, and folded him close in her arms, and tried to warm him with her tears and her kisses, and tried to breathe her own breath into his still, cold lips, and tried to make him hear by calling, “Charlie, Charlie, speak to mamma! speak to your poor mamma!”

But Charlie did not see her, nor feel her, nor hear her any more; and when she found that he was indeed gone from her for ever, she gave the most fearful shriek I ever heard, and fell back as though she were dead.

By this time, my parents and a number of the neighbours had reached the spot, and they carried Mrs. Allen and her drowned boy home together, through the twilight. Poor Cora followed close to[53] the body of Charlie, whining piteously all the way. That night, we could not get her out of the room where it was placed, but she watched there until morning.

Ah, how sweetly little Charlie looked when he was laid out the next day! His beautiful face had lost the dark look that it wore when he was first taken from the water; his pretty brown hair lay in close ringlets all around his white forehead. One hand was stretched at his side, the other was laid across his breast, still holding the water-lilies. He was not dressed in a shroud, but in white trousers, and a pretty little spencer of pink gingham. He did not look dead, but sleeping, and he seemed to smile softly, as though he had a pleasant dream in his heart.

Widow Allen had one other child, a year younger than Charlie, whose name was Mary, but who always called herself “Little May.” O, it would have made you cry to have seen her when she was brought to look on her dead brother. She laughed[54] at first, and put her small fingers on his shut eyes, trying to open them, and said, “Wake up Charlie! wake up, and come play out doors, with little May!” But when she found that those eyes would not unclose, and when she felt how cold that face was, she was grieved and frightened, and ran to hide her face in her mother’s lap, where she cried and trembled; for though she could not know what death was, she felt that something awful had happened in the house.

But Cora’s sorrow was also sad to see. When the body of Charlie was carried to the grave, she followed close to the coffin, and when it was let down into the grave, she leaped in and laid down upon it, and growled and struggled when the men took her out. Every day after that, she would go to that grave, never missing the spot, though there were many other little mounds in the old church-yard. She would lie beside it for hours, patiently waiting, it seemed, for her young friend to[55] awake and come out into the sunshine, and run about and play with her as he was used to do. Sometimes she would dig a little way into the mound, and bark, or whine, and then listen for the voice of Charlie to answer. But that voice never came, though the faithful Cora listened and waited and pined for it, through many days. She ate scarcely any thing; she would not play with us now, nor could we persuade her to go into the pond. Alas! that fair, sweet child, pale and dripping from the water, was the last lily she ever brought ashore. She grew so thin, and weak, and sick, at last, that she could hardly drag herself to the grave. But still she went there every day. One evening, she did not come home, and my brother and I went down for her. When we reached the church-yard, we passed along very carefully, for fear of treading on some grave, and spoke soft and low, as children should always do in such places. Sometimes we stopped to read[56] the long inscriptions on handsome tombstones, and to wonder why so many great and good people were taken away. Sometimes we pitied the poor dead people who had no tombstones at all, because their friends could not afford to raise them, or because they had been too wicked themselves to have their praises printed in great letters, cut in white marble, and put up in the solemn burying-ground, where nobody would ever dare to write or say any thing but the truth. When we came in sight of Charlie’s grave, we talked about him. We wondered if he thought of his mother, and cried out any when he was drowning. We thought that he must have grown very weary with struggling in the water, and we wondered if he was resting now, sleeping down there with his lilies. We said that perhaps his soul was awake all the time, and that, when he was drowned, it did not fly right away to heaven, with the angels, to sing hymns, while his poor mother was weeping, but[57] stayed about the place, and somehow comforted her, and made her think of God and heaven, even when she lay awake in the night, to mourn for her lost boy.

So talking, we came up to the grave. Cora was lying on the mound, where the grass had now grown green and long. She seemed to be asleep, and not to hear our steps or our voices. My brother spoke to her pleasantly, and patted her on the head. But she did not move. I bent down and looked into her face. She was quite dead!



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I have hesitated a great deal about writing the history of this pet, for his little life was only a chapter of accidents, and you may think it very silly. Still, I hope you may have a little interest in it after all, and that your kind hearts may feel for poor Jack, for he was good and was unfortunate.

It happened that once, during a walk in the fields, I found a duck’s egg right in my path. We had then no ducks in our farm-yard, and I thought it would be a fine idea to have one for a pet. So I wrapped the egg in wool, and put it into a basket, which I hung in a warm corner by the kitchen-fire. My brothers laughed[59] at me, saying that the egg would never be any thing more than an egg, if left there; but I had faith to believe that I should some time see a fine duckling peeping out of the shell, very much to the astonishment of all unbelieving boys. I used to go to the basket, lift up the wool and look at that little blue-hued treasure three or four times a day, or take it out and hold it against my bosom, and breathe upon it in anxious expectation; until I began to think that a watched egg never would hatch. But my tiresome suspense finally came to a happy end. At about the time when, if he had had a mother, she would have been looking for him, Jack, the drake, presented his bill to the world that owed him a living. He came out as plump and hearty a little fowl as could reasonably have been expected. But what to do with him was the question. After a while, I concluded to take him to a hen who had just hatched a brood of chickens, thinking that, as he was a friendless[60] orphan, she might adopt him for charity’s sake. But Biddy was already like the celebrated

“Old woman that lived in a shoe,
Who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.”

With thirteen little ones of her own, and living in a small and rather an inconvenient coop, it was no wonder that she felt unwilling to have any addition to her family. But she might have declined civilly. I am afraid she was a sad vixen, for no sooner did she see the poor duckling among her chickens, than she strode up to him, and with one peck tore the skin from his head,—scalped him,—the old savage! I rescued Jack from her as soon as possible, and dressed his wound with lint as well as I could, for I felt something like a parent to the fowl myself. He recovered after a while, but, unfortunately, no feathers grew again on his head,—he was always quite bald,—which gave him an appearance of great age. I once tried to remedy this evil by[61] sticking some feathers on to his head with tar; but, like all other wigs, it deceived no one, only making him look older and queerer than ever. What made the matter worse was, that I had selected some long and very bright feathers, which stood up so bold on his head that the other fowls resented it, and pecked at the poor wig till they pecked it all off.

While Jack was yet young, he one day fell into the cistern, which had been left open. Of course he could not get out, and he soon tired of swimming, I suppose, and sunk. At least, when he was drawn up, he looked as though he had been in the water a long time, and seemed quite dead. Yet, hoping to revive him, I placed him in his old basket of wool, which I set down on the hearth. He did indeed come to life, but the first thing the silly creature did on leaving his nest was to run into the midst of the fire, and before I could get him out, he was very badly burned. He recovered from this also, but with bare[62] spots all over his body. In his tail there never afterwards grew more than three short feathers. But his trials were not over yet. After he was full-grown, he was once found fast by one leg in a great iron rat-trap. When he was released, his leg was found to be broken. But my brother William, who was then inclined to be a doctor, which he has since become, and who had watched my father during surgical operations, splintered and bound up the broken limb, and kept the patient under a barrel for a week, so that he should not attempt to use it. At the end of that time, Jack could get about a little, but with a very bad limp, which he never got over. But as the duck family never had the name of walking very handsomely, that was no great matter.

After all these accidents and mishaps, I hardly need tell you that Jack had little beauty to boast of, or plume himself upon. He was in truth sadly disfigured,—about the ugliest fowl possible to meet in a long[63] day’s journey. Indeed, he used to be shown up to people as a curiosity on account of his ugliness.

I remember a little city girl coming to see me that summer. She talked a great deal about her fine wax-dolls with rolling eyes and jointed legs, her white, curly French lap-dog, and, best and prettiest of every thing, her beautiful yellow canary-bird, which sung and sung all the day long. I grew almost dizzy with hearing of such grand and wonderful things, and sat with my mouth wide open to swallow her great stories. At last, she turned to me and asked, with a curl of her pretty red lips, “Have you no pet-birds, little girl?” Now, she always called me “little girl,” though I was a year older and a head taller than she. I replied, “Yes, I have one,” and led the way to the back-yard, where I introduced her to Jack. I thought I should have died of laughter when she came to see him. Such faces as she made up!

I am sorry to say, that the other fowls[64] in the yard, from the oldest hen down to the rooster without spurs, and even to the green goslings, seemed to see and feel Jack’s want of personal pretensions and attractions, and always treated him with marked contempt, not to say cruelty. The little chickens followed him about, peeping and cackling with derision, very much as the naughty children of the old Bible times mocked at the good, bald-headed prophet. But poor Jack didn’t have it in his power to punish the ill-mannered creatures as Elisha did those saucy children, when he called the hungry she-bears to put a stop to their wicked fun. In fact, I don’t think he would have done so if he could, for all this hard treatment never made him angry or disobliging. He had an excellent temper, and was always meek and quiet, though there was a melancholy hang to his bald head, and his three lonesome tail-feathers drooped sadly toward the ground. When he was ever so lean and hungry, he would gallantly give up his dinner to the plump, glossy-breasted[65] pullets, though they would put on lofty airs, step lightly, eye him scornfully, and seem to be making fun of his queer looks all the time. He took every thing so kindly! He was like a few, a very few people we meet, who, the uglier they grow, the more goodness they have at heart, and the worse the world treats them, the better they are to it.

But Jack had one true friend. I liked him, and more than once defended him from cross old hens, and tyrannical cocks. But perhaps my love was too much mixed up with pity for him to have felt highly complimented by it. Yet he seemed to cherish a great affection for me, and to look up to me as his guardian and protector.

As you have seen, Jack was always getting into scrapes, and at last he got into one which even I could not get him out of. He one day rashly swam out into the mill-pond, which was then very high, from a freshet, and which carried him over the dam, where, as he was a very delicate fowl,[66] he was drowned, or his neck was broken, by the great rush and tumble of the water. I have sometimes thought that it might be that he was tired of life, and grieved by the way the world had used him, and so put an end to himself. But I hope it was not so; for, with all his oddities and misfortunes, Jack seemed too sensible for that.


Alas, poor lame, bald-headed Jack!
None mourned when he was dead,
And for the sake of her drowned drake
No young duck hung her head!
The old cocks said they saw him go,
Yet did not call him back,
For a death from hydropathy
Was a fit death for a quack.
The cockerels said, “Well, that poor fowl
Is gone,—who cares a penny?”
And guessed he found that last deep dive
Was one duck-in too many.
The heartless pullets saw him,
Yet raised no warning cries,
As he swam o’er the dam,
And was drowned before their eyes!

Hector the greyhound

Hector the Grey-Hound



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Hector was the favorite hound of my brother Rufus, who was extremely fond of him, for he was one of the most beautiful creatures ever seen, had an amiable disposition, and was very intelligent. You would scarcely believe me, should I tell you all his accomplishments and cunning tricks. If one gave him a piece of money, he would take it in his mouth and run at once to the baker, or butcher, for his dinner. He was evidently fond of music, and even seemed to have an ear for it, and he would dance away merrily whenever he saw dancing. He was large and strong, and in the winter, I remember, we used to harness him to a little sleigh, on[68] which he drew my youngest brother to school. As Hector was as fleet as the wind, this sort of riding was rare sport. At night we had but to start him off, and he would go directly to the school-house for his little master. Ah, Hector was a wonderful dog!

A few miles from our house, there was a pond, or small lake, very deep and dark, and surrounded by a swampy wood. Here my brothers used to go duck-shooting, though it was rather dangerous sport, as most of the shore of the pond was a soft bog, but thinly grown over with grass and weeds. It was said that cattle had been known to sink in it, and disappear in a short time.

One night during the hunting season, one of my elder brothers brought a friend home with him, a fine, handsome young fellow, named Charles Ashley. It was arranged that they should shoot ducks about the pond the next day. So in the morning they all set out in high spirits. In[69] the forenoon they had not much luck, as they kept too much together; but in the afternoon they separated, my brothers giving their friend warning to beware of getting into the bogs. But Ashley was a wild, imprudent young man, and once, having shot a fine large duck, which fell into the pond near the shore, and Hector, who was with him, refusing to go into the water for it, he ran down himself. Before he reached the edge of the water, he was over his ankles in mire; then, turning to go back, he sunk to his knees, and in another moment he was waist-high in the bog, and quite unable to help himself. He laid his gun down, and, fortunately, could rest one end of it on a little knoll of firmer earth; but he still sunk slowly, till he was in up to his arm-pits. Of course, he called and shouted for help as loud as possible, but my brothers were at such a distance that they did not hear him so as to know his voice. But Hector, after looking at him in his sad fix a moment, started off on[70] a swift run, which soon brought him to his master. My brother said that the dog then began to whine, and run back and forth in a most extraordinary manner, until he set out to follow him to the scene of the accident. Hector dashed on through the thick bushes, as though he were half distracted, every few moments turning back with wild cries to hurry on his master. When my brother came up to where his friend was fixed in the mire, he could see nothing of him at first. Then he heard a faint voice calling him, and, looking down near the water, he saw a pale face looking up at him from the midst of the black bog. He has often said that it was the strangest sight that he ever saw. Poor Ashley’s arms, and the fowling-piece he held, were now beginning to disappear, and in a very short time he would have sunk out of sight for ever! Only to think of such an awful death! My brother, who had always great presence of mind, lost no time in bending down a young tree[71] from the bank where he stood, so that Ashley could grasp it, and in that way be drawn up, for, as you see, it would not have been safe for him to go down to where his friend sunk. When Ashley had taken a firm hold of the sapling, my brother let go of it, and it sprung back, pulling up the young man without much exertion on his part. Ashley was, however, greatly exhausted with fright and struggling, and lay for some moments on the bank, feeling quite unable to walk. As soon as he was strong enough, he set out for home with my brother, stopping very often to rest and shake off the thick mud, which actually weighed heavily upon him. I never shall forget how he looked when he came into the yard about sunset. O, what a rueful and ridiculous figure he cut! We could none of us keep from laughing, though we were frightened at first, and sorry for our guest’s misfortune. But after he was dressed in a dry suit of my brother’s, he looked funnier than ever,[72] for he was a tall, rather large person, and the dress was too small for him every way. Yet he laughed as heartily as any of us, for he was very good-natured and merry. It seems to me I can see him now, as he walked about with pantaloons half way up to his knees, coat-sleeves coming a little below the elbows, and vest that wouldn’t meet at all, and told us queer Yankee stories, and sung songs, and jested and laughed all the evening. But once, I remember, I saw him go out on to the door-step, where Hector was lying, kneel down beside the faithful dog, and actually hug him to his breast.

When not hunting with his master Hector went with Albert and me in all our rambles, berrying and nutting. We could hardly be seen without him, and we loved him almost as we loved one another.

One afternoon in early spring, we had been into the woods for wild-flowers. I remember that I had my apron filled with the sweet claytonias, and the gay trilliums,[73] and the pretty white flowers of the sanguinaria, or “blood-root,” and hosts and handfuls of the wild violets, yellow and blue. My brother had taken off his cap and filled it with beautiful green mosses, all lit up with the bright red squaw-berry. We had just entered the long, shady lane which ran down to the house, and were talking and laughing very merrily, when we saw a crowd of men and boys running toward us and shouting as they ran. Before them was a large, brown bull-dog, that, as he came near, we saw was foaming at the mouth. Then we heard what the men were crying. It was, “Mad dog!

My brother and I stopped and clung to each other in great trouble. Hector stood before us and growled. The dog was already so near that we saw we could not escape; he came right at us, with his dreadful frothy mouth wide open. He was just upon us, when Hector caught him by the throat, and the two rolled on the ground,[74] biting and struggling. But presently one of the men came up and struck the mad dog on the head with a large club,—so stunned him and finally killed him. But Hector, poor Hector, was badly bitten in the neck and breast, and all the men said that he must die too, or he would go mad. One of the neighbours went home with us, and told my father and elder brothers all about it. They were greatly troubled, but promised that, for the safety of the neighbourhood, Hector should be shot in the morning. I remember how, while they were talking, Hector lay on the door-step licking his wounds, every now and then looking round, as if he thought that there was some trouble which he ought to understand.

I shall never, never forget how I grieved that night! I heard the clock strike ten, eleven, and twelve, as I lay awake weeping for my dear playfellow and noble preserver, who was to die in the morning. Hector was sleeping in the next room, and[75] once I got up and stole out to see him as he lay on the hearth-rug in the clear moonlight, resting unquietly, for his wounds pained him. I went and stood so near that my tears fell on his beautiful head; but I was careful not to wake him, for I somehow felt guilty toward him.

That night the weather changed, and the next morning came up chilly and windy, with no sunshine at all,—as though it would not have been a gloomy day enough, any how. After breakfast—ah! I remember well how little breakfast was eaten by any of us that morning—Hector was led out into the yard, and fastened to a stake. He had never before in all his life been tied, and he now looked troubled and ashamed. But my mother spoke pleasantly to him and patted him, and he held up his head and looked proud again. My mother was greatly grieved that the poor fellow should have to die for defending her children, and when she turned from him and went into the house,[76] I saw she was in tears; so I cried louder than ever. One after another, we all went up and took leave of our dear and faithful friend. My youngest brother clung about him longest, crying and sobbing as though his heart would break. It seemed that we should never get the child away. My brother Rufus said that no one should shoot his dog but himself, and while we children were bidding farewell, he stood at a little distance loading his rifle. But finally he also came up to take leave. He laid his hand tenderly on Hector’s head, but did not speak to him or look into his eyes,—those sad eyes, which seemed to be asking what all this crying meant. He then stepped quickly back to his place, and raised the rifle to his shoulder. Then poor Hector appeared to understand it all, and to know that he must die, for he gave a loud, mournful cry, trembled all over, and crouched toward the ground. My brother dropped the gun, and leaned upon it, pale and distressed. Then came the[77] strangest thing of all. Hector seemed to have strength given him to submit to his hard fate; he stood up bravely again, but turned away his head and closed his eyes. My brother raised the rifle. I covered my face with my hands. Then came a loud, sharp report. I looked round and saw Hector stretched at full length, with a great stream of blood spouting from his white breast, and reddening all the grass about him. He was not quite dead, and as we gathered around him, he looked up into our faces and moaned. The ball which pierced him had cut the cord in two that bound him to the stake, and he was free at the last. My brother, who had thrown down his rifle, drew near also, but dared not come close, because, he said, he feared the poor dog would look reproachfully at him. But Hector caught sight of his beloved master, and, rousing all his strength, dragged himself to his feet. Rufus bent over him and called him by name. Hector looked up lovingly and forgivingly[78] into his face, licked his hand, and died. Then my brother, who had kept a firm, manly face all the while, burst into tears.

My brother William, who was always master of ceremonies on such occasions, made a neat coffin for Hector, and laid him in it, very gently and solemnly. I flung in all the wild-flowers which Albert and I had gathered on the afternoon of our last walk with our noble friend, and so we buried him. His grave was very near the spot where he had so bravely defended us from the mad dog, by the side of the way, in the long, pleasant lane where the elm-trees grew.



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One cold night in March, my father came in from the barn-yard, bringing a little lamb, which lay stiff and still in his arms, and appeared to be quite dead. But my mother, who was good and kind to all creatures, wrapped it in flannel, and, forcing open its teeth, poured some warm milk down its throat. Still it did not open its eyes or move, and when we went to bed it was yet lying motionless before the fire. It happened that my mother slept in a room opening out of the sitting-room, and in the middle of the night she heard a little complaining voice, saying, “Ma!” She thought it must be some one of us, and so answered, “What, my child?”[80] Again it came, “Ma!” and, turning round, she saw by the light of the moon the little lamb she had left for dead standing by her bedside. In the morning it was found that the own mother of “Bob,” (for we gave him that name,) had died of cold in the night; so we adopted the poor orphan into our family. We children took care of him, and though it was a great trouble to bring him up by hand, we soon became attached to our charge, and grew very proud of his handsome growth and thriving condition. He was, in truth, a most amusing pet, he had such free manners with every body and was so entirely at home everywhere. He would go into every room in the house,—even mount the stairs and appear in our chambers in the morning, sometimes before we were up, to shame us with his early rising. But the place which of all others he decidedly preferred was the pantry. Here he was, I am sorry to say, once or twice guilty of breaking the commandment against stealing, by[81] helping himself to fruit and to slices of bread which did not rightfully belong to him. He was tolerably amiable, though I think that lambs generally have a greater name for sweetness of temper than they deserve. But Bob, though playful and somewhat mischievous, had never any serious disagreement with the dogs, cats, pigs, and poultry on the premises. My sister and I used to make wreaths for his neck, which he wore with such an evident attempt at display, that I sometimes feared he was more vain and proud than it was right for such an innocent and poetical animal to be.

But our trials did not really commence until Bob’s horns began to sprout. It seemed that he had no sooner perceived those little protuberances in his looking glass, the drinking-trough, than he took to butting, like any common pasture-reared sheep, who had been wholly without the advantages of education and good society. It was in vain that we tried[82] to impress upon him that such was not correct conduct in a cosset of his breeding; he would still persevere in his little interesting trick of butting all such visitors as did not happen to strike his fancy. But he never treated us to his horns in that way, and so we let him go, like any other spoiled child, without punishing him severely, and rather laughed at his sauciness.

But one day our minister, a stout, elderly gentleman, solemn-faced and formal, had been making us a parochial visit, and as he was going away, we all went out into the yard to see him ride off, on his old sorrel pacer. It seems he had no riding-whip; so he reached up to break off a twig from an elm-tree which hung over the gate. This was very high, and he was obliged to stand on tiptoe. Just then, before he had grasped the twig he wanted, Bob started out from under a large rose-bush near by, and run against the reverend gentleman, butting him so violently[83] as to take him quite off his feet. My father helped the good man up, and made a great many apologies for the impiety of our pet, while we children did our best to keep our faces straight. After our venerable visitor was gone, my father sternly declared that he would not bear with Bob any longer, but that he should be turned into the pasture with the other sheep, for he would not have him about, insulting respectable people and butting ministers of the Gospel at that rate.

So the next morning Bob was banished in disgrace from the house and yard, and obliged to mingle with the vulgar herd of his kind. With them I regret to say that he soon earned the name of being very bold and quarrelsome. As his horns grew and lengthened, he grew more and more proud of the consequence they gave him, and went forth butting and to butt. O, he was a terrible fellow!

One summer day, my brother Charles and a young man who lived with us were[84] in the mill-pond, washing the sheep which were soon to be sheared. I was standing on the bank, watching the work, when one of our neighbours, a hard, coarse man, came up, and calling to my brother, in a loud voice, asked if he had been hunting a raccoon the night before. “Yes, Sir, and I killed him too,” answered my brother. “Well, young man,” said the farmer, “did you pass through my field, and trample down the grain?” “I crossed the field, Sir, but I hope I did no great damage,” replied Charles, in a pleasant way. “Yes, you did!” shouted the man, “and now, you young rascal, if I ever catch you on my land again, day or night, I’ll thrash you!—I’ll teach you something, if your father won’t!” As he said this, stretching his great fist out threateningly toward my brother, he stood on the very edge of the steep bank. Just behind him were the sheep, headed by the redoubtable Bob, who suddenly darted forward, and, before the farmer could suspect what was coming,[85] butted him head over heels into the pond! My brother went at once to the assistance of his enemy, who scrambled on to the shore, sputtering and dripping, but a good deal cooled in his rage. I suppose I was very wicked, but I did enjoy that!

For this one good turn, Bob was always quite a favorite, with all his faults, and year after year was spared, when worthier sheep were made mutton of. He was finally sold, with the rest of the flock, when we left the farm, and though he lived to a good old age, the wool of his last fleece must long since have been knit into socks and comforters, or woven into cloth,—must have grown threadbare, and gone to dress scarecrows, or stop cellar-windows; or been all trodden out in rag-carpets.



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I must now, dear children, pass over a few years of my life, in which I had no pets in whose history you would be likely to be interested.

Robin Redbreast


At the time of my possessing my wonderful Robin, we had left our country home, my brothers were most of them abroad in the world, and I was living with my parents in the pleasant city of R——. I was a school-girl, between fifteen and sixteen years of age. That spring, I commenced the study of French, and, as I was never a remarkably bright scholar, I was obliged to apply myself with great diligence to my books. I used to take my grammar and phrase-book to my chamber,[87] at night, and study as long as I could possibly keep my eyes open. In consequence of this, as you may suppose, I was very sleepy in the morning, and it usually took a prodigious noise and something of a shaking to waken me. But one summer morning I was roused early, not by the breakfast-bell, nor by calling, or shaking, but by a glad gush of sweetest singing. I opened my eyes, and right on the foot-board of my bed was perched a pretty red-breasted robin, pouring out all his little soul in a merry morning song. I stole out of bed softly, and shut down the window through which he had come; then, as soon as I was dressed, caught him, carried him down stairs, and put him into a cage which had hung empty ever since the cat made way with my last Canary.

I soon found that I had a rare treasure in my Robin, who was very tame, and had evidently been carefully trained, for before the afternoon was over he surprised and delighted us all by singing the air of[88] “Buy a Broom” quite through, touching on every note with wonderful precision. We saw that it was a valuable bird, who had probably escaped, and for some days we made inquiries for its owner, but without success.

At night I always took Robin’s cage into my chamber, and he was sure to waken me early with his loud, but delicious, singing. So passed on a month, in which I had great happiness in my interesting pet. But one Saturday forenoon I let him out, that I might clean his cage. I had not observed that there was a window open, but the bird soon made himself acquainted with the fact, and, with a glad, exulting trill, he darted out into the sunshine. Hastily catching my bonnet, I ran after him. At first, he stayed about the trees in front of the house, provokingly hopping from branch to branch out of my reach, holding his head on one side, and eyeing me with sly, mischievous glances. At last he spread his wings and flew down[89] the street. I followed as fast as I could, keeping my eye upon him all the time. It was curious that he did not fly across squares, or over the houses, but kept along above the streets, slowly, and with a backward glance once in a while. At length, he turned down a narrow court, and flew into the open window of a small frame-house. Here I followed him, knocking timidly at the door, which was opened at once by a boy about nine years old. I found myself in a small parlour, very plainly, but neatly furnished. In an arm-chair by the window sat a middle-aged woman, who I saw at once was blind. A tall, dark-eyed, rather handsome girl was sitting near her, sewing. But I did not look at either of these more than a moment, for on the other side of the room was an object to charm, and yet sadden, my eyes. This was a slight girl, about my own age, reclining on a couch, looking very ill and pale, but with a small, red spot on each cheek, which told me that she was almost[90] gone with consumption. She was very beautiful, though so thin and weary looking. She had large, dark, tender eyes, and her lips were still as sweet as rose-buds. I think I never saw such magnificent hair as hers; it flowed all over her pillow, and hung down nearly to the floor, in bright, glossy ringlets.

At that moment she was holding the truant Robin in her white, slender hands, crying and laughing over him, calling him her “dear lost pet,” her “naughty runaway,” and a hundred other loving and scolding names. I, of course, felt rather awkward, but I explained matters to Robin’s fair mistress as well as I could. She looked pleased, and thanked me warmly for the good care I had taken of the bird. Then she made me sit down by her side, and asked my name, and told me hers, which was Ellen Harper, and introduced me to her mother, sister, and brother, all in the sweetest manner possible. We got quite well acquainted, and talked like old[91] friends, till Ellen’s cough interrupted her. Then, as I rose to go, she made me promise to come again very soon, and raised herself as though she would kiss me before I went. Just as I bent down to press my lips to hers, Robin, who, of his own accord, had taken possession of his old cage, which had been left open for him, burst out into a sweet, merry warble, full of the most astonishing trills and shakes. Then I felt that it was well that we two should love one another.

After that, I went almost daily to see Ellen Harper. I carried her books, I read to her, talked to her, and listened to her low gentle voice, and looked down deep into her clear hazel eyes, till I grew to love the sweet, patient girl more than I can tell. I think that she was a most remarkable person. Her parents were quite poor, and she had enjoyed few advantages; but she was far beyond me in scholarship and reading. And then she was a true Christian, with a calm hope, and a cheerful[92] resignation; she seemed indeed to have given her heart to God.

Ellen knew that she was dying; she knew that, young and fair and beloved as she was, she had not long to stay in this bright, beautiful world. But she did not fear, or complain, for she knew also that a kind Father called her away, to a world far brighter and many times more beautiful than ours. It was touching to see her trying to comfort her sister Lucy, whose strength would sometimes give way as she saw that slight form growing weaker every day; or her young brother Willie, when he would leave his book, or his play, and come and lay his face against her bosom and cry; or her father, when he would come home from his work at night, and sit down beside his darling child, and hold her thin, fair fingers in his great, brown hand, and say no word, only sigh as though his poor heart was breaking; or her mother, who was blind, and could not see the change in her “own little Nellie,”[93] as she called her, and so had to be told again and again that she was failing fast. For all these dear ones, Ellen had words of consolation, and they always felt stronger after she had talked with them.

On some of those mornings when I went over to dress her beautiful hair, which I dearly loved to do, she talked to me as an angel might talk, I thought, and told me many sweet and holy things, which I shall remember all the days of my life.

As long as she stayed with us, Ellen had great pleasure in her pet Robin. She said that to her ear he always seemed to be singing hymns, which was a great joy to her after she became too weak to sing them herself.

Dear Ellen died at night. She had been very restless in the evening, and at last said that, if she could lie in her mother’s arms, as she used to lie when she was a little child, she thought that she could sleep. So Mrs. Harper laid down beside[94] her daughter, who nestled against her bosom and slept. Ellen’s happy spirit passed away in that sleep. But her mother was blind, and could not see when her child was dead; and when her husband, fearing what had happened, came near, she raised her finger and said, “Hush, don’t wake Nellie!”

The next morning, Lucy sent over for me to come and dress Ellen’s hair for the last time. I found my friend looking very much as I had always seen her, only with a sweeter smile, if possible, hovering about her lips. She was lying on her couch, dressed in white muslin, and with many flowers scattered around her. A vase of roses stood on a stand at her feet, and over it hung the pretty cage of Robin, and Robin himself was singing very sweetly, but in lower tones than usual, as if he thought his young mistress was sleeping, and feared to waken her.

They had cut away some of the hair from the back of Ellen’s head, but around[95] the forehead the familiar ringlets were all left. These I dressed very carefully, though my tears fell so fast, I could scarcely see what I was doing. I shall never forget the scene when the family came into the parlour to look upon Ellen, after she had been laid out, that morning. Lucy, sobbing and trembling, led her mother to the couch. The poor woman felt in the air above the dead face a moment, and said, “How I miss her sweet breath round me!” Then she knelt down, and, with her arms flung over the body, swayed back and forth, and seemed to pray silently. The father took those shining curls in his hands, and smoothed them tenderly and kissed them many times, while his great hot tears fell fast on the head of his child, and on the rose-buds which lay upon her pillow, and seemed to give a flush to her white, cold cheek.

I noticed that little Willie was the calmest of them all. He seemed to have taken[96] to heart the words of his sister, when she told him that she was going into a better and happier life, where she would continue to love him, and whither he would come, if he was good and true in this life. So he did not grieve for her, as most children grieve, but was quiet and submissive.

Ellen was buried in a beautiful cemetery a mile or two from the noise and dust of the city. The morning after she had been laid there, I went to plant a little rose-tree over her grave. I was somewhat surprised to find Willie there, and with him Robin Redbreast, in his pretty cage.

“Why have you brought the bird here, Willie?” I asked.

“Because,” said he, in a low, trembling voice, “I thought that, now sister’s spirit was free, I ought not to keep her bird a prisoner any longer.”

“That is right,” I said, for I thought that this was a beautiful idea of the child’s.

So Willie opened the door of the cage,[97] and out flew the Robin. This time he did not alight on the trees, but mounted right up toward heaven. There was a light cloud floating over us, and, as we stood looking up after the bird, Willie seemed troubled to see that it passed into this, and so was lost to our sight. “Ah,” he said, “I hoped he would follow Nellie! but he has gone into the cloud, and sister’s soul, I am very sure, passed away into the sunshine.”



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I now come to the very prince of pets, the one of all I ever had the most noble and most dear,—Tom, a Newfoundland setter, the favorite dog of my brother Albert. He has been a member of our family for five or six years past. We brought him from the city to our pleasant village home in Pennsylvania, where we now live.

Tom is a dog of extraordinary beauty, sagacity, and good feeling. He is very large, and, with the exception of his feet and breast, jet black, with a thick coat of fine hair, which lies in short curls, glossy and silken. He has a well-formed head, and a handsome, dark eye, full of kindness and intelligence. His limbs are[99] small, and his feet particularly delicate. He is, I am sorry to say, rather indolent in his habits, always prefers to take a carriage to the hunting-ground, when he goes sporting with his master, and he sleeps rather too soundly at night to be a good watch-dog. We make him useful in various ways, however, such as carrying baskets and bundles, and sometimes we send him to the post-office with and for letters and papers. These he always takes the most faithful care of, never allowing any one to look at them on the way. He is a remarkably gentlemanly dog in his manner, never making free with people, or seeming too fond at first sight; but if you speak to him pleasantly, he will offer you a friendly paw in a quiet way, and seem happy to make your acquaintance. He never fawns, nor whines, nor skulks about, but is dignified, easy, and perfectly at home in polite society. He is a sad aristocrat, treats all well-dressed comers most courteously, but with shabby people[100] he will have nothing to do. Tom knows how to take and carry on a joke. I recollect one evening, when we had visitors, and he was in the parlour, I put on him a gay-colored sack of my own, and a large gypsy hat, which I tied under his throat. Instead of looking ashamed and trying to get these off, as most dogs would have done, he crossed the room and sprang on to the sofa, where he sat upright, looking very wise and grave, like some old colored woman at church. The illustrious General Tom Thumb once travelled with my brother and this dog, and, falling very much in love with his namesake, offered any price for him. Of course, my brother would not think for a moment of selling his faithful friend, and even had he felt differently, I doubt very much whether Tom, who had been used to looking up to full-grown men, would have shown much obedience or respect, for such a funny little fellow as the General. It was amusing to observe the dog’s manner toward his[101] small, new acquaintance. He was kind and condescending, though he sometimes seemed to think that the General was a little too much inclined to take liberties with his superiors in age and size,—rather more forward and familiar than was quite becoming in a child.

Two or three years ago, Tom was the beloved playfellow of my brother Frederic’s youngest daughter,—our little Jane. She always seemed to me like a fairy-child, she was so small and delicate, with such bright golden curls falling about her face,—the sweetest face in the world. It was beautiful to see her at play with that great, black dog, who was very tender with her, for he seemed to know that she was not strong. One evening she left her play earlier than usual, and went and laid her head in her mother’s lap, and said, “Little Jane is tired.” That night she sickened, and in a few, a very few days she died. When she was hid away in the grave, we grieved deeply that we should[102] see her face no more, but we had joy to know that it would never be pale with sickness in that heavenly home to which she had gone; and though we miss her still, we have great happiness in the thought that she will never be “tired” any more, for we believe her to be resting on the bosom of the Lord Jesus.

One day last spring, I remember, her mother gave me a bunch of violets, saying, “They are from the grave of little Jane.” I suppose they were like all other blue violets, but I thought then I had never seen any so beautiful. It seemed to me that the sweet looks of the child were blooming out of the flowers which had sprung up over the place where we had laid her.

Tom seems much attached to all our family, but most devotedly so to my brother Albert. They two have hunted very much together, and seem equally fond of the sport. If Tom sees his master with his hunting-dress on, and his fowling-piece in[103] hand, he is half beside himself with joy. But when he returns from the hunt, spent and weary, he always comes to me to be fed and petted.

You will remember that years have passed by since this brother and I were schoolmates and playmates together. He is now a fine young man, while I am a full-grown woman, who have seen the world I used to think so grand and glorious, and found it—no better than it should be. But of my brother. He is our youngest, you know, and so has never outgrown that peculiar fondness, that dear love, we always give to “the baby.” While I have been writing these histories, and recalling in almost every scene the playmate of my childhood, I can only see him as a boy,—a little black-eyed, rosy-cheeked boy; it is very difficult to think of him as a man, making his own way bravely in the world. Last spring we observed that dear Albert’s bright face had become very thoughtful and serious; we[104] knew that something was weighing on his mind, and finally it came out. He was about to leave us all for a long time, it might be for ever; he was going to California! We were very unhappy to hear this, but, as it was on some accounts the best thing that my brother could do, we finally consented, and all went to work as cheerfully as we could to help him off.

It was a bright May morning when he left, but it seemed to us that there never was a darker or sadder day. The dear fellow kept up good courage till it came to the parting; then his heart seemed to melt and flow out in his tears, fast dropping on the brows and necks of his mother and sisters, as he held them for the last time to his heaving breast. But I will not dwell on this parting, for my own eyes grow so dim I cannot well see to write.

I remember that poor Tom seemed greatly troubled that morning; he knew that something sad was happening, and looked anxiously in our faces, as though[105] he would ask what it was; and when my brother patted him on the head, bade him good by, and passed out of the gate, forbidding him to follow, the faithful creature whined sadly, and looked after him wistfully, till he was out of sight.

After Albert had been gone about an hour, I remember that I went up into his room, and sat down in his favorite seat, by the window. O, how still and lonely and mournful it seemed there! Near me hung my brother’s fencing-sword and mask, which he had used only the day before,—on the floor lay the game-bag, which he had always worn in hunting, and which he had flung out of his trunk, not having room for it. This brought my merry brother before me more clearly than any thing else. I took it up and held it a long time, mourning at heart, but I could not weep. Suddenly I heard a low whine in the hall, and Tom stole softly into the room. He came to me and laid his head in my lap; but when he saw the game-bag[106] there, he set up a most mournful cry. Then I flung my arms about him, bowed my head down against his neck, and burst into tears. I forgot that he was a poor dumb brute, and only remembered that he loved my brother, and my brother loved him, and that he mourned with me in my sorrow. After this, it was very affecting to see Tom go every day, for a long while, to the gate, out of which he had seen his master pass for the last time, and then stand and look up the street, crying like a grieved child.

As you will readily believe, Tom is now dearer than ever to us all; we cannot see him without a sweet, sad thought of that beloved one so far away. I am not now at home, but I never hear from there without hearing of the welfare of the noble dog which my brother, in going, bestowed upon me.



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It is twenty years since the first part of this little volume was published. The dear children for whom those simple stories of my childhood were told are men and women now, and wonderful changes have taken place in all our lives and in all the world. But in growing old I have not lost any thing of my old love of pets; and I hope that my little readers of this time will understand and share that feeling. I hope that you, dear boys and girls, look on all innocent dumb creatures about you as friends, and have not only a kindly interest in them, but respect them for all that is lovely and wonderful in their brief existences, and as objects of the unceasing care and tenderness of our[108] Father in heaven. Every smallest creature that lives represents a thought of God,—was born out of his great, deep, infinite life.

I hope you especially like to hear about dogs and cats, birds and chickens, for it is of them that I have a few new stories to relate, as true as they are amusing or marvellous.



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First I must relate the somewhat tragical history of a certain little shaggy brown-and-white spaniel belonging to some friends of ours in the country. He was a stray dog, and came to them in a very forlorn condition, and had evidently been vagabondizing about in the fields and woods for some days, for he was ravenously hungry, and his long hair was dirty, and stuck full of straws, briers, and burrs, till he bristled like a hedgehog. The first thing that the kind lady did, after feeding him, was to put him into a warm bath. Then she set herself to work to rid him of his encumbrances,—sticks, straws, briers, and burrs. It was a long time before she got down to the[110] dog; but when at last she laid down scissors, scrubbing-brush, and comb, and deposited her poor protégé on the floor, he was a good deal diminished in size, but looked really handsome, and very bright, quaint, and droll.

He took at once to his new home, and soon became a great pet, showing himself to be grateful, affectionate, and full of cleverness, fun, and fire. His pluck was beyond all question. Though not quarrelsome, he would, when in the least degree put upon, fight any dog in the neighborhood, whatever his size and breed, and he generally came off victorious. But he was altogether too rash and venturesome, given to worrying cows, horses, hogs, and old stragglers; rushing into all sorts of danger, and coming out, when he did come out, and was not brought out, with his little eyes dancing and his bushy tail in air, as though enjoying the risk of the thing, and the terror of his kind mistress.

[111]Among other sportive tricks was a way he had of running before the locomotive when the train was coming in or going out of the station, near by the house of my friends. Nearly every day he could be seen frisking about it, dancing frantically up and down before it, and barking valorously. He really seemed to take a malicious satisfaction in defying and insulting that rumbling, puffing, snorting monster, that, big as it was, ran away from him as fast as possible.

“The pitcher goes often to the well, but is broken at last.”

One fatal day the little spaniel miscalculated the speed of his big enemy, and failed to get out of the way in time. He was all off the track but one hind leg, when he was struck by the locomotive and knocked into a ditch,—that one hind leg being pretty badly mashed, you may believe. The poor little fellow set up a great outcry, but the unfeeling engineer never stopped the train to attend to him,[112] and the railroad folks kept the accident out of the papers. Fido made his way home all alone, dragging his mashed leg behind him. Though greatly shocked, his mistress did not scold him, but sent for a surgeon, who, after a careful examination, and consulting his books, decided that an amputation was necessary. Then the good, brave lady held her poor, dear pet on her lap while the dreadful operation was performed. She asked a gentleman of the family to hold him, but he had not the nerve. After the stump had been skilfully dressed, the little dog evidently felt better, soon ceased to bemoan his loss, and took kindly to a light supper. He rested well that night, and in the morning the doctor pronounced him better. His kind mistress nursed him faithfully till he was restored to perfect health. He never seemed to fret about his maimed condition, but hopped around on three legs as merry and active as ever. It was observed, however, that he gave[113] a wide berth to railway trains, and howled whenever he heard the whistle of the engine, ever after. Still the fight wasn’t out of him. He was as jealous of his honor and as fiery and plucky as before his disaster.

One afternoon, while taking a quiet three-legged stroll some distance away from home, he encountered on the highway a big, surly bull-dog, who presumed on the spaniel’s diminutive size and crippled condition to insult him and rail at him. Brave Fido dashed at once at the ugly bully’s throat, and bit and hung on in the most furious and desperate way. It was a gallant fight he made, and it did seem for a while as though he must come off victorious, like David after his engagement with Goliah. But at last the infuriated bull-dog tore himself free, and then proceeded to make mince-meat of the poor spaniel. He tore his ears half off, and his eyes half out, and mangled his head generally, till it was disfigured to[114] the last degree. Then he bit and chewed the left, the only left hind leg, till one might say that he was next to a locomotive and a whole train of cars at the mangling business. At this desperate stage of the combat a woman came out of a farm-house near by, drove the bull-dog away with a poker, and took up poor Fido. As he had become insensible, she thought him dead, and flung him down in a fence corner, out of the way of travel, and there left him, meaning, let us hope, to have him decently buried in the morning. But Fido was not yet ready to give up this life. The cool evening dew revived him; brought him to his senses, in part at least. He could not yet see, but, guided by some mysterious instinct, he made his sure way, dragging himself by his fore legs, which were only two you know, across the fields to his home. His mistress was awakened in the night by hearing him scratching and whining at the door, and made haste to arise and take[115] in the poor crippled, blinded, bleeding creature, who laid himself panting and moaning at her feet. I hope I need not tell you that she did not give him up. She prepared a soft bed for him in an old basket, washed and dressed his wounds, and though every body, especially the doctor, said he must die, that he was as good as dead then, she was sure she could fetch him round, and she did fetch him round amazingly.

But alas! Fido’s troubles were not over, even when he got so that he could hobble about on his three legs, and see tolerably well; for one cold morning, as he lay curled up in his basket near the kitchen stove, he was, I grieve to say, terribly scalded by a careless cook, who spilled a kettle of hot water over him. Even then his mistress refused to give him up to die, but dressed his burns with sweet oil, or applied a pain-killer, or “Dalley’s Salve,” and administered Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, perhaps,—anyhow she nursed[116] him so skilfully and faithfully that she fetched him round again. He is no beauty nowadays, but alive, and alive like to be. It is my opinion that, like the great Napoleon, that dog bears a charmed life.




Many years ago, when my parents lived in old Connecticut, my mother had a pet cat, a pretty graceful creature, frisky and arch and gay, though clad in sober gray. She was a favorite with all the large household, but especially attached herself to my mother, following her about everywhere,—“up stairs, down stairs, and in my lady’s chamber,” accompanying her in her walks, hiding behind every bush, and prancing out upon her in a surprising, not to say startling, manner.

At last she grew out of kittenhood, laid aside, in a measure, kittenish things, and became the happiest, fondest, proudest feline mamma ever beheld. She caressed and gloated over her little, blind,[118] toddling, mewing, miniature tigers in a perfect ecstasy of maternal delight. Just at this interesting period of pussy’s life our family moved from the old place to a house in the country, about a mile away. My mother was ill, and was carried very carefully on a bed from one sick-room to another. In the hurry, trouble, and confusion of that time, poor pussy, who lodged with her family in an attic, was quite forgotten. But early in the morning of the first day in the new house,—a pleasant summer morning, when all the doors and windows were open,—as my mother lay on her bed, in a parlor on the first floor, she saw her cat walk into the hall and look eagerly around. The moment the faithful creature caught sight of her beloved mistress, she came bounding into the room, across it, and on to the bed, where she purred and mewed in a delighted, yet reproachful way, quite hysterical, licking my mother’s hand and rubbing up against her cheek in a manner[119] that said more plainly than words, “Ah! my dear madam, didst thou think to leave thy faithful Grimalkin behind? Where thou goest, I will go.”

She was taken into the kitchen and treated to a cup of new milk; but after a few moments given to rest and refreshment she disappeared. Yet she went only to come again in the course of an hour, lugging one of her kittens, which she deposited on the bed, commended to my mother’s care, and straightway departed. In an almost incredibly short time she came bounding in with a second kitten. She continued her journeys till the whole litter had been safely transported, over hill and dale, ditches and stone-walls, through perils of unfriendly dogs and mischievous boys, and the family flitting was complete.

After this, our noble puss was loved and respected more than ever. She dwelt long in the land, and her kits grew up, I believe, to be worthy of such a mother.



Now I want to give you an instance of filial respect and submission in a young cat. When we first came to Washington, nearly two years ago, I took to petting a handsome cat belonging to the relatives with whom we then lived. I fed and caressed her, and she became very fond of me, always running to meet me when I entered the garden which she haunted, or the barn in which she lodged. She was rather wild in her ways, and so stole a nest, in which she finally hid away some kittens, that she afterwards reared to be wilder than herself. These somehow disappeared, all but one, which, when he was about half grown, I undertook to tame. It was a difficult, tedious job; but I persevered, and at last found him a more affectionate, docile pet than ever his mother had been. She had seemed fond of him in his wild, unregenerate days,[121] but as soon as he became domesticated, and I began to show a partiality for him, she grew very severe with him, scratching his face and boxing his ears whenever she saw me caressing him. I soon noticed that when she was near he was shy, pretending not to be on intimate terms with me; while, if she was out of the way, I had only to call his name, to have him come galloping up from the furthest part of the long garden, to rub against me, to lick my hand, and show every feline fondness and delight. Now we live at another house, and I seldom see my pets, mother and son; but they are loving and constant still, proving that the poet Coleridge didn’t know every thing when he talked about “the little short memories” of cats.

Master Thomas has grown large and strong, and is accounted a gallant young fellow by all the young pussies in the neighborhood. But while toward cats of his own sex he is fierce and combative,[122] he is just as meek and deferential to his mother as he was in his tender kittenhood. The other day I encountered him in the old garden, and was surprised to find how stalwart he had become. I stooped to caress him, and he seemed as susceptible to gentle overtures as ever, arched his back, switched his tail, and purred rapturously. Suddenly the mother cat stole out from behind a tree, and confronted us. “Good morning, madam,” I said, for I always talk to cats and dogs just as I talk to other people. “You have a fine son here; a handsome young fellow, that favors you, I think.” But she wasn’t to be softened by the compliment. She walked straight up to him, and boxed him first on one ear and then on the other, quite in the old motherly way. As for him he never thought of resenting the old lady’s act, or opposing her will, but drooped his lordly tail, and hastily retreated. Now that is what I call good family discipline.

[123]This city of Washington is a place where the wits of people are sharpened, if anywhere, and perhaps even cats and dogs become uncommonly clever and knowing here. Only yesterday I was told of a Washington cat which had just been found out in a wonderful trick. Observing that, when the door-bell rang, the one servant of the household was obliged to leave the kitchen, she managed to slyly ring the bell, by jumping up against the wire, and invariably, when her enemy, the cook, went to the door, she would slip into the kitchen, and help herself to whatever tempting article of food was within reach. At last some one watched, and caught her at her secret “wire-pulling.” Poor puss retired with a drooping tail and a most dejected aspect, evidently realizing that the game was up.

Another cat I know of was of so amiable and benevolent a disposition that she actually adopted into her own circle of infant kits a poor, forlorn little[124] foundling of a rat. As her nursling he grew and thrived, seeming quite as tame as the others; and when a mischievous boy set a rat-terrier on him, and so finished him, cat and kittens really seemed to mourn for their foster son and brother.


Once on a time—no matter when—in a certain beautiful city—no matter where—there lived two lovely twin sisters, with the brightest eyes, and the cunningest little roly-poly figures, and the slenderest ears with the softest pink satin lining, and the spryest motions imaginable. They were brunettes in complexion, with white breasts and tail-tips, and they were kittens. Katrina and Katinka were their names, if I remember rightly,—maybe I don’t, but anyhow they might have had those names, which, to my[125] thinking, are very pretty and appropriate for kittens.

Well, these same twin pussies were singularly fond of each other, and more singularly good to each other. They never called names, or scratched, or spat in each other’s pretty faces, or pulled each other’s little smellers, or quarrelled over their meals. They were so marvellously alike that it was always difficult to tell them apart; and when they slept, as they always did, hugged close in each other’s arms, you couldn’t have told to save you where one kitten left off and the other kitten began.

They not only slept, ate, and played together, but, as they grew older, took their strolls for health and recreation and their mouse-hunts in the same close and loving companionship. They were very curious and wide-awake little bodies, and liked to see all they could of the great, busy world; so every pleasant afternoon, when there was much driving and walking[126] up and down the fine street on which they lived, they could be seen strolling down the long walk to the gate, always exactly side by side,—“neck and neck,” as the horse people say,—as even in their pace, and as perfectly matched in their action, as ever were a pair of trained ponies in Hyde Park. Reaching the gate, they would pause and stand quite still for a half-hour or so, gravely gazing through the palings at the passers,—pedestrians, equestrians, and drivers of fast horses,—like a pair of dear little brigadiers reviewing their brigades marching by. Then, with the air of having discharged a public duty to the entire satisfaction of the community, they would wheel exactly together, and again, precisely neck and neck and tail and tail, trot gently homeward.

So they lived on, in and for each other, almost as much united as if they had been a pair of small feline female Siamese twins, amiable, loving, and virtuous,[127] and grew in knowledge and stature up to a comely young cathood. At last it happened that a very interesting event occurred to the twin sisters at precisely the same time,—they became happy mothers, were blessed with three or four fine kittens apiece. But alas! before the little strangers had got fairly to feel their legs, before they had got their eyes open, all save one mysteriously disappeared from each nest. It was one fatal morning when the twin sisters had slipped out of their happy attic apartment for a little air,—to take their “Constitutional” in a trot down the long gravel walk to see how the world would look to them now they were mothers,—that this kit-napping occurred. When they returned to their families, they found them strangely thinned out; but they were mothers for all that, and did not seem to fret much, or abate their maternal pride a jot.

You see the ruling power in the human[128] household in which they were domesticated, and who was to them as a providence, had ordered a little hydropathy for their poor, feeble, sprawling, blind darlings,—beginning with what is called in water-cures “the heroic treatment,” a cold plunge; and it didn’t agree with them,—it never does with any but the healthy and hardy patients,—so it was they never came back. But under the blue waves they sleep well, though never a mew or a purr comes bubbling up to the surface to tell the spot where they lie on beds of tangled sea-grass. “Requies-cat in pace,” as old tombstones say.

The next mournful event in this true family history was the untimely death of Katrina’s one darling. This had proved to be but a frail flower of kittenhood; very pretty she was,—“too sweet to live,” people said. Her constitution was defective, her nervous system was extremely delicate. Before she was a week old she had something alarmingly like a[129] fit of catalepsy. Suddenly, while imbibing nourishment, with her fond mother purring over her, and two or three children looking on in smiling sympathy, she gave a piteous wild mew, rolled over on her back, and stuck up her four little legs and laid out her little tail stiff as a poker! On the ninth day of her little life she opened her blinking blue eyes on this great wonderful world, in which she had as good a right to be as you or I; but she didn’t seem to like the looks of things, for she soon closed those small eyes again, and never opened them more. Life was evidently too hard a conundrum for her poor, weak little brain, and she gave it up.

Of course Katrina was greatly afflicted, but she did not abandon herself utterly to grief. Had not her sister a kitten left? and had not they two always had every thing in common? So as soon as the sympathetic children had buried her dead out of her sight under a lilac-bush,[130] she went straightway to Katinka, and, with her full consent, began to divide with her the duties and joys of maternity. All three just cuddled down together in one nest; from mamma or auntie Master Catkin took nourishment, just as it suited his whim or convenience, and, as you might suppose, he grew and thrived astonishingly. So equal and perfect was this partnership in the kitten, that it was impossible for a stranger to tell which of the two cats was the real mother. One day all three were brought down to the parlor to amuse some visitors. Both mammas seemed equally nervous about having the baby kitten handled, and presently one of them caught it by the neck,—the cat’s usual, immemorial way of transporting her young,—and started with it for the attic; when, to the surprise and immense amusement of all present, the other caught hold of the tail, and so the two bore it away in triumph.

After this I am afraid the children gave[131] the little kitten rather more travelling than he liked. It was such fun to see the two anxious cats following him, mewing, and at the first chance catching him up, and lugging him home in that absurd manner. Generally the real certain true mother seized on the head, but sometimes she was magnanimous enough to yield the post of honor to the aunt, and take to the tail herself.

So things went on for a few weeks, and then there happened to this estimable cat-family another sad event,—for this is a tragedy I am writing, though you may not have suspected it,—Katinka died! What of has never yet been decided; physicians differed about it, and the coroner could not make it out. But this much is certain, Katinka died. The grief of Katrina was and is very affecting to behold. She mopes, she mews, and her slender tail, which she used to carry erect with such a jaunty air, droops dolefully. She takes no longer the “Constitutional”[132] trot down the walk to the front gate. Life seems to have grown dull and wearisome to her, and the pleasures of mouse-hunting and tree-climbing appear to have lost their zest. If she remembers at all the halcyon period when much of her precious time was spent in a dizzy round of gayety, in a swift pursuit of a ball of cotton, or a futile pursuit of her own tail, it is in sad wonder that she could ever have been so merry and thoughtless. She grows thin, neglects her toilet, and often refuses food; but when the children offer her catnip, she turns languidly away. If she were acquainted with Shakespeare, she would doubtless say,—“Canst thou minister to a mind diseased?” “Throw physic to Bose and Jowler,—I’ll none of it!

Friendly cat-neighbors call in occasionally, but they cannot console her. All the petting of the household fails thus far to make her cheery and playful as once she was. She is fed on the very[133] “milk of human kindness,” but grief has licked the cream off.

She seems to find her only consolation in her care and affection for the motherless catkin, and in his fondness for her. I am sorry to say that he does not show a very deep sense of his loss; perhaps he is too young to realize it. His good aunt seems sufficient for all his needs, and he thrives finely, is fat and jolly, and full of all kittenish pranks and mischievous tricks. Poor Katrina will have a time with him, I fear, as he is sadly petted and indulged. Such a lazy rascal as he is too,—don’t earn the salt of his porridge, that is, if he took it salted,—and, though quite old enough to “go on the war path,” has never yet killed his mouse, or brought home a rat’s scalp, or a ground-squirrel’s brush, or as much as a feather from a tomtit’s wing. Ah! of all the darlings in the world, an aunty’s darling is the likeliest to be spoiled.

This is all I know about this curious[134] cat-family. I hope, dear children, that my true story may not sadden you, for I really wish you, one and all, the merriest of merry Christmases, and the happiest of happy New Years.

All I can say in the way of a moral to my little story is: How beautiful is love! even when shown in the fortunes and sorrows of cats and kittens, how beautiful is love!




These strangely interesting birds, according to natural history, belong to the second bird family, the Psittacidæ. I never knew how many wonderful and splendid varieties this family contained until I saw living varieties of all, or nearly all, in the known world, in the Zoölogical Gardens of London, where they are kept in a great gallery,—a beautiful parrot paradise, all by themselves. They were a wonder to behold, but a perfect astonishment to listen to. The confusion of tongues was something almost distracting. The Tower of Babel, in its talkingest day, never approached it, I am sure. A large sewing-circle of elderly ladies[136] might come nearer the mark. The colors of their plumage I have no words to describe. They fill my memory with tropic splendors whenever I think of them, to this day.

’Tis strange that but one species of parrots was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans,—the Parakeet of India,—at least up to the time of Nero. That gentle prince, with his amiable love of pets, is said to have sent emissaries far up the Nile to collect new varieties for the gratification of his royal whim and dainty appetite; for, when the poor little captives ceased to amuse him by their conversational powers, he ate them. I hope they lay hard on his stomach, and made him talk in his sleep!

The early Portuguese navigators found parrots at the Cape of Good Hope, and at other points on the African coast; and the very first creatures that welcomed Columbus to the isles of the New World were Parakeets. The Macaws of South[137] America are very handsome birds, but not remarkably tractable or agreeable. They are fond of old friends, but are fierce to strangers, and have a singular dislike to children. The gray and scarlet parrot, called the Yaco, is a charming bird for a pet. It is clever and docile, and learns readily to talk, preferring to imitate the voices of children. The Cockatoos of New Guinea are very pretty and graceful pets. They do not like to be caged, but may be safely allowed to have the range of the premises, as they will immediately come when called; thus setting an excellent example to rebellious children. The green parrot, most common in this country, is a native of Africa.

Dear old Dr. Goldsmith, whose Natural History is all out of fashion now, except with us old folks, tells some amusing stories about parrots. Among these is an anecdote of a famous fellow, belonging to King Henry the Seventh, Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather. This bird, sitting[138] on his perch in the palace-yard at Westminster, used to hear the talk of gentlemen who came to the river to take boats. And one day, while overlooking the busy traffic of the Thames, he fell from a tree into the water; and while there, floating helplessly, he cried: “A boat! twenty pounds for a boat!” A waterman rescued him, and took him to the king, demanding his twenty pounds. The king, who was not remarkably generous, hesitated about giving so large a sum; but finally agreed to leave the amount of the reward to the parrot. That ungrateful fellow, who sat on his perch, still shaking the water from his feathers, when appealed to, turned his head slyly on one side, and said, “Give the knave a groat” (about fourpence). I hope, children, you won’t doubt the truth of this story; it isn’t good to get into sceptical habits of mind in early life.

For many years there lived in the porter’s lodge of the old Pennsylvania Hospital[139] a distinguished and venerable citizen,—a parrot of rare cleverness and intelligence. This famous bird belonged to the porter, and was one of many feathered pets, the chief favorite and familiar. A remarkable affection and sympathy existed between these two friends; yet I am sorry to say their relations were not altogether pleasant and peaceful. Innumerable were their quarrels and make-ups. The bird was very knowing, and almost supernaturally gifted as a talker, especially, like some human orators, in the language of railing and taunting. The old man, his master, had one deplorable weakness,—he would occasionally drink too much whiskey; so much that, getting quite beside himself, he would leave his lodge and his innocent feathered family, and go off on a desperate spree, which sometimes lasted for days. Now, Master Paul Parrot thought this weakness, through which he suffered in loneliness and neglect, very reprehensible and not[140] to be winked at, and when the fit of dissipation was coming on his master, it is said, would remonstrate with him, in a friendly way, like a very Mentor. When this proved in vain, and he saw the misguided old man leave the lodge for some of his disreputable haunts, he would endeavor to put a good face on the matter, would hop about on his perch in great excitement, and call out to the other birds: “The old man has gone on a spree!—on a spree! He won’t be back for a week! Let’s have a time. Ha, ha!”

When the old porter came home, this naughty bird would be very apt to mock and taunt him, calling out: “So you’ve come back,—have you? O, how drunk you are! Now we’ll have a row.” And there always was a row; for the indignant porter never failed to beat Mr. Paul, for his impudence, soundly. Then the bird, seeking the dignified retirement of the darkest corner of the lodge, sulked[141] and muttered, till, the old porter’s good-humor returning, he made friendly overtures. The two were reconciled, and “every thing was lovely” again.

At length the poor old porter died; and as his successor was no bird-fancier the feathered family at the lodge was broken up and dispersed. The clever parrot was kindly treated in a new home; but he never seemed happy. He evidently missed his old master,—missed his caresses and his scoldings. Or perhaps he found the steady goings-on of a moral household too dull for his taste, for when I went to see him, I found him as glum, stupid, and morose as an old politician who had had his day. All he would say was, “O you goose!”

There is another curious parrot in Philadelphia, in a store kept by a maiden lady whose voice is so exceeding shrill and parrot-like that it is difficult to tell when she leaves off talking and the parrot begins. One day, as a customer was[142] examining an article on the counter, Miss Polly called out: “What are you doing with that? Put it down! put it down!” The lady looked round very indignantly for the offender, saying: “Well, ma’am, I must say you have a very impudent child.”

There is in the same city another parrot, who recites a verse of an old song in a most distinct and triumphant manner:—

“O pretty Polly,
Don’t you cry,
For your true-love
Will come by and by.”

There is in Brooklyn, New York, a parrot that sings many of the popular airs correctly, and with as much expression as many fashionable singers give to them. This bird is singularly social and affectionate, and has a horror of being alone. He will sometimes awake in the middle of the night, and arouse the household by crying: “O dear! I am all alone!—all alone! Somebody come to me!”

[143]I have heard much of a clever parrot once kept by some relatives of ours on an old place in a quiet little village. Mistress Polly had free range of the house and yard, and throughout the town was as well known as the oldest inhabitant. Through all the pleasant weather she haunted the tall trees in front of the house, climbing to the highest branches, and from there superintending the affairs of the neighborhood, and making astronomical and meteorological observations. In the spring and autumn she watched from these lofty perches the flight of great flocks of pigeons and crows with intense but decidedly unfriendly interest. She would scream and scold at them in a most insolent and defiant manner, evidently criticising the order of their march and all their manœuvres and evolutions, for all the world like a newspaper editor finding fault with the conduct of great armies. Doubtless she was astonished and disgusted to see the great[144] host sweep steadily on, following their leader, paying no heed to her shrieking, railing, and evil prophecies. Yet she was never so absorbed by her duties on the watch-tower that she failed to come to her meals. These she took with the family, perched on the back of a chair or the corner of the table. She was very fond of coffee, and was always provided with a cup. She would take it up by the handle with her claws, and drink from it without spilling a drop. A terrible gossip and busybody was she, talking perpetually and doing all the mischief that lay in her power. She was the terror and torment of all cats and kittens; for, wary and watchful as they might be, Polly was always surprising them by attacks in the rear, and cunning ambuscades and flank movements. Nothing more still and soft-footed could be imagined than her approaches; nothing more sly, sudden, and sharp than the nips she gave with her horrid hooked bill. A cat’s extended tail[145] was especially tempting to her. She generally fought the battle out on that line. “In maiden meditation fancy free,” this parrot roamed about the yard, and laughed and railed at patient sitting hens, and the proud mothers of newly hatched chicks and ducklings. Sometimes she would follow a brood about, sneering and advising, until the poor mother was in an agony of worriment. At last she came to grief in this way. A spirited speckled hen, with a fine brood of young ones, tired of being snubbed and of hearing her offspring depreciated, and shocked at seeing the domestic virtues set at naught by a flaunting foreign fowl of infidel sentiments, turned upon her, sprang upon her back, and began pecking and tearing at her sleek plumage like mad! The feathers fell all around, like a shower of green snow; and the parrot began screaming with all her might: “Let up! Let up! Poor Polly! Poor Polly!”

Her mistress came to the rescue, and[146] Polly skulked away to her cage, where she remained several days, sullen and deeply humiliated; but when she emerged from her retirement she gave the hens and chickens a wide berth.

Several parrots, the pets and companions of religious persons, have been distinguished by their piety, or what passed for such. These have usually belonged to devout Catholics. I have read of one, named Vert-Vert,—the inmate of a convent in France, and taught by the holy nuns,—who was esteemed a most blessed and miraculously gifted bird. His fame spread far and wide. Many made pilgrimages to the convent to be edified by his pious exhortations; and at last the nuns of another convent, in a distant province, solicited the loan of him for a few months, for the good of their souls. He went forth as a sort of feathered apostle, followed by the prayers and blessings of the bereaved sisters, and looking very solemn and important. But, unfortunately,[147] on his journey, he was compelled to spend a night on a steamer; and being kept awake by such new scenes, and perhaps a little sea-sickness, he listened too much to the unprofitable and profane talk of the sailors and some soldiers who were on board. And so it happened that, when he reached the convent, where he was received with great joy and impressive religious ceremonies, instead of edifying the good sisters with exhortations and chants, delivered in a grave, decorous manner, he horrified them by shouting like a rough old sea-captain and swearing like a major-general, while he assumed the most knowing, rollicking air imaginable. Those saintly women stopped their ears, and fled from him as though he had been a demon-bird, and he was immediately sent home in utter disgrace. There, through fasts and penances, he was brought round to more correct habits and behavior; but he never became the shining light he had been before his sudden[148] fall. No more pilgrimages were made to his perch. Though grown a sadder and a wiser bird, it was impossible to tell whether he most sorrowed for his fault or regretted the wicked world of which he had had a taste. Still he made a good end, I believe, within the convent’s hallowed cloisters.

A certain pious cardinal in Rome once gave a hundred crowns in gold for a parrot that could repeat the Apostles’ Creed. Another religiously trained parrot once served as a chaplain on board of a ship,—actually reciting the service for the sailors, who listened and responded with becoming solemnity. I have never seen a clerical parrot; but I have seen clergymen who suggested parrots. By the way, the parrot would make a very economical sort of minister. After the first cost of the bird, his education, and a respectable cage or parsonage, there would be no demands on the congregation for increase of salary. As he would have no scruples[149] about repeating old sermons, he would not desire new fields of labor. Parrots seldom have any family, so he would expect no donation-parties. They never have dyspepsia, so he would require no trips to Europe. He would not, I fear, be very popular in the sewing-circles and Dorcas societies,—for he would talk down all the ladies.

A dear young friend of ours has a lovely pair of turtle-doves, that are constantly making love to each other, these soft spring days, in that delicious, drowsy honey-moon coo, “most musical, most melancholy.”

Awhile ago the disastrous experiment was tried, of putting these doves into the cage with a parrot. Miss Polly did not fancy her dainty visitors in the least. She glared at them as they cuddled together in a corner, eying her askance, and murmuring in the sweet dove dialect,—Madame[150] Columba very timidly, and Monsieur in a tender, reassuring tone. Miss Polly abominated such soft, love-sick voices, and such a parade of matrimonial bliss and affection just exasperated her; so she pitched into them, scolding fearfully at first, but soon coming to blows with her wings, then to scratching and pecking with her steel-like claws and fearful, hooked bill. When the hapless pair were rescued, it was found that the husband, who had fought gallantly to protect his wife, had met with a serious loss, in the upper part of his bill, which had been quite bitten off by that inhospitable old termagant, who had doubtless thought thus to put an end to his billing and cooing.

The poor fellow lost some glossy feathers in this encounter. They have been replaced, but the broken beak has never been restored. Thus maimed, he is only able to drink from a perfectly full cup, and his loving mate invariably stands[151] back till his thirst is satisfied. She also feeds him when he has difficulty in eating, and always carefully plumes him, as he can no longer perform that service for himself. Indeed, she attends to his toilet before her own. No fond wife of a disabled soldier could surpass her in watchful care and devotion. What a touching little lesson is this, of tender, faithful love! I wonder if he would have done as much for her. Let us hope so.


I have long wished to record the admirable behavior of a certain Shanghai rooster, once belonging to a relative of ours in the West. This fowl was old, but he was tender; he was ugly, but he was virtuous, as you shall see. One of the hens of his flock died suddenly and mysteriously,—of too many family cares, perhaps, for she left a brood of twelve hearty,[152] clamorous young chickens. One of the children, the poet of the family, said:—

“Grandfather Shanghai
Stood sadly by,
And saw her die,
With a tear in his eye.”

Perhaps he received her last instructions,—her dying bequest. If so, never was a legatee more burdened with responsibilities; for from that hour the good rooster adopted all those chickens, and devoted himself to them. When the fowls were fed, he guarded their portion; he watched over them when hawks were hovering near; he scratched and fought for them and stalked around after them all day, and at night, after leading the other fowls to roost, he would descend from the old pear-tree, gather those poor sleepy little things under him, and do his best to brood them. His legs were so long and stiff that it was a difficult job. First he would droop one wing down to shelter them; then, seeing that they were[153] exposed on the other side, would let down the other. Then, finding that he could not keep both down at once, he would try to crouch lower, and would sometimes tip himself entirely over. It was a laughable sight, I assure you. But somehow he managed to keep them warm, to feed them, and bring them up in the way they should go; and I hope they always loved him, and never made fun of their gaunt, ungainly old guardian, when they grew up, and went among the other young people of the farm-yard, especially when chatting with the foreign fowls, the proud Spanish hens, and the pretty Dorking pullets.


I have observed that while the Bantam pullet is a quiet, modest, little pantaletted lady, the Bantam cockerel always makes up in big feeling for what he lacks[154] in size. A gentleman farmer owned a Bantam of this sort, that was always full and bubbling over with fight. He would go at any gentleman-fowl in the yard, with beak and spur. He would defy the fiercest old gander, and challenge the biggest “cock of the walk” to mortal combat. At last he grew so uncomfortably quarrelsome, and presented such a disreputable appearance,—having had the best part of his tail-feathers torn out, and his spurs broken off,—that his master was obliged to put him out to board with a nice old lady who had no fighting fowls for him to contend with. It was hoped that he would be content to tarry in that Jericho until his tail-feathers should be grown; but one day, when his master paid a visit to his good neighbor, he found the little Bantam with his head badly swollen, and with a patch over one eye and across his beak, placed there by the kind old lady. He had gone outside the yard, and picked a quarrel with[155] a strange rooster, only about six times his size, and been pretty badly punished.

A short time after, a big turkey gobbler was added to the feathered community of that farm-yard, the old lady not dreaming of the Bantam cock daring to make hostile demonstrations against such a potentate. But she had done our little hero injustice. As soon as he saw the mighty spread the arrogant old fellow was making, he just gathered himself up, and “went for him,” if I may use a slang expression, which I know boys, at least, will understand only too well.

The big gobbler looked down upon him at first in contemptuous astonishment, as much as to say, “What fooling is this?” But when he saw that the fiery little fellow was in earnest, he just struck him one blow with his terrible wing, and—well, the gallant Bantam went “on his raids no more.” He was served as another savage Turkey served poor Crete. This is a world of tragedies and downfalls.

[156]On a late visit to the Central Park, we noticed, among the collection of fowls there, a Bantam cock, of the very smallest pattern, that yet seemed to have a big, gallant heart. We saw him in one of his soft moments, when, in fact, he was making love. He had been very ambitious in selecting the object of his adoration, for he was actually paying his addresses to a full-sized Shanghai hen, who was in a large cage, separated from him by a light lattice. He would strut up and down before her, ruffling his fine feathers, and making eyes at her. Sometimes he would dance up sideways, declaring his passion with a soft, musical murmur, that sounded like “coort, coort,” which it would seem she could hardly resist; but she did,—not so much as a feather on her breast was stirred by his appeal; she regarded him in placid disdain. Indeed, it was almost as funny to watch the tiny, strutting little creature making love to that superior fowl, as it[157] would be to see Commodore Nutt courting Miss Swan, the giantess.

“So daring in love and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of knight like the young Lochinvar?”


I have a friend living in the very heart of the big city of Chicago, who owns several hens of rare varieties, and a flock of young chickens of remarkable promise. She keeps them in her back-yard, which they utterly devastate, not suffering a green thing to live, making it look like a small copy of the Desert of Sahara. Yet she says keeping them reminds her of the country! She is a very poetic and imaginative lady. It is very likely that a hand-organ reminds her of music, and fish-balls of the mighty, briny deep.

One of this good lady’s hens is a handsome, stately fowl, dressed in gray satin,[158] and wearing a top-knot that is like a crown of silver. She has one chicken, almost full-grown,—the last of many lively children, the victims of rats and the pip. Of him she is very fond. There was, at one time, great danger that he would be spoiled,—for she toiled for him all day, trotting about everywhere with him “at her apron-strings,” so to speak; and she actually broods him at night, though, do the best she can in spreading herself, she can’t take in all of his tail, unless she lets his head stick out somewhere. Thus he is content to sleep ingloriously, when he ought to be roosting on some lofty perch, ready to greet the first streak of dawn with a brave crow, prophetic of the day.

A few weeks ago another hen, a young pullet, dressed gayly every day in gold and brown, with a gorgeous top-knot, came, one morning, triumphantly out from under the porch, with a large flock of charming little chicklings, who toddled along after her, and glanced up at the[159] sky, and round on the earth,—that vast sandy plain of the back-yard,—in a most knowing and patronizing manner. Nobody would have guessed it was their first day out of the shell. They were not going to show their greenness,—not they.

For a while those downy, yellow, cunning little roly-poly creatures seemed to amuse their mother; she appeared fond of them, taking pleasure in parading them before such of her neighbors as were chickenless. But she was a giddy biddy, lazy and selfish; so, as soon as she found that she must scratch to fill so many little crops, she threw up maternity in disgust. She actually cast off her whole brood, pecked at them, and scolded them till they ran from her in fright, and huddled together in a corner of the fence, peeping piteously, and doubtless wishing they had never been hatched. Perhaps some were chicken-hearted enough to wish for death to end their troubles, till they caught sight of some ugly old rat prowling about[160] “seeking whom he might devour,” when they reconsidered the matter, and took a more cheerful view of life.

Well, it came to pass that the excellent gray hen, with the one big chicken, seeing their forlorn condition, pitied them exceedingly, and actually adopted the whole flock. Only think, children, it was as though your mother should adopt a small orphan asylum, and all of them twins!

She toils for them and protects them all day, treating them in all respects as her own chicks, till sundown; then, not having room for them under her wings without dislodging her only son and heir, she always escorts them up the steps of the porch and sees them go to bed in a little box, which has been prepared for them by their kind mistress, with a cover of slats to guard them from rats and cats and bats and owls, and every thing that prowls or lies in wait for small fowls. Well, when she has seen the last chick[161] tumble in, and cuddle down to its place with a sleepy good-night “peep,” to be brooded under the invisible wings of the soft summer night, that good, motherly creature descends with stately dignity from the porch to her own sleeping apartment underneath, when she mounts on a box, and, calling her one long-legged darling, does her best to hover him, and to make believe he is a baby-chicken still. In the morning she is astir betimes, scratching and pecking for him and his adopted brothers and sisters with wonderful impartiality. I must do this same big chicken the justice to say that he has never made any violent opposition to this sudden addition to the family; but he has rather a haughty manner towards the little interlopers, and could we understand the sort of Chickasaw language he speaks, we might find him occasionally remonstrating with his maternal parent in this wise: “Really, mother, it strikes me you are running your benevolence[162] into the ground, in scratching your nails off for a lot of other hen’s chickens! such things don’t pay, ma’am; charity begins at home, and one would think you had enough on your claws, in providing for the wants of a growing young cockerel like me, without doing missionary work. Besides, you are encouraging idleness and shiftlessness; it just sticks in my crop to have you burden yourself with the cast-off responsibilities of that impudent pullet, who goes cawking lazily about, carrying her top-knot as high as ever.”

The conduct of that unnatural young mother is, indeed, reprehensible. At meal-times she always comes elbowing her way through the crowd of her virtuous neighbors, to secure the largest share of corn-mush, not hesitating to rob her own children! She will be likely to have a disturbing and demoralizing influence on the female feathered community. She shirks her duties,—declines to lay eggs lest chickens should come of them. She[163] believes the chicken population is too large already for the average supply of chickweed and grubworms. She discourages nest-making, and despises her weak-minded sisters, who, in spite of her warning, persist in laying, sitting, and hatching; who really believe in the innocence of chickenhood, and actually love to brood their chicks, to feel the soft little things stir against their breasts, and to hear now and then, in the still, dark night, their drowsy “peep, peep.” She goes against all such silly sentiment and loving slavery. She pities any poor pullet who has to spend her days in a coop, especially in Chicago. She is a sort of hen-emancipator, and strolls about at “her own sweet will,” “in maiden meditation, fancy free.”

If she could have the management of the hatchway, all chickens would be hatched with equal rights to wear the spur, and with equal gifts of crest and crow; all hatching would be done by[164] steam, in a general incubatorium at government expense, in a way to astonish all grandmother Biddies; sittings would be abolished, coops levelled to the earth, and the sound of the cluck be heard no more in the land.

As for the poor cast-off chicks, they grow and thrive, get more steady on their legs, and put out tiny tail-feathers, tinged with gold, as the bright summer days go on. They doubtless think that their first mother was a mistake, and that their second mother is the certain true one, and honor her silver top-knot accordingly.

So you see, dear children, there is a Providence for little chickens, as well as for little sparrows.


Cambridge: Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.


Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or variant spelling has been retained.