Andrew Lang.

The red book of animal stories online

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As for weeks, and even months, the dog is frequently
the shepherd's only companion, the two seem almost to
understand the thoughts that are passing through each
other's minds without need of speech. One bitter
winter's day, about a hundred years ago, a young man



was herding his father's sheep on a Cumberland moor,
when he fell and broke his leg. Dusk was coming on,
the road was lonely, and home was three miles away.
To spend the night on the bare heath was certain death ;
how to get help he knew not. Suddenly an idea came to
him : he tied one of his thick gloves round the dog's
neck and told him to go home. The dog bounded off,


and was soon heard scratching at the farmhouse door.
At the sight of the glove the farmer at once understood
that some accident had happened, and wrapping himself
in his plaid, called to his men and prepared to set out.
The dog ran first, and after stopping many times to make
sure he was not going too fast for the others, led them to
where the young man was lying, faint with pain and half


dead with cold. A few hours more and it would have
been too late to save him.

Sirrah, the favourite collie of Hogg, the ' Ettrick Shep-
herd,' was, like many people who live in lonely places,
rude and unsociable. If a friend patted him, he growled ;
if anyone admired him, he simply walked away. But,
says his master, in spite of these manners, ' he was the
best dog I ever saw.' Very little is known of his early
history, but when he is first heard of he belonged to a
boy down on the border, and w r as sold by him to a
drover for three shillings. The drover brought him north-
wards, and gave him very little food on the way, so that
when Hogg first met him he was very thin, and looking
as cross as hungry people often do. At this time he was
nearly a year old, with a very dark coat. Partly out of
pity, and partly because he thought that the dog looked
as if something might be made of him, Hogg offered the
man a guinea, which was eagerly accepted, and took his new
bargain home. The next day the Ettrick Shepherd began
to teach Sirrah his duties, which were evidently quite new
to him ; but it was wonderful what pains he took to learn,
and how grateful he was to his new master. ' He would
try every way deliberately till he found out what I wanted
him to do, and when once I made him understand a
direction, he never forgot or mistook it again.' And
besides his care in following out directions, he was
wonderfully clever at inventing ways of overcoming
obstacles or getting out of difficulties.

One dark night, about seven hundred lambs, which had
just been taken away from their mothers, formed them-
selves into three divisions and rushed away to try to
find their way home again. Hogg, and a boy who was
with him, did all they could to stop them, but it was no
use, for the darkness was so dense you could not see
the length of your hand. ' Sirrah ! ' cried the poor man
in despair, ' they're awa' ; ' and so they were, beyond the
power of his catching. But Sirrah was cleverer than his


master in the matter of catching sheep, and off he started,
while Hogg and his helper passed the night in seeking
for traces of the lambs, which could not be found, go
where they would. At last, when the sun rose, they gave
up the chase and returned to the farmer who owned the
flock, to tell him of the loss of his sheep, a thing which had
never occurred to Hogg before, all the years of his life as a
shepherd, neither had he ever heard of it happening to
anyone else. On their way back from this unpleasant
errand they had to pass a deep hollow or ' cleuch,' as it is
called in Scotland, and there, safe at the bottom, were
the whole flock of lambs, with Sirrah standing over
them. Hogg could not believe his eyes, and at first
thought it must be only one of the divisions of the lambs
though even for that he was grateful enough ; but
when he came to count them there was not one missing.
How Sirrah had managed to collect them nobody knew,
and of course nobody ever did know !

When Sirrah died, he left a son called Hector, to take
up his duties. Hector, though not nearly so clever as his
father, was a more lively companion ; full of whims and
freaks, but much attached to his master.

One day in August, Hogg was sent by his master to
a farm at the head of the river Ettrick, to bring back
some black-faced lambs, intended for next morning's
market. Hogg set out, accompanied, of course, by Hector.
For some reason or other the lambs were not brought
down from the hills tilt qxiite late, and the shepherd did
not feel at all comfortable at the thought that he w r ould
have to drive them the greater part of the way in utter
darkness. What was worse, he knew that the lambs,
which had only just been parted from their mothers, would
be very unruly. However, there was no help for it, the
start must be made, and though everything turned out
exactly as he had imagined, with the aid of Hector all the
lambs were at last safely housed in the fold, and both
man and dog were nearly worn out.


As soon as the door of the fold was shut, Hogg went
in to his own supper, and then put down Hector's ; but
the dog was nowhere to be seen. Hogg whistled and
called for some time, but to no purpose, and finally he
gave it up and went to bed, wondering how in the world
he was to drive his lambs to market without the help of
his collie.

His first question when he woke was whether Hector
had come home ; but no one had seen or heard anything
of him. What was to be done ? Each person suggested
something different, till it was decided that the shepherd's
father should feed the lambs and get them ready for their
walk (shepherds take a great deal of pride in having a
smart flock), while Hogg rode as fast as he could back to
the farm to ask if Hector had returned there. So father
and son left the house together, to bring the lambs out of
the fold, and when they reached the door there was poor
Hector sitting before it, never taking his eyes off his
charges, for fear lest they should run away ! There he
had sat all the night long in the pouring rain, hungry and
tired, a martyr to what he considered his duty, though a
wiser dog would have known that, once they were in the
fold, he need not trouble about the lambs any further.

The Hoggs had a cat which Hector hated with a
deadly hatred, though he was too good-natured to hurt
her, however provoking she might be. His way of
revenging himself for puss's impertinence towards him
was to ' point ' her, as if she was a bird, whenever they
were in the room together. If annoyed at being watched
in this manner, the cat got up and sat in another place,
Hector was sure to follow her and begin again ; and this
went on till' he had to go to his work or else fell asleep.

Hector had a very small appetite, and often the only
way to make him eat was to bring in the cat and set her
to the plate. Then he got furious at her attempting to
take what belonged to him ; his eyes glared, and his tail
stood up straight with anger. When her nose touched


the food he could bear it no longer, and began to lap
madly, though he never failed to keep to his own side of
the dish, and let her pick up anything she could get.

Another of Hector's tricks, and one of which he could
never be cured, was to tear round the room like a wild
thing, a few seconds before old Hogg finished his daily
family prayer ; and this was all the more strange as the
old man prayed out of his own head, and the length of
the prayer varied. It never seems to have occurred to
any of the family to shut the dog up, and they all puzzled
in vain over the reason for his conduct, when suddenly
the true explanation darted into the head of the shepherd
himself. ' Hector is all day long pointing the cat ; now,
when he sees us kneeling with our heads on our hands,
exactly as he does, he takes for granted that we are
pointing her too, and the moment that he can tell from
our father's voice that the prayer is coming to an end,
he springs to his feet, saying to himself : "It is no good
for them to try, I am the first in the field." '

Like many Scotch dogs, Hector was fond of going to
church, when his friends would have preferred him to
remain at home, and he also enjoyed taking part in the
music. The church at Ettrick, where the Hoggs lived,
was small, and the singing very bad, which vexed the
shepherd, who determined to try to improve it. This
he would very likely have managed to do if it had not
been for Hector, who, however carefully he had been shut
up at home, always contrived to escape, and would be
seen stalking up the aisle to the terror of his master, who
knew what he had to expect. The moment the first
notes sounded, in struck Hector ; higher and higher rose
the man's voice, louder and louder became the dog's,
while the rest of the congregation hid their faces in their
plaids, and laughed till they nearly fell off their seats.
For some time Hogg stuck to it from sheer obstinacy, but
at length Hector proved too much for him, and he gave up
the singing to some one who owned a less musical dog !


Though, as we have seen, Hector was not nearly as
intelligent as his father Sirrah, about performing his duties,
he would hold tight to what he had been bidden to do,
with the stupid obedience of Casabianca. Nothing would
turn his attention from his work, or make him lose temper ;
but he could never learn all sorts of little dodges by
which Sirrah managed the sheep, so gave himself twice
the trouble that he need have done.

Still, though he was riot a practical dog, Hector was
very wide awake in many ways, and at any mention
of a cat, sheep, or himself, he would cock his ears, and
sit bolt upright with the deepest interest. One evening
Hogg told his mother he was going over to one of the
hills on St. Mary's Loch, to spend a fortnight with a
friend, but that he would not take Hector, as he would
either disturb them with his singing, or quarrel with the
other dogs.

Next morning the river had risen high and made so
much extra work, that Hogg was prevented from setting
out as soon as he had intended.

When he called Hector to tie him up, the dog was
nowhere to be seen.

1 Confound that beast ! ' he exclaimed. ' I'll wager
that he has understood what we were saying last night,
and has gone to Bowerhope.'

And so he had, though the river Yarrow, which he had
to cross, had swollen into such a torrent that it seemed
impossible for any dog to swim it. But there he was
when Hogg arrived, sitting like a drowned hen at the
end of the house, awaiting his master's arrival with



NOBODY who has ever been the master of a huge, good-
natured, silent Newfoundland dog, could bear to have a
little fretful, yapping creature as his daily companion,
however beautiful it might be. A Newfoundland is large
and awkward ; he waddles along in a very ungraceful
manner, and he will probably never think of moving for
visitors, if he takes a fancy to stretch his great body on
your doorstep ; but he is so strong that the most timid
woman would feel quite safe in his care, and so silent
that one growl from him rouses the soundest sleeper to
a sense of danger. He has webbed feet, and can swim
like a duck, and in many places he is almost as good as
a life-boat.

Big though he is, a Newfoundland dog is full of life
and spirits ; full, too, of affection for his master, whom
he is always anxious to help and defend. He is easily
taught, and untiring in his efforts to carry out his master's
wishes, never interfering or quarrelling unless he (or
still more, his master) is first attacked, but always on
the look out for danger to those whom he loves.

In their own country, Newfoundland dogs play the
part that oxen do in Italy, or horses elsewhere. And
more ; for, wherever they know the road, they can be
trusted to draw their carts or sledges piled with wood
or hay without being watched by a driver. When they
ari'ive at "home they are given their dinner, generally of
dried fish, which they much prefer to any other dainties,


and then, if necessary, they are ready to undertake the
post of night-watchman, or to do anything else that their
masters wish.

One weakness, however, Newfoundland dogs have,
and that is a love of sheep's blood, which renders it
dangerous to keep them in sheep-breeding districts.

A story is told of a man who brought a pure-bred
puppy from the north of the island of Newfoundland
to his own home, at a place called Harbour Grace. The
pup soon became a great favourite with everybody, and
especially with the children, and in his leisure moments,
when his work was done, was generally to be found in
their company. Even the cats rather liked him he was
so big that most likely they didn't think he was a dog at
all he never interfered with anything they did, and
was always polite. But the moment he saw a sheep he
became another creature. He would chase it until he
ran it down, and would even drive it over the cliffs into
the sea, and jump in after it ! That is, he would jump
in if he did not consider the leap too dangerous, for
Newfoundland dogs are very cautious. If he did, he
would scramble round by an easier road, and reach his
prey some other way.

But the puppy, young as he was, was so cunning,
that it was often a matter of- difficulty to detect his crimes,
and so good and useful in other respects, that his master
had often not the heart to punish him for them. Besides,
as the man felt, it was the nature of the creature, and no
amount of punishment would ever alter that. The dog
must either go, or the man must, as far as he could, keep
the sheep out of his way, and when he could not, suffer
in silence ! Still, let him be as careful as he might, the sheep
and the dog could not always be kept separate, and then
something dreadful always happened. For some time
the master thought, however, that Fowler was really
cured of his bad habits, for he would pass three young
sheep that had been bought without taking the slightest


notice of them, never even casting a glance in their
direction as he went by, or giving a single lash to his
tail. All went smoothly till unluckily one night the
servant, whose business it was to shut up the sheep in
their shed, and the dog in .his own premises, forgot all
about it, and the next morning when the sun rose, three
dead bodies were found stretched in the yard, with just
one little wound in their throats, where the blood had
been sucked. The murderer meanwhile was doing his
daily work, as cheerfully and patiently as if he had
nothing on his mind at all.

Now and then, however, Fowler showed that he had a
conscience. Some geese, which had once been wild,
lived on the farm, and one of them was very fond of his
master, and would even go out to walk with him about
the place, strutting side by side with Fowler. They
seemed to be the best of friends, and nobody gave a
thought to the fact that, next to sheep and dried fish,
Newfoundlands love poultry. But they were soon
reminded of it. As in the case of the sheep, the geese
were one night left at large, by accident. Next morning
neither goose nor dog appeared to go their rounds with their
master, and search was made. A few white feathers were
found in a field outside the grounds, and after some time
Fowler was discovered behind a woodstack in the yard,
looking, for once, very much ashamed of himself. His
master called the dog to follow him, a,nd led him to the
field, where the scattered feathers were pointed out to
him. Fowler looked once at the man who had detected his
crime, then, with a howl of regret rushed away from the
field, and no persuasions would get him near his master
for many days after.

Of course, most of the stories about Newfoundland
dogs have to do with rescue from drowning, for these
animals, from their great size and skill in swimming, are
more useful in saving life than any man. But here are some
very clever tricks of a dog that belonged, a great many



years ago, to a Mr. Mclntyre in Edinburgh, that have
nothing to do either with water or sheep.

This Newfoundland, whose name was Dandie, could
pick out his own master's hat from any number of others,
and his knife from a heap on the floor. He could even,
we are told, detect among a pack, thrown carelessly down,
the card chosen by his master. On one occasion he
picked up a shilling that had been accidentally dropped
by a gentleman present, and concealed it in his mouth,
sitting quietly in a corner all the time, and paying no
attention to what was going on. At last, when the
whole room had been searched, his master said, ' Dandie,
find me that shilling, and I will give you a biscuit,' and
Dandie jumped straight upon the table, and laid the
shilling in front of the owner. Like the dog in the
' Arabian Nights ' (only that dog really was a man), Dandie
could go out and do his own shopping. His friends, who
were many, used to allow him a penny a day, and he
took the money regularly to a baker's shop, and
bought bread for himself. One day the penny was
forgotten by one of these gentlemen, and when Dandie
went up to him in the street, he was obliged to confess it.
' But come to me when I go back,' he said, ' and you shall
have it.' Some hours after, he heard a great noise at his
door, and sent to see what was the matter. It was
Dandie, come for his penny. In order to find out vihut
the dog would do, the gentleman gave him a bad one.
This the ' Arabian Nights ' dog would have found out at
once ; but people had always behaved well to Dandie, and
he was too polite to suspect anything wrong. He went
off with his penny to the baker, who refused, of course, to
give him the bread. Upon this, Dandie returned to the
house he had come from, knocked at the door again, and,
when it was opened, laid the penny at the gentleman's
feet, with a look that told of the contempt that was passing
in his mind. From that day he never took the slightest
notice of the man who had made fun of him.


But, after all, it is not only big animals that are of use
in the world, as the lion found out when the net that
held him was gnawed through by a mouse. Little dogs
can be very brave, and very clever, too, as the following
tale will show.

No one would ever imagine in looking at the small,
short-legged King Charles spaniel that he would be the
dog to prevent murder. His long silky ears, which are
generally either black, or red and white, hang down on
each side of a round, soft little face, very pretty in a
lady's drawing-room, but not giving the idea of much
intelligence. King Charles II., to be sure, was very fond
of this breed, and seldom went out without eight or ten of
them hovering about his heels in the Mall ; but then he
was a person who set great store by beauty, and was apt
to value things and people accordingly.

However, here is a true story, in which the tiny King
Charles was quite as clever as the best Newfoundland or
collie that ever lived.

About the beginning of this century a lady named
Mrs. Osburn was occupying a large lonely house in a
country place a few miles from London. One day she
drove into town to receive a large sum of money which
Parliament had voted to her for the discovery of a
medicine which was expected to be very useful, and
instead of putting it into the bank, as a wise woman would
have done, she brought it back in her carriage to her own
house. The long day in town had tired her a good deal,
and she soon made up her mind to go early to bed and
sleep off her fatigues. She was just stepping into bed
when a little King Charles, who always slept in her room,
became greatly excited, and when she lay down tugged
hard at the bed-clothes, nearly pulling them off her in its
struggles. She told him several times to lie down, but he
paid no attention, only pulling and dragging the harder.
At length, finding it impossible to rouse her in any other
way, he jumped on to the bed itself, took the clothes in


his teeth, and drew them carefully backwards. Then
Mrs. Osburn, sleepy though she was, began to think there
must be some reason for the dog's very odd behaviour, as
he was generally remarkably quiet in his ways. So she got
up, put on her petticoat, and took out of a cupboard a pair
of pistols, which she always kept ready loaded and knew
how to use. She then left her room and went downstairs
to see if anything was the matter. No sooner had she
reached the floor below than she saw her coachman, fully
dressed and holding a candle, coming down the servants'
staircase. Without stopping to ask him any questions,
she raised her pistol, and informed him that unless he
went back up the stairs that moment she would fire. The
coachman, who had reason to know that his mistress
always meant what ' she said, and who was, besides,
frightened at the discovery of his intentions, obeyed at
once, and the lady, feeling that sleep was impossible
that night, sat down in a room close by to think
what she had better do next. Suddenly she heard a
sound of low voices coming towards her, and pushing up
the window leaned out and fired her pistol in the direction
of the noise. Dead silence followed, and, after waiting
and listening some time, she heard no more. Then she
made a tour of all the lower rooms, and finding everything
secure there, went back to her own, taking the King
Charles with her and locking the door behind her. In
the morning, as soon as it was light, she got up and went
into the garden to the place from which the voices had
come ; there she discovered drops of blood, and followed
their track till they were lost at a wall at the other end
of the garden. She then ordered her carriage we are not
told if it was the same coachman who drove her and
taking the money with her, this time carried it safely
to the bank. She then called on Sir John Fielding and
asked his advice on the matter. He advised her to
dismiss the coachman at once, and to leave the affair in


his hands to have it thoroughly inquired into. But
nothing more was ever found out ; and the only thing that
was clearly proved to the satisfaction of everybody was
that if it had not been for the little King Charles the
lady would have certainly been robbed, and most likely



THE rivers that flow into the Nile are the homes of
other dangerous creatures besides hippopotami, and
though crocodiles do not attack boats, like their larger
neighbours, they are even more to be dreaded by men.
They are huge beasts, often twenty feet in length, with
great scaly bodies and flat heads, which are furnished
with long, terrible teeth.

In proportion to their size they are immensely strong,
and even quite a little one has often been known to
overpower a man when in the water. He then carries
his victim to some favourite haunt and eats him bit
by bit.

Now, none of the crocodiles which infest the Nile and
its tributaries are bigger or fiercer than those in the
district of Gondokoro, where Sir Samuel Baker lay for
some time encamped. The natives, who swim like fishes,
were constantly in the habit of taking their cattle to
pasture across the stream in the morning and bringing
them back at night, and it was seldom, indeed, that the
passage was made at the risk of their own lives
without the loss of one of the beasts. Nothing, however,
could break them of the habit, not even the fact that two
sailors had been carried off in two days, while a soldier,
who was working with some other men in shallow water,
was seized below his knee. He struggled fiercely,
assisted by his friends, and tried to blind the creature ;
but his leg was so crushed by his enemy's teeth that it
was absolutely necessary that it should be cut off.


It was really quite dangerous to go near the river at
all, for you never knew when a crocodile might be lurking
near. One day several sailors went down to the bank to
gather the leaves of a pretty, pink, floating convolvulus,
which, when chopped up, made a very good imitation of
spinach, and was much relished for dinner. The roots
were fast in the mud, but the leaves spread about like

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 16 of 22)