Andrew Lang.

The red book of animal stories online

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either the horse was shot by one of the angry, drivers, or
he went on stealing hay as long as it pleased him.

The next time we hear of a four-footed robber being
charged in a police court it is at Hatton Garden, a part
of London that is inhabited by Italians and diamond mer-
chants, and on this occasion it was a dog who was the thief.
Two ladies appeared one morning before the magistrate,
and one of them stated that as she and her sister were
returning from St. Pancras Church the evening before,
and were walking down the road to Battle Bridge about
six o'clock, a hairy dog, not unlike a collie, had suddenly
jumped up from the roadside where he had been lying in
wait, and seizing a small bag (or reticule, as it was called
in those days) which one of the ladies held in her hand,
dashed off with it across the road, and was lost to sight
in the darkness. Her loss was heavy, for she was not
rich, and the reticule contained a sovereign, eighteen
shillings in silver, a silver thimble, a pair of silver
spectacles, and two or three other small things. Perhaps
she had been spending the afternoon at one of the little
card-parties which at that date had hardly ceased to be
the fashion.


When she had told her tale, a constable came forward
and stated that, only the Saturday before, a dog answering
to the same description had attacked a poor woman in the
neighbourhood, and snatched from her a bundle containing
two shirts, some handkerchiefs, and other articles of dress,
and had run off with them, leaving the woman so
frightened that she had nearly died of terror. And these
charges were not the only ones that were lodged against
this dog. Four or five more complaints of robbery
were brought against him, and though no man had ever
been seen in his neighbourhood, at the time the thefts
were committed, it was supposed that he must have been
carefully trained to the work, and also to bring his spoil
back to his master, who would be hiding in some place
not far distant. In the end, the constable undertook to
stop his pranks, or else to shoot him.

Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the master
(and real offender) to keep entirely in the background, and
instances have been known of the punishment falling on
the right head.

Towards the close of the last century two men and a
dog were tried for sheep-stealing before one of the most
celebrated Scotch judges of the day.

One of the men, Murdieston by name, lived on a farm
on the north bank of the Tweed, nearly opposite the
beautiful old castle of Traquair ; the other, who was
called Millar, \vas his shepherd. They were much re-
spected by their neighbours as quiet industrious people,
but in reality had carried on the business of sheep-stealers
for many years without exciting the suspicion of any one.
Indeed, they were so very cautious that, even in the
middle hf the night, they would never drive the stolen
animals along the high road, lonely though the country
was, but preferred to keep to the side of the bare hills that
lie between the little river of Leithen and the Tweed.
Not that they were safe even here, for a careful shepherd
would often make the round of his flocks by night, or it


would happen that the sheep gave more trouble than Millar
expected, and precious time was lost, so dawn would
come while the farm was still many miles away. Then
he would make his way to the bank of the river,
which lay in an opposite direction, and leave his dog
Yarrow to "bring the sheep hack to the ground belonging
to Murdieston, where they would be quite safe from
suspicion if any one passed by.

A short distance from the river was an old square
tower, to which the farm-house had been afterwards
added, and under tlie tower was a large cellar, where the
stolen sheep were generally concealed. On Sunday morn-
ings, when everybody was off to church, the thieves busied
themselves with changing the marks that are always put
upon sheep, and replacing with their own those of the
real owner. During this operation Yarrow kept watch
outside, and never failed to give a warning bark when he
caught sight of a stranger on the road or on the hill.

Of course Millar knew quite well that if he went on
keeping his robberies to one district he would certainly
end by being found out, and that before very long. So,
one night, he crossed the Tweed to a lonely farm in the
hills of Selkirk, where he managed to get hold of several
sheep, and prepared to drive them home. Now sheep
have a strange objection to coming down a hillside at
night, and still more to crossing a river ; so, when Millar,
after steering his flock with some difficulty round the
shoulder of Wallace's hill, tried to induce them to swim
a pool of the Tweed, the elder members of the party
became obstinate, and stubbornly refused to budge one
inch. It was to no purpose that Millar and Yarrow did
everything they could think of to force or persuade.
Across that river they would not go, and, to his despair,
Millar saw the day breaking over the east, and knew
that he must fly at once, if he did not wish his own neck
to be in danger. Yet he could not bear to give up his
booty just at the last, when he was hardly a quarter of a


mile from the tower, so, leaving Yarrow in charge, he went
home, calling directions to the dog as long as he dared.

Left to himself, and feeling that he was put upon
his honour, Yarrow rushed furiously at the oldest and
most obstinate ewe on the ground, and drove her into
the water, frightened out of her wits, for she thought she
was going to be bitten ; struggling to get away, two others
tumbled over the bank after her, and were drowned in
the stream ; the rest became wilder than ever, and as by
this time the sun was well above the horizon, Yarrow
knew that he too must follow his master, and leave the
sheep to their fate.

Late that same evening the sheep might have been
seen wending their way wearily home with new marks
on their bodies, hastily daubed on by Millar in a lonely
hollow of the hills.

The thieves thought that they had escaped before
any prying people were up and about ; but they must have
been watched by some unseen person, for information of
their misdoings was given, and they were soon lodged
safe in gaol. The case was easily proved, and both
Millar and his master condemned to death, for in those
days there were very few crimes which did not lead to
the gallows. When he saw that it was useless to deny
the fact any more, Millar told the whole story to a
respectable sheep farmer who came to visit him in prison,
and they botli agreed that they did not know which was
most surprising, the obstinacy of the sheep in refusing to
cross the river, or the perseverance of the dog in trying
to force them to do it !

The two thieves were hanged on the appointed day ;
but Yarrow was bought by a sheep farmer in the county,
who hoped to train him to honest work. But it was too
late ; his teaching had all been in one direction, and when
he found he was not allowed to show his cunning in
driving away other people's property, he grew quite
stupid, and could never be trusted to do even the com-


monest everyday tasks which fall to the lot of every

However, it is not only collies which can be taught to
steal, though, of course, dogs are like children, and some
of them learn much more quickly than others. Some
years after Millar's bad conduct had met with the reward
it deserved, a rich young man, living in Edinburgh, saw
a beautiful and clever little spaniel which took his fancy,
and he never rested until the owner had agreed to sell
it. The animal had been in his new home only a few
days when its master was astonished and shocked at its
bringing home a pair of new gloves, three silk handker-
chiefs, and, shortly after, a lady's gauze scarf. At first he
tried to believe this was an accident ; but as the collection
grew larger and larger, he soon understood that thieving
had formed the largest part of the dog's education, and
that most likely it would be quite impossible to cure tho
animal of its bad ways, now that it had grown up.

So, when the spaniel next began whining and sniffing
at the door, and showing all the usual signs of wanting
to go out for a walk, the young man took down his hat,
and turned into the streets, watching all the while what
his dog was doing, though very careful never to turn his
head in that direction.

And what the dog did was very curious to see. It
loitered through the town in the purposeless way that
all dogs think is a proof of gentlemanly behaviour,
stopping every now and then either to speak to a friend,
or to examine something strange that lay in the gutter.
The young man walked steadily on, and entered a shop
where he was well known, telling the shopkeeper, hastily,
to take no notice if the dog should enter, as he would
of course pay for any of its robberies. He then began to
turn over some of the articles for sale, so that the
animal's suspicions might not be awakened if it came
in, which it presently did, in the same lounging, careless
manner that had marked its walk through the streets,


treating its master as if he was a person whom it really
was not respectable to know. While the spaniel was
thus poking round the shop with its eyes apparently
turned in another direction, the young man was turning
over some articles at the counter. Suddenly he glanced
at the dog, touching, as if without thinking, a small
parcel that lay there. Soon after he left the shop.

The dog, who from first to last had given no sign that
it and its master knew each other, sat down peacefully at
the door, in a position where it could see all that was going
on inside. At length the shopkeeper went for a moment
to an inner room to fetch something he wanted. In an
instant the spaniel had placed its fore-paws on the
counter, seized the parcel, and crept out noiselessly to
rejoin its master, bearing the stolen property trium-
phantly in its mouth.

We are not told whether in the long run the young
man was ever caused any serious trouble by this
magpie of a dog ; but a gentleman who became famous
as a lawyer at the end of the eighteenth century very
nearly fell a victim to the too faithful memory of his

In the days of his youth, somewhere between 1750
and 1760, the journey between Edinburgh and London
was made on horseback. If a man was rich enough he
hired horses to meet him and his servant at certain
places on the road, but if he was poor, he bought a horse
at the beginning of his journey, and sold him for what he
could get at the end of it.

Now this gentleman had been brought up in the
country, and nobody was a better judge of a horse, so
when the business which had brought him to London was
finished, he set out for Smithfield, where the great horse
market then was, to buy a mount for his return journey
next day. He instantly picked out a handsome creature
with a beautiful head, and stopped to look at it, though he
felt, with a sigh, that the sum asked would be certain to


be far higher than he could afford. The horse dealer,
however, at once came up, and, while praising the horse,
named such a low price for it that the gentleman could
hardly believe his ears, and made sure the animal must
have some serious drawback. He examined it carefully
all over, but could find no drawback anywhere it \vas
beautifully proportioned, and its knees were quite sound.
The dealer, mistaking the reason of his silence, was so
anxious to have the bargain concluded that he agreed to
accept a still smaller sum, and the young man, feeling
that there was some mystery somewhere, paid the money
down, and the following morning took the Great North
Road to Edinburgh.

For the first few miles out of London the way was
full of people, and no man was better mounted than
himself, or had a horse with better paces. In fact, the
more pleased the young man got, the more puzzled he
became. As they approached Finchley Common the
number of riders fell off, and by the time the young man
reached a dip in the road not a soul was in sight but a
clergyman driving a one-horse chaise, which was travel-
ling in the opposite direction. As they came close to each
other, the ridden horse stopped dead in front of the driven
one, thus preventing it from going on its way. The
clergyman, taking for granted that he had to do with one
of the highwaymen who in those days were the terror of
every country district, quietly got out his purse, and
assured the young man, who all this while was speechless
from astonishment, that it would not be necessary for
him to use force. The shame caused by this remark
loosened the rider's tongue, and, with a hasty apology and
a confused explanation, he whipped up his horse and
went his way.

On the next occasion, however, that the horse thought
fit to exercise the profession for which he had been edu-
cated, things took a graver turn. This time he halted in front
of a coach, and before his rider knew what he was at, or was
B z


able to get him under way again, a blunderbuss was
aimed at the poor man's innocent head, and he was in-
formed that the occupants of the coach would sell their
lives dearly ! And, as if this was not enough, it appeared
that the horse was well known all along that very road,
and when he had escaped from the firearms of passengers,
it was only to be stopped by the officers of the peace,
hoping at last to capture the notorious highwayman who
had so many times contrived to slip through their fingers.

It can easily be imagined that by the time York was
reached the poor young man had had quite enough. He
parted with his prize for a mere trifle, less even than what
he had paid, and was glad to buy for a much larger sum
a horse that was not indeed so handsome to look at, but
had been better brought up.

Yet it would be unjust to think that an animal's mis-
doing is always the fault of its master and mistress.
Here and there we find a creature who is naughty or
tiresome just because it likes it, and who will not suffer
itself to be taught better ways. Not long ago a dog was
living at the mouth of a short street in London which
was open only at one end, and was the home of a great
many children. If any child tried to pass him he would
run at it and snap, and if he did not actually bite them,
the nurses always thought that he had done so. At
length every one became so frightened that the father of
one of the little girls had to go before a magistrate and beg
that the owners of this terrible animal might be forced to
get rid of him, as it was not fair that the whole street should
be kept in a state of siege, only for the amusement of
one dog. The magistrate agreed that it certainly was
unreasonable, and from that day the children could come
and go as they chose, without any fear of suddenly being
sent sprawling on the pavement.



SQUOUNCER was a dog by himself. Other dogs may
boast of belonging to large families of collies, grey-
hounds, or dandies, with cousins as numerous as the
sands of the sea ; but there could only have been one

How did he get his name ? Well, his master (before
he became his master) saw the word Squouncer in a book
he was reading, and thought it so delightful that he
instantly made up his mind to search through the world
till he could find a dog that would fit it.

And one day he found Squouncer. What was he like ?
He was what the French call a ' Beau-laid ' ' beautiful-
ugly.' His ancestors may have been bull-dogs, and it is
whispered that they gained their laurels in Spain. Squoun-
cer was a middling-sized dog, with a golden-brown skin,
much the colour of dark amber. And he bad a broad face,
and a nose which stuck out that gave him the air of what
used to be known as a ' fire-eater.' Like another gentle-
man of a similar disposition, he might have been nick-
named ' fighting Bob ' if you had only gone by his looks,
but a milder-mannered dog never snorted when he
breathed as long as there was no food in sight. Then,
all the lion in Squouncer's forefathers rose up, and woe be
to the person who came in his way.

It was just because he was so different from any other
dog that ever was or ever will be that his master and
mistress were so fond of him. Anybody who reads history


or has his eyes open can see that it is not the good people
or the handsome people that have really been loved most
and remembered longest, but the people who have made
us laugh ! Why, even the most wicked and gloomiest
kings had their jesters, and often the jesters were able to
tell the kings very disagreeable truths, or to beg off some
poor wretch condemned to death, when a word from any
one else would simply have sent him to share the fate of
the criminal.

Now it may be doubted whether, even if he had had
two legs, and had lived in the palmy days of long ago,
Squouncer would ever have interfered to snatch people
from the gallows. He was not (except where his food
was concerned) a very courageous dog, and he never
could make up his mind what he wanted to do, what he
ought to do and no one that goes through life on these
principles will ever be a hero. Sometimes his master and
mistress used to amuse themselves with this weakness of his.
They would sit at each end of a long room, and one would
call ' Squouncer.' Squouncer, who had very early been
taught to come when he was called, rose at once 'and
started to obey. ' Squouncer,' said a voice behind him
before he had got half way. He stopped, listened, and
turned slowly round. ' Squouncer ' was again repeated
from the further corner ; and poor Squouncer halted
again, and looked piteously from one to the other, but never
thought of doing the only sensible thing, which was to lie
down before the fire and pay no attention to anybody.

One dreadful day, a young black retriever suddenly
appeared in the house. There ought to have been nothing
disturbing in this, as the animal was friendly and playful,
and quite ready to be polite to Squouncer who was an
older dog than he. But Squouncer's thoughts at once flew
to dinner-time, and so did his master's and mistress's, and
they determined to watch and see what would happen.

And what did happen was this. The two large tin
plates were placed side by side in the tiled hall, each filled


with a delicious mess enough to warm the heart of any
dog. And not only his heart : for if you had once looked
at Squouncer going to his dinner, you would have
difficulty in understanding the expression ' your eyes starting

out of your head.' Well, Squouncer dashed straight at his
plate -the biggest you may be sure, and the fullest and
gobbled up the contents so fast, and with such a disgusting
noise, that the tin plate performed a kind of dance all


round the hall, Squouncer's tongue never leaving it as
long as the tiniest scrap remained to eat. When it was
as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard, he left it lying
where it was, and pushing the retriever (who was taking
his dinner in a polite and gentlemanly manner) rudely to
one side, he began the same game over again. The
re.trieverwas so astonished at this behaviour that he meekly
stood back, and before he had collected his senses, the
second plate was as bare as the first. Then Squouncer's
master thought it was time to interfere, and took the
retriever off to the kitchen, where he might eat his food in

This success was very bad for Squouncer, for it made
him despise his new companion, and think he could treat
him as he chose. For several days he continued to
swallow his own dinner with the same noise and indecent
haste, so as to secure the best part of Negro's. He did
not even take the trouble to be pleasant to him between
whiles, and when one afternoon, after a huge meal, Negro
detected him secretly burying some pheasant bones under
a tree till he should have recovered sufficient appetite to
eat them, the retriever's temper gave way, and he resolved
he would stand this sort of thing no longer.

So the following day at two o'clock, when the plates
were put out for dinner, and Squouncer's tin plate was
heard as usual rattling round the hall, pushed over the
tiles by that long, greedy tongue, Negro cocked his ears
and made ready for battle. Suddenly the noise ceased,
and a second later he was almost thrown down by a
violent push as Squouncer advanced to the charge. What
occurred next w r as never clearly known to any one ; but
a frightful shriek brought every one into the hall, where
a black and yellow ball was rolling about wildly. The
black half was uppermost, and was hauled off by his
master, and then Squouncer's leg was found to be broken.
Poor Squouncer ! he never recovered the shock and the
shame of that fight. He was so unhappy at the sight of


his conqueror that his mistress took pity on him, and gave
Negro to some friends. After a while the broken leg
mended (though it left a limp behind), and Squouncer's
appetite was found as healthy as ever. He lived many
years ; and his death, in a good old age, left a blank in the
house. A black Spanish bull-dog now reigns in his stead,
which may have its virtues, but will never be half as good
company on a wet day as Squouncer.


CAPTAIN PAMPHILE had made many voyages in southern
seas, and traded in gold dust, spices, and ivory ; so he
thought that the north might be a pleasant change, and
that he could do a little business in furs and train-oil.

Now this happened more than sixty years ago, and the
voyage took longer than it would in our days. And when
at last they reached land, the Captain thought he would
take a holiday, and go on shore for sport, leaving the ship
in charge of the chief mate.

He plunged inland at once, and after some days'
march reached a great forest, where he hoped to find
game ; but as night came on, he realised that he did not
know his way. It was not a cheerful prospect, for his
clothing was light, and many growls were heard around,
amongst which he recognized the voices of the hungry
wolves abounding in these forests. He looked round for
shelter, and chose a sturdy oak, which he climbed only
just in time, for the wolves, who had scented him from
afar, came hurrying up in hopes of a good supper. But
they were too late ; the Captain had found a perch !

But the wolves hoped on, and huddling round the tree,
moaned and howled so fearfully that the Captain could
hardly restrain a shudder. Through the darkness he could
still trace the outline of their shaggy backs and catch the
gleam of their fierce eyes. This constant watch made him
almost giddy, and, fearing a fall, he tied himself firmly to

a bough with a rope he had with him. Then he gripped the
branch overhead and closed his eyes.

Soon he became drowsy, and had a strange dream.
A whistle seemed to sound overhead and something chilly
to be stifling him with great coils. This gradually passed,
and the ghosts of wolves seemed to fade and their howls
to decrease as the tree bent and rocked; then all was

After this the Captain fell sound asleep, and did not
wake till dawn. As he opened his eyes the first thing he
saw was the green boughs overhead through which were
glimpses of blue sky. Then he looked down, and at once
the terrors of the night were explained. The ground all
round the tree was scratched up by the claws of many
wolves, whilst one of them, crushed almost out of shape,
lay there half swallowed by a huge serpent whose tail
was still coiled round the tree.

The Captain trembled when he saw the double danger
he had been in : the wolves at his feet and the serpent
overhead ; for he remembered the whistling sound, and
the clammy folds which had so nearly choked him. He
remained for some time staring at the strange sight before
him, but at last dropped carefully to ground, and hurried
away as fast as his feet would carry him.

There was no road in the forest, but the hunter's
instinct, combined with the sailor's science, soon enabled
him to strike on a track through the thick vegetation. He
was hungry, but as, in his haste to fly from the wolves, he
had lost his gun, all game was beyond his reach, arid he
had to be content with such roots and berries as he could

At length he thought he saw daylight more clearly, and,

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 20 of 22)