Charles Frederick Holder.

Stories of animal life online

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Received cTLT. ...., 190

Accession No. *& I 6 *5 3 - Class No.







Author of "Elements of Zoology"





W. P. I


THESE stories of nature, derived mainly from personal
experience with the various animal forms described, are
presented in the hope that they may prove an incentive
to the young student of zoology or animal life, either
creating an interest in the subject or serving as supple-
mentary reading to those who have followed a course in
the field or the text-book.

To undertake the study of natural history successfully,
enthusiastic interest is necessary, and to arouse such an
interest may be considered one of the possible good offices
of the volume. The young student who is confronted day
after day with a frog, a crab, or a shell, and requested to
note its peculiarities of structure as a first lesson, some-
times may assume that natural history is, after all, very dry
and uninteresting, when, had he even a faint conception
of the wonderful ways and habits of the animals, he would
eagerly embrace the opportunity for closer investigation.

This volume is intended to present some of the remark-
able phases of animal life, and it is hoped that the reader
will find under the guise of stories many facts not gen-
erally available and covering a wide field.

The illustrations have been designed to carry out still
further the idea of the book, and to present at once the


more interesting and striking features of the various
animals under consideration.

Some of the chapters, as " How the Whale Looked
Pleasant," " The Famous Tortugas Bullfight," " Jack and
Jill Reynard," and others, appeared originally in " St.
Nicholas " (published by the Century Company), a few in
the " Youth's Companion " and the " Outlook," and nearly
all are based upon personal experiences of the author in
many localities, from the coral lagoons of the Gulf of
Mexico to the islands of the Pacific.



The Little Bear's Story 7

The Festival of Eggs . 11

How Some Birds are cared for 21

Jack and Jill Reynard ' . . . . 33

Some Curious Fishermen 39

The Greyhound 46

Mingo's Fifth Hand 58

Insect Hypnotizers 61

The Games of Animals 66

How the Whale looked Pleasant 73

Tiddlywinks 78

The Famous Tortugas Bullfight 86

Rogue Elephants 96

Some Baby Birds 108

A Submarine Ramble 115

War Elephants 123

A Living Umbrella 133

Feathered Giants 139

Insect Fishers 147

Animal Mimics 153

A Dog's Trip around the World 160

Flying without Wings 168

The Dragon that swallowed the Moon 172


How Animals talk 178

Animal Mound Builders 188

The Home of a Fish 194

Dipodomys 202

An Ocean Swordsman 208

Animal Restorations . .218

On Guard 223

Prisoners for Life 228

Their May Moving 234

Fishes Out of Water 239

Birds of the Ocean 247

An Invading Horde 255



" I AM a native of the state
of California. I don't re-
member distinctly where
I was born, but it was
up in the Sierras, where
the snow lies in great
banks, and the giant
trees stand like sentinels, and
where you might travel for days
and weeks and meet no one but

"The first thing I recollect is find-
ing myself in a big burrow covered with snow.
Then my mother broke the way out, and led us
(I had a brother) down the mountain. We soon
left the snow ; and I remember one day, at sunset,
we stood on an overhanging rock, and my mother
showed us the green valleys and dark forests where



we could hide, and far off was the gleaming sea.
She did not care very much for the water, I

" My mother was hungry after the long winter
fast, and every day she took us lower and Ipwer, until,
one night, she led us into a sheep ranch. Then our
troubles began, for she left us to catch a lamb, and
never came back. We heard all about it after-
ward. Some ranchers had seen her, and rode out
on horseback to enjoy the cruel sport of * roping a
bear.' As they rode around her, one threw his
lariat about her neck, another caught her forefoot
as she stood up, another her hind leg ; and then
they dragged her away to the ranch house and
so we became orphans.

" It was not long before the dogs found us, and
a man carried me home in a basket to his wife,
who treated me very kindly. I did not like it, but
pretended I did, and ate all I could, always watch-
ing and hoping for a chance to run away to my
mountain home. My mistress, however, soon
thought I was too knowing, and put a chain
about my neck. Finally, when I was about four
months old, they sent me to a friend in San Fran-
cisco. I shall never forget how the people looked
at me and laughed when I stood on my hind legs.
As it there was anything laughable in that!

But they gave me sugar and other good things,
and I fared well.

" My new master was a butcher, and most of the
time I passed in his shop. But some days, when I
was very homesick, and longed for my mother and
the little cub who had been carried off I did not
know where, the butcher's wife would take me into
her room back of the shop ; and then I would go to
sleep, cuddled up close upon a rug, with my paws
on her hand, and dream that I was back in my
mountain home.

" One day I heard my master say I was to be
photographed, and I thought my time had come.
You see, I had never heard the word before. There
was no escape, as I was kept tied ; and the next
morning my master took me under his big coat in
the cable cars. I could just peep through one of
the buttonholes, and all at once I uttered a loud
whine. You should have seen how the passengers
stared at my master, who, I knew, looked embar-
rassed, as he gave me a tremendous squeeze. We
soon got out, and I was carried up a flight of stairs,
and placed on a table in a room, the walls of which
were covered with pictures of people's faces, all of
which seemed to keep their eyes fixed on me.

" My master petted me and gave me some sugar,
and I began to think that being photographed was


possibly not so bad, after all. Presently a man
came in. He looked very much astonished, and
said : ' Why, I thought you engaged a sitting for
" a descendant of one of the early settlers " ? '

" ' So I did,' replied my master; 'there it is'
pointing to where I stood up, blinking with all my

" * Why, it 's a cub bear ! ' exclaimed the man.

" 'Well, it is a relative of some early settlers, all
the same,' my master answered.

" At this the man smiled good-humoredly ; then
he went into another room, while my master petted
me and gave me so much sugar that I had the
toothache from it. After a while the man came
back and said he was ready, and I was taken into
a room where there was a big thing like a gun on
three legs, with a cloth over it. My master sat
down in a chair and held me in his lap, while the
man pointed the gun at us.

" I thought I was to be shot, and tried to get
away ; and this made the man so cross that he came
out from under the cloth and said he could n't do
it. Then my master put me up in a child's chair,
and propped something tight against my head, at
which they both laughed so loud you could have
heard them in the street, and I jumped down.

" Finally the man tapped his forehead and said :


' I have it.' He put a screen before the gun, and
my master set me on top of it, holding my chain,
while the man crept under the cloth. I did not
dare move, as I was astride of the screen, my hind
feet hanging in the air. I prepared for the worst.
Then the man came out again, looked at me sharply,
and turned my head a little, telling me to look
pleasant at which my master laughed. The man
next shook a tambourine at me, and as I turned to
see what the noise meant, I heard a click ! and just
then my master took me down and carried me home,
much to my relief.

" I wondered what it was all about until, one day,
my master took me on his knee, and, holding up a
card, said : ' Well, here you are ! ' And what do
you suppose it was ? Nothing more or less than
my picture, just as I was perched astride the screen
the day when I thought I was going to be killed ! "


KAITAE was just sixteen years old. It was his
birthday, and he rose bright and early, and was
abroad before any of his companions ; for, ex-
hausted with the games and contests of the pre-
vious day, they were sleeping heavily in the curious


caves or stone houses that even to this day mark
the location of Orongo.

Kaitae was a prince, the lineal descendant of
King Kaitae of Waihu, the strange volcanic island
in the Pacific, better known as Easter Island.

The young prince, stepping lightly over two
sleeping comrades, stole out of the cave, and with
a joyful heart bounded away. For some distance
he ran quickly ; then, coming to a large platform of
stone, he stopped near a group of curious objects.

The sun was just rising over the sea, seeming to
Kaitae to illumine the scene with a mysterious ra-
diance. He stood upon the side of an ancient
volcano, the steep slope of which fell precipitously a

thousand feet to the

sea ; and before him
were many gaunt,
staring faces of gi-
gantic size, rudely
carved in lifeless
stone, their enor-
mous eyes turned
to the north. The
great heads alone
appeared, as if the
bodies were embedded in the hardened lava that
formed the base of the outer slope of the famous

" He reverently touched one.'


volcano Rana Roraka. The youth gazed long
and wonderingly at them, as in his mind they
were associated with the gods, and he reverently
touched one, being able just to reach its huge

Kaitae was a bright boy, with long, dark hair,
and brilliant, piercing eyes, and he presented a
strange contrast to the wonderful old face that
looked so steadfastly to the north. What was it
looking at? what did it see? he asked himself; and
climbing up to the brink of Rana Roraka, he gazed
steadily to the north, then, turning, peered down
into the vast crater of the volcano. The great
abyss was nearly circular, a mile across, and its
sides were deeply jagged. On the slopes, halfway
down, were other faces, lying in confusion, as if
they had been hurriedly left, or had been thrown
down by some convulsion of nature.

Kaitae had heard from his father that in ancient
times Tro Kaiho, a son of King Mohuta Ariiki, had
made the first of these images. Here they had
been for ages, for all he knew, marking the spot
where the remains of his ancestors lay.

Kaitae, however, was not abroad so early in the
morning to study these strange monuments of his
ancestors. It was a famous holiday time, the
Festival of the Sea Birds' Eggs, and the entire


male population of Waihu had gathered at Orongo
to celebrate it. The festival was an ancient cus-
tom, and the stone houses of Orongo had been built
long in the past by these people to shelter them
during this season.

The festival consisted of a race for the first gull's
egg deposited upon the islands of Mutu Rankan
and Mutu Nui, mere volcanic rocks, which peered
above the surface a few hundred yards from the
rocky shore of the island of Orongo. The object
was to reach the island first, secure an egg, and
bring it back in safety. The one who accomplished
this was greeted by the entire community as a hero ;
and, more important yet, the return with the un-
broken egg was supposed to bring with it the ap-
proval of the great spirit Meke Meke, and the
fortunate one was the recipient of many gifts from
his fellows throughout the ensuing year.

There was keen rivalry among the young men
and boys, and Kaitae had determined this year to
be the first to discover the gulls on the islands.
Running down the slope of the volcano, past the
great stone images weighing many tons, he made
his way quickly to an observation tower, about
thirty feet in height, resting upon a platform of rock
over the tombs of his people. Here, in the season,
the men watched for turtles and signaled to their


fellows. From the top of this lookout Kaitae gazed
over the blue water. There were the little islands
below him, and yes, about them hovered numbers
of white objects, the long-looked-for gulls, which evi-
dently had arrived during the night. With a joyous
shout Kaitae sprang down, and was soon bounding
over the rocks to convey the news to the natives. At
once they came swarming out of their stone bur-
rows like ants, and before long began to move in
the direction of the coast. When all had gathered
at the cliff, the king addressed them, repeating the
time-honored rules for the race.

At his word they were to start for the island, and
the one who returned to him first with an unbroken
egg would have the especial favor of the great spirit
Meke Meke.

The band of excited men and boys stood in
various expectant postures, some with one foot in
advance, others with arms eagerly stretched to the
front, ready for the word from the king.

Kaitae stood near his father, his eyes flashing,
and determination expressed in every feature. He
had decided upon a dangerous course. The cliff
where the start was made was a precipitous, jagged
wall rising far above the sea, and breasting it with
a bold front. From it numerous paths led down to
the water; and Kaitae knew that many a fierce


struggle would take place
to reach the water's

edge. He had deter-
mined to take the
cliff jump, a perilous
feat that had not
been attempted since
the king, his grand-
father, a famous ath-
lete, had performed
it when a boy.

Finally, when all in
line were in readiness,
the king gave the sig-
nal, and on rushed the
crowd of islanders, with
loud cries and shouts. Out
from among them shot the
form of a boy, straight as an

arrow, his long black hair flying in the wind not
to the lower beach, not to the narrow trails made
by his ancestors, but directly to the brink of the
precipice. The train of dusky figures paused
breathless, and the king ran forward to see Kaitae
dive out into space and gracefully disappear into
the depths below. Up he came presently, a spot
on the water, and before the astonished natives
could recover from their excitement he was far on
his way to the island.

Down the narrow trails worn in the lava swept
the crowd, pushing one another over in their rush
to the shore, diving, leaping, and hurling themselves
into the sea, in eager endeavor to reach the island.
But Kaitae was far in advance, and before the
crowd of egg-seekers were halfway over he had
gained the rocky point of Mutu Nui, and amid the
threatening cries of the birds had clambered up.
Dozens of speckled eggs were strewn about. Seiz-
ing one, Kaitae placed it in his mouth as the safest
place, and, springing again into the water, was
homeward bound.

No one seemed discouraged because Kaitae was
ahead. A hundred accidents might yet befall him.
The current was strong against the return ; the
egg might break it generally did ; he might slip
on the rocks in the quick ascent; he might be in-



jured, even killed such things had been known.
So the contestants swam on, and soon scores of dark
forms could be seen crawling out of the water over
the kelp-covered rocks, slipping, sliding, falling ;
then darting this way and that in search of an egg.
Having found one, each plunged quickly into the
sea. Altogether it was a strange and exciting
scene, even to the king, who had witnessed every
race for many years. Some of the men broke
their eggs and were obliged to return, while
others could not find any, and were pecked at
and buffeted by the enraged birds, which filled
the air with their cries, as they swooped down
to attack the intruders.

Kaitae reached the shore of Orongo well ahead
of all except one man, who had won the race more
than once in former years a daring climber, a
rapid and powerful swimmer. But Kaitae drew
himself up on the rocks carefully, that the egg
might not be broken, then sped away up the face
of the cliff. For days he had studied the steep as-
cent, and a score of times had scaled its rough face,
but never before with a large egg in his mouth.
When halfway up he was breathing hard. His
mouth became dry and parched, and the egg seemed
to be choking him. But still he held on, climbing
higher and higher, spurred on by the shouts of


his companions, who were now landing in large

One more effort, and he reached the top, and
running forward, he held out the egg, unbroken,
to the king. He was just in time, for his nearest

rival, breathless Tahana, came rushing up the
narrow trail, followed, a few moments later, by a
score of disappointed contestants.

As victor, Kaitae was the center of interest for
the remainder of the day. Many gifts and favors
fell to him, and he sat in the seat of honor, next to
the king, at the dance and merrymakings on that
and succeeding nights.


Kaitae was more intelligent than many of his
comrades, and while he joined in their games and
pastimes, he as much enjoyed listening to his elders
when they related stories of the wonders of Waihu
in the olden time. He learned that in those days
the island was inhabited by many tribes of men,
all under his ancestor, the king ; and that the curi-
ous platforms and monuments, which have since
made Easter Island famous over the entire world,
were long before erected by his forefathers, just as
in our parks statues are set up to commemorate
our own distinguished men ; and that the platforms
were tombs, as much revered by the natives of the
island as Westminster Abbey is revered by patri-
otic Englishmen.

During the boyhood of Kaitae, several strange
ships bearing white men visited the island and
traded with the islanders. But some difficulties
occurred, and numbers of his people were killed ;
and once a horde of native enemies came in ca-
noes, drove them to their hidden caves, destroyed
their homes, and killed hundreds of the people.
When Kaitae and his friends came out from their
hiding places they found the statues, in many cases,
thrown down and broken in pieces, and the tombs
destroyed. The heads of the images weighed tons,
and many could not be replaced ; and there they


lie to this day, prone upon the side of the great

A descendant of King Kaitae, also bearing his
name, is, or was a few years ago, still living at
Easter Island an old man over eighty years of
age, who delighted in talking to foreigners of the
wonders of his native Waihu in ancient days.


AMONG the birds we find most striking acts of
affection, and, strange to say, most frequently among
the very birds from which we would least expect
such a demonstration. The uncanny night hawk,



the boon companion of the bat, which appears at
twilight and prolongs its revels far into the night, is
an example. Rarely seen and little known, though


the night hawks are a large family and of wide
distribution, this bird shows remarkable attachment
for its young, and in protecting them exhibits more
intelligence than many of our domestic birds.

The term " night hawk " is commonly applied to
several species, all of which have certain peculiari-
ties. From its curious cry, one is called chuck-
will's-widow, this call being uttered so loudly by the
bird that it has been heard for nearly a mile. About
the middle of March the night hawks return from
their winter pilgrimage ; and, unlike most of the
birds, they have no housekeeping to keep them busy,
as they build no nests. While the robins, humming
birds, thrushes, and others are busily scouring the
country for material with which to build their nurs-
eries, the chuck-will's-widow is fast asleep in some
out-of-the-way corner, coming out only in the after-
noon and evening to gather her supply of food.

When the time comes for laying, our seemingly
lazy bird selects some secluded spot, and deposits
her eggs anywhere on the ground ; and the very
first glimpse, if we are fortunate in finding them at
all, explains why she builds no nest. The eggs
are almost the exact color of the surroundings, and
so mottled and tinted that only by the merest acci-
dent are they discovered ; and when the two little
chuck-will's-widows finally come out, they are even


more difficult to find than the eggs. Being very
sleepy little fellows, they rarely move, and though
standing within a few inches of them, the observer
might suppose them to be two old brown leaves
or a bunch of brown moss, so deceiving is their

Though the eggs and young are so perfectly
protected by nature, the parents are no less zeal-
ous in caring for them, and have been seen to go
through remarkable performances in the defense
of their home. When an intruder is first discov-
ered, the mother bird throws herself upon the
ground, ruffles up her feathers, and limps or flut-
ters, always moving away from the apology for a
nest ; and when the credulous follower is safely out
of the way, the wily mother, who has led him to
think she can be easily caught, suddenly recovers
from her lameness, and darts away to regain the
nest from another direction. If, however, the nest
be found and the eggs disturbed, the birds show
the greatest distress. A naturalist, who had merely
handled the eggs without removing them, and
then concealed himself in a neighboring thicket,
saw the parent birds come skimming over the
grass, alighting by the eggs in apparent distress,
and uttering curious cries, as if greatly frightened.
Finally, after a consultation, each bird opened its


great mouth (generally used as an insect trap), took
in an egg, and, to the amazement of the naturalist,
disappeared, carrying the object of solicitude to a
safer spot.

The same habit has been observed in the collared
goatsuckers of the Cape of Good Hope, which, like
our night hawk, have enormous mouths. They
also form no nest, relying upon the difficulty of
discovering their eggs, which are like the sur-
roundings where they are deposited ; and when the
eggs are threatened by any great danger the par-
ents take them in their mouths and fly away
certainly a convenient method of moving the house-
hold !

The well-known whip-poor-will, which is at once
recognized by the cry from which it is named, ap-
pears at dusk, and at one time was an object of
superstitious fear to the Indians. These birds also
lay their eggs anywhere upon the ground, and have
been observed to roll them along with their bills ;
but perhaps the most remarkable sight is to see
the anxious parent seize her shapeless chick by the
downy feathers of its back, as a cat seizes a kitten,
and carry it away over grass and sedge to some
more secluded spot.

According to Azara, the naturalist, some curious
beliefs are entertained in South America concern-


ing the ibijau, a night hawk. It is a large bird,
but instead of laying its eggs on the ground, it
deposits them in a hollow tree, and, according to
the natives, fastens the eggs to the wood with a
gum, which the old bird breaks off when the eggs
are hatched, and so liberates the chick. But this
gumming process is probably an accidental occur-

There is one of this tribe, and the largest, the
tawny-shouldered pogardus of Australia and New
Guinea, which takes the young birds in its mouth,
but with a very different purpose from that of the
whip-poor-will. Generally, these birds live upon
insects, which they catch readily with their enor-
mous mouths ; but during the mating season the
great, fluffy fellows become veritable cannibals, and
attack the nests of other birds, taking out the
young, and devouring them, perhaps under the
impression that they have discovered a new kind
of insect.

The demure duck, although a conscientious
mother, and careful of her brood, has never
been considered as especially solicitous for her off-
spring; but there is one of the family that per-
forms a remarkable feat remarkable, at least, for
a duck. This is the summer duck, Aix sponsa,
one of the most beautiful of its kind. The plu-


mage of these birds is exceedingly rich and gaudy,
marked with streaks of white and black, the en-
tire coat, in different lights, displaying various
tints of bronze, blue, and green, while its head,

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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderStories of animal life → online text (page 1 of 13)