A. B. (Alfred Barton) Rendle.

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notion of taking back several species of
American squirrels led, on my return, to
their sharing the cage with two pairs of
gray squirrels and a pair of Mexicans, the
former half-tamed savages whose rude
and bellicose ways so dominated the gentle
English creatures that they lost all their
life, and became so panic-stricken that
they rarely dared leave their sleeping-
cage ; while the male of the Mexicans de-
lighted in hazing them hke a school-boy,
so that Virginia, always the more timid
of the pair, never left her sleeping-box,
and I had to send the whole of the for-
eigners to the Zoological Gardens. But
unfortunately poor Virginia had become so
completely demoralized that she drooped
and died soon after, and I had Paul sent
to me at Bournemouth, where we were
living temporarily while I was looking for
a permanent home with a bit of woodland
in which I had hoped to turn them out to
live in a protected liberty, which was what
I had always wanted for them.

I found our home at last at Deepdene,
on the edge of a great tract of moorland
on which the pines and the heather hold
the soil. Our cottage stood in a little
clearing of half an acre, surrounded on all
sides by trees, in one of which, before my
window, was an abandoned squirrel's nest,
the whilom occupants of which had prob-
ably been the victims of our predecessor's
three cats. We purchased an acre of wood-
land, adjoining the house-lot, on which
grew various trees, pines, oaks, chestnuts,
and a few others, a real paradise for squir-
rels, beyond which, on three sides, spread
hundreds of acres of the original forest, in
which we soon saw indications of squirrels,
though not one was brave enough to risk
himself in the cat-haunted grove adjoining
the house. Here I could finally release
my poor Paul.

Having decided definitely that I would
never again attempt to admit into my life
another of these delicate natures, I had to
find some way of repeopling our wood
with squirrels. There was an old man in
the near-by village who was a professional
squirrel- catcher. Him I sent for, and
offered to take off his hands all the young
squirrels he caught. He brought me two
families of three and four babies, the most
pathetic little creatures one could see, un-
able to walk, and hardly able to climb a

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little, or to eat even bread and milk. I
had to cut fine sponge into the form of
udders, which when soaked in warm milk
they sucked greedily, and when satiated
they nestled between my waistcoat and
my body to sleep until hungry again. One
died quickly, unable to adapt himself to
the change of diet. A second lingered for
weeks. Paul, meanwhile, took the little
brood under his care, and they slept at
night with him, curiously tender of them
in a quaint, awkward way of his own. The
other five, promoted from the wet-nursing
to a bread-and-milk diet, rapidly went on
to nuts and romping. They had an ex-
travagant fondness for the kernel of the
hawthorn-berry, which I discovered late in
the autumn, and thenceforward ransacked
the hedges for what remained of the fruit.
And one of the prettiest sights I ever saw
was the five around a plate of haws, all
eating, and chuckling with deHght as they

I decided to release them only in the
following spring, but there I was mistaken,
for they grew wild and shy later on. A
man brought me afterward a family of
three, too old ever to be thoroughly famil-
iarized, and of them I gave two to a
friend ; the third, being a female, the only
one among the ten, I wished to keep with
a view to futiu-e families colonizing my
wood ; but she proved untamable, and so
given to panics — which are with the kind
very contagious and soon demoralize the
best-natured squirrel— that I had to put
her in a cage in the garden with one of
the original five males, which became as
wild as she.

I had intended to release them in the
spring, when food should be abundant in
the wood, the seeds of the pine in their
green and milky state being the food they
prefer. She drooped rapidly, and he, un-
able to endure the spectacle of the freedom
before him, although in apparent perfect
health and full activity, gave up the strug-
gle with his prison and died of a broken
heart. I know them better now, and see
that it is useless to keep a squirrel in con-
finement, even in a room, when he begins
to grow sullen and look at you with angry
eyes, longing for the woods. Meanwhile
I had been baiting the wood— putting
pockets made of the toes of old boots and
sHppers on the trees nearest the house, in
the hope of luring the wild squirrels to

them. They are a very conservative folk,
the squirrel tribe, and the fear of the cats
that used to hunt the wood lasted long;
but one day as we sat looking into the
wood from the dining-room window, after
lunch, we saw Sciurus steal in among the
bracken, darting here and there, a red
flame through the green shadow and in the
patches of sunlight.

Our red-letter day had come. How the
squirrel news spreads, who knows? The
squirrel became the forerunner of many,
and they began to frolic in the wood, take
the food we gave them, and, when they
could eat no more, hide the rest of the nuts
all over the wood. I put up sleeping-boxes
in the pine-trees, hoping to lure them to
make their homes with us. So far as we
know, this is still a pious hope, for the little
folk rarely abandon their old nests until
they are driven out, and our hope is in
the rising generation. We occasionally see
a whole family, parents and young, frol-
icking in one of our big pines, up and
down and around and around the huge
trunk, then across through the branches,
leaping from one tree to another, and
traversing the grove in a charming display
of lofty acrobatics, the prettiest sight the
kingdom of the vertebrates can show. And
when snow is on the ground it is a sight
to see the squirrels vaulting through it to
the pockets near the house, where the nuts
are deposited.

The four little ones which remained
having begun to grow wild, through my
being much out of the study, I mistakenly
tried to bring them back to familiarity by
driving them out of the box, where they
hid when I or a stranger came into the
study. This made matters worse, and,
with the disturbance caused by the bustling
housemaid in cleaning the study in the
morning, soon caused such shyness and
even panic that it was clear that longer
confinement was injudicious.

One beginning in the early spring to show
signs of moroseness, I caught him and
put him out of the window, having already
arranged supplies of food and water on a
shelf outside, with sleeping-boxes for them
under the eaves of the house, besides those
on the trees of the wood. He wandered
about the place for two days, and then
came in by the kitchen door and found
his way back to the study, solitude not
satisfying him even with liberty. I then

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threw open the window, and all went into
the strange world together. I left the
window open, so that there should be no
compulsory exile from the old refuge, and
for many days they used to stroll in and
ask for food ; but there were no more of
the delightful breakfast parties, the chuck-
ling quartets at which I had sat for weeks.

They seemed not to care for the wood,
but hung around the house, lodging in the
large bird-boxes I had put out for them,
and coming to eat on our window-benches.
Little by little they wandered away among
the trees, and two made a temporary nest
in a box in a large pine opposite the study
window ; but an immense increase in the
traffic on the road that passes my house,
due to some goverament works which
caused an incessant train of vans, traction-
engines, batteries of artillery, and all the
accompaniments of huge barracks being
built on the heath a half-mile away, drove
them oflF, and I can now recognize only
one of my proteges of last year as coming
regularly for his breakfast on my window-
ledge. I am forgotten.

In June the old squirrel-catcher brought
me another family of four, as helpless and
pathetic as those of the previous year.
With all the reserve I had put on my in-
terest in the little creatures, the almost
human pathos in their baby ways dragged
me out of my decision, and I accepted
the new charge. Suspecting consumption
as the cause of the death of the others,
for the new family, therefore, I got goat's
milk, and sterilized it for greater security.
One of them, not yet able to walk well,
tried to climb, and got a fall which proved
fatal; but the others are, as I write, in
splendid health. The old roan brought
me, a few days later, another family of
three. It is one of the drawbacks to a
large zoophily that the animals are cruel
to one another; but the fascination of
keeping young squirrels overcomes all the
drawbacks, if you release them when the
fascinating age is past.

And in a few days Croppy and Tippy
and the brother sans fwm will follow the
other babies out into the world, and, like
last year's brood, will reacquire a large
measure of their natural shyness; and
though they will always come to my win-
dow-bench for their food, they will never
come to my hand again, or taunt me to
play catch-catch around the study, which

will be lonelier than ever, for the last year's
pets had ceased to be familiar before they
went out, and they were six months older,
when released, than these. It is now Janu-
ary, and the low English winter sun will
not make the greenwood gay for them;
and it may well be that, in spite of free-
dom and the pine-tops, they may regret
the foster-nest in which they had better
care than nature will give them, and never-
failing food with tranquil quarters, and the
great wheel of their cage in which they
found an inexhaustible resoiu-ce. There
will always be a little window-opening for
a return to my hospitality, and a board
always spread ; but I know the end. Do
not we, the higher species, as we think
oiu^elves, lapse into savagery, tramphood,
and degradation when left utterly to our-
selves? And shall not they, nature's
earlier children, follow the law? When
summer retiuns it will bring with it no
more " furry angels " to ask a caress or a
cracked nut, or wander over my writing-
table with curious quest, for I shall have
become as all men to them, and my only
compensation will be the conviction that
their true life was in the wild-wood, not
with me. For although the memory of
Billy is an immortal regret, and would fain
persuade me to be the foster-father of his
race, I know nature's way is better.

The "handiness" of the squirrel is
something extraordinary in the animal
world. He sits up on his hind paws and*
uses the fore paw in many ways just as a
man does. He strikes with it and wards
off a blow from another, and their little
quarrels rarely go further than attempts to
cuflF each other like children. A lady who
lives in our county, and who is the pro-
tector of squirrels in that region, told me
that she had contrived a little rack to be
filled with nuts, so that they came to the
opening singly, one dropping into the place
as another was taken out; and this was
fixed by her window so that she could
watch the squirrels come. One day a
squirrel took the last nut, and was quietly
eating it on the window-bench, when an-
other came, and, finding none in the rack,
went up to the eating squirrel and gave
him a deliberate box on the ear and went

Hans used occasionally to bite, and
I generally gave him a flip on the ear for
it; and when I made the movement he

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put up his paw on guard, just as I did
when my mother cuffed me as a little boy.

I cannot express the real delight it gave
me, after the absence of many years, to
find in Central Park, New York, the gray
squirrel familiarized. It was such a tribute
to the spirit of humanity as I had not
looked for from our matter-of-fact popu-
lation, and made me more than ever regret
that my fortunes had led me into other
parts of the world while this bloom of the
better civilization was coming on. In Eng-
land I have not had evidence of a single
town or city in which the beautiful and
interesting native squirrel is cared for,
though in some of the great German crown
woodlands the killing of them is forbidden.
But I have been informed by correspon-
dents that since the publication of " Billy
and Hans" they have received absolute
protection on several great English estates
on which they were previously killed. Sir
George Bird wood, in a late communication
to the " Westminster Gazette," says that in
the United States there is "sounder and
more generally diffused knowledge on the
common things about us — a knowledge of
which is so efficacious in promoting pure
patriotism and orderly citizenship— than
in any European country, not excepting
Germany." And this knowledge leads to
humaner treatment, and the evidence of
its existence and increase consoles me for
Tammany and a certain amount of mis-
government, for it is a testimony to the
real sentiment of the people more eloquent
than an election manifesto— an element of
civilization which will ultimately work out,
even in politics.

Exiled from my native land by circum-
stances over which I have no longer any
control, in an old age rapidly approaching
its natural term, it is a supreme consolation
that that land- is the scene of an awakening
to the finer and more practical love of na-
ture, which is the foundation of the love
of the Supreme Good, and the cure for
the vices that grow from selfish and in-
verted lives— that natural religion which
uproots creeds and sects, and in its growth
becomes the religion of humanity, the love
of all that the bountiful Father has given
life to. It is impossible to say of England
as a whole that it is humane in its treat-
ment of the animal world, or to exonerate
it of the charge of national brutality. The
masses in that country are not reached by

the humane movement, and the classes are
not moved by it. And the squirrel is, more
than any other wild animal of England,
the subject of the ignorant persecution and
brutality of the rabble, utterly unprotected
by any law or usage from any treatment
it may please men to give it. It is accused
by the gamekeepers of robbing the pheas-
ants* nests, by the foresters of killing the
trees, and even by humane people of dev-
astating birds' nests ; it is the subject of a
form of sport, popular with the crowd, in
which a mob of boys and men chase the
poor little creature through its native forest
with sticks and stones, pelting it until it
falls, with broken legs and crushed body,
into their hands.

The accusation of robbing the pheasants'
nests is absurd ; I have tried five species of
squirrels, kept hungry purposely, with eggs,
and not one would touch them, even when
broken ; and I have never been able to in-
duce a squirrel to eat eggs, cooked or raw.
That, when reduced to starvation by the
total want of their natural food, they have
eaten animal food or robbed small birds*
nests, is possible ; but animal food of any
kind mine always refuse, with the excep-
tion of a taste of bacon, which I have
known them to take. That they kill the
trees is an accusation equally absurd. I
have seen them bite off the end of a pine
twig to lick the sap, and that they are in-
telligent enough to tap the trunks of the
pines in the spring, when the sap is run-
ning, to drink, I can believe; but in my
wood we have all the trees the squirrel is
accused of damaging, and not a tree has
ever been touched, for there is always a
vessel of water for them.

They might do a good deal of injury to
my belongings before I would have one
killed. My present neighbors on each side
are of the same mind, so that, except for
occasional robbing of their nests, which we
try to prevent, for many acres around they
enjoy an immunity which few large estates
in England give them, and I have oppor-
tunities to study the pretty creatures which
are unique, for they come for their food
every morning to my windows and gambol
among my trees, without apprehension of
danger. And the wild routine of life is
followed exactly by those in the study.
Early in the morning they are afoot and
riotous for an hour or more, during which
time they dispose of all the food put out

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late in the day before ; and then they go
to sleep, rarely appearing in the morning
hours. But when we are at lunch they
return, and eat or carry away the nuts put
out in the morning. As this has been going
on for more than a year, I am able to dis-
pose authoritatively of certain superstitions
concerning the Scturus vulgaris, namely,
that he hibernates and hoards. In the
sense of having a special deposit of his
surplus food for the winter, he does not
hoard ; but every day he disposes of what
he finds and does not eat by hiding it in
little holes which he digs in the ground
near by, never putting two nuts in the same
hole. And I have seen a squirrel distribute
a dozen nuts over a circle of a hundred
yards in diameter around the pocket where
I put them, without going to the same spot
twice, or going to a distance.

The grounds around it are now thickly
sprouting with hazels, chestnuts, and oaks,
the last year's planting of the squirrels,
which leads to the superficial conclusion
that they forget where the nuts are hidden.
But they do not forget ; and I have often
seen them go to the spot where the nut
lay, and dig it up; and I have noticed
many incidents showing that they remem-
ber where they have hid nuts. They evi-
dently smell them in the ground, for I
myself have bimed them at the depth the
squirrels use, and they were always dug
up at once. I saw, one day, a squirrel go
to a spot of bare ground which had been
trampled smooth, and dig down to where
a nut had been hidden, take it out, and
examine it carefully, put it back, and cover
it up again. Some are left to germinate,
because there is always a fresh supply
every morning, and the cache is not ex-
hausted for daily subsistence.

The American gray squirrel, in default
of a secure hiding-place, resorts to the
same practice of hiding in the ground,
though, if permitted, he makes a storage
of his siuplus, and I suppose that he hiber-
nates ; but our little English pensioner is
always in evidence, leaping through the
snow when it is deep enough to bury him,
gradually turning gray, as the winter comes
on, but always the same merry little fellow.

Their language is much more compli-
cated than I had imagined. They have
several distinct cries of warning, or suspi-
cion, or danger : cooie, raising the note at

the end, sets the whole family in alarm;
a cluck, easily imitated, and resembling
slightly the cluck of a hen with chickens,
is purely personal, and calls for no re-
mark from the others; a sound that is
like a chrrrr, prolonged like that of our
chickaree; and a bark of defiance which
one hears in the wood when they are at
home and a stranger comes in, which is
accompanied by stamping and waving of
the tail. But their personal communication
is carried on by contact of noses, which
seems to put them in a sort of mental rap-

I brought into the study, one day, one
of my tiutle-doves, and it flew up to the
pole on which the squirrels run round the
room. One of them came cautiously to
see what this strange thing might be ; but
as he ventured timidly to smell the bird,
it struck him with its wing, and he bolted
back, jumping over another which had fol-
lowed him close with the same curiosity,
and which ventured in turn to question
the sphinx, with the same result, when he
retreated like the other.

They met face to face, and the second,
with a curious expression of query, rubbed
noses with the first, as if to say, " Was that
what happened to you?" After a mo-
ment's consultation, they advanced to-
gether with the same caution, when the
dove flew away, leaving them in evident

Life has grown less hard, and the famil-
iarity with us greater, since we began to
content ourselves with being a little prov-
idence to them in the woods. From the
breakfast- table we see them scurrying
among the ferns or across the lawn, hid-
ing the nuts I had put out in the pockets,
or deliberately feasting on a table set out
among the trees. So far as one inan can
regulate their condition, they will have re-
gained paradise unmolested while I live,
a sanctuary with daily nuts and water-
all they want. I find my sufficient com-
pensation in their cheerful presence, which
brings me every day in contact with sen-
tient nature, the constant reminder of the
universal kinship with the great Life that
inundates the world around me. It is to
me a great happiness ; and a great estate
without that presence would be worthless.
If men knew how cheaply happiness may
be had!

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WHERE the bronze boles of pines rise shadow-straight,
Like standing pillars round a ruined shrine,
Low in the spacious calm a Buddha sits
In perfect knowledge, ages since attained.
There is no tremor in his brooding soul,
Nor falters once the river of his thought.
No visitor disturbs his holy dream.
For only Bombus knows the hidden way —
The honest bumblebee, whose blameless life
Entitles him to come and go at will,
Like a fat villager with his offering.



Author of *• The Call of the Sea," " Kerrigan's Diplomacy," etc.

IHE group on the quarter-deck
staggered together in a hud-
dled bunch, then fell apart as
Medbury and the captain
slipped out and ran forward.
Then the brig rose on another swell, and
came up bumping, with a snarling sound
along the fore-chains.

"It 's some barnacled old derelict,"
Medbury turned to shout to the captain,
who was following him with surprising
swiftness, but with short, quick strides, like
a waddling duck, and breathing heavily.
Medbury was on the rail, peering over into
the darkness, when the captain reached the
fore-rigging. A group of sailors huddled
about the rail.

"Here, you," called Captain March,
" get fenders quick ! Bring that spare royal-
yard— anything! " Then he lifted himself
into the rigging by Med bury *s side. The
next minute he was calling for a lantern
and the flare.

They quickly had the yard and some

planks lashed over the side, though they
knew that such protections were almost
futile in the lift of the swell that was then
running. Under the light of the flare, gray
and almost invisible in the thick night,
awash at one moment, at the next showing
a jagged line of railless stanchions, they
saw the derelict lying almost parallel with
them. With the flare in his hand, Medbury
lowered himself down to the channel, look-
ing for the place of contact. Forward of
the chains the side of the brig was badly
scraped, and a part of the channel was splin-
tered ; but they could see no other injury.

" Lucky she did n*t come under us when
we dropped," Medbury said.

" She may yet/' replied the captain. He
straightened up, and held his hand ^above
his head. There was not a breath of air stir-
ring. He turned to the mate again. " Get a
boat over the side quick, Mr. Medbury,"
he said ; " we 've got to pull out of this."

They swung the boat off the center-
house, and with difficulty, in the heavy
swell, got her over the side and away, with
Medbury and five of the men as her crew.

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A line was paid out to them, and run
through a forward chock and passed about
the capstan. Standing by the port cat-
head. Captain March "held turn."

"Don*t know what may happen," he
said aloud to himself. "I 'd better keep
a hold o' this in this swell." He sent a
man up to the top with a lantern, and the
second mate to the wheel. "Straight
ahead, now I *' he roared to the boat. " We
don't want to swing her coimter over it
Straight ahead, now, you ! "

He could hear the thud of the oars in
the rowlocks and their irregular beat on
the water, for rowing in the swell was hard ;
but he could hear, too, the zip ! zip ! of
the line as it tautened, and then the splash
as it dropped slack. At times the two hulls
came together with a jar, but with no great
shock after the first.

Drew had come forward, and once he
asked the captain if he could be of assis-

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 66 of 120)