Eliza Lee Cabot Follen.

True Stories about Dogs and Cats online

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In a pretty, quiet village in New England lived Mary Chilton. She
was a widow. She had two sons; and it was the occupation and the
happiness of her life to do all she could to make her boys good and
happy. I should say to help and teach them to be good and happy; for
boys and girls must make themselves good; and then, of course, they
will be happy; and no one can be made good or happy against his

I hear some boy or girl who reads this say, "How old were they, and
what were their names?" No boy can get along with another boy till
he knows his name and age, and so, that you may be sure that they
were real, live boys, I will tell you these important facts. The
eldest was called Frank, and was nine years old. His brother was
called Harry, and was seven. They were very much like other boys,
somewhat disposed to have their own way in every thing, and a little
vexed when they could not do as they pleased; sometimes really
wishing to do right, and be obedient, and make their mother happy.

The little fellows were fond of saying to their mother that when
they grew bigger they should take care of her; and the idea that she
depended upon them for her happiness often made them stop and think
when they were disposed to do a wrong thing.

When Harry said to Frank, "Mother will be so sorry if we do it,"
Frank would stop and think, and that was enough.

Stop and think. Grand words, and worth attending to. I believe that,
if boys and girls would only keep these words well in mind, there
would be only a small number of really naughty children.

It was a custom with this good and faithful mother to have a little
talk with her boys, every night before their bed time, of what had
passed during the day. Sometimes she told them stories, sometimes
they repeated poetry.

The hours they passed in this way were the happiest in the whole
day. Some of their twilight talks and stories Mrs. Chilton wrote
down, thinking they might amuse some little cousins, who lived at a
distance. Perhaps some other little boys and girls may like to hear
them too.

One evening, early in November, when tea was over, and the tea
things were removed; when the nice hearth was swept clean, and the
great wood fire was blazing brightly, and sending forth its cheering
light and heat through the whole room, Frank and Harry had taken
their accustomed places, one on each side of their mother who was
sitting on the old-fashioned sofa. Each one appropriated a hand to
himself, when they both, almost in the same breath, said to her,
"You promised us, Mother, if we were good boys, to tell us a story
this evening. Now, have we not been good boys all day?"

"Yes, you have," she replied; "you have not quarrelled, and you have
got your lessons well; and I will gladly perform my promise. But I
hardly know whether I can remember or make up any story to tell you.
However, I will do my best. What sort of a story will you have?"

"I," said Frank, "should like a real good true story about a dog, or
any other animal."

"And I like a made-up story best," said Harry.

"I have an anecdote of a dog for you, Frank, which a friend related
to me the other day, and which I determined to remember to tell you,
as I recollected your love for dogs. The lady who told me the story
is an English woman. She was in the place where the thing happened,
at the very time, and knew the dog and his master.

An English gentleman had a small dog, I think a terrier; he took it
with him across the English Channel to Calais which, you know, is in
France. He had business there, and remained some time. One day his
poor little dog was severely treated by a French dog, much larger
than himself.

The little terrier knew that he could not punish the big French dog.
For some days you might see him with his head hanging down as well
as his tail, and a most melancholy expression in his face. At last,
he disappeared. His master, who was very fond of him, made every
inquiry after him. In vain - his little four-footed friend was
nowhere to be found.

One day, not long after, in walked the terrier, bringing with him a
dog much larger than himself. He and his big friend looked very busy
and important, as if they had on hand some weighty affair to
transact. They showed how seriously they were cogitating, by curling
up their tails even more than common.

The terrier, after receiving gratefully his master's caresses, and
taking care that his great friend should receive his full share of
the food which was given them, led the way, through the court yard,
to the front of the house. There they took their place, and sat for
a long time, looking as solemn as two judges hearing a cause, or two
deacons at church watching some troublesome boys.

It seems the little terrier had been to England, and told of the bad
treatment he had received from the large French dog, and had brought
over a great dog friend to avenge the insult.

Patiently they sat for some time, looking up street.

At length, the terrier began to prick up his ears, and, in dog
language, he told his big friend that the enemy was approaching.
They waited quietly till he was near them, and then they both sprang
upon the cowardly fellow, gave him a good drubbing, and sent him off
with his tail between his legs.

After this, the big English dog, without looking round to see what
they did, and said, and how they looked in France, wagging his tail
with great satisfaction, and perhaps saying to the little dog that
he could not understand French, and pitied him for having a master
who could endure living in a foreign land, especially France, his
dogship walked aboard a packet, and, with a solemn face and
self-satisfied, triumphant air, without paying his passage, and with his
tail turned towards France and the ship's company, placed himself in
the forward part of the vessel, and so returned to his native land."

"Hurrah for dogs!" cried Harry, clapping his hands. "I say they are
as good as men any day. They say, Mother, that the Indians believe
their dogs will go to heaven with them. Will they, Mother?"

"We know nothing of the future state of animals, Harry. We only know
that they are more gentle and intelligent the more kind we are to
them. The most savage animals are tamed by constant kindness. Who
does not remember Sir Walter Scott's pet pig? The reason why the pig
was so fond of his master was that Sir Walter had not treated him
piggishly, but humanely.

You have been told of Baron Trenck's spider. Men have had pet lions
and tigers. When I see a fine, gentle horse, or an intelligent,
loving dog, I find myself repeating Miss Barrett's beautiful words, -

"Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature."

Now I have a funny story for you of a dog and a hen which a friend
told me that she knew to be true.

A small dog had a litter of puppies in a barn close by a hen who was
sitting on her eggs, waiting patiently, as hens do, for the time
when her chickens should pop their pretty heads out of their shells
into this pleasant world.

The puppies, however, came first, and, as soon as they were born,
she left her nest, and insisted upon brooding them.

The little dog, no doubt, thought her very impertinent, and barked
at her, and tried to drive her away; but she would not go. They had
always been good friends, and the dog was unwilling to hurt her; and
so Mrs. Dog, after showing, in every way, her desire to get rid of
her troublesome acquaintance, and finding that Madame Hen would not
budge one inch, let her alone.

From that time, the hen brooded the puppies. She let their mother
suckle them, but the rest of the time took charge of them. The poor
dog mother felt cheated, but she went off and amused herself as well
as she could.

The poor chickens never showed their heads outside of their little
oval prison, for they missed the gentle warmth of their unnatural
mother's wings."

"She was a real funny hen," said Frank; "but she could not have had
much brains, not even so much as common hens, and that's little
enough; but, as for the dog, she must be as lazy as Dick Doolittle,
to be willing to have such a stupid nursery woman as a hen take care
of her own puppies. Dick lets Tom Jones do all his sums for him, but
then he never hides it, so we only laugh at him. He says, What's the
use of being named Doolittle and yet have to do much?

But, Mother, it is not bed time yet. Have you not some more stories
of animals?"

"Yes, Frank; but Harry wants his story now. It is his turn to

"I can wait till to-morrow evening," said Harry; "and I like the dog
and hen stories very much."

"Harry shall have his turn, then, to-morrow," said Mrs. Chilton;
"and I will tell you some more stories of dogs, for I now remember
some more that are perfectly true.

You never know how intelligent an animal is till you treat it with
kindness. All animals are easily frightened by human beings, and
fear makes them stupid. Children naturally love animals, but
sometimes a foolish boy loves to show his power over them, and so
learns to be cruel.

A little boy of my acquaintance, when he was told that he might ask
some friends to pass his birthday with him, and was asked who should
be invited, named over all the dogs in the neighborhood, and was
much grieved when his choice was greeted with laughter.

I have seen a little fellow of three years of age with his hand in
the mouth of a large, hungry dog, trying to get a piece of bread out
of it, and the dog not resenting the liberty at all, but merely
trying to retain his share of the bread, and allowing the child to
take a part.

We all know that dogs have chosen to die upon the graves of their
masters, refusing food even when it was brought to them. We look at
such animals as if we saw in them an angel in prison. We feel as if
such a nature could not die.

There is no doubt that dogs understand language. My friend, Mr. S.
P. Miles, who was remarkable for his tender love for animals, as
well as for many other noble and lovely qualities, told me some
remarkable facts which came under his own personal observation, and
which I am, therefore, sure are true, showing that intelligent dogs
understand language.

He said that in his father's house was an old dog, to whom they were
much attached, who however became liable to fits. The dog was very
fond of hunting, and the moment he saw any one take the gun, to go
into the woods, he would show his ecstasy by leaping about.

Mr. Miles's mother one day, when caressing the dog and lamenting
that he was subject to these fits, told her son that he had better
shoot him the next time that he went out hunting with him. A few
days after, Mr. Miles went hunting; but the moment he reached up for
his gun, which was laid up on hooks in the wall, the dog, instead of
showing joy by jumping about, ran directly to the good lady who had
condemned him to death, got under the table at which she was
sitting, looked up in her face, and would not move from that place.
Never after could the poor fellow be induced to go out with any one
who had a gun in his hand.

The same friend told me of a still more remarkable instance of
intelligence in a dog, though I confess it does not prove that this
dog had much conscience.

Mr. Miles said that he knew the man who owned the dog, and knew the
truth of the whole story. He said that a neighbor had an uncommonly
fine dog, well trained, and, as it seemed, perfect in all things.

One day, a man came and complained that the dog killed his sheep.
The owner said he was sure that it was impossible. Hero was so well
trained, he was always in his kennel at the right hour, and he knew
that he must not kill sheep. After a while, the neighbor came again
with the accusation. The dog was then tied in the barn. The man came
again with the same charge against the dog.

Hero's master now told the accuser that the dog was tied in the barn
on the very night when the sheep were killed. He now made much of
his dumb favorite from the feeling that he was unjustly suspected.

He was, however, much surprised when the owner of the sheep came
again and declared that he had seen his dog kill a sheep that very
night; that he knew the dog, and was sure of the fact. He, of
course, thought he must be mistaken; but said he would watch the
dog. He did so.

At a certain hour of the night, when the dog supposed no one saw
him, the cunning fellow put up his two fore paws, pushed off the
collar to which a chain was attached, darted through the open window
close by, and made for the sheep pasture. He returned in good
season, put his nose into his collar, pushed it down into its place
with his paws, and lay down to sleep.

The master returned to his bed with the painful conviction that he
must kill his intelligent but unprincipled four-footed friend. It is
said nothing will cure a dog of the habit of sheep killing.

In the morning the sorrowful master went to the stable. As he
approached, he said, "O, Hero, how could you do so wrong? I must
have you killed." Quick as thought, the dog pushed his collar over
his ears, darted through the window, and flew like lightning away.
No one in that town ever saw him again.

Mr. Miles told me also that he knew a dog that would carry letters
to persons when told their names; and that no one dared touch the
letter but the person to whom it was directed. No bribe, no coaxing
would induce him to stop when going on these errands. If other dogs
annoyed him, he would not notice them, but run the faster, and take
care to chastise them at another time.

Creatures that show such intelligence, who can understand our
language, and are capable of what is best in our nature, that is, of
self-forgetting love, should be treated with the greatest
tenderness. We know not what they may be capable of till we have
tried the influence of constant justice and kindness. It is
questionable whether poor Hero could have been cured of his fault.
But I would give all a chance."

"I should like to have Hero for my dog," said Frank, "and live with
him in a place where there were no sheep; and then, after many
years, he might forget his bad tricks."

"I must say something in favor of the much-abused cat. Doubtless she
would be a much better member of society, if she were better
treated, if she had a better example set before her.

Sportsmen are very angry because she catches birds, and because she
is sly. They will themselves lie down in the grass so that the birds
may not see them, and be as sly as the very slyest old puss, and yet
they cannot forgive her for watching noiselessly for birds. Has not
she as good a right as any sportsman to a little game? She takes
only what she wants to eat. She does not kill them in order to boast
to another cat of how many she has bagged.

They say she must be bad, for she kills singing birds. Do not
sportsmen kill larks and thrushes? Were you once to see a lark
rising up into the blue sky higher and higher, and hear him singing
as he rises louder and louder, as if he saw heaven opening, and
wanted to tell you how beautiful it was, and call you up there; and
then to think of killing and eating him, you would say, What cat can
be so unfeeling as a man? Who, with any music in his soul, could do
so? Yet men do eat larks for dinner, and then scold at the poor cat
who treats herself with only one perhaps. Why should she not be a
little dainty? Men, women, and hoys and girls are often cruel and
unreasonable, not merely cats. The cat is as good as she knows how
to be."

"So you are, pussy," said Harry, taking up his pet cat in his lap,
and stroking her. "You never do any harm, but catch the mice in our
mother's barn. But you are a little sly, and, if you should catch
birds, right or wrong, I'm afraid I should box your ears. You must
learn to do without birds for your dinner."

"When I was in England," said Mrs. Chilton, "I saw, exhibited in a
cage about five feet square, rats, mice, cats and dogs, a hawk, a
guinea pig, a rabbit, some pigeons, an owl and some little birds,
all together, as amiable and merry as possible. Miss Puss sat in the
midst, purring. The others ran over her, or flew upon her head. She
had no thought of hurting them, and they were not afraid of her.

I found, on inquiring, that the way the keeper establishes such
peace and harmony is by systematic and constant gentleness, and by
keeping the animals all well fed. They are called the happy family.

The cage was always surrounded by a crowd of people curious to see
such natural enemies so happy together. Nothing but the law of
kindness could make all those creatures so civil and well behaved to
each other. But I must not forget my anecdotes of that respectable
animal, the cat.

You need not smile; I mean to make you respect, as well as love
cats. There are some men, and many boys who say they are domestic
tigers, that they are sly, that they steal, that you cannot trust
them; that the cat heart is bad, and that there is no harm in boys'
teasing them, since it is no more than cats deserve; that they were
made for us to plague; and that the only good thing they do is to
catch rats and mice.

Now, if this were true, and they were really ever so bad, they ought
never to be treated cruelly, never teased and tormented. None but
the meanest boy will ever torment any animal.

He who created us created also the little fly that crawls upon the
window pane. I am not now thinking of those boys who do not
remember, or have never learned this truth, but of those who have a
cruel prejudice against cats, of those who are kind to dogs and
horses, but unkind to cats. I shall speak to you of the poor cat
with almost as much respect and seriousness as if I were talking
about any of my fellow- creatures who were injured and ill treated.

We take it for granted that cats have no love in them, and so we
never act towards them as if they had any; now I believe they have,
on the whole, pretty good hearts, and, if they were treated with
justice and kindness, would be far more respectable members of
society than they are. To show this I will mention some facts of
which I have heard, and, some which I have witnessed.

In the first place, the cat is accused of never caring for the
inhabitants of a house, but only for the house itself. Now I knew an
affectionate cat who manifested much disturbance when the family
were making preparations for moving; at last, all was gone from the
house except herself and the cook. The cook, in order to make sure
that the cat should not escape from the carriage on the way, put her
into a cage and fastened her in.

When they arrived, the cat walked quietly out of her cage, looked at
her old friend the cook, went into another room where she met
another friend, and began forthwith to purr her satisfaction.

Two years afterwards, this family moved again. As soon as the cat
saw the preparations making for moving, she showed great uneasiness,
and went down into the cellar, where she remained during all the

When all else was gone, the cook went to the cellar stairs, and
called her. The cat came up directly. The cook stroked her, and
showed her a basket just big enough to hold her, and said, "Get in,
get in, pussy, and take a pretty ride!" The cat got in, and, without
the least resistance, allowed herself to be shut into the basket by
a cloth tied over it. As soon as she saw the different members of
the family in the new house, she manifested her contentment.

In six months the family moved again. The cat again submitted
herself, and showed her preference to her friends over their house.

A cat has been known to nurse and bring up a rat with her own
kittens. I once took a little rabbit who was starving to death from
the neglect of its own mother, and placed it before the same cat who
preferred the people to the house. She had just come from nursing
her kittens, and when she saw the little trembling rabbit before
her, her first thought was, evidently to make a good meal of it. I
took up the little thing and caressed it, and then put it down
again. She now approached it in a motherly way, and looked at it;
its ears seemed evidently to puzzle her. After a while, she tried to
take it up as she did her kittens, but saw she could not safely;
then she went to her nest and mewed, and then came to me and rubbed
herself against me; and then went to the rabbit and licked it
tenderly; I now ventured to put the rabbit in with her kittens, and
she nursed, and took the best care of it.

A friend of mine who killed a squirrel not knowing that she had
young ones, took all the little squirrels, brought them into the
house, and put them before his pet cat who had lost all her kittens
but one. Pussy looked at them for a while; probably her cattish
nature thought a little of eating them; but her better nature soon
prevailed, for she took them, one after another, and carried them
all to her nest, and proved a faithful nursing mother to them, and
ere long there was no part of the house in which the old cat and her
roguish adopted children were not to be found.

What will not cats submit to from a loving child? I have seen a
child lie down with a cat for its pillow, and the cat merely move
herself a little, so as to bear the weight as easily as possible.

A cat can be taught to stand and walk on her hind legs, which seems
at first very disagreeable to her.

I remember, when I was a child, seeing a Maltese cat come in every
morning and wait till my father had finished his breakfast, then, at
a certain signal, rise up on her hind legs, and beg for her
breakfast, and take just what was given her with the utmost
propriety, asking for nothing more.

I will tell you a well-authenticated anecdote which I read the other
day. A cat had been brought up in close friendship with a bird. Now
birds, you know, are the favorite food of cats. One day she was seen
suddenly to seize and hold in her claws her feathered companion who
happened to be out of the cage.

The first thought of those who saw her was that, at last, her tiger
nature had come out, and that she was going to make a meal of her
little trusting friend; but all the cat did was to hold the
trembling bird still, and, on looking around the room, it was
discovered that another cat had come in, and that catching the bird
was only the means the friendly cat used to keep it safe till the
intruder should leave the room. As soon as the other cat was gone,
she let go the bird, who it was found was not in the least hurt.

A cat who had been petted and always kindly treated by a family of
children, was present one day when the mother thought it necessary
to strike one of them for some bad action; the cat flew violently at
the mother and tried to scratch her, and from that time she never
could strike one of the children with impunity in the presence of
their faithful, loving friend.

A friend related to me that they had a cat in her father's family
who was a great favorite, and who was particularly fond of the baby;
that one day this child was very fretful, and sat for a long time on
the floor crying, and that nothing would pacify her.

The cat was by her side on the floor, and finding herself not
noticed, and perhaps wearied at the noise, she suddenly stood up on
her hind legs and boxed the child's ears in exactly the same way in
which she was in the habit of boxing her kitten's.

It seems that this cat was not so amiable as the other, and did not
object to giving a box on the ear to a naughty child.

I have another story from a good authority which is still more in
favor of poor pussy, and puts her upon a par with the most faithful

During a hard snow storm last winter, a kitten with a broken leg and
almost frozen hopped into the hall door of a gentleman's house in
Brooklyn, New York, and set up a most piteous mewing.

The master of the house ordered the servants to throw the kitten
into the street, when his little daughter, a child eight years of
age, caught up the poor little creature, and begged to be allowed to
keep and nurse it. The father, at first, refused. The child,
however, begged so earnestly that he at last allowed her to keep the

The little girl, whom we will call Emma, nursed her pet until it got
quite well. The kitten returned, in full measure, all the love of

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Online LibraryEliza Lee Cabot FollenTrue Stories about Dogs and Cats → online text (page 1 of 3)