The Affectionate Seal
by W. H. G. Kingston
If you have ever examined the head of a seal, with its large gentle eyes, you will readily believe that the animal possesses a certain amount of intellect, and is capable of very affectionate feelings.
The story I am about to tell you is a very sad one. Perhaps you will recollect the seal in the Zoological Gardens, which used to come out of its pond at the call of the French sailor to whom it belonged, and, climbing up while he sat on a chair, put its fins round his neck and give him a kiss. How it immediately obeyed him when he told it to go back to the water, and how adroitly it used to catch the fish which he threw to it. I remember also hearing of a seal in Shetland which would return with its prey in its mouth on being summoned by the owner.
But the seal I am going to tell you about belonged to a gentleman in the west of Ireland, near the sea. This seal was so tame, and so attached to its master, that it would follow him about like a dog, and seemed much pleased whenever allowed to lick his hand.
People in that part of the country are sadly ignorant and superstitious. Two bad harvests having succeeded each other, the foolish inhabitants took it into their heads that the disaster was caused by the innocent seal. So many were the complaints they made, some people even threatening the owner, that, fearing the life of his favourite would be endangered, he was obliged to consent to its being sent away. Having been put on board a boat, it was taken to some distance and then thrown into the sea. Very shortly afterwards, however, it found its way back to its beloved master. Still anxious to preserve the animal’s life, he consented to its being again carried away to a greater distance; but once more it returned. This made the ignorant people more certain than ever that the poor seal was some evil being.
Again it was put on board a boat, the crew of which rowed to a much greater distance than before, determining that the poor seal should trouble them no more. Though following the injunctions of their master not to kill it, they cruelly put out its eyes, and then threw it overboard, to perish in the wide ocean, as they believed. Some time passed, when one stormy night the gentleman heard above the moaning sounds of the gale the plaintive cry of his favourite close to his house. He went to the door, and, opening it, there lay the body of the affectionate animal quite dead. Though deprived of its sight, it had found its way back to the shore on which its master’s house stood, and exerting all its strength, had crawled up to the door; thus exhibiting an amount of affection for its human friend such as can scarcely exist in a greater degree in the breast of any animal.