The Deer by Francis C. Woodworth


There are several species of the deer—the moose, stag, rein-deer, elk, and others. Of these, the stag is one of the most interesting. He is said to love music, and to show great delight in hearing a person sing. "Traveling some years since," says a gentleman whose statements may be relied on, "I met a bevy of about twenty stags, following a bagpipe and violin. While the music continued, they proceeded; when it ceased, they all stood still."

As Captain Smith, a British officer in Bengal, was out one day in a shooting party, very early in the morning, they observed a tiger steal out of a jungle, in pursuit of a herd of deer. Having selected one as his object, it was quickly deserted by the herd. The tiger advanced with such amazing swiftness, that the stag in vain attempted to escape, and at the moment the officer expected to see the animal make the fatal spring, the deer gallantly faced his enemy, and for some minutes kept him at bay; and it was not till after three attacks, that the tiger succeeded in securing his prey. He was supposed to have been considerably injured by the horns of the stag, as, on the advance of Captain Smith, he abandoned the carcass, having only sucked the blood from the throat.

The following account of a remarkably intelligent stag, is given by Delacroix, a French gentleman: "When I was at Compiegne, my friends took me to a German, who exhibited a wonderful stag. As soon as we had taken our seats in a large room, the stag was introduced. He was of an elegant form, and majestic stature, and his aspect animated and gentle. The first trick he performed, was to make a profound bow to the company, as he entered, after which he paid his respects to each individual of us, in the same manner. He next carried about a small stick in his mouth, to each end of which a small wax taper was attached. He was then blindfolded, and at the beat of a drum, fell upon his knees, and laid his head upon the ground. As soon as the word pardon was pronounced, he instantly sprang upon his feet. Dice were then thrown upon the head of a drum, and he told the numbers that were thrown up, by bowing his head as many times as there were numbers indicated. He discharged a pistol, by drawing with his teeth a string that was fastened to the trigger. He fired a small cannon by means of a match which was attached to his right foot, and he exhibited no signs of fear at the report of the cannon. He leaped through a hoop several times, with the greatest agility—his master holding the hoop at the height of his head above the floor. At length the exhibition was closed, by his eating a handfull of oats from the head of a drum, which a person was beating all the time, with the utmost violence."

We must wind up what we have to say about this animal with a fable. Perhaps my little friends have seen it before. But it will bear reading again, and I should not be sorry to hear that many of you had committed it to memory; for there is a moral in it which you cannot fail to perceive, and which may be of service to you one of these days:

"A stag, quenching his thirst in a clear lake, was struck with the beauty of his horns, which he saw reflected in the water. At the same time, observing the extreme length and slenderness of his legs, 'What a pity it is,' said he, 'that so fine a creature should be furnished with so despicable a set of spindle-shanks! What a noble animal I should be, were my legs answerable to my horns!'

"In the midst of this vain talk, the stag was alarmed by the cry of a pack of hounds. He immediately bounded over the ground, and left his pursuers so far behind that he might have escaped; but going into a thick wood, his horns were entangled in the branches of the trees, where he was held till the hounds came up, and tore him in pieces.

"In his last moments he thus exclaimed: 'How ill do we judge of our own true advantages! The legs which I despised would have borne me away in safety, had not my favorite antlers brought me to ruin.'"