SOME TRUE STORIES

OF TIGERS, WOLVES, FOXES AND BEARS

By W. H. G. Kingston

On one of her voyages from China, the Pitt, East Indiaman, had on board, among her passengers, a young tiger. He appeared to be as harmless and playful as a kitten, and allowed the utmost familiarity from every one. He was especially fond of creeping into the sailors' hammocks; and while he lay stretched on the deck, he would suffer two or three of them to place their heads on his back, as upon a pillow. Now and then, however, he would at dinner-time run off with pieces of their meat; and though sometimes severely punished for the theft, he bore the chastisement he received with the patience of a dog. His chief companion was a terrier, with whom he would play all sorts of tricks—tumbling and rolling over the animal in the most amusing manner, without hurting it. He would also frequently run out on the bowsprit, and climb about the rigging with the agility of a cat.

On his arrival in England, he was sent to the menagerie at the Tower. While there, another terrier was introduced into his den. Possibly he may have mistaken it for his old friend, for he immediately became attached to the dog, and appeared uneasy whenever it was taken away. Now and then the dangerous experiment was tried of allowing the terrier to remain while the tiger was fed. Presuming on their friendship, the dog occasionally ventured to approach him; but the tiger showed his true nature on such occasions by snarling in a way which made the little animal quickly retreat.

He had been in England two years, when one of the seamen of the Pitt came to the Tower. The animal at once recognized his old friend, and appeared so delighted, that the sailor begged to be allowed to go into the den. The tiger, on this, rubbed himself against him, licked his hands, and fawned on him as a cat would have done. The sailor remained in the den for a couple of hours or more, during which time the tiger kept so close to him, that it was evident he would have some difficulty in getting out again, without the animal making his escape at the same time. The den consisted of two compartments. At last the keeper contrived to entice the tiger to the inner one, when he closed the slide, and the seaman was liberated.

Even a wolf, savage as that animal is, may, if caught young, and treated kindly, become tame.

A story is told of a wolf which showed a considerable amount of affection for its master. He had brought it up from a puppy, and it became as tame as the best-trained dog, obeying him in everything. Having frequently to leave home, and not being able to take the wolf with him, he sent it to a menagerie, where he knew it would be carefully looked after. At first the wolf was very unhappy, and evidently pined for its absent master. At length, resigning itself to its fate, it made friends with its keepers, and recovered its spirits.

Fully eighteen months had passed by, when its old master, returning home, paid a visit to the menagerie. Immediately he spoke, the wolf recognized his voice, and made strenuous efforts to get free. On being set at liberty it sprang forward, and leaped up and caressed him like a dog. Its master, however, left it with its keepers, and three years passed away before he paid another visit to the menagerie. Notwithstanding this lapse of time, the wolf again recognized him, and exhibited the same marks of affection.

On its master again going away, the wolf became gloomy and desponding, and refused its food, so that fears were entertained for its life.

It recovered its health, however, and though it suffered its keepers to approach, exhibited the savage disposition of its tribe towards all strangers.

The history of this wolf shows you that the fiercest tempers may be calmed by gentleness.

Arrant thieves as foxes are, with regard to their domestic virtues they eminently shine. Both parents take the greatest interest in rearing and educating their offspring. They provide, in their burrow, a comfortable nest, lined with feathers, for their new-born cubs. Should either parent perceive in the neighbourhood of their abode the slightest sign of human approach, they immediately carry their young to a spot of greater safety, sometimes many miles away. They usually set off in the twilight of a fine evening. The papa fox having taken a survey all round, marches first, the young ones march singly, and mamma brings up the rear. On reaching a wall or bank, papa always mounts first, and looks carefully around, rearing himself on his haunches to command a wider view. He then utters a short cry, which the young ones, understanding as "Come along!" instantly obey. All being safely over, mamma follows, pausing in her turn on the top of the fence, when she makes a careful survey, especially rearward. She then gives a responsive cry, answering to "All right!" and follows the track of the others. Thus the party proceed on their march, repeating the same precautions at each fresh barrier.

When peril approaches, the wary old fox instructs his young ones to escape with turns and doublings on their path, while he himself will stand still on some brow or knoll, where he can both see and be seen. Having thus drawn attention to himself, he will take to flight in a different direction. Occasionally, while the young family are disporting themselves near their home, if peril approach, the parents utter a quick, peculiar cry, commanding the young ones to hurry to earth; knowing that, in case of pursuit, they have neither strength nor speed to secure their escape. They themselves will then take to flight, and seek some distant place of security.

The instruction they afford their young is varied. Sometimes the parents toss bones into the air for the young foxes to catch. If the little one fails to seize it before it falls to the ground, the parent will snap at him in reproof. If he catches it cleverly, papa growls his approval, and tosses it up again. This sport continues for a considerable time.

As I have said, no other animals so carefully educate their young in the way they should go, as does the fox. He is a good husband, an excellent father, capable of friendship, and a very intelligent member of society; but all the while, it must be confessed, an incorrigible rogue and thief.

A gentleman was lying one summer's day under the shelter of some shrubs on the banks of the Tweed, when his attention was attracted by the cries of wild-fowl, accompanied by a great deal of fluttering and splashing. On looking round, he perceived a large brood of ducks, which had been disturbed by the drifting of a fir branch among them. After circling in the air for a little time, they again settled down on their feeding-ground.

Two or three minutes elapsed, when the same event again occurred. A branch drifted down with the stream into the midst of the ducks, and startled them from their repast. Once more they rose upon the wing, clamouring loudly, but when the harmless bough had drifted by, settled themselves down upon the water as before. This occurred so frequently, that at last they scarcely troubled themselves to flutter out of the way, even when about to be touched by the drifting bough.

The gentleman, meantime, marking the regular intervals at which the fir branches succeeded each other in the same track, looked for a cause, and perceived, at length, higher up the bank of the stream, a fox, which, having evidently sent them adrift, was eagerly watching their progress and the effect they produced. Satisfied with the result, cunning Reynard at last selected a larger branch of spruce-fir than usual, and couching himself down on it, set it adrift as he had done the others. The birds, now well trained to indifference, scarcely moved till he was in the midst of them, when, making rapid snaps right and left, he secured two fine young ducks as his prey, and floated forward triumphantly on his raft; while the surviving fowls, clamouring in terror, took to flight, and returned no more to the spot.

A labourer going to his work one morning sight of a fox stretched out at full length under a bush. Believing it to be dead, the man drew it out by the tail, and swung it about to assure himself of the fact. Perceiving no symptoms of life, he then threw it over his shoulder, intending to make a cap of the skin, and ornament his cottage wall with the brush. While the fox hung over one shoulder, his mattock balanced it on the other. The point of the instrument, as he walked along, every now and then struck against the ribs of the fox, which, not so dead as the man supposed, objected to this proceeding, though he did not mind being carried along with his head downward. Losing patience, he gave a sharp snap at that portion of the labourer's body near which his head hung. The man, startled by this sudden attack, threw fox and mattock to the ground, when, turning round, he espied the live animal making off at full speed.

I have still another story to tell about cunning Reynard. Daylight had just broke, when a well-known naturalist, gun in hand, wandering in search of specimens, observed a large fox making his way along the skirts of a plantation. Reynard looked cautiously over the turf-wall into the neighbouring field, longing evidently to get hold of some of the hares feeding in it, well aware that he had little chance of catching one by dint of running. After examining the different gaps in the wall, he fixed on one which seemed to be the most frequented, and laid himself down close to it, in the attitude of a cat watching a mouse-hole. He next scraped small hollow in the ground, to form a kind of screen. Now and then he stopped to listen, or take a cautious peep into the field. This done, he again laid himself down, and remained motionless, except when occasionally his eagerness induced him to reconnoitre the feeding hares.

One by one, as the sun rose, they made their way from the field to the plantation. Several passed, but he moved not, except to crouch still closer to the ground. At length two came directly towards him. The involuntary motion of his ears, though he did not venture to look up, showed that he was aware of their approach. Like lightning, as they were leaping through the gap, Reynard was upon them, and catching one, killed her immediately. He was decamping with his booty, when a rifle-ball put an end to his career.

I must tell you one more story about a fox, and a very interesting little animal it was, though not less cunning than its relatives in warmer regions.

Mr. Hayes, the Arctic explorer, had a beautiful little snow-white fox, which was his companion in his cabin when his vessel was frozen up during the winter. She had been caught in a trap, but soon became tame, and used to sit in his lap during meals, with her delicate paws on the cloth. A plate and fork were provided for her, though she was unable to handle the fork herself; and little bits of raw venison, which she preferred to seasoned food. When she took the morsels into her mouth, her eyes sparkled with delight. She used to wipe her lips, and look up at her master with a coquetterie perfectly irresistible. Sometimes she exhibited much impatience; but a gentle rebuke with a fork on the tip of the nose was sufficient to restore her patience.

When sufficiently tame, she was allowed to run loose in the cabin; but she got into the habit of bounding over the shelves, without much regard for the valuable and perishable articles lying on them.

She soon also found out the bull's-eye overhead, through the cracks round which she could sniff the cool air. Close beneath it she accordingly took up her abode; and thence she used to crawl down when dinner was on the table, getting into her master's lap, and looking up longingly and lovingly into his face, sometimes putting out her little tongue with impatience, and barking, if the beginning of the repast was too long delayed.

To prevent her climbing, she was secured by a slight chain. This she soon managed to break, and once having performed the operation, she did not fail to attempt it again. To do this, she would first draw herself back as far as she could get, and then suddenly dart forward, in the hope of snapping it by the jerk; and though she was thus sent reeling on the floor, she would again pick herself up, panting as if her little heart would break, shake out her disarranged coat, and try once more. When observed, however, she would sit quietly down, cock her head cunningly on one side, follow the chain with her eye along its whole length to its fastening on the floor, walk leisurely to that point, hesitating a moment, and then make another plunge. All this time she would eye her master sharply, and if he moved, she would fall down on the floor at once, and pretend to be asleep.

She was a very neat and cleanly creature, everlastingly brushing her clothes, and bathing regularly in a bath of snow provided for her in the cabin. This last operation was her great delight. She would throw up the white flakes with her diminutive nose, rolling about and burying herself in them, wipe her face with her soft paws, and then mount to the side of the tub, looking round her knowingly, and barking the prettiest bark that ever was heard. This was her way of enforcing admiration; and being now satisfied with her performance, she would give a goodly number of shakes to her sparkling coat, then, happy and refreshed, crawl into her airy bed in the bull's-eye, and go to sleep.

The Indian believes the bear to be possessed not only of a wonderful amount of sagacity, but of feelings akin to those of human beings. Though most species are savage when irritated, some of them occasionally exhibit good humour and kindness.

A story is told of a man in Russia, who on an expedition in search of honey, climbed into a high tree. The trunk was hollow, and he discovered a large cone within. He was descending to obtain it, when he stuck fast. Unable to extricate himself, and too far from home to make his voice heard, he remained in that uncomfortable position for two days, sustaining his life by eating the honey. He had become silent from despair, when, looking up, what was his horror to see a huge bear above him, tempted by the same object which had led him into his dangerous predicament, and about to descend into the interior of the tree!

Bears—very wisely—when getting into hollows of rocks or trees, go tail-end first, that they may be in a position to move out again when necessary. No sooner, in spite of his dismay, did the tail of the bear reach him, than the man caught hold of it. The animal, astonished at finding some big creature below him, when he only expected to meet with a family of bees, against whose stings his thick hide was impervious, quickly scrambled out again, dragging up the man, who probably shouted right lustily. Be that as it may, the bear waddled off at a quick rate, and the honey-seeker made his way homeward, to relate his adventure, and relieve the anxiety of his family.

The brown bear, which lives in Siberia, may be considered among the most good-natured of his tribe. Mr. Atkinson, who travelled in that country, tells us that some peasants—a father and mother—had one day lost two of their children, between four and six years of age. It was soon evident that their young ones had wandered away to a distance from their home, and as soon as this discovery was made they set off in search of them.

Having proceeded some way through the wilds, they caught sight in the distance of a large animal, which, as they got nearer, they discovered to be a brown bear; and what was their horror to see within its clutches their lost young ones! Their sensations of dismay were exchanged for astonishment, when they saw the children running about, laughing, round the bear, sometimes taking it by the paws, and sometimes pulling it by the tail. The monster, evidently amused with their behaviour, treated them in the most affectionate manner. One of the children now produced some fruit, with which it fed its shaggy playfellow, while the other climbed up on its back, and sat there, fearlessly urging its strange steed to move on. The parents gave way to cries of terror at seeing the apparent danger to which their offspring were exposed. The little boy, however, having slipped off the bear's back, the animal, hearing the sound of other voices, left the children, and retreated quietly into the forest.