The child had doubtless wandered from the place where he was left by his father; had fallen over the precipice; had been caught by the bushes near the cave, and scrambled into it. The dog had either followed or found him by the scent, and had since prevented him from starving by giving to him every day his own food.
The faithful, loving creature had never left the child day or night, except to get the piece of oaten cake; and then the dog went at full speed, neither stopping by the way, or apparently reserving any of the cake for himself.
Shall we not, all of us, learn love, fidelity and self-forgetfulness from such an affectionate and faithful creature ?"
" I don't believe I could be as good as that dog," said Frank.
" I know I could not," said Harry. " How the shepherd and his wife must have loved him! If I had been in their place, I should have treated him like the little boy's brother, and kept him always in the parlor".
" I dare say they did," said Mrs. Chilton.
There is an anecdote I have lately read, which shows that dogs have compassion for other dogs, and will help a fellow in distress.
When the ice suddenly melted on a river in Germany, a little dog was seen on a small piece of ice in the middle of the river. It was not known how he got into that situation. He set up the most piteous cries. A large dog who saw him dashed into the river, soon reached the poor spaniel, seized him by the neck, and brought him safe to shore, amidst the shouts and praises of the spectators.
Animals, when treated kindly, attach themselves to human beings. Birds build their nests near the habitations of men. In the wild, distant woods all is still. One hears no song of birds. In England, where the robin is courted and made much of, he comes into the house and takes his food from the table.
In many parts of Europe storks build their nests on the roofs. Swallows, martins, sparrows and wrens often make their nests under our roofs. They confide in us, and trust in our friendship and care. Let us never, my boys, betray or abuse their confidence.
There is a kind of birds who travel all over the United States. They go from South to North, from North to South. They have not, like the martins, the bob-o'-links, and some others, regular times for going and coming; but travel more to obtain food than to escape the winter, and, when once settled in a place with enough suitable food and water, remain there till it is exhausted, and then take flight to some other place".
" Are you telling us a made-up story, Mother ?" said Harry.
" No, Harry, it is really and truly the wild pigeon of America of which I am speaking. Indeed, if it were not for their great power of flight, they must, many of them, starve to death. A proof of their swiftness is the fact that a pigeon has been killed in the neighborhood of New York, with rice in his crop that he must have swallowed in the fields of Georgia or Carolina".
" How could any one know that ?" asked Harry.
" By remembering the fact that in one of those states is the nearest spot at which the bird could have found rice growing. It is a well ascertained fact that their power of digestion is so great, that their food is in the course of twelve hours so entirely changed, that one cannot know what it was. Now the distance of the rice fields from New York— that is, the number of miles travelled in twelve hours — is such that the pigeon must have flown at the rate of about a mile in a minute; so that if he pleased he might go to England in two days; but, Frank, if you will give me that pamphlet that lies on the table, I will read the account of the wild pigeon of America from the book itself.
It was written by the celebrated Audubon, who resided a great many years in America, and who most faithfully watched the birds he described.
After giving an account of the speed of the pigeon, he goes on to say, " This great power of flight is seconded by as great a power of vision, which enables them, as they travel at that great rate, to view objects below, and so discover their food with facility. This I have proved to be the case by observing the pigeons, as they were passing over a barren part of the country, keep high in the air, and present such an extensive front as to enable them to observe hundreds of acres at once.
If, on the contrary, the land is richly covered with food, or the trees with mast, (the fruit of the oak and beech trees,) the birds fly low, in order to discover the portion of woods most plentifully supplied, and there they alight. The form of body of these swift travellers is an elongated (lengthened) oval steered by a long, well-plumed tail,"—just as you know, Harry, you steer your boat by the rudder in the great tub of water; " they are furnished with extremely well set muscular wings. If a single bird is seen gliding through the woods and close by, it passes apparently like a thought, and the eye, on trying to see it again, searches in vain — the bird is gone.
The multitudes of pigeons in our woods are astonishing ; and, indeed, after having for years viewed them so often, under so many circumstances, and I may add in many different climates, I even now feel inclined to pause and assure myself that what I am going to relate is fact.
In the autumn of 1813, I left my house in Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio, on my way to Louisville. Having met the pigeons flying from north-east to south-west in the barrens or natural wastes, a few miles beyond Hardensburgh, in greater apparent numbers than. I had ever seen them before, I felt an inclination to count the flocks that would pass within the reach of my eye in one hour. I dismounted, and, seating myself on a little eminence, took my pencil to mark down what I saw going by and over me; and I made a dot for every flock which passed. Finding, however, that this was next to impossible, and feeling unable to record the flocks as they multiplied constantly, I arose, and counting the dots already put down, discovered that one hundred and sixty-three had been made in twenty-one minutes.