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 boys 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.