Ernest Thompson Seton
Part 1 out of 4
This Etext prepared by Bill Stoddard - e-mail: email@example.com
by Ernest Thompson Seton
Note to Reader
A hero is an individual of unusual gifts and achievements.
Whether it be man or animal, this definition applies; and it is
the histories of such that appeal to the imagination and to the
hearts of those who hear them.
In this volume every one of the stories, though more or less
composite, is founded on the actual life of a veritable animal
hero. The most composite is the White Reindeer. This story I
wrote by Utrovand in Norway during the summer of 1900, while the
Reindeer herds grazed in sight on the near uplands.
The Lynx is founded on some of my own early experiences in the
It is less than ten years since the 'Jack Warhorse' won his
hero-crown. Thousands of "Kaskadoans" will remember him, and by
the name Warhorse his coursing exploits are recorded in several
The least composite is Arnaux. It is so nearly historical that
several who knew the bird have supplied additional items of
The nest of the destroying Peregrines, with its owners and their
young, is now to be seen in the American Museum of Natural
History of New York. The Museum authorities inform me that Pigeon
badges with the following numbers were found in the nest: 9970-S,
1696, U. 63, 77, J. F. 52, Ex. 705, 6-1894, C 20900.
Perhaps some Pigeon-lover may learn from these lines the fate of
one or other wonderful flier that has long been recorded "never
THE SLUM CAT
M-e-a-t! M-e-a-t!" came shrilling down Scrimper's Alley. Surely
the Pied Piper of Hamelin was there, for it seemed that all the
Cats in the neighborhood were running toward the sound, though
the Dogs, it must be confessed, looked
"Meat! Meat! "and louder; then the centre of attraction came in
view--a rough, dirty little man with a push-cart; while
straggling behind him were a score of Cats that joined in his cry
with a sound nearly the same as his own. Every fifty yards, that
is, as soon as a goodly throng of Cats was gathered, the
push-cart stopped. The man with the magic voice took out of the
box in his cart a skewer on which were pieces of strong-smelling
boiled liver. With a long stick he pushed the pieces off. Each
Cat seized on one, and wheeling, with a slight depression of the
ears and a little tiger growl and glare, she rushed away with her
prize to devour it in some safe retreat.
"Meat! Meat!" And still they came to get their portions. All were
well known to the meat-man. There was Castiglione's Tiger; this
was Jones's Black; here was Pralitsky's "Torkershell," and this
was Madame Danton's White; there sneaked Blenkinshoff's Maltee,
and that climbing on the barrow was Sawyer's old Orange Billy, an
impudent fraud that never had had any financial backing,--all to
be remembered and kept in account. This one's owner was sure pay,
a dime a week; that one's doubtful. There was John Washee's Cat,
that got only a small piece because John was in arrears. Then
there was the saloon-keeper's collared and ribboned ratter, which
got an extra lump because the 'barkeep' was liberal; and the
rounds-man's Cat, that brought no cash, but got unusual
consideration because the meat-man did. But there were others. A
black Cat with a white nose came rushing confidently with the
rest, only to be repulsed savagely. Alas! Pussy did not
understand. She had been a pensioner of the barrow for months.
Why this unkind change? It was beyond her comprehension. But the
meat-man knew. Her mistress had stopped payment. The meat-man
kept no books but his memory, and it never was at fault.
Outside this patrician 'four hundred' about the barrow, were
other Cats, keeping away from the push-cart because they were not
on the list, the Social Register as it were, yet fascinated by
the heavenly smell and the faint possibility of accidental good
luck. Among these hangers-on was a thin gray Slummer, a homeless
Cat that lived by her wits--slab-sided and not over-clean. One
could see at a glance that she was doing her duty by a family in
some out-of-the-way corner. She kept one eye on the barrow circle
and the other on the possible Dogs.
She saw a score of happy Cats slink off with their delicious
'daily' and their tiger-like air, but no opening for her, till a
big Tom of her own class sprang on a little pensioner with intent
to rob. The victim dropped the meat to defend herself against the
enemy, and before the 'all-powerful' could intervene, the gray
Slummer saw her chance, seized the prize, and was gone.
She went through the hole in Menzie's side door and over the wall
at the back, then sat down and devoured the lump of liver, licked
her chops, felt absolutely happy, and set out by devious ways to
the rubbish-yard, where, in the bottom of an old cracker-box, her
family was awaiting her. A plaintive mewing reached her ears. She
went at speed and reached the box to see a huge Black Tom-cat
calmly destroying her brood. He was twice as big as she, but she
went at him with all her strength, and he did as most animals
will do when caught wrong-doing, he turned and ran away. Only one
was left, a little thing like its mother, but of more pronounced
color--gray with black spots, and a white touch on nose, ears,
and tail-tip. There can be no question of the mother's grief for
a few days; but that wore off, and all her care was for the
survivor. That benevolence was as far as possible from the
motives of the murderous old Tom there can be no doubt; but he
proved a blessing in deep disguise, for both mother and Kit were
visibly bettered in a short time. The daily quest for food
continued. The meat-man rarely proved a success, but the ash-cans
were there, and if they did not afford a meat-supply, at least
they were sure to produce potato-skins that could be used to
allay the gripe of hunger for another day.
One night the mother Cat smelt a wonderful smell that came from
the East River at the end of the alley. A new smell always needs
investigating, and when it is attractive as well as new, there is
but one course open. It led Pussy to the docks a block away, and
then out on a wharf, away from any cover but the night. A sudden
noise, a growl and a rush, were the first notice she had that she
was cut off by her old enemy, the Wharf Dog. There was only one
escape. She leaped from the wharf to the vessel from which the
smell came. The Dog could not follow, so when the fish-boat
sailed in the morning Pussy unwillingly went with her and was
seen no more.
The Slum Kitten waited in vain for her mother. The morning came
and went. She became very hungry. Toward evening a deep-laid
instinct drove her forth to seek food. She slunk out of the old
box, and feeling her way silently among the rubbish, she smelt
everything that seemed eatable, but without finding food. At
length she reached the wooden steps leading down into Jap Malee's
bird-store underground. The door was open a little. She wandered
into a world of rank and curious smells and a number of living
things in cages all about her. A negro was sitting idly on a box
in a corner. He saw the little stranger enter and watched it
curiously. It wandered past some Rabbits. They paid no heed. It
came to a wide-barred cage in which was a Fox. The gentleman with
the bushy tail was in a far corner. He crouched low; his eyes
glowed. The Kitten wandered, sniffing, up to the bars, put its
head in, sniffed again, then made toward the feed-pan, to be
seized in a flash by the crouching Fox. It gave a frightened
"mew," but a single shake cut that short and would have ended
Kitty's nine lives at once, had not the negro come to the rescue.
He had no weapon and could not get into the cage, but he spat
with such copious vigor in the Fox's face that he dropped the
Kitten and returned to the corner, there to sit blinking his eyes
in sullen fear.
The negro pulled the Kitten out. The shake of the beast of prey
seemed to have stunned the victim, really to have saved it much
suffering. The Kitten seemed unharmed, but giddy. It tottered in
a circle for a time, then slowly revived, and a few minutes later
was purring in the negro's lap, apparently none the worse, when
Jap Malee, the bird-man, came home.
Jap was not an Oriental; he was a full-blooded Cockney, but his
eyes were such little accidental slits aslant in his round, flat
face, that his first name was forgotten in the highly descriptive
title of "Jap." He was not especially unkind to the birds and
beasts whose sales were supposed to furnish his living, but his
eye was on the main chance; he knew what he wanted. He didn't
want the Slum Kitten.
The negro gave it all the food it could eat, then carried it to a
distant block and dropped it in a neighboring iron-yard.
One full meal is as much as any one needs in two or three days,
and under the influence of this stored-up heat and power, Kitty
was very lively. She walked around the piled-up rubbish, cast
curious glances on far-away Canary-birds in cages that hung from
high windows; she peeped over fences, discovered a large Dog, got
quietly down again, and presently finding a sheltered place in
full sunlight, she lay down and slept for an hour. A
slight'sniff' awakened her, and before her stood a large Black
Cat with glowing green eyes, and the thick neck and square jaws
that distinguish the Tom; a scar marked his cheek, and his left
ear was torn. His look was far from friendly; his ears moved
backward a little, his tail twitched, and a faint, deep sound
came from his throat. The Kitten innocently walked toward him.
She did not remember him. He rubbed the sides of his jaws on a
post, and quietly, slowly turned and disappeared. The last that
she saw of him was the end of his tail twitching from side to
side; and the little Slummer had no idea that she had been as
near death to-day, as she had been when she ventured into the
As night came on the Kitten began to feel hungry. She examined
carefully the long invisible colored stream that the wind is made
of. She selected the most interesting of its strands, and,
nose-led, followed. In the corner of the iron-yard was a box of
garbage. Among this she found something that answered fairly well
for food; a bucket of water under a faucet offered a chance to
quench her thirst.
The night was spent chiefly in prowling about and learning the
main lines of the iron-yard. The next day she passed as before,
sleeping in the sun. Thus the time wore on. Sometimes she found a
good meal at the garbage-box, sometimes there was nothing. Once
she found the big Black Tom there, but discreetly withdrew before
he saw her. The water-bucket was usually at its place, or,
failing that, there were some muddy little pools on the stone
below. But the garbage-box was very unreliable. Once it left her
for three days without food. She searched along the high fence,
and seeing a small hole, crawled through that and found herself
in the open street. This was a new world, but before she had
ventured far, there was a noisy, rumbling rush--a large Dog came
bounding, and Kitty had barely time to run back into the hole in
the fence. She was dreadfully hungry, and glad to find some old
potato-peelings, which gave a little respite from the
hunger-pang. In the morning she did not sleep, but prowled for
food. Some Sparrows chirruped in the yard. They were often there,
but now they were viewed with new eyes. The steady pressure of
hunger had roused the wild hunter in the Kitten; those Sparrows
were game--were food. She crouched instinctively and stalked from
cover to cover, but the chirpers were alert and flew in time. Not
once, but many times, she tried without result except to confirm
the Sparrows in the list of things to be eaten if obtainable.
On the fifth day of ill luck the Slum Kitty ventured forth into
the street, desperately bent on finding food. When far from the
haven hole some small boys opened fire at her with pieces of
brick. She ran in fear. A Dog joined in the chase, and Kitty's
position grew perilous; but an old-fashioned iron fence round a
house-front was there, and she slipped in between the rails as
the Dog overtook her. A woman in a window above shouted at the
Dog. Then the boys dropped a piece of cat-meat down to the
unfortunate; and Kitty had the most delicious meal of her life.
The stoop afforded a refuge. Under this she sat patiently till
nightfall came with quiet, then sneaked back like a shadow to her
Thus the days went by for two months. She grew in size and
strength and in an intimate knowledge of the immediate
neighborhood. She made the acquaintance of Downey Street, where
long rows of ash-cans were to be seen every morning. She formed
her own ideas of their proprietors. The big house was to her, not
a Roman Catholic mission, but a place whose garbage-tins abounded
in choicest fish scrapings. She soon made the acquaintance of the
meat-man, and joined in the shy fringe of Cats that formed the
outer circle. She also met the Wharf Dog as well as two or three
other horrors of the same class. She knew what to expect of them
and how to avoid them; and she was happy in being the inventor of
a new industry. Many thousand Cats have doubtless hung, in hope,
about the tempting milk-cans that the early milk-man leaves on
steps and window-ledges, and it was by the merest accident that
Kitty found one with a broken lid, and so was taught to raise it
and have a satisfying drink. Bottles, of course, were beyond her,
but many a can has a misfit lid, and Kitty was very painstaking
in her efforts to discover the loose-jointed ones. Finally she
extended her range by exploration till she achieved the heart of
the next block, and farther, till once more among the barrels and
boxes of the yard behind the bird-man's cellar.
The old iron-yard never had been home, she had always felt like a
stranger there; but here she had a sense of ownership, and at
once resented the presence of another small Cat. She approached
this newcomer with threatening air. The two had got as far as
snarling and spitting when a bucket of water from an upper window
drenched them both and effectually cooled their wrath. They fled,
the newcomer over the wall, Slum Kitty under the very box where
she had been born. This whole back region appealed to her
strongly, and here again she took up her abode. The yard had no
more garbage food than the other and no water at all, but it was
frequented by stray Rats and a few Mice of the finest quality;
these were occasionally secured, and afforded not only a
palatable meal, but were the cause of her winning a friend.
Kitty was now fully grown. She was a striking-looking Cat of the
tiger type. Her marks were black on a very pale gray, and the
four beauty-spots of white on nose, ears, and tail-tip lent a
certain distinction. She was very expert at getting a living, and
yet she had some days of starvation and failed in her ambition of
catching a Sparrow. She was quite alone, but a new force was
coming into her life.
She was lying in the sun one August day, when a large Black Cat
came walking along the top of a wall in her direction. She
recognized him at once by his torn ear. She slunk into her box
and hid. He picked his way gingerly, bounded lightly to a shed
that was at the end of the yard, and was crossing the roof when a
Yellow Cat rose up. The Black Torn glared and growled, so did the
Yellow Tom. Their tails lashed from side to side. Strong throats
growled and yowled. They approached each other with ears laid
back, with muscles a-tense.
"Yow-yow-ow!" said the Black One.
"Wow-w-w!" was the slightly deeper answer.
"Ya-wow-wow-wow!" said the Black One, edging up half an inch
"Yow-w-w!" was the Yellow answer, as the blond Cat rose to full
height and stepped with vast dignity a whole inch forward.
"Yow-w!" and he went another inch, while his tail went swish,
thump, from one side to the other.
"Ya-wow-yow-w!" screamed the Black in a rising tone, and he
backed the eighth of an inch, as he marked the broad, unshrinking
breast before him.
Windows opened all around, human voices were heard, but the Cat
scene went on.
"Yow-yow-ow!" rumbled the Yellow Peril, his voice deepening as
the other's rose.
"Yow! " and he advanced another step.
Now their noses were but three inches apart; they stood sidewise,
both ready to clinch, but each waiting for the other. They glared
for three minutes in silence and like statues, except that each
tail-tip was twisting.
The Yellow began again. "Yow-ow- ow!" in deep tone.
"Ya-a-a--a-a!" screamed the Black, with intent to strike terror
by his yell; but he retreated one sixteenth of an inch. The
Yellow walked up a long half-inch; their whiskers were mixing
now; another advance, and their noses almost touched.
"Yo-w-w!" said Yellow, like a deep moan.
"Y-a-a-a-a-a-a !" screamed the Black, but he retreated a
thirty-second of an inch, and the Yellow Warrior closed and
clinched like a demon.
Oh, how they rolled and bit and tore, especially the Yellow One!
How they pitched and gripped and hugged, but especially the
Over and over, sometimes one on top, sometimes another, but
mostly the Yellow One; and farther till they rolled off the roof,
amid cheers from all the windows. They lost not a second in that
fall to the junk-yard; they tore and clawed all the way down, but
especially the Yellow One. And when they struck the ground, still
fighting, the one on top was chiefly the Yellow One; and before
they separated both had had as much as they wanted, especially
the Black One! He scaled a wall and, bleeding and growling,
disappeared, while the news was passed from window to window that
Cayley's Nig had been licked at last by Orange Billy.
Either the Yellow Cat was a very clever
seeker, or else Slum Kitty did not hide very
hard; but he discovered her among the boxes,
and she made no attempt to get away, probably because she had
witnessed the fight. There is nothing like success in warfare to
win the female heart, and thereafter the Yellow Tom and Kitty
became very good friends, not sharing each other's lives or
food,--Cats do not do that way much,--but recognizing each other
as entitled to special friendly privileges.
September had gone. October's shortening days were on when an
event took place in the old cracker-box. If Orange Billy had come
he would have seen five little Kittens curled up in the embrace
of their mother, the little Slum Cat. It was a wonderful thing
for her. She felt all the elation an animal mother can feel, all
the delight, and she loved them and licked them with a tenderness
that must have been a surprise to herself, had she had the power
to think of such things.
She had added a joy to her joyless life, but she had also added a
care and a heavy weight to her heavy load. All her strength was
taken now to find food. The burden increased as the offspring
grew up big enough to scramble about the boxes, which they did
daily during her absence after they were six weeks old. That
troubles go in flocks and luck in streaks, is well known in
Slumland. Kitty had had three encounters with Dogs, and had been
stoned by Malee's negro during a two days' starve. Then the tide
turned. The very next morning she found a full milk-can without a
lid, successfully robbed a barrow pensioner, and found a big
fish-head, all within two hours. She had just returned with that
perfect peace which comes only of a full stomach, when she saw a
little brown creature in her junk-yard. Hunting memories came
back in strength; she didn't know what it was, but she had killed
and eaten several Mice, and this was evidently a big Mouse with
bob-tail and large ears. Kitty stalked it with elaborate but
unnecessary caution; the little Rabbit simply sat up and looked
faintly amused. He did not try to run, and Kitty sprang on him
and bore him off. As she was not hungry, she carried him to the
cracker-box and dropped him among the Kittens. He was not much
hurt. He got over his fright, and since he could not get out of
the box, he snuggled among the Kittens, and when they began to
take their evening meal he very soon decided to join them. The
old Cat was puzzled. The hunter instinct had been dominant, but
absence of hunger had saved the Rabbit and given the maternal
instinct a chance to appear. The result was that the Rabbit
became a member of the family, and was thenceforth guarded and
fed with the Kittens.
Two weeks went by. The Kittens romped much among the boxes during
their mother's absence. The Rabbit could not get out of the box.
Jap Malee, seeing the Kittens about the back yard, told the negro
to shoot them. This he was doing one morning with a 22-calibre
rifle. He had shot one after another and seen them drop from
sight into the crannies of the lumber-pile, when the old Cat came
running along the wall from the dock, carrying a small Wharf Rat.
He had been ready to shoot her, too, but the sight of that Rat
changed his plans: a rat-catching Cat was worthy to live. It
happened to be the very first one she had ever caught, but it
saved her life. She threaded the lumber-maze to the cracker-box
and was probably puzzled to find that there were no Kittens to
come at her call, and the Rabbit would not partake of the Rat.
Pussy curled up to nurse the Rabbit, but she called from time to
time to summon the Kittens. Guided by that call, the negro
crawled quietly to the place, and peering down into the
cracker-box, saw, to his intense surprise, that it contained the
old Cat, a live Rabbit, and a dead Rat.
The mother Cat laid back her ears and snarled. The negro
withdrew, but a minute later a board was dropped on the opening
of the cracker-box, and the den with its tenants, dead and alive,
was lifted into the bird-cellar.
"Say, boss, look a-hyar--hyar's where de
little Rabbit got to wot we lost. Yo' sho t'ought Ah stoled him
for de 'tater-bake."
Kitty and Bunny were carefully put in a large wire cage and
exhibited as a happy family till a few days later, when the
Rabbit took sick and died.
Pussy had never been happy in the cage. She had enough to eat and
drink, but she
craved her freedom--would likely have gotten 'death or liberty'
now, but that during the four days' captivity she had so cleaned
and slicked her fur that her unusual coloring was seen, and Jap
decided to keep her.
Jap Malee was as disreputable a little Cockney bantam as ever
sold cheap Canary-birds in a cellar. He was extremely poor, and
the negro lived with him because the 'Henglish-man' was willing
to share bed and board, and otherwise admit a perfect equality
that few Americans conceded. Jap was perfectly honest according
to his lights, but he hadn't any lights; and it was well known
that his chief revenue was derived from storing and restoring
stolen Dogs and Cats. The half-dozen Canaries were mere blinds.
Yet Jap believed in himself. "Hi tell you, Sammy, me boy, you'll
see me with 'orses of my own yet," he would say, when some
trifling success inflated his dirty little chest. He was not
without ambition, in a weak, flabby, once-in-a-while way, and he
sometimes wished to be known as a fancier. Indeed, he had once
gone the wild length of offering a Cat for exhibition at the
Knickerbocker High Society Cat and Pet Show, with three not
over-clear objects: first, to gratify his ambition; second, to
secure the exhibitor's free pass; and, third, "well, you kneow,
one 'as to kneow the valuable Cats, you kneow, when one goes
a-catting." But this was a society show, the exhibitor had to be
introduced, and his miserable alleged half-Persian was scornfully
rejected. The 'Lost and Found' columns of the papers were the
only ones of interest to Jap, but he had noticed and saved a
clipping about 'breeding for fur.' This was stuck on the wall of
his den, and under its influence he set about what seemed a cruel
experiment with the Slum Cat. First, he soaked her dirty fur with
stuff to kill the two or three kinds of creepers she wore; and,
when it had done its work, he washed her thoroughly in soap and
warm water, in spite of her teeth, claws, and yowls. Kitty was
savagely indignant, but a warm and happy glow spread over her as
she dried off in a cage near the stove, and her fur began to
fluff out with wonderful softness and whiteness. Jap and his
assistant were much pleased with the result, and Kitty ought to
have been. But this was preparatory: now for the experiment.
"Nothing is so good for growing fur as plenty of oily food and
continued exposure to cold weather," said the clipping. Winter
was at hand, and Jap Malee put Kitty's cage out in the yard,
protected only from the rain and the direct wind, and fed her
with all the oil-cake and fish-heads she could eat. In a week a
change began to show. She was rapidly getting fat and sleek--she
had nothing to do but get fat and dress her fur. Her cage was
kept clean, and nature responded to the chill weather and the
oily food by making Kitty's coat thicker and glossier every day,
so that by midwinter she was an unusually beautiful Cat in the
fullest and finest of fur, with markings that were at least a
rarity. Jap was much pleased with the result of the experiment,
and as a very little success had a wonderful effect on him, he
began to dream of the paths of glory. Why not send the Slum Cat
to the show now coming on? The failure of the year before made
him more careful as to details. "'T won't do, ye kneow, Sammy, to
henter 'er as a tramp Cat, ye kneow," he observed to his help;
"but it kin be arranged to suit the Knickerbockers. Nothink like
a good noime, ye kneow. Ye see now it had orter be 'Royal'
somethink or other--nothink goes with the Knickerbockers like
'Royal' anythink. Now 'Royal Dick,' or 'Royal Sam,' 'ow's that?
But 'owld on; them's Tom names. Oi say, Sammy, wot's the noime of
that island where ye wuz born?"
"Analostan Island, sah, was my native vicinity, sah."
"Oi say, now, that's good, ye kneow. 'Royal Analostan,' by Jove!
The onliest pedigreed 'Royal Analostan' in the 'ole sheow, ye
kneow. Ain't that foine?" and they mingled their cackles.
"But we'll 'ave to 'ave a pedigree, ye kneow." So a very long
fake pedigree on the recognized lines was prepared. One dark
afternoon Sam, in a borrowed silk hat, delivered the Cat and the
pedigree at the show door. The darkey did the honors. He had been
a Sixth Avenue barber, and he could put on more pomp and lofty
hauteur in five minutes than Jap Malee could have displayed in a
lifetime, and this, doubtless, was one reason for the respectful
reception awarded the Royal Analostan at the Cat Show.
Jap was very proud to be an exhibitor; but he had all a Cockney's
reverence for the upper class, and when on the opening day he
went to the door, he was overpowered to see the array of
carriages and silk hats. The gate-man looked at him sharply, but
passed him on his ticket, doubtless taking him for stable-boy to
some exhibitor. The hall had velvet carpets before the long rows
of cages. Jap, in his small cunning, was sneaking down the side
rows, glancing at the Cats of all kinds, noting the blue ribbons
and the reds, peering about but not daring to ask for his own
exhibit, inly trembling to think what the gorgeous gathering of
fashion would say if they discovered the trick he was playing on
them. He had passed all around the outer aisles and seen many
prize-winners, but no sign of Slum Kitty. The inner aisles were
more crowded. He picked his way down them, but still no Kitty,
and he decided that it was a mistake; the judges had rejected the
Cat later. Never mind; he had his exhibitor's ticket, and now
knew where several valuable Persians and Angoras were to be
In the middle of the centre aisle were the high-class Cats. A
great throng was there. The passage was roped, and two policemen
were in place to keep the crowd moving. Jap wriggled in among
them; he was too short to see over, and though the richly gowned
folks shrunk from his shabby old clothes, he could not get near;
but he gathered from the remarks that the gem of the show was
"Oh, isn't she a beauty!" said one tall woman.
"What distinction!" was the reply.
"One cannot mistake the air that comes only from ages of the most
"How I should like to own that superb creature!"
"Such dignity--such repose!"
"She has an authentic pedigree nearly back to the Pharaohs, I
hear"; and poor, dirty little Jap marvelled at his own cheek in
sending his Slum Cat into such company.
"Excuse me, madame." The director of the show now appeared,
edging his way through the crowd. "The artist of the'sporting
Element' is here, under orders to sketch the 'pearl of the show'
for immediate use. May I ask you to stand a little aside? That's
it; thank you.
"Oh, Mr. Director, cannot you persuade him to sell that beautiful
"Hm, I don't know," was the reply. "I understand he is a man of
ample means and
not at all approachable; but I'11 try, I'll try, madame. He was
quite unwilling to exhibit his treasure at all, so I understand
from his butler. Here, you, keep out of the way," growled the
director, as the shabby little man eagerly pushed between the
artist and the blue-blooded Cat. But the disreputable one wanted
to know where valuable Cats were to be found. He came near enough
to get a glimpse of the cage, and there read a placard which
announced that "The blue ribbon and gold medal of the
Knickerbocker High Society Cat and Pet Show" had been awarded to
the "thoroughbred, pedigreed Royal Analostan, imported and
exhibited by J. Malee, Esq., the well-known fancier. (Not for
sale.)" Jap caught his breath and stared again. Yes, surely;
there, high in a gilded cage, on velvet cushions, with four
policemen for guards, her fur bright black and pale gray, her
bluish eyes slightly closed, was his Slum Kitty, looking the
picture of a Cat bored to death with a lot of fuss that she likes
as little as she understands it.
Jap Malee lingered around that cage, taking in the remarks, for
hours--drinking a draught of glory such as he had never known in
life before and rarely glimpsed in his dreams. But he saw that it
would be wise for him to remain unknown; his "butler" must do all
It was Slum Kitty who made that show a success. Each day her
value went up in her owner's eyes. He did not know what prices
had been given for Cats, and thought that he was touching a
record pitch when his "butler" gave the director authority to
sell the Analostan for one hundred dollars.
This is how it came about that the Slum Cat found herself
transferred from the show to a Fifth Avenue mansion. She evinced
a most unaccountable wildness at first. Her objection to petting,
however, was explained on the ground of her aristocratic dislike
of familiarity. Her retreat from the Lap-dog onto the centre of
the dinner-table was understood to express a deep-rooted though
mistaken idea of avoiding a defiling touch. Her assaults on a pet
Canary were condoned for the reason that in her native Orient she
had been used to despotic example. The patrician way in which she
would get the cover off a milk-can was especially applauded. Her
dislike of her silk-lined basket, and her frequent dashes against
the plate-glass windows, were easily understood: the basket was
too plain, and plate-glass was not used in her royal home. Her
spotting of the carpet evidenced her Eastern modes of thought.
The failure of her several attempts to catch Sparrows in the
high-walled back yard was new proof of the royal impotency of her
bringing up; while her frequent wallowings in the garbage-can
were understood to be the manifestation of a little pardonable
high-born eccentricity. She was fed and pampered, shown and
praised; but she was not happy. Kitty was homesick! She clawed at
that blue ribbon round her neck till she got it off; she jumped
against the plate-glass because that seemed the road to outside;
she avoided people and Dogs because they had always proved
hostile and cruel; and she would sit and gaze on the roofs and
back yards at the other side of the window, wishing she could be
among them for a change.
But she was strictly watched, was never allowed outside--so that
all the happy garbage-can moments occurred while these
receptacles of joy were indoors. One night in March, however, as
they were set out a-row for the early scavenger, the Royal
Analostan saw her chance, slipped out of the door, and was lost
Of course there was a grand stir; but Pussy neither knew nor
cared anything about that--her one thought was to go home. It may
have been chance that took her back in the direction of Gramercy
Grange Hill, but she did arrive there after sundry small
adventures. And now what? She was not at home, and she had cut
off her living. She was beginning to be hungry, and yet she had a
peculiar sense of happiness. She cowered in a front garden for
some time. A raw east wind had been rising, and now it came to
her with a particularly friendly message; man would have called
it an unpleasant smell of the docks, but to Pussy it was welcome
tidings from home. She trotted down the long Street due east,
threading the rails of front gardens, stopping like a statue for
an instant, or crossing the street in search of the darkest side,
and came at length to the docks and to the water. But the place
was strange. She could go north or south. Something turned her
southward; and, dodging among docks and Dogs, carts and Cats,
crooked arms of the bay and straight board fences, she got, in an
hour or two, among familiar scenes and smells; and, before the
sun came up, she had crawled back -weary and foot-sore through
the same old hole in the same old fence and over a wall to her
junk-yard back of the bird-cellar--yes, back into the very
cracker-box where she was born.
Oh, if the Fifth Avenue family could only have seen her in her
After a long rest she came quietly down from the cracker-box
toward the steps leading to the cellar, engaged in her old-time
pursuit of seeking for eatables. The door opened, and there stood
the negro. He shouted to the bird-man inside:
"Say, boss, come hyar. Ef dere ain't dat dar Royal Ankalostan am
Jap came in time to see the Cat jumping the wall. They called
loudly and in the most seductive, wheedling tones: "Pussy, Pussy,
poor Pussy! Come, Pussy!" But Pussy was not prepossessed in their
favor, and disappeared to forage in her old-time haunts.
The Royal Analostan had been a windfall for Jap--had been the
means of adding many comforts to the cellar and several prisoners
to the cages. It was now of the utmost importance to recapture
her majesty. Stale meat-offal and other infallible lures were put
out till Pussy, urged by the reestablished hunger-pinch, crept up
to a large fish-head in a box-trap; the negro, in watching,
pulled the string that dropped the lid, and, a minute later, the
Analostan was once more among the prisoners in the cellar.
Meanwhile Jap had been watching the 'Lost and Found' column.
There it was, "$25 reward," etc. That night Mr. Malee's butler
called at the Fifth Avenue mansion with the missing cat. "Mr.
Malee's compliments, sah. De Royal Analostan had recurred in her
recent proprietor's vicinity and residence, sah. Mr. Malee had
pleasure in recuperating the Royal Analostan, sah." Of course Mr.
Malee could not be rewarded, but the butler was open to any
offer, and plainly showed that he expected the promised reward
and something more.
Kitty was guarded very carefully after that; but so far from
being disgusted with the old life of starving, and glad of her
ease, she became wilder and more dissatisfied.
The spring was doing its New York best. The dirty little English
Sparrows were tumbling over each other in their gutter brawls,
Cats yowled all night in the areas, and the Fifth Avenue family
were thinking of their country residence. They packed up, closed
house and moved off to their summer home, some fifty miles away,
and Pussy, in a basket, went with them.
"Just what she needed: a change of air and scene to wean her away
from her former owners and make her happy."
The basket was lifted into a Rumble-shaker. New sounds and
passing smells were entered and left. A turn in the course was
made. Then a roaring of many feet, more swinging of the basket; a
short pause, another change of direction, then some clicks, some
bangs, a long shrill whistle, and door-bells of a very big front
door; a rumbling, a whizzing, an unpleasant smell, a hideous
smell, a growing horrible, hateful choking smell, a deadly,
griping, poisonous stench, with roaring that drowned poor Kitty's
yowls, and just as it neared the point where endurance ceased,
there was relief. She heard clicks and clacks. There was light;
there was air. Then a man's voice called, "All out for 125th
Street," though of course to Kitty it was a mere human bellow.
The roaring almost ceased--did cease. Later the rackety-bang was
renewed with plenty of sounds and shakes, though not the
poisonous gas; a long, hollow, booming roar with a pleasant dock
smell was quickly passed, and then there was a succession of
jolts, roars, jars, stops, clicks, clacks, smells, jumps, shakes,
more smells, more shakes,--big shakes, little shakes,--gases,
smokes, screeches, door-bells, tremblings, roars, thunders, and
some new smells, raps, taps, heavings, rumblings, and more
smells, but all without any of the feel that the direction is
changed. When at last it stopped, the sun came twinkling through
the basket-lid. The Royal Cat was lifted into a Rumble-shaker of
the old familiar style, and, swerving aside from their past
course, very soon the noises of its wheels were grittings and
rattlings; a new and horrible sound was added--the barking of
Dogs, big and little and dreadfully close. The basket was lifted,
and Slum Kitty had reached her country home.
Every one was officiously kind. They wanted to please the Royal
Cat, but somehow none of them did, except, possibly, the big, fat
cook that Kitty discovered on wandering into the kitchen. This
unctuous person smelt more like a slum than anything she had met
for months, and the Royal Analostan was proportionately
attracted. The cook, when she learned that fears were entertained
about the Cat staying, said: "Shure, she'd 'tind to thot; wanst a
Cat licks her futs, shure she's at home." So she deftly caught
the unapproachable royalty in her apron, and committed the
horrible sacrilege of greasing the soles of her feet with
pot-grease. Of course Kitty resented it--she resented everything
in the place; but on being set down she began to dress her paws
and found evident satisfaction in that grease. She licked all
four feet for an hour, and the cook triumphantly announced that
now "shure she'd be apt to shtay." And stay she did, but she
showed a most surprising and disgusting preference for the
kitchen, the cook, and the garbage-pail.
The family, though distressed by these distinguished
peculiarities, were glad to see the Royal Analostan more
contented and approachable. They gave her more liberty after a
week or two. They guarded her from every menace. The Dogs were
taught to respect her. No man or boy about the place would have
dreamed of throwing a stone at the famous pedigreed Cat. She had
all the food she wanted, but still she was not happy. She was
hankering for many things, she scarcely knew what. She had
everything--yes, but she wanted something else. Plenty to eat and
drink--yes, but milk does not taste the same when you can go and
drink all you want from a saucer; it has to be stolen out of a
tin pail when you are belly-pinched with hunger and thirst, or it
does not have the tang--it isn't milk.
Yes, there was a junk-yard back of the house and beside it and
around it too, a big one, but it was everywhere poisoned and
polluted with roses. The very Horses and Dogs had the wrong
smells; the whole country round was a repellent desert of
lifeless, disgusting gardens and hay-fields, without a single
tenement or smoke-stack in sight. How she did hate it all! There
was only one sweet-smelling shrub in the whole horrible place,
and that was in a neglected corner. She did enjoy nipping that
and rolling in the leaves; it was a bright spot in the grounds;
but the only one, for she had not found a rotten fish-head nor
seen a genuine garbage-can since she came, and altogether it was
the most unlovely, unattractive, unsmellable spot she had ever
known. She would surely have gone that first night had she had
the liberty. The liberty was weeks in coming, and, meanwhile, her
affinity with the cook had developed as a bond to keep her; but
one day after a summer of discontent a succession of things
happened to stir anew the slum instinct of the royal prisoner.
A great bundle of stuff from the docks had reached the country
mansion. What it contained was of little moment, but it was rich
with a score of the most piquant and winsome of dock and slum
smells. The chords of memory surely dwell in the nose, and
Pussy's past was conjured up with dangerous force. Next day the
cook 'left' through some trouble over this very bundle. It was
the cutting of cables, and that evening the youngest boy of the
house, a horrid little American with no proper appreciation of
royalty, was tying a tin to the blue-blooded one's tail,
doubtless in furtherance of some altruistic project, when Pussy
resented the liberty with a paw that wore five big fish-hooks for
the occasion. The howl of downtrodden America roused America's
mother. The deft and womanly blow that she aimed with her book
was miraculously avoided, and Pussy took flight, up-stairs, of
course. A hunted Rat runs down-stairs, a hunted Dog goes on the
level, a hunted Cat runs up. She hid in the garret, baffled
discovery, and waited till night came. Then, gliding down-stairs,
she tried each screen-door in turn, till she found one unlatched,
and escaped into the black August night. Pitch-black to man's
eyes, it was simply gray to her, and she glided through the
disgusting shrubbery and flower-beds, took a final nip at that
one little bush that had been an attractive spot in the garden,
and boldly took her back track of the spring.
How could she take a back track that she never saw? There is in
all animals some sense of direction. It is very low in man and
very high in Horses, but Cats have a large gift, and this
mysterious guide took her westward, not clearly and definitely,
but with a general impulse that was made definite simply because
the road was easy to travel. In an hour she had covered two miles
and reached the Hudson River. Her nose had told her many times
that the course was true. Smell after smell came back, just as a
man after walking a mile in a strange street may not recall a
single feature, but will remember, on seeing it again, "Why, yes,
I saw that before." So Kitty's main guide was the sense of
direction, but it was her nose that kept reassuring her, "Yes,
now you are right--we passed this place last spring."
At the river was the railroad. She could not go on the water; she
must go north or south. This was a case where her sense of
direction was clear; it said, "Go south," and Kitty trotted down
the foot-path between the iron rails and the fence.
Cats can go very fast up a tree or over a wall, but when it comes
to the long steady trot that reels off mile after mile, hour
after hour, it is not the cat-hop, but the dog-trot, that
counts. Although the travelling was good and the path direct, an
hour had gone before two more miles were put between her and the
Hades of roses. She was tired and a little foot-sore. She was
thinking of rest when a Dog came running to the fence near by,
and broke out into such a horrible barking close to her ear that
Pussy leaped in terror. She ran as hard as she could down the
path, at the same time watching to see if the Dog should succeed
in passing the fence. No, not yet! but he ran close by it,
growling horribly, while Pussy skipped along on the safe side.
The barking of the Dog grew into a low rumble--a louder rumble
and roaring--a terrifying thunder. A light shone. Kitty glanced
back to see, not the Dog, but a huge Black Thing with a blazing
red eye coming on, yowling and spitting like a yard full of Cats.
She put forth all her powers to run, made such time as she had
never made before, but dared not leap the fence. She was running
like a Dog, was flying, but all in vain; the monstrous pursuer
overtook her, but missed her in the darkness, and hurried past to
be lost in the night, while Kitty crouched gasping for breath,
half a mile nearer home since that Dog began to bark.
This was her first encounter with the strange monster, strange to
her eyes only; her nose seemed to know him and told her this was
another landmark on the home trail. But Pussy lost much of her
fear of his kind. She learned that they were very stupid and
could not find her if she slipped quietly under a fence and lay
still. Before morning she had encountered several of them, but
escaped unharmed from all.
About sunrise she reached a nice little slum on her home trail,
and was lucky enough to find several unsterilized eatables in an
ash-heap. She spent the day around a stable where were two Dogs
and a number of small boys, that between them came near ending
her career. It was so very like home; but she had no idea of
staying there. She was driven by the old craving, and next
evening set out as before. She had seen the one-eyed
Thunder-rollers all day going by, and was getting used to them,
so travelled steadily all that night. The next day was spent in a
barn where she caught a Mouse, and the next night was like the
last, except that a Dog she encountered drove her backward on her
trail for a long way. Several times she was misled by angling
roads, and wandered far astray, but in time she wandered back
again to her general southward course. The days were passed in
skulking under barns and hiding from Dogs and small boys, and the
nights in limping along the track, for she was getting foot-sore;
but on she went, mile after mile, southward, ever
southward--Dogs, boys, Roarers, hunger--Dogs, boys, Roarers,
hunger--yet on and onward still she went, and her nose from time
to time cheered her by confidently reporting, "There surely is a
smell we passed last spring."
So a week went by, and Pussy, dirty, ribbon-less, foot-sore, and
weary, arrived at the Harlem Bridge. Though it was enveloped in
delicious smells, she did not like the look of that bridge. For
half the night she wandered up and down the shore without
discovering any other means of going south, excepting some other
bridges, or anything of interest except that here the men were as
dangerous as the boys. Somehow she had to come back to it; not
only its smells were familiar, but from time to time, when a
One-eye ran over it, there was that peculiar rumbling roar that
was a sensation in the springtime trip. The calm of the late
night was abroad when she leaped to the timber stringer and
glided out over the water. She had got less than a third of the
way across when a thundering One-eye came roaring at her from the
opposite end. She was much frightened, but knowing their
stupidity and blindness, she dropped to a low side beam and there
crouched in hiding. Of course the stupid Monster missed her and
passed on, and all would have been well, but it turned back, or
another just like it came suddenly spitting behind her. Pussy
leaped to the long track and made for the home shore. She might
have got there had not a third of the Red-eyed Terrors come
screeching at her from that side. She was running her hardest,
but was caught between two foes. There was nothing for it but a
desperate leap from the timbers into-she didn't know what. Down,
down, down-plop, splash, plunge into the deep water, not cold,
for it was August, but oh, so horrible! She spluttered and
coughed when she came to the top, glanced around to see if the
Monsters were swimming after her, and struck out for shore. She
had never learned to swim, and yet she swam, for the simple
reason that a Cat's position and actions in swimming are the same
as her position and actions in walking. She had fallen into a
place she did not like; naturally she tried to walk out, and the
result was that she swam ashore. Which shore? The home-love never
fails: the south side was the only shore for her, the one nearest
home. She scrambled out all dripping wet, up the muddy bank and
through coal-piles and dust-heaps, looking as black, dirty, and
unroyal as it was possible for a Cat to look.
Once the shock was over, the Royal-pedigreed Slummer began to
feel better for the plunge. A genial glow without from the bath,
a genial sense of triumph within, for had she not outwitted three
of the big Terrors?
Her nose, her memory, and her instinct of direction inclined her
to get on the track again; but the place was infested with those
Thunder-rollers, and prudence led her to turn aside and follow
the river-bank with its musky home-reminders; and thus she was
spared the unspeakable horrors of the tunnel.
She was over three days learning the manifold dangers and
complexities of the East River docks. Once she got by mistake on
a ferryboat and was carried over to Long Island; but she took an
early boat back. At length on the third night she reached
familiar ground, the place she had passed the night of her first
escape. From that her course was sure and rapid. She knew just
where she was going and how to get there. She knew even the more
prominent features in the Dog-scape now. She went faster, felt
happier. In a little while surely she would be curled up in her
native Orient--the old junk-yard. Another turn, and the block was
But--what! It was gone! Kitty couldn't believe her eyes; but she
must, for the sun was not yet up. There where once had stood or
leaned or slouched or straggled the houses of the block, was a
great broken wilderness of stone, lumber, and holes in the
Kitty walked all around it. She knew by the bearings and by the
local color of the pavement that she was in her home, that there
had lived the bird-man, and there was the old junk-yard; but all
were gone, completely gone, taking their familiar odors with
them, and Pussy turned sick at heart in the utter hopelessness of
the case. Her place-love was her master-mood. She had given up
all to come to a home that no longer existed, and for once her
sturdy little heart was cast down. She wandered over the silent
heaps of rubbish and found neither consolation nor eatables. The
ruin had taken in several of the blocks and reached back from the
water. It was not a fire; Kitty had seen one of those things.
This looked more like the work of a flock of the Red-eyed
Monsters. Pussy knew nothing of the great bridge that was to rise
from this very spot.
When the sun came up she sought for cover. An adjoining block
still stood with little change, and the Royal Analostan retired
to that. She knew some of its trails; but once there, was
unpleasantly surprised to find the place swarming with Cats that,
like herself, were driven from their old grounds, and when the
garbage-cans came out there were several Slummers at each. It
meant a famine in the land, and Pussy, after standing it a few
days, was reduced to seeking her other home on Fifth Avenue. She
got there to find it shut up and deserted. She waited about for a
day; had an unpleasant experience with a big man in a blue coat,
and next night returned to the crowded slum.
September and October wore away. Many of the Cats died of
starvation or were too weak to escape their natural enemies. But
Kitty, young and strong, still lived.
Great changes had come over the ruined blocks. Though silent on
the night when she first saw them, they were crowded with noisy
workmen all day. A tall building, well advanced on her arrival,
was completed at the end of October, and Slum Kitty, driven by
hunger, went sneaking up to a pail that a negro had set outside.
The pail, unfortunately, was not for garbage; it was a new thing
in that region: a scrubbing-pail. A sad disappointment, but it
had a sense of comfort--there were traces of a familiar touch on
the handle. While she was studying it, the negro elevator-boy
came out again. In spite of his blue clothes, his odorous person
confirmed the good impression of the handle. Kitty had retreated
across the street. He gazed at her.
"Sho ef dat don't look like de Royal Ankalostan! Hyar, Pussy,
Pussy, Pu-s-s-s-s-y! Co-o-o-o-m-e, Pu-u-s-s-sy, hyar! I'spec's
she's sho hungry."
Hungry! She hadn't had a real meal for months. The negro went
into the building and reappeared with a portion of his own lunch.
"Hyar, Pussy, Puss, Puss, Puss!" It seemed very good, but Pussy
had her doubts of the man. At length he laid the meat on the
pavement, and went back to the door. Slum Kitty came forward very
warily; sniffed at the meat, seized it, and fled like a little
Tigress to eat her prize in peace.
This was the beginning of a new era. Pussy came to the door of
the building now whenever pinched by hunger, and the good feeling
for the negro grew. She had never understood that man before. He
had always seemed hostile. Now he was her friend, the only one
One week she had a streak of luck. Seven good meals on seven
successive days; and right on the top of the last meal she found
a juicy dead Rat, the genuine thing, a perfect windfall. She had
never killed a full-grown Rat in all her lives, but seized the
prize and ran off to hide it for future use. She was crossing the
street in front of the new building when an old enemy appeared,
--the Wharf Dog,--and Kitty retreated, naturally enough, to the
door where she had a friend. Just as she neared it, he opened the
door for a well-dressed man to come out, and both saw the Cat
with her prize.
"Hello! Look at that for a Cat!"
"Yes, sah," answered the negro. "Dat's ma Cat, sah; she's a
terror on Rats, sah! hez 'em about cleaned up, sah; dat's why
she's so thin."
"Well, don't let her starve," said the man with the air of the
landlord. "Can't you feed her?
"De liver meat-man comes reg'lar, sah; quatah dollar a week,
sah," said the negro, fully realizing that he was entitled to the
extra fifteen cents for "the idea."
"That's all right. I'll stand it."
"M-e-a-t! M-e-a-t!" is heard the magnetic, cat-conjuring cry of
the old liver-man, as his barrow is pushed up the glorified
Scrimper's Alley, and Cats come crowding, as of yore, to receive
There are Cats black, white, yellow, and gray to be remembered,
and, above all, there are owners to be remembered. As the barrow
rounds the corner near the new building it makes a newly
"Hyar, you, get out o' the road, you common trash," cries the
liver-man, and he waves his wand to make way for the little gray
Cat with blue eyes and white nose. She receives an unusually
large portion, for Sam is wisely dividing the returns evenly; and
Slum Kitty retreats with her 'daily' into shelter of the great
building, to which she is regularly attached. She has entered
into her fourth life with prospects of happiness never before
dreamed of. Everything was against her at first; now everything
seems to be coming her way. It is very doubtful that her mind was
broadened by travel, but she knew what she wanted and she got it.
She has achieved her long-time great ambition by catching, not a
Sparrow, but two of them, while they were clinched in mortal
combat in the gutter.
There is no reason to suppose that she ever caught another Rat;
but the negro secures a dead one when he can, for purposes of
exhibition, lest her pension be imperilled. The dead one is left
in the hall till the proprietor comes; then it is apologetically
swept away. "Well, drat dat Cat, sah; dat Royal Ankalostan blood,
sah, is terrors on Rats."
She has had several broods since. The negro thinks the Yellow Tom
is the father of some of them, and no doubt the negro is right.
He has sold her a number of times with a perfectly clear
conscience, knowing quite well that it is only a question of a
few days before the Royal Analostan comes back again. Doubtless
he is saving the money for some honorable ambition. She has
learned to tolerate the elevator, and even to ride up and down on
it. The negro stoutly maintains that once, when she heard the
meat-man, while she was on the top floor, she managed to press
the button that called the elevator to take her down.
She is sleek and beautiful again. She is not only one of the four
hundred that form the inner circle about the liver-barrow, but
she is recognized as the star pensioner among them. The liver-man
is positively respectful. Not even the cream-and-chicken fed Cat
of the pawn-broker's wife has such a position as the Royal
Analostan. But in spite of her prosperity, her social position,
her royal name and fake pedigree, the greatest pleasure of her
life is to slip out and go a-slumming in the gloaming, for now,
as in her previous lives, she is at heart, and likely to be,
nothing but a dirty little Slum Cat.
THE CHRONICLE OF A HOMING PIGEON
We passed through the side door of a big stable on West
Nineteenth Street. The mild smell of the well-kept stalls was
lost in the sweet odor of hay, as we mounted a ladder and entered
the long garret. The south end was walled off, and the familiar
"Coo-oo, cooooo-oo, ruk-at-a-coo," varied with the "whirr, whirr,
whirr" of wings, informed us that we were at the pigeon-loft.
This was the home of a famous lot of birds, and to-day there was
to be a race among fifty of the youngsters. The owner of the loft
had asked me, as an unprejudiced outsider, to be judge in the
It was a training race of the young birds. They had been taken
out for short distances with their parents once or twice, then
set free to return to the loft. Now for the first time they were
to be flown without the old ones. The point of start, Elizabeth,
N. J., was a long journey for their first unaided attempt. "But
then," the trainer remarked, "that's how we weed out the fools;
only the best birds make it, and that's all we want back."
There was another side to the flight. It was to be a race among
those that did return. Each of the men about the loft as well as
several neighboring fanciers were interested in one or other of
the Homers. They made up a purse for the winner, and on me was to
devolve the important duty of deciding which should take the
stakes. Not the first bird back, but the first bird into the
loft, was to win, for one that returns to his neighborhood
merely, without immediately reporting at home, is of little use
as a letter-carrier.
The Homing Pigeon used to be called the Carrier because it
carried messages, but here I found that name restricted to the
show bird, the creature with absurdly developed wattles; the one
that carries the messages is now called the Homer, or Homing
Pigeon--the bird that always comes home. These Pigeons are not of
any special color, nor have they any of the fancy adornments of
the kind that figure in Bird shows. They are not bred for style,
but for speed and for their mental gifts. They must be true to
their home, able to return to it without fail. The sense of
direction is now believed to be located in the bony labyrinth of
the ear. There is no creature with finer sense of locality and
direction than a good Homer, and the only visible proofs of it
are the great bulge on each side of the head over the ears, and
the superb wings that complete his equipment to obey the noble
impulse of home-love. Now the mental and physical equipments of
the last lot of young birds were to be put to test.
Although there were plenty of witnesses, I thought it best to
close all but one of the pigeon-doors and stand ready to shut
that behind the first arrival.
I shall never forget the sensations of that day. I had been
warned: "They start at 12; they should be here at 12:30; but look
out, they come like a whirlwind. You hardly see them till they're
We were ranged along the inside of the loft, each with an eye to
a crack or a partly closed pigeon-door, anxiously scanning the
southwestern horizon, when one shouted: "Look out--here they
come!" Like a white cloud they burst into view, low skimming over
the city roofs, around a great chimney pile, and in two seconds
after first being seen they were back. The flash of white, the
rush of pinions, were all so sudden, so short, that, though
preparing, I was unprepared. I was at the only open door. A
whistling arrow of blue shot in, lashed my face with its pinions,
and passed. I had hardly time to drop the little door, as a yell
burst from the men, "Arnaux! Arnaux! I told you he would. Oh,
he's a darling; only three months old and a winner--he's a little
darling!" and Arnaux's owner danced, more for joy in his bird
than in the purse he had won.
The men sat or kneeled and watched him in positive reverence as
he gulped a quantity of water, then turned to the food-trough.
"Look at that eye, those wings, and did you ever see such a
breast? Oh, but he's the real grit!" so his owner prattled to
the silent ones whose birds had been defeated.
That was the first of Arnaux's exploits. Best of fifty birds from
a good loft, his future was bright with promise.
He was invested with the silver anklet of the Sacred Order of the
High Homer. It bore his number, 2590 C, a number which to-day
means much to all men in the world of the Homing Pigeon.
In that trial flight from Elizabeth only forty birds had
returned. It is usually so. Some were weak and got left behind,
some were foolish and strayed. By this simple process of flight
selection the pigeon-owners keep improving their stock. Of the
ten, five were seen no more, but five returned later that day,
not all at once, but straggling in; the last of the loiterers was
a big, lubberly Blue Pigeon. The man in the loft at the time
called: "Here comes that old sap-headed Blue that Jakey was
betting on. I didn't suppose he would come back, and I didn't
care, neither, for it's my belief he has a streak of Pouter."
The Big Blue, also called "Corner-box" from the nest where he was
hatched, had shown remarkable vigor from the first. Though all
were about the same age, he had grown faster, was bigger, and
incidentally handsomer, though the fanciers cared little for
that. He seemed fully aware of his importance, and early showed a
disposition to bully his smaller cousins. His owner prophesied
great things of him, but Billy, the stable-man, had grave doubts
over the length of his neck, the bigness of his crop, his
carriage, and his over-size. "A bird can't make time pushing a
bag of wind ahead of him. Them long legs is dead weight, an' a
neck like that ain't got no gimp in it," Billy would grunt
disparagingly as he cleaned out the loft of a morning.
The training of the birds went on after this at regular times.
The distance from home, of the start, was "jumped" twenty-five or
thirty miles farther each day, and its direction changed till the
Homers knew the country for one hundred and fifty miles around
New York. The original fifty birds dwindled to twenty, for the
rigid process weeds out not only the weak and ill-equipped, but
those also who may have temporary ailments or accidents, or who
may make the mistake of over-eating at the start. There were many
fine birds in that flight, broad-breasted, bright-eyed,
long-winged creatures, formed for swiftest flight, for high
unconscious emprise, for these were destined to be messengers in
the service of man in times of serious need. Their colors were
mostly white, blue, or brown. They wore no uniform, but each and
all of the chosen remnant had the brilliant eye and the bulging
ears of the finest Homer blood; and, best and choicest of all,
nearly always first among them was little Arnaux. He had not much
to distinguish him when at rest, for now all of the band had the
silver anklet, but in the air it was that Arnaux showed his make,
and when the opening of the hamper gave the order "Start," it was
Arnaux that first got under way, soared to the height deemed
needful to exclude all local influence, divined the road to home,
and took it, pausing not for food, drink, or company.
Notwithstanding Billy's evil forecasts, the Big Blue of the
Corner-box was one of the chosen twenty. Often he was late in
returning; he never was first, and sometimes when he came back
hours behind the rest, it was plain that he was neither hungry
nor thirsty, sure signs that he was a loiterer by the way. Still
he had come back; and now he wore on his ankle, like the rest,
the sacred badge and a number from the roll of possible fame.
Billy despised him, set him in poor contrast with Arnaux, but his
owner would reply: "Give him a chance;'soon ripe, soon rotten,'
an' I always notice the best bird is the slowest to show up at
Before a year little Arnaux had made a record. The hardest of all
work is over the sea, for there is no chance of aid from
landmarks; and the hardest of all times at sea is in fog, for
then even the sun is blotted out and there is nothing whatever
for guidance. With memory, sight, and hearing unavailable, the
Homer has one thing left, and herein is his great strength, the
inborn sense of direction. There is only one thing that can
destroy this, and that is fear, hence the necessity of a stout
little heart between those noble wings.
Arnaux, with two of his order, in course of training, had been
shipped on an ocean steamer bound for Europe. They were to be
released out of sight of land, but a heavy fog set in and forbade
the start. The steamer took them onward, the intention being to
send them back with the next vessel. When ten hours out the
engine broke down, the fog settled dense over the sea, and the
vessel was adrift and helpless as a log. She could only whistle
for assistance, and so far as results were concerned, the captain
might as well have wigwagged. Then the Pigeons were thought of.
Starback, 2592 C, was first selected. A message for help was
written on waterproof paper, rolled up, and lashed to his
tail-feathers on the under side. He was thrown into the air and
disappeared. Half an hour later, a second, the Big Blue
Corner-box, 2600 C, was freighted with a letter. He flew up, but
almost immediately returned and alighted on the rigging. He was a
picture of pigeon fear; nothing could induce him to leave the
ship. He was so terrorized that he was easily caught and
ignominiously thrust back into the coop.
Now the third was brought out, a small, chunky bird. The shipmen
did not know him, but they noted down from his anklet his name
and number, Arnaux, 2590 C. It meant nothing to them. But the
officer who held him noted that his heart did not beat so wildly
as that of the last bird. The message was taken from the Big
Blue. It ran:
10 A.M., Tuesday.
We broke our shaft two hundred and ten miles out from New York;
we are drifting helplessly in the fog. Send out a tug as soon as
possible. We are whistling one long, followed at once by one
short, every sixty seconds.
(Signed) THE CAPTAIN.
This was rolled up, wrapped in waterproof film, addressed to the
Steamship Company, and lashed to the under side of Arnaux's
When thrown into the air, he circled round the ship, then round
again higher, then again higher in a wider circle, and he was
lost to view; and still higher till quite out of sight and
feeling of the ship. Shut out from the use of all his senses now
but one, he gave himself up to that. Strong in him it was, and
untrammelled of that murderous despot Fear. True as a needle to
the Pole went Arnaux now, no hesitation, no doubts; within one
minute of leaving the coop he was speeding straight as a ray of
light for the loft where he was born, the only place on earth
where he could be made content.
That afternoon Billy was on duty when the whistle of fast wings
was heard; a blue Flyer flashed into the loft and made for the
water-trough. He was gulping down mouthful after mouthful, when
Billy gasped: "Why, Arnaux, it's you, you beauty." Then, with the
quick habit of the pigeon-man, he pulled out his watch and marked
the time, 2:40 P.M, A glance showed the tie string on the tail.
He shut the door and dropped the catching-net quickly over
Arnaux's head. A moment later he had the roll in his hand; in two
minutes he was speeding to the office of the Company, for there
was a fat tip in view. There he learned that Arnaux had made the
two hundred and ten miles in fog, over sea, in four hours and
forty minutes, and within one hour the needful help had set out
for the unfortunate steamer.
Two hundred and ten miles in fog over sea in four hours and forty
minutes! This was a noble record. It was duly inscribed in the
rolls of the Homing Club. Arnaux was held while the secretary,
with rubber stamp and indelible ink, printed on a snowy primary
of his right wing the record of the feat, with the date and
Starback, the second bird, never was heard of again. No doubt he
perished at sea.
Blue Corner-box came back on the tug.
That was Arnaux's first public record; but others came fast, and
several curious scenes were enacted in that old pigeon-loft with
Arnaux as the central figure. One day a carriage drove up to the
stable; a white-haired gentleman got out, climbed the dusty
stairs, and sat all morning in the loft with Billy. Peering from
his gold-rimmed glasses, first at a lot of papers, next across
the roofs of the city, waiting, watching, for what? News from a
little place not forty miles away--news of greatest weight to
him, tidings that would make or break him, tidings that must
reach him before it could be telegraphed: a telegram meant at
least an hour's delay at each end. What was faster than that for
forty miles? In those days there was but one thing--a high-class
Homer. Money would count for nothing if he could win. The best,
the very best at any price he must have, and Arnaux, with seven
indelible records on his pinions, was the chosen messenger. An
hour went by, another, and a third was begun, when with whistle
of wings, the blue meteor flashed into the loft. Billy slammed
the door and caught him. Deftly he snipped the threads and handed
the roll to the banker. The old man turned deathly pale, fumbled
it open, then his color came back. "Thank God!" he gasped, and
then went speeding to his Board meeting, master of the situation.
Little Arnaux had saved him.
The banker wanted to buy the Homer, feeling in a vague way that
he ought to honor and cherish him; but Billy was very clear about
it. "What's the good? You can't buy a Homer's heart. You could
keep him a prisoner, that's all; but nothing on earth could make
him forsake the old loft where he was hatched." So Arnaux stayed
at 2ll West Nineteenth Street. But the banker did not forget.
There is in our country a class of miscreants who think a flying
Pigeon is fair game, because it is probably far from home, or
they shoot him because it is hard to fix the crime. Many a noble
Homer, speeding with a life or death message, has been shot down
by one of these wretches and remorselessly made into a pot-pie.
Arnaux's brother Arnolf, with three fine records on his wings,
was thus murdered in the act of bearing a hasty summons for the
doctor. As he fell dying at the gunner's feet, his superb wings
spread out displayed his list of victories. The silver badge on
his leg was there, and the gunner was smitten with remorse. He
had the message sent on; he returned the dead bird to the Homing
Club, saying that he "found it." The owner came to see him; the
gunner broke down under cross-examination, and was forced to
admit that he himself had shot the Homer, but did so in behalf of
a poor sick neighbor who craved a pigeon-pie.
There were tears in the wrath of the pigeon-man. "My bird, my
beautiful Arnolf, twenty times has he brought vital messages,
three times has he made records, twice has he saved human lives,
and you'd shoot him for a pot-pie. I could punish you under the
law, but I have no heart for such a poor revenge. I only ask you
this, if ever again you have a sick neighbor who wants a
pigeon-pie, come, we'll freely supply him with pie-breed squabs;
but if you have a trace of manhood about you, you will never,
never again shoot, or allow others to shoot, our noble and
This took place while the banker was in touch with the loft,
while his heart was warm for the Pigeons. He was a man of
influence, and the Pigeon Protective legislation at Albany was
the immediate fruit of Arnaux's exploit.
Billy had never liked the Corner-box Blue (2600 C);
notwithstanding the fact that he still continued in the ranks of
the Silver Badge, Billy believed he was poor stuff. The steamer
incident seemed to prove him coward; he certainly was a bully.
One morning when Billy went in there was a row, two Pigeons, a
large and a small, alternately clinching and sparring all over
the floor, feathers flying, dust and commotion everywhere. As
soon as they were separated Billy found that the little one was
Arnaux and the big one was the Corner-box Blue. Arnaux had made a
good fight, but was overmatched, for the Big Blue was half as
Soon it was very clear what they had fought over--a pretty little
lady Pigeon of the bluest Homing blood. The Big Blue cock had
kept up a state of bad feeling by his bullying, but it was the
Little Lady that had made them close in mortal combat. Billy had
no authority to wring the Big Blue's neck, but he interfered as
far as he could in behalf of his favorite Arnaux.
Pigeon marriages are arranged somewhat like those of mankind.
Propinquity is the first thing: force the pair together for a
time and let nature take its course. So Billy locked Arnaux and
the Little Lady up together in a separate apartment for two
weeks, and to make doubly sure he locked Big Blue up with an
Available Lady in another apartment for two weeks.
Things turned out just as was expected. The Little Lady
surrendered to Arnaux and the Available Lady to the Big Blue. Two
nests were begun and everything shaped for a "lived happily ever
after." But the Big Blue was very big and handsome. He could blow
out his crop and strut in the sun and make rainbows
all round his neck in a way that might turn the heart of the
Arnaux, though sturdily built, was small and except for his
brilliant eyes, not especially good-looking. Moreover, he was
often away on important business, and the Big Blue had nothing to
do but stay around the loft and display his unlettered wings.
It is the custom of moralists to point to the lower animals, and
especially to the Pigeon, for examples of love and constancy, and
properly so, but, alas there are exceptions. Vice is not by any
means limited to the human race.
Arnaux's wife had been deeply impressed with the Big Blue, at the
outset, and at length while her spouse was absent the dreadful
thing took place.
Arnaux returned from Boston one day to find that the Big Blue,
while he retained his own Available Lady in the corner-box, had
also annexed the box and wife that belonged to himself, and a
desperate battle followed. The only spectators were the two
wives, but they maintained an indifferent aloofness. Arnaux
fought with his famous wings, but they were none the better
weapons because they now bore twenty records. His beak and feet
were small, as became his blood, and his stout little heart could
not make up for his lack of weight. The battle went against him.
His wife sat unconcernedly in the nest, as though it were not her
affair, and Arnaux might have been killed but for the timely
arrival of Billy. He was angry enough to wring the Blue bird's
neck, but the bully escaped from the loft in time. Billy took
tender care of Arnaux for a few days. At the end of a week he was
well again, and in ten days he was once more on the road.
Meanwhile he had evidently forgiven his faithless wife, for,
without any apparent feeling, he took up his nesting as before.
That month he made two new records. He brought a message ten
miles in eight minutes, and he came from Boston in four hours.
Every moment of the way he had been impelled by the
master-passion of home-love. But it was a poor home-coming if his
wife figured at all in his thoughts, for he found her again
flirting with the Big Blue cock. Tired as he was, the duel was
renewed, and again would have been to a finish but for Billy's
interference. He separated the fighters, then shut the Blue cock
up in a coop, determined to get rid of him in some way. Meanwhile
the "Any Age Sweepstakes" handicap from Chicago to New York was
on, a race of nine hundred miles. Arnaux had been entered six
months before. His forfeit-money was up, and notwithstanding his
domestic complications, his friends felt that he must not fail to
The birds were sent by train to Chicago, to be liberated at
intervals there according to their handicap, and last of the
start was Arnaux. They lost no time, and outside of Chicago
several of these prime Flyers joined by common impulse into a
racing flock that went through air on the same invisible track. A
Homer may make a straight line when following his general sense
of direction, but when following a familiar back track he sticks
to the well-remembered landmarks. Most of the birds had been
trained by way of Columbus and Buffalo. Arnaux knew the Columbus
route, but also he knew that by Detroit, and after leaving Lake
Michigan, he took the straight line for Detroit. Thus he caught
up on his handicap and had the advantage of many miles. Detroit,
Buffalo, Rochester, with their familiar towers and chimneys,
faded behind him, and Syracuse was near at hand. It was now late
afternoon; six hundred miles in twelve hours he had flown and was
undoubtedly leading the race; but the usual thirst of the Flyer
had attacked him. Skimming over the city roofs, he saw a loft of
Pigeons, and descending from his high course in two or three
great circles, he followed the ingoing Birds to the loft and
drank greedily at the water-trough, as he had often done before,
and as every pigeon-lover hospitably expects the messengers to
do. The owner of the loft was there and noted the strange Bird.
He stepped quietly to where he could inspect him. One of his own
Pigeons made momentary opposition to the stranger, and Arnaux,
sparring sidewise with an open wing in Pigeon style, displayed
the long array of printed records. The man was a fancier. His
interest was aroused; he pulled the string that shut the flying
door, and in a few minutes Arnaux was his prisoner.
The robber spread the much-inscribed wings, read record after
record, and glancing at the silver badge--it should have been
gold--he read his name--Arnaux; then exclaimed: "Arnaux! Arnaux!
Oh, I've heard of you, you little beauty, and it's glad I am to
trap you." He snipped the message from his tail, unrolled it, and
read: "Arnaux left Chicago this morning at 4 A.M., scratched in
the Any Age Sweepstakes for New York."
"Six hundred miles in twelve hours! By the powers, that's a
record-breaker." And the pigeon-stealer gently, almost
reverently, put the fluttering Bird safely into a padded cage.
"Well," he added, "I know it's no use trying to make you stay,
but I can breed from you and have some of your strain."
So Arnaux was shut up in a large and comfortable loft with
several other prisoners. The man, though a thief, was a lover of
Homers; he gave his captive everything that could insure his
comfort and safety. For three months he left him in that loft. At
first Arnaux did nothing all day but walk up and down the wire
screen, looking high and low for means of escape; but in the
fourth month he seemed to have abandoned the attempt, and the
watchful jailer began the second part of his scheme. He
introduced a coy young lady Pigeon. But it did not seem to
answer; Arnaux was not even civil to her. After a time the jailer
removed the female, and Arnaux was left in solitary confinement
for a month. Now a different female was brought in, but with no
better luck; and thus it went on--for a year different charmers
were introduced. Arnaux either violently repelled them or was
scornfully indifferent, and at times the old longing to get away,
came back with twofold power, so that he darted up and down the
wire front or dashed with all his force against it.
When the storied feathers of his wings began their annual moult,
his jailer saved them as precious things, and as each new feather
came he reproduced on it the record of its owner's fame.
Two years went slowly by, and the jailer had put Arnaux in a new
loft and brought in another lady Pigeon. By chance she closely
resembled the faithless one at home. Arnaux actually heeded the
newcomer. Once the jailer thought he saw his famous prisoner
paying some slight attention to the charmer, and, yes, he surely
saw her preparing a nest. Then assuming that they had reached a
full understanding, the jailer, for the first time, opened the
outlet, and Arnaux was free. Did he hang around in doubt? Did he
hesitate? No, not for one moment. As soon as the drop of the door
left open the way, he shot through, he spread those wonderful
blazoned wings, and, with no second thought for the latest Circe,
sprang from the hated prison loft--away and away.
We have no means of looking into the Pigeon's mind; we may go
wrong in conjuring up for it deep thoughts of love and welcome
home; but we are safe in this, we cannot too strongly paint, we
cannot too highly praise and glorify that wonderful
God-implanted, mankind-fostered home-love that glows unquenchably
in this noble bird. Call it what you like, a mere instinct
deliberately constructed by man for his selfish ends, explain it
away if you will, dissect it, misname it, and it still is there,
in overwhelming, imperishable master-power, as long as the brave
little heart and wings can beat.
Home, home, sweet home! Never had mankind a stronger love of home
than Arnaux. The trials and sorrows of the old pigeon-loft were
forgotten in that all-dominating force of his nature. Not years
of prison bars, not later loves, nor fear of death, could down
its power; and Arnaux, had the gift of song been his, must surely
have sung as sings a hero in his highest joy, when sprang he from
the 'lighting board, up-circling free, soaring, drawn by the only
impulse that those glorious wings would honor,--up, up, in
widening, heightening circles of ashy blue in the blue, flashing
those many-lettered wings of white, till they seemed like jets of
fire--up and on, driven by that home-love, faithful to his only
home and to his faithless mate; closing his eyes, they say;
closing his ears, they tell; shutting his mind,--we all
believe,--to nearer things, to two years of his life, to one half
of his prime, but soaring in the blue, retiring, as a saint might
do, into his inner self, giving himself up to that inmost guide.
He was the captain of the ship, but the pilot, the chart and
compass, all, were that deep-implanted instinct. One thousand
feet above the trees the inscrutable whisper came, and Arnaux in
arrowy swiftness now was pointing for the south-southeast. The
little flashes of white fire on each side were lost in the low
sky, and the reverent robber of Syracuse saw Arnaux nevermore.
The fast express was steaming down the valley. It was far ahead,
but Arnaux overtook and passed it, as the flying wild Duck passes
the swimming Muskrat. High in the valleys he went, low over the
hills of Chenango, where the pines were combing the breezes.
Out from his oak-tree eyrie a Hawk came wheeling and sailing,
silent, for he had marked the Flyer, and meant him for his prey.
Arnaux turned neither right nor left, nor raised nor lowered his
flight, nor lost a wing-beat. The Hawk was in waiting in the gap
ahead, and Arnaux passed him, even as a Deer in his prime may
pass by a Bear in his pathway. Home! home! was the only burning
thought, the blinding impulse.
Beat, beat, beat, those flashing pinions went with speed
unslacked on the now familiar road. In an hour the Catskills were
at hand. In two hours he was passing over them. Old friendly
places, swiftly coming now, lent more force to his wings. Home!
home! was the silent song that his heart was singing. Like the
traveller dying of thirst, that sees the palm-trees far ahead,
his brilliant eyes took in the distant smoke of Manhattan.
Out from the crest of the Catskills there launched a Falcon.
Swiftest of the race of rapine, proud of his strength, proud of
his wings, he rejoiced in a worthy prey. Many and many a Pigeon
had been borne to his nest, and riding the wind he came,
swooping, reserving his strength, awaiting the proper time. Oh,
how well he knew the very moment! Down, down like a flashing
javelin; no wild Duck, no Hawk could elude him, for this was a
Falcon. Turn back now, O Homer, and save yourself; go round the
dangerous hills. Did he turn? Not a whit! for this was Arnaux.
Home! home! home! was his only thought. To meet the danger, he
merely added to his speed; and the Peregrine stooped; stooped at
what?--a flashing of color, a twinkling of whiteness--and went
back empty. While Arnaux cleft the air of the valley as a stone
from a sling, to be lost--a white-winged bird--a spot with
flashing halo--and, quickly, a speck in the offing. On down the
dear valley of Hudson, the well-known highway; for two years he
had not seen it! Now he dropped low as the noon breeze came north
and ruffled the river below him. Home! home! home! and the towers
of a city are coming in view! Home! home! past the great
spider-bridge of Poughkeepsie, skimming, skirting the
river-banks. Low now by the bank as the wind arose. Low, alas!
What fiend was it tempted a gunner in June to lurk on that hill
by the margin? what devil directed his gaze to the twinkling of
white that came from the blue to the northward? Oh, Arnaux,
Arnaux, skimming low, forget not the gunner of old! Too low, too
low you are clearing that hill. Too low--too late! Flash--bang!
and the death-hail has reached him; reached, maimed, but not
downed him. Out of the flashing pinions broken feathers printed
with records went fluttering earthward. The "naught" of his sea
record was gone. Not two hundred and ten, but twenty-one miles it
now read. Oh, shameful pillage! A dark stain appeared on his
bosom, but Arnaux kept on. Home, home, homeward bound. The danger
was past in an instant. Home, homeward he steered straight as
before, but the wonderful speed was diminished; not a mile a
minute now; and the wind made undue sounds in his tattered
pinions. The stain in his breast told of broken force; but on,
straight on, he flew. Home, home was in sight, and the pain in
his breast was forgotten. The tall towers of the city were in
clear view of his far-seeing eye as he skimmed by the high cliffs
of Jersey. On, on--the pinion might flag, the eye might darken,
but the home-love was stronger and stronger.
Under the tall Palisades, to be screened from the wind, he
passed, over the sparkling water, over the trees, under the
Peregrines' eyrie, under the pirates' castle where the great grim
Peregrines sat; peering like black-masked highwaymen they marked
the on-coming Pigeon. Arnaux knew them of old. Many a message was
lying undelivered in that nest, many a record-bearing plume had
fluttered away from its fastness. But Arnaux had faced them
before, and now he came as before--on, onward, swift, but not as
he had been; the deadly gun had sapped his force, had lowered his
speed. On, on; and the Peregrines, biding their time, went forth
like two bow-bolts; strong and lightning-swift they went against
one weak and wearied.
Why tell of the race that followed? Why paint the despair of a
brave little heart in sight of the home he had craved in vain? in
a minute all was over. The Peregrines screeched in their triumph.
Screeching and sailing, they swung to their eyrie, and the prey
in their claws was the body, the last of the bright little
Arnaux. There on the rocks the beaks and claws of the bandits
were red with the life of the hero. Torn asunder were those
matchless wings, and their records were scattered unnoticed. In
sun and in storm they lay till the killers themselves were killed
and their stronghold rifled. And none knew the fate of the
peerless Bird till deep in the dust and rubbish of that
pirate-nest the avenger found, among others of its kind, a silver
ring, the sacred badge of the High Homer, and read upon it the
pregnant inscription: "ARNAUX, 2590 C."
The Wolf that Won
THE HOWL BY NIGHT
Do you know the three calls of the hunting Wolf:--the long-drawn
deep howl, the muster, that tells of game discovered but too
strong for the finder to manage alone; and the higher ululation
that ringing and swelling is the cry of the pack on a hot scent;
and the sharp bark coupled with a short howl that, seeming least
of all, is yet a gong of doom, for this is the cry "Close
in"--this is the finish?
We were riding the Badland Buttes, King and I, with a pack of
various hunting Dogs stringing behind or trotting alongside. The
sun had gone from the sky, and a blood-streak marked the spot
where he died, away over Sentinel Butte. The hills were dim, the
valleys dark, when from the nearest gloom there rolled a
long-drawn cry that all men recognize instinctively--melodious,
yet with a tone in it that sends a shudder up the spine, though
now it has lost all menace for mankind. We listened for a moment.
It was the Wolf-hunter who broke silence: "That's Badlands Billy;
ain't it a voice? He's out for his beef to-night."
In pristine days the Buffalo herds were followed by bands of
Wolves that preyed on the sick, the weak, and the wounded. When
the Buffalo were exterminated the Wolves were hard put for
support, but the Cattle came and solved the question for them by
taking the Buffaloes' place. This caused the wolf-war. The
ranchmen offered a bounty for each Wolf killed, and every cowboy
out of work, was supplied with traps and poison for wolf-killing.
The very expert made this their sole business and became known as
wolvers. King Ryder was one of these. He was a quiet,
gentlespoken fellow, with a keen eye and an insight into animal
life that gave him especial power over Broncos and Dogs, as well
as Wolves and Bears, though in the last two cases it was power
merely to surmise where they were and how best to get at them. He
had been a wolver for years, and greatly surprised me by saying
that "never in all his experience had he known a Gray-wolf to
attack a human being."
We had many camp-fire talks while the other men were sleeping,
and then it was I learned the little that he knew about Badlands
Billy. "Six times have I seen him and the seventh will be Sunday,
you bet. He takes his long rest then." And thus on the very
ground where it all fell out, to the noise of the night wind and
the yapping of the Coyote, interrupted sometimes by the
deep-drawn howl of the hero
himself, I heard chapters of this history which, with others
gleaned in many fields, gave me the story of the Big Dark Wolf of
IN THE CANON
Away back in the spring of '92 a wolver was "wolving" on the east
side of the Sentinel Mountain that so long was a principal
landmark of the old Plainsmen. Pelts were not good in May, but
the bounties were high, five dollars a head, and double for
She-wolves. As he went down to the creek one morning he saw a
Wolf coming to drink on the other side. He had an easy shot, and
on killing it found it was a nursing She-wolf. Evidently her
family were somewhere near, so he spent two or three days
searching in all the likely places, but found no clue to the den.
Two weeks afterward, as the wolver rode down an adjoining caņon,
he saw a Wolf come out of a hole. The ever-ready rifle flew up,
and another ten-dollar scalp was added to his string. Now he dug
into the den and found the litter, a most surprising one indeed,
for it consisted not of the usual five or six Wolf-pups, but of
eleven, and these, strange to say, were of two sizes, five of
them larger and older than the other six. Here were two distinct
families with one mother, and as he added their scalps to his
string of trophies the truth dawned on the hunter. One lot was
surely the family of the She-wolf he had killed two weeks before.
The case was clear: the little ones awaiting the mother that was
never to come, had whined piteously and more loudly as their
hunger-pangs increased; the other mother passing had heard the
Cubs; her heart was tender now, her own little ones had so
recently come, and she cared for the orphans, carried them to her
own den, and was providing for the double family when the
rifleman had cut the gentle chapter short.
Many a wolver has dug into a wolf-den to find nothing. The old
Wolves or possibly the Cubs themselves often dig little side
pockets and off galleries, and when an enemy is breaking in they
hide in these. The loose earth conceals the small pocket and thus
the Cubs escape. When the wolver retired with his scalps he did
not know that the biggest of all the Cubs, was still in the den,
and even had he waited about for two hours, he might have been no
wiser. Three hours later the sun went down and there was a slight
scratching afar in the hole; first two little gray paws, then a
small black nose appeared in a soft sand-pile to one side of the
den. At length the Cub came forth from his hiding. He had been
frightened by the attack on the den; now he was perplexed by its
It was thrice as large as it had been and open at the top now.
Lying near were things that smelled like his brothers and
sisters, but they were repellent to him. He was filled with fear
as he sniffed at them, and sneaked aside into a thicket of grass,
as a Night-hawk boomed over his head. He crouched all night in
that thicket. He did not dare to go near the den, and knew not
where else he could go. The next morning when two Vultures came
swooping down on the bodies, the Wolf-cub ran off in the thicket,
and seeking its deepest cover, was led down a ravine to a wide
valley. Suddenly there arose from the grass a big She-wolf, like
his mother, yet different, a stranger, and instinctively the
stray Cub sank to the earth, as the old Wolf bounded on him. No
doubt the Cub had been taken for some lawful prey, but a whiff
set that right. She stood over him for an instant. He grovelled
at her feet. The impulse to kill him or at least give him a shake
died away. He had the smell of a young Cub. Her own were about
his age, her heart was touched, and when he found courage enough
to put his nose up and smell her nose, she made no angry
demonstration except a short half-hearted growl. Now, however, he
had smelled something that he sorely needed. He had not fed since
the day before, and when the old Wolf turned to leave him, he
tumbled after her on clumsy puppy legs. Had the Mother-wolf been
far from home he must soon have been left behind, but the nearest
hollow was the chosen place, and the Cub arrived at the den's
mouth soon after the Mother-wolf.
A stranger is an enemy, and the old one rushing forth to the
defense, met the Cub again, and again was restrained by something
that rose in her responsive to the smell. The Cub had thrown
himself on his back in utter submission, but that did not prevent
his nose reporting to him the good thing almost within reach. The
She-wolf went into the den and curled herself about her brood;
the Cub persisted in following. She snarled as he approached her
own little ones, but disarming wrath each time by submission and
his very cubhood, he was presently among her brood, helping
himself to what he wanted so greatly, and thus he adopted himself
into her family. In a few days he was so much one of them that
the mother forgot about his being a stranger. Yet he was
different from them in several ways--older by two weeks,
stronger, and marked on the neck and shoulders with what
afterward grew to be a dark mane.
Little Duskymane could not have been happier in his choice of a
foster-mother, for the Yellow Wolf was not only a good hunter
with a fund of cunning, but she was a Wolf of modern ideas as
well. The old tricks of tolling a Prairie Dog, relaying for
Antelope, houghing a Bronco or flanking a Steer she had learned
partly from instinct and partly from the example of her more
experienced relatives, when they joined to form the winter bands.
But, just as necessary nowadays, she had learned that all men
carry guns, that guns are irresistible, that the only way to
avoid them is by keeping out of sight while the sun is up, and
yet that at night they are harmless. She had a fair comprehension
of traps, indeed she had been in one once, and though she left a
toe behind in pulling free, it was a toe most advantageously
disposed of; thenceforth, though not comprehending the nature of
the trap, she was thoroughly imbued with the horror of it, with
the idea indeed that iron is dangerous, and at any price it
should be avoided.
On one occasion, when she and five others were planning to raid a
Sheep yard, she held back at the last minute because some
newstrung wires appeared. The others rushed in to find the Sheep
beyond their reach, themselves in a death-trap.
Thus she had learned the newer dangers, and while it is unlikely
that she had any clear mental conception of them she had acquired
a wholesome distrust of all things strange, and a horror of one
or two in particular that proved her lasting safeguard. Each year
she raised her brood successfully and the number of Yellow Wolves
increased in the country. Guns, traps, men and the new animals
they brought had been learned, but there was yet another lesson
before her--a terrible one indeed.
About the time Duskymane's brothers were a month old his
foster-mother returned in a strange condition. She was frothing
at the mouth, her legs trembled, and she fell in a convulsion
near the doorway of the den, but recovering, she came in. Her
jaws quivered, her teeth rattled a little as she tried to lick
the little ones; she seized her own front leg and bit it so as
not to bite them, but at length she grew quieter and calmer. The
Cubs had retreated in fear to a far pocket, but now they returned
and crowded about her to seek their usual food. The mother
recovered, but was very ill for two or three days, and those days
with the poison in her system worked disaster for the brood. They
were terribly sick; only the strongest could survive, and when
the trial of strength was over, the den contained only the old
one and the Black-maned Cub, the one she had adopted. Thus little
Duskymane became her sole charge; all her strength was devoted to
feeding him, and he thrived apace.
Wolves are quick to learn certain things. The reactions of smell
are the greatest that a Wolf can feel, and thenceforth both Cub
and foster-mother experienced a quick, unreasoning sense of fear
and hate the moment the smell of strychnine reached them.
THE RUDIMENTS OF WOLF TRAINING
With the sustenance of seven at his service the little Wolf had
every reason to grow, and when in the autumn he began to follow
his mother on her hunting trips he was as tall as she was. Now a
change of region was forced on them, for numbers of little Wolves
were growing up. Sentinel Butte, the rocky fastness of the
plains, was claimed by many that were big and strong; the weaker
must move out, and with them Yellow Wolf and the Dusky Cub.
Wolves have no language in the sense that man has; their
vocabulary is probably limited to a dozen howls, barks, and
grunts expressing the simplest emotions; but they have several
other modes of conveying ideas, and one very special method of
spreading information--the Wolf-telephone. Scattered over their
range are a number of recognized "centrals." Sometimes these are
stones, sometimes the angle of cross-trails, sometimes a
Buffalo-skull--indeed, any conspicuous object near a main trail
is used. A Wolf calling here, as a Dog does at a telegraph post,
or a Muskrat at a certain mud-pie point, leaves his body-scent
and learns what other visitors have been there recently to do the
same. He learns also whence they came and where they went, as
well as something about their condition, whether hunted, hungry,
gorged, or sick. By this system of registration a Wolf knows
where his friends, as well as his foes, are to be found. And
Duskymane, following after the Yellow Wolf, was taught the places
and uses of the many signal-stations without any conscious
attempt at teaching on the part of his foster-mother. Example
backed by his native instincts was indeed the chief teacher, but
on one occasion at least there was something very like the effort
of a human parent to guard her child in danger.
The Dark Cub had learned the rudiments of Wolf life: that the way
to fight Dogs is to run, and to fight as you run, never grapple,
but snap, snap, snap, and make for the rough country where Horses
cannot bring their riders.
He learned not to bother about the Coyotes that follow for the
pickings when you hunt; you cannot catch them and they do you no
He knew he must not waste time dashing after Birds that alight on
the ground; and that he must keep away from the little black and
white Animal with the bushy tail. It is not very good to eat, and
it is very, very bad to smell.
Poison! Oh, he never forgot that smell from the day when the den
was cleared of all his foster-brothers.
He now knew that the first move in attacking Sheep was to scatter
them; a lone Sheep is a foolish and easy prey; that the way to
round up a band of Cattle was to frighten a Calf.
He learned that he must always attack a Steer behind, a Sheep in
front, and a Horse in the middle, that is, on the flank, and
never, never attack a man at all, never even face him. But an
important lesson was added to these, one in which the mother
consciously taught him of a secret foe.
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