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SHEEP, AND THEIR INSTINCT TO FOLLOW THEIR
LEADER In many parts of the East, each sheep has its name, and will come when called, like a dog. But when the flock becomes very large this is impracticable.* The shepherd then teaches certain sheep to come at his bidding. They obediently follow him, and the rest of the flock follow their leader.
To this instinct the shepherd can always trust, for it is unfailing. Wherever the leading sheep may choose to go, there the flock are sure to follow. Of this peculiarity there are many instances on record. A whole flock of sheep once committed suicide, from one of them taking a fancy to leap over a precipice — the rest following in rapid succession. This was only an exhibition of the same kind of instinct that occasioned a less terrible event :
A shepherd was taking his flock through some streets and, as might be expected, found considerable difficulty in guiding them. Finding that the flock were about to turn down a wrong street, he called out to a crossing-sweeper to keep them back. The old man did what he could, running up and down the line; but at last he came to a halt before a very obstinate sheep. Seeing by its looks that it was going to spring, he grasped his broom in both hands, and held it over his head. The sheep seems to have taken this attitude as a challenge †; for it instantly lept over the upraised broom, and that without touching it. She was followed by the entire flock—the poor man remaining in the same position as if petrified † with astonishment. Petrified or not, he appeared to have taken the first step towards that change, for he was covered with mud, spattered upon him by the sheep.
* Impracticable, cannot be done. of Challenge, invitation a trial of strength or skill. | Petrified, turned to stone ; stupified.
THE AFFECTION OF THE SHEEP. The following story of the extreme affection of which a sheep is capable, is related by Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd:
“ A lamb of our flock had died, and its mother persisted in standing over its remains. I visited her every morning and evening for the first eight days, and never found her above two or three yards from the dead body. Often as I went my rounds, she eyed me long ere I came near her, and kept stamping with her foot and whistling through her nose, to frighten the dog away. He got a hard chase twice a day; but, however excited and fierce an ewe may be, she never offers any resistance to man, being perfectly and meekly passive to him.
“ The weather was fine and warm, and the dead lamb soon decayed; but still the affectionate and resolute mother kept hanging over the poor remains with an attachment that seemed to be nourished by hopelessness. It often drew tears from my eyes to see her hanging with such fondness over a few bones, mingled with a small portion of wool.
“ For the first fortnight she never quitted the spot, and for another week she visited it every morning and evening, uttering a few kindly and heart-piercing bleats. She remained at her post till every remnant of her offspring had vanished, mixing with the soil, or being wafted away by the winds."
THE MOUSE. The round, yet delicate form of the mouse, and the milder expression of its countenance, render it an object of greater attention than the rat, of which it is but a miniature.* It has the same destructive propensities; assembles also in vast numbers, and its habits of life are much the same as its great relative. There is a white variety, which is often reared as a pet.
Numbers of mice live together in nearly desert places, as long as there are a few blades of vegetation left; and they swarm on the borders of salt lakes, where not a drop of fresh water is to be had. Some of them lay up stores of food, especially those which inhabit northern countries.
Field mice do a great deal of damage to young plantations, by nibbling off the tender shoots. In order to catch them, pits, from eighteen to twenty inches deep, are sunk in the ground; these are made wider at the bottom than the top, so that they cannot easily get out. One hundred thousand were destroyed in this manner in the Forest of Dean, and about the same number in the New Forest.
They make very beautiful round nests, of curiously plaited blades of wheat, split into narrow strips with their teeth. These nests are hung to stalks or thistles ; and nine tiny mice are often found in them.
I can bear witness to the possibility of taming mice, for I kept six in a box for several months, which were so well fed that they did not attempt to gnaw their dwelling. I
sort of little cart made for them, with bone buttons for wheels, and a packthread harness. On being taken out of the box, they remained perfectly quiet till the harness was put on ;
and when that was done they started off at full gallop along the top of a square
* Miniature, the same on a small scale.
piano. Of course, care was taken to turn them back when they reached the end; but they soon learned to turn of their own accord, and performed their journey with as much regularity as well-trained horses. Death deprived me of my steeds; and I suspect it was in consequence of injudicious cramming.
During an illness of some weeks' duration, mice were to me a source both of amusement and annoyance.
A small table stood by my bedside, having on it a basin full of cold tea, which was my night drink. occasion my light was extinguished, and I heard a scratching against the legs of the table. I guessed the cause,
and tried to frighten away the thief; but he succeeded in mounting the table, for I presently heard something flop into the tea. All was silent, and I concluded the intruder was drowned. When daylight came, there sat poor mousic holding up his little chin just above the tea.
When I was allowed to eat, my appetite was kindly tempted by dainties sent to me by friends, which were placed under tin covers, on the top of a chest of drawers. The endeavours of my companions to get at these were excessively droll. They thought if they could but get to the top of the cover, they should succeed; so they mounted upon each others' shoulders, and accomplished the feat, but not their purpose. Instead of getting inside, down they came in a body again.
Many of them combined together to push the cover off the dish; but it was too firm to be easily moved. One day they thought they had triumphed, for the cover was not quite fixed in one place. A summons to arms was evidently given, for presently a number of little paws were inserted to raise it still higher; but, alas ! the cover slipped on their paws, and they were once more foiled.
THE SADDLER'S PET RAT. I KNEW a worthy whipmaker who worked hard at his trade to support a large farnily. He had prepared a number of strips of leather, by well oiling and greasing them. These he carefully laid by in a box, but, strange to say, they disappeared one by one: nobody knew anything about them, nobody had touched them.
However, one day as he was sitting at work in his shop, a large black rat, of the original British kind *, slyly poked his head out of a hole in the corner of the room, and coolly took a look about the place. Seeing all quiet, out he came, and ran straight to the box in which were kept the favorite leather strips. In he dived, and quickly reappeared, carrying in his mouth the most dainty morsel he could find. Off he ran to his hole, and vanished.
Having thus found out the thief, the saddler determined to catch him. He accordingly propped up a sieve † with a stick, and put a bait underneath. In a few minutes out came the rat again, smelling the inviting toasted cheese, and forthwith attacked it. The moment he began nibbling at the bait, down came the sieve, and he became a prisoner. “Now," thought he, “my life depends upon my behaviour when this horrid sieve is lifted up by that two-legged monster with the apron. He has a tolerably good-natured face, and I don't think he wants to kill me. I know what to do."
The whipmaker at length lifted up the sieve, being armed with a stick ready to kill Mr. Rat when he rushed
* British kind, i. e., the black; for the brown (Norwegian) rat was a subsequent importation.
† Sieve (siv), a wire gauze or net-work used for separating smaller particles of substances from the grosser.