Page images

8. From this source, however, their gains were but trifling; but they wisely considered, that little was better than nothing, and anything preferable to beggary; and each evening, with cheerful hearts, they brought home their scanty earnings to their poor mother.

9. The object of all their desires was to be enabled to support their helpless parent, but still all the assistance they were able to procure for her was far from being adequate to supply her numerous wants. In this dilemma, Francesco conceived a new and original method of increasing his gains : necessity is said to be the mother of invention, and he now meditated no less a project than to train a young Angora cat to live harmlessly in the midst of his favorites and songsters.

10. Such is the force of habit, such the power of education, that, by slow degrees, he taught the mortal enemy of his winged pets, to live, to drink, to eat, and to sleep in the midst of his little charges, without once attempting to devour or injure them.

The cat, whom he called “ Bianca," suffered the little birds to play all manner of tricks with her; she used to leap about and sport amongst them, whilst they would sometimes peck at and tease her; but on all such occasions, she would merely stretch out her paw and threaten them, but never did she extend her talons, or offer to hurt her companions.

11. He went even farther, for not content with teaching them merely to live in peace and happiness together, he instructed the cat and the little birds to play a kind of game, in which each had to learn its own part, and after some little trouble in training, each performed with readiness the particular duty assigned to it.

12. Puss was instructed to curl herself up into a circle, with her head between her paws, and appear buried in a deep sleep; the cage was then opened, and the little tricksy birds rushed out upon her, and endeavored to awaken her by repeated strokes of their beaks; then dividing into two parties, they attacked her head and her whiskers, without the gentle animal once appearing to take the least notice of their gambols. At other times she would seat herself in the middle of the cage, and begin to smooth her fur, and purr with great gentleness and satisfaction ; the birds would play and fly about her, without either fear or restraint; they would sometimes even settle on her back, or sit like a crown upon her head, chirruping and singing as if in all the security of a shady wood.

13. To see a sleek and beautiful cat seated calmly in the midst of a cage of birds, was a sight so new and unexpected, that when Francesco produced them at the fair of Sassari, he was surrounded instantly by a crowd of admiring spectators. Their astonishment scarcely knew any bound, when they heard him call each feathered favorite by its name, and saw it fly towards him with delight and alacrity, till all were perched contentedly on his head, his arms, and his fingers. Delighted with his ingenuity, the spectators rewarded him very liberally; and Francesco returned in the evening with his little heart swelling with joy, to lay before his mother a sum of money which would suffice to support her for many months.

14. The next undertaking of the little Sardinian was one of more enterprise and singularity still. He found one day a nest containing fifteen young partridges, which he brought to his aviary and began to educate. Five, however, died within a few days, but the remaining ten fully answered his highest expectations. After some weeks of previous training, he contrived to attach them to little cannons made of brass, and taught them to draw them leisurely along a table. He then drew them up in two files, each girt with a sabre, and the other apurtenances of a soldier of artillery ; every bird was taught to stand motionless beside his gun, and, at the word of command, the partridge to the right lit a match at a chafingdish on the table, and courageously fired off his piece of ord


15. At a second command, the company to the left performed the same exercise ; nor were either, after a little practice, in the least degree terrified at the noise which they had created. At a third signal, a few of the little warriors fell over on their side, stretched out their stiffened limbs, and counterfeited death ; whilst others flew off, limping, and apparently screaming with the pain of their wounds. The commandant again beat a roll of the drum, and all flying to their ranks, resumed their order, and repeated their ingenious evolutions.

16. Amongst the feathered pupils of Francesco, however, all were not endowed with equal sagacity and talent; some were intractable and stupid, whilst others betrayed an instinct almost amounting to reason.

Of the latter class was one partridge, which he named Rosoletta. She followed him wherever he went, with the attachment of a dog; she hopped after him from house to house, when he walked the streets of Tempio, and flew from tree to tree when he wandered in the woods, and rarely by night or day did she lose sight of her affectionate master.

17. If she disappeared for an instant, a whistle from Francesco brought her to his side, when she would mount upon his arm, flap her wings, and chirrup with delight. With a docility by no means common in birds, Rosoletta not only obeyed her instructor herself, but seemed to penetrate his wishes with regard to her companions; and even sometimes ventured to assist him in the education of his more giddy pupils. If a chaffinch, more stupid or mutinous than the rest, put his comrades into disorder, or a thoughtless linnet wandered from the ranks, Rosoletta would instantly follow, and striking the offender with her wing, attempt to keep him in order.

18. Francesco had once been at great pains to train a beautiful goldfinch, but one morning the ungrateful little bird escaped from his cage, flew to an open window, and reaching the adjoining garden, was seen no more. The little merchant was in despair at his loss; the more so, because he had promised him to the daughter of a lady from whom he had received much kindness.

19. Five days elapsed, and the little wanderer returned not; he had given him over as lost, when on the sixth morning Rosoletta was seen chasing before her along the linden trees, a bird which was screaming at the top of its voice, and attempting by every means to escape from her. Only judge of the surprise of Francesco, when he saw his truant beauty driven on and guarded by the faithful partridge ! Rosoletta led the way by little and little before him, and at length seated him in apparent disgrace on a corner of the aviary, whilst she flew from side to side in triumph at her success.

20. Francesco was now happy and contented, since by his own industry and exertions he was enabled to support his mother and sisters. Unfortunately, however, in the midst of all his happiness, he was suddenly torn from them by a very grievous accident. He was one evening engaged in gathering a species of mushroom, very common in the southern countries of Europe, but not having sufficient discrimination to separate those which are nutritious from those that are poisonous, he ate of them to excess, and died in a few days, along with his youngest sister, in spite of every remedy which skill could apply.

21. During the three days of Francesco's illness, his birds flew incessantly round and round his bed ; “some,” says the Abbe Reperonci, (an Italian, who recounts his story,) “ lying sadly upon his pillow, others flitting backwards and forwards above his head, a few uttering brief and plaintive cries, and all, in fact, taking scarcely any nourishment during his sickness.”

22. Dying as he was, the affectionate child could not avoid being sensible of the attachment of the little companions whom he had instructed with so much care. He never once betrayed any uneasiness for himself; but often and bitterly did he weep for his mother, and exclaim from time to time, “ alas ! who, when I am gone, will support my desolate mother, or tend my neglected birds ?”

23. None of his feathered favorites manifested on his decease such real and inconsolable grief as Rosoletta. When poor Francesco was placed in his coffin she flew round and round it, and at last perched herself upon the lid. In vain they several times removed her, she still returned, and even persisted in accompanying the funeral procession to the place of graves.

24. During his interment she sat upon an adjoining cypress, to watch where they laid the remains of her friend; and when the crowd had departed, she forsook the spot no more, except to return to the cottage of his mother for her accustomed food. Whilst she lived, she came daily to perch and sleep upon the turret of an adjoining chapel, which looked upon


grave; and here she lived, and here died, about four months after the death of her beloved master. The tomb of Francesco is yet to be seen in Sassari ; and the burial-ground where he lies, is still called “the Cemetery of the Little Fowler.”

No. 1. What was the occupation of Francesco's father? Where did he live? What happened to him ? How was this accident occasioned? How old was Francesco at this time? What was the situation of the family at the death of the father? What was Francesco's disposition ? What did he construct ? What is an aviary? What did he do when spring came? Who assisted him? What were the profits of their labor ? What did he next contrive? What would she suffer the birds to do? What games did he teach them 10 play? What was the effect upon the fair at Sassari ? What was his next undertaking ? State all the circumstances respecting it. What of the disposition of these birds ? What can you say of Rosoletta ? How did she assist him ? What of the goldfinch? How was his happiness prostrated? What of the birds during his illness? Which manifested the greatest grief? Give some account of her conduct at his death. LESSON LI.


1. Time and experience, says Mr. Waterton, a traveler in South America, have convinced me that there is not much danger in roving among snakes and wild beasts, provided only you have self-command. You must never approach them abruptly; if so, you are sure to pay for your rashness ; because the idea of self-defense is predominant in every animal. Labarric snake is very poisonous, yet I have often approached within two yards of him without fear. Acting on this principle, I resolved on making an effort to capture alive one of the largest species of snakes. For this purpose, I offered a reward to a number of negroes, if they would find a large sized snake in the forest, and direct me to it.

2. One morning, one of them came to inform me that he had discovered one not far distant. The sun had just passed the meridian in a cloudless sky, and there was scarcely a bird to be seen, for the winged inhabitants of the forest, as though overcome by heat, had retired to the thickest shades. I instantly seized my eight foot lance; and, barefoot, with an old hat, check shirt and trowsers on, I sallied forth, conducted by the negro, who was armed with a cutlass. On ascending a hill, we met another negro armed in like manner, who also joined us. When we had proceeded about half a mile in the forest, the negro stopped and pointed to a fallen tree; all was still and silent.

3. I told the negroes not to stir from where they were ; and to keep back the little dog which they had with them, while I went forward to reconnoitre. I advanced to the place with slow and cautious steps. The snake was well concealed, but I soon ascertained it to be of a species not poisonous,* but large enough to have crushed any of us to death. Having ascertained the size of it, I slowly retired to the spot occupied by the

negroes, and promised four dollars to the negro who had discovered and one to the other who had joined us, if they would assist me in securing him. I imagined, if I could strike

* Coulacanara.

« PreviousContinue »