A dirty stick of candy.
Five small silver coins.
An odd sort of flute.
The bonnet of an Italian baby.
Four soiled red bandannas.
A black wallet containing about a dollar in silver.
Two tin cups.
Two pictures of peasants.
Two plugs of tobacco.
These are but samples. All told, there were at; least ninety articles. It was Blackamoor's hoard; and all the while we were overhauling it he cawed and hawed in great glee!
That night we talked it over, and decided that restoration was our only proper course. The long-suffering Italians were now six miles away; but on Saturday we procured a pair of farm horses and a wagon with three seats for our journey of reparation. The purloined articles were put in a large basket, and we set up a perch in the wagon, to which Blackamoor was chained in token of punishment.
After this manner six of us drove to the new camp.
When we arrived the gang was hard at work in a cutting; but when, one after another, they caught sight of our wagon, with Blackamoor atop, exclamations, not of a complimentary nature, burst forth all along the line.
But I beckoned to their Irish "boss," and after showing him our basket and explaining the circumstances, asked him to allow each of the men to take what belonged to him.
"Ah, sure!" replied the foreman, with a broad grin. "Here, all of you," he shouted down the cutting, "come get your trinkets what the crow stole!"
Wonderingly, the gang gathered round the wagon. But when they saw the basket and what was in it, the liveliest expressions of satisfaction arose. Each seized his own.
I had the foreman say to them how very sorry we were that our bad bird had given them so much trouble. Then followed, in response, as pretty a bit of politeness as I have ever witnessed.
The Italians took off their hats and bowed all round. One of them then made a little speech, which the Irish boss translated after his own fashion, somewhat like this:
"It's all right, they say. You are most good. They thank you with all their hearts. They are sorry you have had to come so far. You are a very, very kind signorina."
The foreman grinned apologetically. "They want to sing you a song,"
I said that we should be delighted. Immediately four of them stepped forth together and sang. It was an Italian song, and had a refrain so plaintive that I often catch myself trying to hum it.
"Now, then, get back to your work, men!" shouted the boss, and so this odd little episode ended.
Yet it was not wholly ended, either, for in October, as the gang tramped back along the road-bed of the railway, going home with all their packs and bundles, one of those who had sung came up to the schoolhouse and laid a little bouquet of frost flowers and red autumn leaves on the doorstep.
Catching sight of me through the window, he nodded brightly, pointed to the bouquet, nodded again, then hurried on after his fellows. I went to the door, and when they saw me there, half a hundred old hats were raised and hands were waved in token of farewell.
I thought of our previous fears and of the hard things that had been said, and was ashamed. Again the truth of that humane old proverb came home to me:
"Almost everybody is a good fellow if you treat him right."
A few days later Blackamoor deserted us. A large flock of his wild kindred was mustering in the vicinity for the autumn migration. We concluded that he had joined his tribe--and were not inconsolable.
A PARROT THAT HAD BEEN TRAINED TO FIRE A CANNON
By Sir Samuel W. Baker
There are no people who surpass the natives of India in the training of elephants or other wild animals. For many ages the custom has prevailed among the native princes of that country of educating not only the elephant and the dog, but the leopard and the falcon to assist them in the chase.
The Gaekwar of Baroda, during my sojourn in his State, most kindly furnished me with opportunities of witnessing the excellent training of his falcons, hunting leopards, or cheetahs, and other animals.
We were also allowed to inspect the immense collection of jewels belonging to the Gaekwar. These were in such numbers and variety that I quite lost my respect for diamonds and rubies, although one of the former had actually been purchased for $450,000.
The gold and silver batteries of field-guns were also exhibited.
There are only four of these cannon, two of which are solid gold four-pounders, fitted with an internal tube of steel. The carriages are plated with gold, and the harness for the team of oxen is heavily ornamented with the same precious metal. Gold horns are fitted upon those of the oxen employed, and these animals are selected for their immense size and general perfection of appearance.
The silver guns, carriages, limbers, harness, etc., were precisely similar.
The most interesting artilleryman in his Highness's service was a small green parrot. This bird was one of many which had been trained to the various exercises of a field-gun, and it was exhibited by its native tutor in our presence.
A large table was placed in the arena where rhinoceros, buff aloes, and rams had been recently struggling for victory in their various duels, and a far more entertaining exhibition was exchanged for the savage conflicts.... Upon this table stood a model brass cannon about eight inches in length of barrel, and a calibre equal to a No. 12 smooth-bore gun. The rammer and sponger lay by the side of the small field-piece.
About a dozen green parrots were spectators, who were allowed to remain on perches, while the best-trained gunner was to perform in public before at least three thousand spectators, the Gaekwar, and his ministers, and friends, including ourselves, being seated in a raised structure similar to the grand stand of an English racecourse, which commanded the entire arena, the parrots being immediately beneath.
The gunner was placed upon the table, and at once took its stand by the gun, and, in an attitude of attention, waited for orders from its native master.
The word of command was given, and the parrot instantly seized the sponger in its beak, and inserting it within the muzzle without the slightest difficulty, vigorously moved it backwards and forwards, and then replaced it in its former position.
The order was now given "to load." A cartridge was lying on the table, which the bird immediately took within its beak, and dexterously inserted in the muzzle; it then seized the rammer, and, with great determination of purpose and force, rammed the cartridge completely home, giving it several sharp taps when at the breech.
The parrot replaced the rammer by the side of the sponger, and waited for further orders, standing erect close to the rear of the gun.
The trainer poured a pinch of priming powder upon the touch-hole, and lighted a small port-fire; this he gave to the parrot, which received it in its beak at a right angle, and then stood by its gun, waiting for the word.
"Fire!" ... At that instant the parrot applied the match, and the report of the cannon was so loud that most people started at the sound; but the pretty green gunner never flinched--the parrot stood by its gun quite unmoved. The trainer took the port-fire, which it had never dropped from its beak, and gave an order to sponge the gun, which was immediately executed, the bird appearing to be quite delighted at its success.
THE SANDPIPER'S TRICK
By Celia Thaxter
One lovely afternoon in May I had been wandering up and down, through rocky gorges, by little swampy bits of ground, and on the tops of windy headlands, looking for flowers, and had found many: --large blue violets, the like of which you never saw; white violets, too, creamy and fragrant; gentle little houstonias; gay and dancing erythroniums, and wind-flowers delicately tinted, blue, straw-color, pink, and purple. I never found such in the mainland valleys; the salt air of the sea deepens the colors of all flowers.
I stopped by a swamp which the recent rains had filled and turned to a little lake. Light green iris-leaves cut the water like sharp and slender swords, and, in the low sunshine that streamed across, threw long shadows over the shining surface.
Some blackbirds were calling sweetly in a clump of bushes, and song-sparrows sang as if they had but one hour in which to crowd the whole raptures of the spring. As I pressed through the budding bayberry bushes to reach some milk-white sprays of shadbush which grew by the water-side, I startled three curfews. They flew away, trailing their long legs, and whistling fine and clear. I stood still to watch them out of sight. How full the air was of pleasant sounds! The very waves made a glad noise about the rocks, and the whole sea seemed to roar afar off, as if half asleep and murmuring in a kind of gentle dream. The flock of sheep was scattered here and there, all washed as white as snow by the plenteous rains, and nibbling the new grass eagerly; and from near and far came the tender and plaintive cries of the young lambs.
Going on again, I came to the edge of a little beach, and presently I was startled by a sound of such terror and distress that it went to my heart at once.
In a moment a poor little sandpiper emerged from the bushes, dragging itself along in such a way that, had you seen it, you would have concluded that every bone in its body had been broken.
Such a dilapidated bird! Its wings drooped and its legs hung as if almost lifeless. It uttered continually a shrill cry of pain, and kept just out of the reach of my hand, fluttering hither and thither, as if sore wounded and weary. At first I was amazed, and cried out, "Why, friend and gossip! What is the matter?" and then stood watching it in mute dismay.
Suddenly it flashed across me that this was only my sandpiper's way of concealing from me a nest; and I remembered reading about this little trick of hers in a book of natural history. The object was to make me follow her by pretending that she could not fly, and so lead me away from her treasure. So I stood perfectly still, lest I should tread on the precious habitation, and quietly observed my deceitful little friend.