Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/53

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HOW MUCH ANIMALS KNOW.

dearing names, allowed it to twine itself most gracefully round about them. I sat talking for a long time, lost in wonder at the picture before me. Two beautiful little girls and their charming mother sat before me with a boa-constrictor (as thick as a small tree) twining playfully round the lady's waist and neck, and forming a kind of turban round her head, expecting to be petted and made much of like a kitten. The children, over and over again, took its head in their hands and kissed its mouth, pushing aside its forked tongue in doing so. The animal seemed much pleased, but kept turning its head continually toward me with a curious gaze, until I allowed it to nestle its head for a moment up my sleeve. Nothing could be prettier than to see this splendid serpent coiled all round Mrs. M—— while she moved about the room and when she stood to pour out our coffee. He seemed to adjust his weight so nicely, and every coil with its beautiful marking was relieved by the black velvet dress of the lady. It was long before I could make up my mind to end the visit."

Birds often show much ingenuity in attaining some desired end. Several stories are told of geese which show that they are by no means such scant-witted fowls as the common use of their name implies. Thus at Ardglass, county Down, Ireland, is a long tract of turf coming to the edge of the rocks overhanging the sea, where cattle and geese feed: at a barn on this tract there was a low inclosure, with a door fastening by a hook and staple to the side-post: when the hook was out of the staple the door fell open by its own weight. One day a goose with a large troop of goslings was seen coming off the turf to this door, which was secured by the hook being in the staple. The goose waited for a minute or two as if for the door to be opened, and then turned round as if to go away, but what she did was to make a rush at the door, and making a dart with her beak at the point of the hook nearly threw it out of the staple; she repeated this manœuvre, and succeeded at the third attempt, the door fell open, and the goose led her troop in with a sound of triumphant chuckling. How had the goose learned that the force of the rush was needful to give the hook a sufficient toss?

The intelligence of crows is well attested by the following account contributed by a lady: "In the inn-garden I saw a dog eating a piece of carrion in the presence of several of these covetous birds. They evidently said a great deal to each other on the subject, and now and then one or two of them tried to pull the meat away from him, which he resented. At last a big strong crow succeeded in tearing off a piece, with which he returned to the pine where the others were congregated, and after much earnest speech they all surrounded the dog, and the leading bird dexterously dropped the small piece of meat within reach of his mouth, when he immediately snapped at it, letting go the big piece unwisely for a second, on which two of the crows flew away with it to the pine, and with much fluttering and hilarity