Monday, 23 August 2010

Peter, A True Story


A short story from the “Little Folk’s Illustrated Annual” 1899. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, August 2010.

DOROTHY lived with her grandparents on a little farm among the mountains. She loved animals, and was never without a pet of some kind.
One day as Dorothy's Grandfather was taking the cow to pasture, he noticed three little creatures playing near a large rock. He thought they were young foxes, and he started to catch one; but before he could reach the place two of the little fellows had tumbled into their hole. The other was about half in when Dorothy's Grandfather grabbed him.
It was not a fox, but a baby woodchuck,— a queer, fuzzy little ball of fur with beady black eyes, stumpy tail, and big yellow teeth.
The baby woodchuck bit, and scratched, and struggled to get away. But at last he was tied in a handkerchief, and then he was carried to Dorothy.
Dorothy was delighted with this new and strange pet; and though her Grandfather said woodchucks rarely became tame, she was sure this one would. She named him "Peter," and then took down her old squirrel cage, and lined it with soft hay and placed him in it, with some fresh-cut clover and a little dish of water.
For a few days Peter was very wild. He behaved very badly. He insisted on spilling his water, and he would snap and bite whenever his little mistress replaced it. But by and by he saw that Dorothy did not mean to hurt him. Then he gave up biting. In two weeks he would drink from his dish without upsetting it, and would nibble clover from Dorothy's hand, and let her scratch his funny little head.
In a month Peter had grown to twice his size, and had become so tame that he would let Dorothy take him in her arms and carry him about.
One day little Dorothy forgot to fasten the cage door, and Peter walked out. But he did not go far, and went back to his cage of his own accord. The door was never fastened again, and all day long Peter would play about the veranda or nibble grass in front of the house. He always returned to his wire house for the night. By this time he had learned to answer to his name. He would run to Dorothy whenever she called him.
One day Dorothy's Grandmother was baking cookies, and she gave one to Peter. It was funny to see the little woodchuck taste it, then taste again, as if he were not quite able to make up his mind whether he liked it or not. Finally he decided that he did like it and he ate it all. From this time, cookies were his favorite food. As soon as Dorothy's Grandmother began to bake he would run to the kitchen, and sit on his haunches in the doorway, and wait patiently until his cooky was given him; then he would scamper off to one of his grassy nooks and eat it at his leisure. He would hold it in his fore-paws and nibble here and there in the very cunningest way until it was all gone.
Several times during the summer Peter wandered off to the woods and spent the day. At last one cool October day Peter went off and did not return.
Dorothy was afraid some one had killed him. All winter long she mourned for Peter.
One fine morning in April as Dorothy was walking down the road with her Grandfather they espied a big red woodchuck sitting on a stump in a field.
"Oh, Grandpa!" cried Dorothy, "see that woodchuck! doesn't he look just like my dear old Peter?"
"Perhaps it is Peter," said her Grandfather. "Call him and see."
Stepping to the side of the road, Dorothy waved her hands and called, "Peter Peter! come here Peter!"
And what do you think happened? Why, the big red woodchuck first looked at Dorothy for a minute, with his head on one side, and then came running across the field— and it was her dear old Peter, safe and sound, coming back to her after his long winter sleep.
Dorothy took the great red fellow in her arms and hugged and kissed him. Peter seemed to share her delight. He rubbed his nose against her cheek and grumbled down in his throat as woodchucks do when they are pleased.
Of course Dorothy carried Peter home and fed and petted him, to make up for all the time he had been away. That afternoon Dorothy's Grandma got out her baking tins and rolling pin. And the moment Peter heard the sound, he started up and ran to the kitchen door, and took his old place again, to wait for his cooky. So you see that during his long winter sleep he had not forgotten about the cookies.
One day Dorothy's Grandpa found that his vegetables had been nibbled off, and as Peter had never been known to go into the garden he thought some wild woodchuck had made his home close by to be near Peter. That night he set a trap. The next day when he visited the trap, there, caught fast by one leg, was Dorothy's Peter!
Poor Peter's leg was broken. He moaned and groaned while it was being bandaged. He was put to bed, and Dorothy smoothed him and petted him, and cried over him, and she felt that Peter understood how sorry she was for him.
After a long time Peter was able to go about as well as ever, but he never again showed any inclination to go into the garden.
A. Hyatt Verrill.

There are at least three more of AHV's illustrations in this book. Here is a Whipoorwill.

The Legend of the Crossbill


From the Little Folks Illustrated Annual, 1899. Digitized by Doug Frizzle Aug 2010.

THE cold north wind whistled through the vines of the veranda and scattered the dried blue honeysuckle berries on the ground. Eric stood by the window watching the falling snow. "Oh, papa," he cried suddenly, "come see these birds!"
Eric's father laid down his book and went to the window. In the vines, and hopping about on the snow-covered ground, were a number of birds eating the berries and chattering to one another in low tones. Some of these birds were dull olive and yellow; others were dressed in brilliant red, their bright feathers showing like blood against the soft white snow.
"These are Crossbills, Eric," said he, "and if you look at them you will see why they have such a queer name."
Presently one of the pretty creatures came close and Eric called, "Oh, I see now—the bird's bill is all twisted."
Eric's father laughed. "It is not twisted," he said, "but the ends are bent past each other."
"Well," said Eric, "why are they like that, instead of straight?"
Eric's father drew a chair to the window and took his little boy on his knee. "Crossbills," he said, "live in the far north— they only visit here in winter. They feed on pine and fir seeds and use their scissor-like bills to chip off the scales of cones so as to reach the seeds beneath. When pine-cones are scarce, they come to the shrubbery near houses to feed on the berries. In their forest-home there are few people, and they are never harmed, so they are always tame and fearless of man.
"And there is a very pretty little legend, Eric, that tells how the Crossbills first came by their queer beaks and red feathers.
When Christ was taken out to be crucified all the birds and animals were grieved, but only one, a plain little brown bird, tried to help Him. This little bird stayed near the Cross, and when the cruel nails were driven through the Saviour's hands he fluttered down and tugged and pulled to draw them out. But though he struggled until his little bill was bent out of shape, and his feathers dyed with the Lord's blood, he failed to start the nails. But Christ saw his efforts and smiled and thanked him. And ever since, says the legend, the bird's feathers have been red and its bill crossed.
A. Hyatt Verrill.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.