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It is in the parental character that birds evince their strongest feelings. It is in this capacity that every nerve is exerted, every power employed, every sacrifice cheerfully made.
The instinctive feelings of alarm which have been implanted in some animals, and which must tend greatly to their preservation, is worthy of notice. Thus if a dog run across a meadow in which cattle are feeding, we see them leave off grazing, and fix their whole attention on the dog. This no doubt arises from that dread of beasts of prey, which cattle partake of in their state of wildness, and which domestication has only partially removed. When a cat runs along the roof of a house, we hear the notes of alarm from swallows, as well as a sort of war-cry, which soon collects a great number of these birds. They may then be seen making a swoop at their enemy, and all but striking it, as they dart past in rapid succession. Young kittens shew an instinctive fear of a dog as soon as they can see; and I have watched the little fry of fish get into shallow water for security at the approach of a pike, or when I have done anything to excite their fears. Newly-hatched pheasants and partridges will crouch in the grass on hearing a note of alarm from the parent birds; and every one has observed the fear shewn by young chickens and ducks at the sight of a hawk hovering in the air. Nor is this expression of alarm confined to birds and beasts. I have heard it uttered by bees, moths, and some other insects. The wood-louse shews its instinctive fears by rolling itself up into a ball; and other insects will put on the semblance of death when afraid; I have seen a spider do this. Indeed, some insects not only shew their fear, but take extraordinary means of self-preservation.
I now refer to a Spider I recently discovered, and whose proceedings have not, as far as I am aware, been noticed by naturalists. At night I have observed this insect crawling over the ceiling of a room in search of flies, which it eats as it catches them, and appears, unlike most spiders, to have no place of retreat. In the day-time, this spider appears motionless at some spot on the ceiling, but it remains in the centre of three fine threads which it has thrown out, one end of each of which has its termination at the place where the spider is resting. On touching one of these threads ever so slightly, the spider instantly disappears. I at first thought that it had suddenly let itself fall to the ground, but after a short time, I saw it in its original position. On disturbing it a second time, I was enabled to ascertain that by means of its two forefeet, which alone suspended it from one of the threads, the insect spun itself round with so much rapidity, as to become perfectly invisible. This lasted for about half a minute, when I again saw the spider hanging on the thread by its two feet. I could not but wonder how this rotatory motion was produced, and continued so rapidly each time I touched one of the threads. After doing this several times, the spider appeared to get weary, and retreated across the ceiling to some distance. The body of the insect was small and round, with rather longer legs than those we commonly find in houses. I have only discovered it in two localities—Hampton Court and East Moulsey; in both of which places I have shewn its spinning faculty to several persons. There can, I think, be no doubt that this power of producing instantaneous concealment must be the means of preserving the spider from becoming a prey to its many enemies, especially as it has no place to which it can retreat as most other spiders have. It has also another peculiarity, which is, that although I have frequently touched, and otherwise molested it, I never could induce it to do what all of its kind will do under similar circumstances — let itself fall to the ground, and then endeavour to escape. It seems to be fully aware that its safety depends on the few fine threads it throws out, and which it evidently left with reluctance.
The following fact, also, will serve to prove that fear will produce strange fellowships amongst animals. A friend of mine had a fierce dog, chained to a kennel in his poultry-yard. In the yard there were a number of ducks, who always kept out of the reach of the dog, probably from his having shewn a disposition to kill them. One moonlight night a great commotion was heard in the yard, and the servant-man, on opening his window which looked into it, saw a fox endeavouring to get at the ducks, which had taken refuge in the dog's kennel. The dog protected them with the greatest eagerness, running backwards and forwards as far as his chain would let him, and continued to do so till the fox was driven away.
Numerous instances might be brought forward of birds and quadrupeds in their wild state, coming to man for protection, when their life has been in danger. I remember, a few years ago, going to see some hawking, on a common near Southampton. There was a large assemblage, and many carriages. A white pigeon was let loose, followed by a hawk. After making several circles, the pigeon, finding it could not escape from the hawk, flew into one of the carriages, and took shelter on the bosom of a young lady. It was claimed by the owner of the hawk, and again turned loose, when it came again into the same carriage, and sought protection in the same place. It was claimed a second time, and, I regret to add, was a third time turned out. On this occasion, the poor bird, probably finding that the place of refuge it had sought would not avail it in its hour of need, fled across the country pursued by the hawk, who struck it down and killed it.
Timid, however, as most animals are and influenced by fear, it is astonishing how strongly affection operates over their greatest apprehension of danger. One of our travellers, I think it was Captain Welstead, mentions, that when he was in Syria, he and some of his party caught some young Gazelles, and having cut their throats, the carcases were suspended from the saddles of the different horsemen. In this situation they were followed the whole of the day by the bereaved and affectionate mothers, who forgot their own danger in their love for their offspring. The gazelle is well known to be one of the most timorous of animals; but here affection preponderated over the strongest impulses of its nature.
Lieutenant Wood, also, in his very interesting account of his journey to discover the source of the river Oxus, mentions the following fact, shewing how strong the affection of animals is for their young under peculiar circumstances. His boat was moored on the shore of the Indus, where they disturbed a colony of Otters, which showed some resentment at the intrusion on their haunts. Two