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Beasts Called Wild


ISSUE:  Autumn 1931

I

Let’s go home,” said my friend. “I don’t like the woods at night.”

What he was really voicing was not reasonable apprehension but ancestral dread, harking back to that far time when man’s constant combat was with the wild beasts which, especially at night, formidably contended with him for the supremacy of the earth. All my life I have loved the wildwoods, and have sought them by dark as well as by day; and I have yet to discover why any one should especially, dread the woods at night. There is no longer on our continent any wild creature which will deliberately seek out and attack a man. More of them undoubtedly are stirring by night, but the wariness of their walking is proof enough of the utter respect in which they hold man. I have had many a wild creature approach me in the darkness; but only by keeping perfectly still could I help to effect that approach. Invariably, the moment my presence was detected, wild brother lost not a moment in putting between us as much space as his speed and his unquestioned enthusiasm could provide.

A second common delusion about nature we owe in part to Charles Darwin, who seemed enamoured of the term, “the struggle for existence”; and in part we owe it to our own foolish, frantic way of living, imagining that, because we struggle daily in our anxious hectic fashion, nervous and unremitting struggle is therefore a law of nature. Nature labors, but tranquilly, like a goddess, with primal virgin power and with vast leisure at her disposal. In the serene presence of nature, man’s theory of the struggle for existence has no place; it appears a distinct impertinence.

In wood and field we find a peace that our proud way of living cannot give. There is small evidence of what with justice we might call a struggle either among the members of one group, or between the individuals or the groups of different species. Indeed, one of the constantly amazing features of life among wild creatures is the way in which they get along together. There are no gossips among them. There are no social climbers. Not one is emulous to amass a fortune at the expense of his fellows. These things being so, why should they struggle? All that they do seems relevant and pertinent. They do not have the incentives that make us so painfully strive. There is no pitiless struggle in creation save among the children of men.

I remember seeing a remarkable and impressive sight on a wild coastal island one December twilight. While this lonely isle is thronged by wild life of many sorts, the most important forms are the wild cattle, the wild deer, and the wild goats. The island is oval in shape, its circumference to the depth of a mile being grown to a lordly primeval forest of live-oaks, yellow pines, and palmettoes, under-thick-eted by dense copses of myrtle and gum and ilex. The centre of the island is a vast reedland through which meander slow creeks, while through the marshes wind mazes of animal paths.

For convenience of observation I climbed into a live-oak that stood solitary on the edge of the marsh. A low limb with no foliage immediately above it or at its sides afforded me the point of vantage I needed. The softly, diffused and gently tinged lights of the sunset gave me almost perfect conditions for visibility. Because it has always been a passion with me to observe wild things, while I myself was unobserved, I awaited with delight what would come forth from the misty margins of the forests that ringed the lonely marsh.

First came the wild cattle, lowing, and making a good deal of noise with their trampling. Their leader was a magnificent black bull, with horns that gleamed like ivory. With him there were about forty-five other cattle—all the descendants of a blooded pair which had been placed on the island about the year 1820. No sooner was this fine herd clear of the woods and beginning to graze on the succulent marsh, than, almost beneath my tree, I heard dainty shadowy footfalls. Five deer came trooping down a path, jostling one another in a friendly competition to be the first to break their long twelve-hour fast. They were joined by other deer, until I counted nineteen; and to my surprise they, fed straight up to the cattle. There was a friendly recognition, an accepted communion of interest. I saw a fine stag munching with a young bull at the top of the same tussock. I saw a fawn muzzle a cow by mistake for its mother. In the twilight the herds commingled.

Where was the eternal struggle for existence that science tells us of? Even the wary wild goats that came later minced unafraid on their way; followed the cattle, ran ahead of the deer to get the choicer green of the browsings. . . . But apparently there was no jealousy, no rivalry. Here was only the peace of nature, a silent rebuke to the vexatious life of man.

So kindly and tolerant are most animals toward their fellows that one of them will often seek and find sanctuary in the compassionate ranks of others of a totally different species. I recall a story told me by a woodsman friend of mine —a keen observer whose word is reliable.

One day when he was driving a large herd of hogs through the woods, he heard a hound coming in his direction. Soon, much to his surprise, he saw a very, large buck, evidently very tired, heading directly for him. He stood motionless to see how near the stag would come. To the man’s amazement the deer, upon passing him without becoming aware of his presence, slowed his pace, and joined the herd of hogs, traveling forward with them in a quick walk! Possibly the presence of nature, man’s theory of the struggle for existence has no place; it appears a distinct impertinence.

In wood and field we find a peace that our proud way of living cannot give. There is small evidence of what with justice we might call a struggle either among the members of one group, or between the individuals or the groups of different species. Indeed, one of the constantly, amazing features of life among wild creatures is the way in which they get along together. There are no gossips among them. There are no social climbers. Not one is emulous to amass a fortune at the expense of his fellows. These things being so, why should they struggle? All that they do seems relevant and pertinent. They do not have the incentives that make us so painfully strive. There is no pitiless struggle in creation save among the children of men,

I remember seeing a remarkable and impressive sight on a wild coastal island one December twilight. While this lonely isle is thronged by wild life of many sorts, the most important forms are the wild cattle, the wild deer, and the wild goats. The island is oval in shape, its circumference to the depth of a mile being grown to a lordly primeval forest of live-oaks, yellow pines, and palmettoes, under-thick-eted by dense copses of myrtle and gum and ilex. The centre of the island is a vast reedland through which meander slow creeks, while through the marshes wind mazes of animal paths.

For convenience of observation I climbed into a live-oak that stood solitary on the edge of the marsh. A low limb with no foliage immediately above it or at its sides afforded me the point of vantage I needed. The softly, diffused and gently tinged lights of the sunset gave me almost perfect conditions for visibility. Because it has always been a passion with me to observe wild things, while I myself was unobserved, I awaited with delight what would come forth from the misty margins of the forests that ringed the lonely marsh.

First came the wild cattle, lowing, and making a good deal of noise with their trampling. Their leader was a magnificent black bull, with horns that gleamed like ivory. With him there were about forty-five other cattle—all the descendants of a blooded pair which had been placed on the island about the year 1820. No sooner was this fine herd clear of the woods and beginning to graze on the succulent marsh, than, almost beneath my tree, I heard dainty shadowy footfalls. Five deer came trooping down a path, jostling one another in a friendly competition to be the first to break their long twelve-hour fast. They were joined by other deer, until I counted nineteen; and to my surprise they, fed straight up to the cattle. There was a friendly recognition, an accepted communion of interest. I saw a fine stag munching with a young bull at the top of the same tussock. I saw a fawn muzzle a cow by mistake for its mother. In the twilight the herds commingled.

Where was the eternal struggle for existence that science tells us of? Even the wary wild goats that came later minced unafraid on their way; followed the cattle, ran ahead of the deer to get the choicer green of the browsings. . . . But apparently there was no jealousy, no rivalry. Here was only the peace of nature, a silent rebuke to the vexatious life of man.

So kindly and tolerant are most animals toward their fellows that one of them will often seek and find sanctuary in the compassionate ranks of others of a totally different species. I recall a story told me by a woodsman friend of mine —a keen observer whose word is reliable.

One day when he was driving a large herd of hogs through the woods, he heard a hound coming in his direction. Soon, much to his surprise, he saw a very, large buck, evidently very tired, heading directly for him. He stood motionless to see how near the stag would come. To the man’s amazement the deer, upon passing him without becoming aware of his presence, slowed his pace, and joined the herd of hogs, traveling forward with them in a quick walk! Possibly the buck might have concluded that, where there were many creatures to follow, the hound would not necessarily select him for his tender attentions. But more likely he simply felt that here was a friendly gathering of whose sympathy and possible protecting power he had great need, and on that shielding he could almost certainly count. I am glad to report that the woodsman broke the hound off the trail; he then drove the hogs with their singular companion toward his home. Ere long, however, the stag detected the presence of the man, and with a few bounds had vanished into a sheltering pine thicket.

The glad law-abiding, and tranquil communal life of wild creatures, which are facts known to every accurate observer, would not be possible but for a constant forbearance on the part of each individual—a forbearance that amounts to courtesy. In nature there’s no underworld. Lately it was my privilege to visit a great game preserve where myriads of wild ducks winter. What I saw there was a spirit we might do well to emulate.

An old rice field of some five hundred acres had been flowed with river water to a depth of about a foot. The field was intersected at wide intervals by, green banks, while here and there in the placid reaches of water were growths of water lily, lotus, wild rice, and wampee—all supplying natural duck foods.

Down one of the old mossy banks I walked, to come upon what seemed a primeval paradise for wildfowl. Hundreds of mallards drifted idly in squadrons, the green helmets of the drakes gleaming in the misty sunrise. A thousand black ducks and more were on one stretch of calm tide. Down the rosy highway of the sky sped flights of green-winged teal, to come with dizzy accuracy to rest among the sheltering tussocks of the waste field. Myriads of wildfowl were here feeding and resting; and the only voices they raised were the voices of companionship and contentment. Here was no struggle; only peace, which in communal life can come only by individual poise, individual gentleness and obedience.

There are no radicals in nature; no professional reformers. Hence joy, and quietness are there possible. . . . In the vast host of wildfowl that I watched that morning there was not a discontented note, not a weary heart. . . . Was this halcyon state not due to an utter absence of strug-gle?

Of course, in the mating season, among all species, we must make some allowance for the combats of competing mates. Yet these combats are generally of short duration, are seldom serious, and when they are over, the vanquished Romeos appear to harbor no resentment whatsoever. In nature there seems to be no premeditated vengeance. There are, on the other hand, much dignity, consideration, and temperamental continence.

But man, proud man, Dressed in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assured. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep.

II

There is a further general misconception among us concerning the wild creatures that live under nature’s beneficent laws—a misconception that has caused a good deal of real suffering to tender-hearted people. It is that wild things exist in a state of terror, both because of their natural enemies and because of man. But to one who has roamed the woods most of his life, nature is no madhouse of terrors, and her children are characterized by serenity and joy.

Cowards die many times before their death; The valiant never taste of death but once.

So spake Caesar—with fatal inaccuracy. What makes people die before death is fervid imagination. Those who taste of death but once are not so valiant as they are mentally stolid. . . .

Wild creatures, as far as we can fairly judge, have no imagination. They live from moment to moment, occupied with but one idea at a time. They, are untroubled by either the past or the future. Nor is it possible for us to believe that any wild creature has the kind of intense self-consciousness that we find in human beings—or at least in some of them. Our own acute spiritual awareness and our clairvoyant, volatile imagination serve to make life for us both terrible and beautiful—serving also to bring us to dreams of God and of immortality.

Of the mythical terrors that we imagine for wild creatures, perhaps none is greater than that supposedly inspired in the fox and the deer by the pursuit of hounds. As far as I have been able quietly to observe, over a long period of years, neither the deer nor the fox is much concerned over such a chase; and at times the fugitive appears to derive a positive degree of pleasure from it, discovering in it the elements of an exciting game.

A pet buck of mine that I had raised with a. bottle was on terms of friendly intimacy with my hounds; and in the autumn, when he had his new antlers and when his physical well-being was at its height, he used actually to provoke the dogs to give him a race. It was a strange yet accountable sight to see the proud stag, mincing arrogantly, lowering his head and bulging his neck, approach the hounds drowsing in the sun by the old barn. He would paw mischievously, at them, snort in their faces, feign to menace them with his gleaming horns, After this mock threatening had gone on as far as the hounds could stand it, they would “take notice,” rousing themselves, at which the buck would bound away in an artificial panic. Stimulated by what appeared to be the deer’s real fright, the dogs would take up the chase, sending the lithely joyous fugitive flying down the avenue, across the plantation fields, over fences, through thin strips of woods, back along the river, and thence to the avenue again, and so up to the house. As the buck would near home, he would miraculously transform himself from a wild deer into our tame one, would break off the race, and would not even deign to look back at the hounds which, with tails waving and long ears flying, were clamoring on his trail. As soon as the dogs had come to where the deer had stopped, they, stopped too. The fun was over, and everybody was happy. Each had had his “daily dozen.”

During my lifetime I have been privileged to see certainly more than a thousand wild deer pursued by hounds; and I have yet to see a deer in distress because of this pursuit. So superb is the deer’s natural vitality, so keen are its senses, so familiar is it with the forests where it ranges, and so adequate are its speed and its agility that it can take excellent care of itself. Nor are we to forget that such a fugitive may take whatever course it chooses, whereas its pursuers have to unravel its mazy, trail. As illustrating a deer’s agility, I once measured a young doe’s first jump from her bed—and it had been made when she was not especially startled. More than sixteen feet she sailed lithely from her lying-down position. Do our d6butantes thus arise?

Deer play in front of dogs; they dodge; they skulk; they exercise an almost incredible prescience to do what is least expected. If ever hard pressed, they take to water, and wherever the deer is found, it is commonly found in such numbers that fresh trails are constantly crossing another. As a result, dogs pursuing one deer will usually rouse others, so that the whole affair, instead of being the stern pursuit of one unhappy fugitive, is far more likely to be a sort of relay race, or merry-go-round. Repeatedly, have I known hounds to start one deer; and ere long to be pursuing, more or less at random, now one fugitive and now another, so that the burden of the race is seldom borne by one individual, If a wounded deer is one of a group, invariably it will separate from its fellows, and as often as not the dogs will follow the unwounded ones, thus affording the one with the handicap an ample, opportunity to steal aside unobserved and so to escape.

III

What is true of the deer’s elusiveness, and failure to take very seriously the pursuit of a clamoring pack, is true likewise of the fox, between which and the dog there exists an ancient and honorable enmity. Many a time have I been afforded an opportunity to observe the behavior of a fox at some distance ahead of the dogs; and usually the pursued appears to take a wily and sardonic delight—an occult feline pleasure — in the outwitting of the pursuers. It must be remembered that most of these chases in the wilds are tests of mental rather than of physical supremacy. It is commonly the superior strategist who wins.

One November day I was in the woods alone, when the far-off music of a pack of hounds in full cry was borne to me. There were fox-hunters on the place adjoining mine, and evidently they had their quarry started. Because foxes, like deer, have their regular runs, and because in those woods their runs are known to me, I was able, since the race was coming in my direction, to take a position enabling me to see the fugitive.

Hardly had I settled myself before the fox came within sight, stealing along in his inimitably wary fashion. A fox must nearly always be located by sight rather than by sound. This one was trotting rather idly, his fluffy brush straight out behind him. Traveling a dim woodpath, he picked his way around gleaming patches of water; and at more or less regular intervals would pause to look ahead carefully, to listen, and to look back. There is no more characteristic pose assumed by, a fox on the move than the one he commonly takes when he comes to a log in his path. Putting his forefeet on it in order to secure for himself strategic elevation, he will survey, with that fathoming precision that only a genius possesses, the whole stage of the forest in which, for the moment, he finds himself an uncomfortably prominent actor. I saw my fox take this stance; and for about two minutes he did not move. Wild creatures pursued by hounds have come to learn that the real danger is often ahead of them rather than behind them. After satifying himself that the coast was clear, the fox, instead of crossing the log and following the path, turned down the prostrate tree, ran its length, and then, through dense bay-bushes, returned to the path.

But a better maneuver was to come. A storm had uprooted a huge yellow pine; the dead top lay fringing the path; the roots had torn up with them a great half-moon of earth. Where the pine top touched the path, there was a wide slash of water. The fox avoided the water, yet did not pass it, but, at its widest part, leaped across it straight into the shadowy shelter of the old pine-top, from where he ran down the log, climbed the strange mound of earth, and there lay down, some ten feet off the ground.

In due time came the hounds, puzzling out the trail. At the water they became completely bewildered, and for some moments they, cast about vainly for the lost scent. One dog went almost under the fox, which never moved. At last the oldest hound gave notice that the fugitive had run the log. Instantly the fox leaped lithely down on the farther side of the embankment on which he had been craftily reposing, and I saw him bobbing away serenely through the woods. He must have been a good half-mile away before his pursuers straightened on his track; and by that time he was probably making a new puzzle for them. For in such cases the fugitive is generally the real master of the situation; and insofar as I have observed him, his attitude betrays less fear than a certain amused curiosity, and a certain assurance in his own superiority, which subtly reflects contempt upon the following pack.

Considering predatory creatures and their prey, we have to admit that a stalking or a chase often ends in death. But in practically all such cases, the victim suffers merely the initial shock, which is, as far as we can fairly judge, attended by little pain. Death in the wilds seems to me a far more natural and perhaps necessary thing than death among men, in civilization. In the forest it is merely the operation of one of nature’s indispensable, and, upon the whole, beneficent, laws.

IV

While most of us err in supposing that the wilds of nature are an arena in which there are continual grim combats, we err even more in supposing that wild creatures live coarse and common lives. “You beast!” hisses the haughty heroine at the gloomy villain, using, as she thinks, the most contumelious reflection at her command. If she knew the ways of nature better, she might discover that she was paying the renegade a deep compliment. “You brute!” is another devastating appellation, said to be in somewhat extensive domestic use. But there are so many very admirable traits among the creatures of the wilds that to call a human being one is not necessarily to disgrace the man—though it may insult the beast.

Of the positive virtues of wild things I shall mention but one, which seems to have a special meaning in relation to the subject of our misunderstanding of many of the fundamentals of nature. Birds and animals live a physically immaculate life. Their personal cleanliness is amazing. They, bathe (in some way) with commendable regularity. They spend a great deal of time in the matter of keeping themselves spruce. They eat regularly but daintily. They have no night-clubs; they have no slums; they do not go on sprees. If injured, they show the most amazing patience and intelligence about taking care of themselves.

A Negro once gave me a fox that he had caught in a trap. One of its forefeet was badly but not dangerously hurt. Having made the wild thing fairly comfortable in a box with some pine straw, I fed him and watered him. How long unattended, uncomplaining, did he lie in exactly the same position, with his injured paw extended on the straw? But for changing his position slightly to get his food and drink, he never moved for eleven days. After that time he ran quite freely about the wired enclosure before his box. But for nearly two weeks he lay patient, bright-eyed, alert, —healing himself.

Wild things live according to an ancient schedule, which is sane and salutary. They feed; they rest; they sleep; occasionally, when their search for food does not afford them sufficient exercise, they indulge in playful exercise. But their wants are few, their habits simple and cleanly.

I once managed to rear a brood of quail that had been left motherless. They had in their pen plenty, of food, water, and shelter; but it was apparent to me that they lacked some essential to happiness. . . . After I had put a pile of sand in a sunny corner of their enclosure, they were happy. They didn’t like a room without a bath!

Birds spend hours preening and washing themselves. Even the monstrous and ghoulish black vulture delights in nothing more than in a sun-bath. See him how he stands on a limb of that dead pine, his wings far-extended so as to catch the full effect of the purging sunlight! All furred creatures scrupulously cleanse their fur daily.

As a result of their daintiness about their persons, wild creatures have about them an air of perpetual readiness. They are never dScolletS, They, are always all dressed up and ready to go—all of which is indicative of perfect health, in part the result of wise and systematic hygiene.

Nor is cleanliness among wild creatures found among the mature only. . . . Wild babies might well be the envious despair of human mothers, whose days are spent in virtuous but vain efforts to keep their offspring from looking disreputable. . . . There seems to be in the wild sweet life of nature no squalor, no misery. Even in dirty weather wild creatures can look faultless, fastidious, unaffected either in appearance or in poise by rain and cold. After nearly a lifetime of observing the children of nature, I am left with an impression that amounts to a conviction: it is that they are highbred, genteel, and, in many cases, patrician. . . . They live as if they knew that capricious, unrestrained desires make life nothing but care.

V

A last mistake made about nature by the multitude is that all wild things of a species are alike. This view is not only faulty, but it prevents one’s appreciation of one of the most fascinating chapters in all of nature’s green-leaved, gigantic book: it is that many a wild creature develops a distinct and quite fascinating personality,. Wolves are wolves; but as every stock-raiser in a wolf country knows, and as every government hunter in such a region knows, a single wolf will often completely outstrip his shaggy fellows in daring, in sagacity, in the life-and-death business of eluding man. He becomes King Lobo, and there is far less poetry than fact in such a description.

It appears true that the natural world develops great personalities, perhaps in much the same degree as men and women of genius are developed in our own race. Said one of my old backwoods friends to me one day, speaking of a stag and showing me at the same time the greatest rack of antlers I had ever seen taken in my part of the country:

“When I saw him coming toward me, I felt like climbing a tree, or making for home as fast as I could travel. Yet I have seen thousands of deer in the woods, and I have killed hundreds. He weighed, I judge, over three hundred pounds; he stood almost as tall as my little horse; and his horns carry twenty-six points, as you can see for yourself. He was a giant of his tribe.”

It was as the woodsman said. Never had I seen more massive horns. They were amazingly tall, wide, craggy. The wearer must have been a rare, perhaps a unique, specimen for that region of the South, where even the largest bucks seldom weigh two hundred pounds, and where twelve points on horns are considered a handsome number.

The matter of this stag’s size brings up a question that must needs have a certain fascination about it. We are fond of trying to show that people are, after all, very much alike. Perhaps they are in some general aspects. But all of us are almost absurdly different. No two people look precisely alike; and it is doubtful if they think alike or feel alike in exactly the same terms and emotions. Moreover, certainly one thing that makes people interesting is the fact that each is recognized to be an individual. Each is a personality. I have wondered much whether among the members of the great family of wild life there are not many individuals — quite distinct from the general run of the species to which they may respectively belong. My observation in the woods and fields and marshes, far in the wastelands, has led me to believe that wild creatures of a certain species are by no means all alike. There was that twenty-six point stag, for example. Physically, at least, he was entirely different from his fellows.

A few years ago I heard that a record diamond-back rattler had been killed in northern Alabama. This regal serpent, the largest of the venomous reptiles of North America, is not supposed to exceed nine feet in length. This serpent was reported to be nearly fourteen feet long. I investigated the story; and apparently, the entire truth of the monster’s size was established. I reported it to Raymond Ditmars, Curator of Reptiles in the New York Zoological Park, and he wrote me that the whole affair seemed entirely credible. He added that often in wild life a single individual will far exceed the normal size and weight for a member of any class or tribe. He mentioned a garter snake in the zoo that was more than a foot longer than any member of that species is supposed to grow.

But mere physical proportions are never vitally interesting; at least not half so fascinating as mental stature. Do the wild creatures of a certain kind differ in mentality, or in special gifts, almost as much as the individuals in a group of people? That they do differ amazingly can be shown by a few anecdotes that are simply the record of some observations that I have been able to make.

One morning at daybreak, I heard a most beautiful song coming from the top of a tall locust tree on my, lawn. The tree was without leaves; accordingly a clear view of the singer was to be had. I thought at first that the bird was a brown thrasher; then I thought it might be a mocking bird. But as I listened, I was sure that I had never heard anything quite the equal of that wild liquid melody. I dressed and went out on the lawn to investigate. The bird was a common robin — yet not common. Scores of other robins were singing nearby; but not another had a song like this one. I listened entranced. I stopped several passers-by to ask them to compare that grand opera with the little hurdy-gurdies that were filling the morning with sweet but mediotr ere music. My idea about the singer was confirmed by the other listeners who heard him. And often since then I have delighted in this same bird — a superb solitary singer — a wild poet—a master of the highest minstrelsy. What can I conclude but that he is a genuine personality—a Shakespeare among several hundred mediocre villagers of Stratford?

In a certain parish on the Carolina coast, there lived for a matter of nearly, thirty years a great stag known far and wide as “the stump-toed buck.” It is said that two generations of horses, four of hounds, and at least one of men pui-sued this magnificent creature relentlessly — yet pursued him in vain. He was easily identified by the crooked track that he made. He was capable of escaping from every trap that wily hunters could lay for him; he distanced the fleetest and staunchest packs of hounds; no horse had the speed and the sure-footedness to cut him off in the woods. For thirty years he amazed his enemies with the finesse of his strategy —living, indeed, far beyond the normal life-time of a deer-outliving hundreds of his fellows who fell victims to hunters.

What can we say but that this stag was endowed in a superior fashion with the intelligence necessary to make him a perfect fugitive—at least a master in the art of eluding pursuers?

I know a lagoon lying in dreamy wildwoods—a mysterious and beautiful place—almost unearthly in its charm and its serenity. In its dark waters live scores of alligators; yet one of these is master of them all. I have watched them swimming up the tortuous channel; and at his approach the other alligators, drifting idly on the mirror-like surface of the waters, would quietly withdraw. Some would sink; others would swim toward the banks. All would show their deference by giving the ruler due homage. I noticed that this particular alligator was a good deal darker in color than the others; but he was not the largest. His sable coat made it easy for me to identify him; yet I do not for a moment imagine that his color had anything to do with the power he had over his fellows. It was rather due to that mysterious quality that we call “personality,” a quality common enough in man and far more common among wild creatures than we dream.

Of the difference in individual wild creatures, we are grimly reminded when we hear of a rogue elephant, a man-eating shark, a tiger or a lion that turns man-killer. Discerning keepers of wild animals know that every, individual has his own temperament. Temperaments vary most distinctly perhaps among the great apes; and in man they become radically different.

A strange and fascinating study is this personality among wild things. I realize that I have but touched upon it; yet it is best sometimes merely to suggest—when investigation itself promises so much surprise and so much delight.

Mistakes about Nature? We seem to make some tragic ones. . . . The trouble must really be with us if we do not more appreciatively understand our own wise and beautiful mother, and some of the other children of her great household.

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