Young Knights of the Empire

by Sir Robert Baden-Powell



_He should save them, so far as possible, from pain, and should not kill any animal unnecessarily, even if it is only a fly, for it is one of God's creatures. Killing an animal for food, or an animal which is harmful, is allowable.

It is a curious thing that animals and children both seem to recognise a good man when they meet him, and are at once friendly with him; and I have always found that the bravest men are in their turn kind to them.

You must have noticed how our soldiers at the Front and our sailors in the Fleet all seem to have their pet animals and mascots, and when I was in France I noticed on many occasions our men playing with the little French children among their ruined homes close up to the firing line.

They were all the best of friends: although they knew scarcely a word of each other's language.

In the same way as a Knight or a Boy Scout is chivalrous to weaker folk, so he is chivalrous also to animals.

Animals are weaker folk than ourselves in the matter of mind and understanding, but they can be very affectionate and faithful where they have learnt that the human being, though strong _enough to_ hurt, them, is kind and gentle. They are quick to show that they appreciate such kindness. You know how your own dog half-curls himself round Wagging his tail and grinning with pleasure when he sees you; and also how your horse nuzzles you all over to find the sugar that he knows you are going to give him.

So give animals all the kindness you can, and make their lives happy.

Many boys are inclined to be cruel simply because they don't think--they are not yet manly enough--they are, as I said before, in the silly-ass stage.

But a Scout who is manly and chivalrous towards people will at all times be the same towards animals. It is wonderful what pleasure you can get out of it in return, whether you train your dog to obey your slightest sign, or whether you tame a robin to be your friend.

The other day I came across a proprietor of a garage who showed himself to be a good and kindly man because he had supplied the Scout troop of the town with a loft to use as a club-room. But he proved to me that he was a good man by taking me into his sitting-room and showing me his tame canary, which did every kind of trick at his command, and sang to him, answered his whistle, and came at his call and kissed him.

Apart from the interest of training an animal in confinement, there is all the fun and adventure to be got out of stalking and watching animals and birds in the wild and learning their ways and customs. The more you do this, and the more you understand about how they are made and how they do their various works, the better you will understand the wonders of Nature and of the Creator.

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A man who studies birds is called an ornithologist. Mark Twain, the amusing yet kind-hearted American writer, says:

"There are fellows who write books about birds and love them so much that they'll go hungry and tired to find a new kind of bird--and kill it.

"They are called 'ornithologers.'

"I could have been an 'ornithologer' myself, because I always loved birds and creatures. And I started out to learn how to be one. I saw a bird sitting on a dead limb of a high tree, singing away with his head tilted back and his mouth open--and, before I thought, I fired my gun at him; his song stopped all suddenly, and he fell from the branch, limp like a rag, and I ran and picked him up--and he was dead. His body was warm in my hand, and his head rolled about this way and that, like as if his neck was broke, and there was a white skin over his eyes, and one drop of red blood sparkled on the side of his head-and-laws! I couldn't see nothing for the tears."

"I haven't ever murdered no creature since then that warn't doing me no harm--and I ain't agoing to neither."

A good Scout is generally a good "ornithologer," as Mark Twain calls him. That is to say, he likes stalking birds and watching all that they do. He discovers, by watching them, where and how they build their nests.

He does not, like the ordinary boy, want to go and rob them of their eggs, but he likes to watch how they hatch out their young and teach them to feed themselves and to fly. He gets to know every species of bird by its call and by its way of flying; and he knows which birds remain all the year round and which only come at certain seasons; and what kind of food they like best, and how they change their plumage, what sort of nests they build, where they build them, and what the eggs are like.

A good many birds are almost dying out in Great Britain, because so many boys bag all their eggs when they find their nests.

Birds'-nesting is very like big-game shooting--you look out in places that, as a hunter, you know are likely haunts of the birds you want; you watch the birds fly in and out and you find the nest. But you do not then go and destroy the nest and take all the eggs. If you are actually a collector, take one egg and leave the rest, and, above all, don't pull the nest about, otherwise the parent birds will desert it, and all those eggs, which might have developed into jolly young birds will be wasted.

Far better than taking the eggs is to take a photograph, or to make a sketch of the hen sitting on her nest, or to make a collection of pictures of the different kinds of nests built by the different kinds of birds.

Aberdeen, in Scotland, is supposed to be specially well off for skylarks for the following reason:

A few years ago there came a very severe gale and snow-storm late in March, and all the high ground inland was so buried under snow and ice that the birds were all driven to the Lower land near the coast. The fields by the seashore were covered with them.

Numbers of people went out to catch them with birdlime, nets, snares, and guns. Large numbers were taken alive to be 'sent to market' in London and other towns.

One gentleman found a man selling a big cage full of them. They were crowded up to a fearful extent, and all fluttering with terror at their imprisonment, struggling over each other in their frantic desire to escape. He felt so sorry for them that he bought the whole lot, and took them to his warehouse, where he was able to give them plenty of room and food and water.

Then he offered to buy all the larks that were being captured for the market at market prices. In this way he received over a thousand; and these he put in a big room, where they had comparative freedom and plenty of food. It is said that the noise of their singing in the morning was almost deafening, and crowds of birds used to gather over the house to hear them.

At last the bad weather passed off, the sun shone out again, and the fields became green and bright, and then the kind man who had housed the birds opened the windows of the room and all the birds flew out in a happy crowd, chirping and singing as they mounted into the bright, warm air, or fluttered off to the adjoining fields and woods. And there they built their nests and hatched out their young, so that to-day the song of the lark is to be heard everywhere round Aberdeen.

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One January I went "bird's-nesting" with a party of Scout-masters. It seems an odd time of year to do that; but we really went to see how they manage to persuade birds to come and make their nests in the Bird Sanctuary, near Brentford, just outside London.

We went into the big wood there, and soon found ourselves in the presence of birds, for everywhere one could hear the piping, trilling, and whistling of unseen warblers, and every now and then one of them would flit across our path.

Then, on the side of almost every tree, we noticed a small box, entirely closed up except for a small hole in the front. These were the "nesting-boxes," and every spring the birds come and make their nests in these boxes, and bring up their families. The consequence is that the place is now alive with singing birds.

The son of Mr. Mark Webb, the manager of the Sanctuary, is in his teens, but he knows everything about the birds that come there and their ways, and he also knows all the different kinds of plants and trees that grow in the wood. He is a very complete stalker-Scout, and evidently gets a lot of fun and satisfaction out of watching the birds and their doings.

Well, almost any Scout can do the same, and my advice to you is to make a nesting-box or two as soon as you can, and put them up on trees. Then, at the proper time, you may have the satisfaction of seeing some rare kind of bird coming to your box and raising a family there.

The box should be eight to ten inches high, by six wide and deep, and the top preferably sloping to run any rain off.

[Illustration: A NESTING-BOX FOR BIRDS.]

The door is a small round or pear-shaped hole near the top of the box, so that there is plenty of room for the nest below it.

A little ledge for the birds, and especially the young ones, to rest upon, is a good thing to have on the front of the box. If possible, paint your box roughly with dabs of green and brown to make it match the tree stem and leaves, and put on it the name of your patrol and troop if you like.

Then fix it to a tree trunk about six feet above the ground, where it is safe from rats or snakes, and on the side of the tree farthest from the path, if there be one near, so that the birds will not be frightened by passers-by. If it is on the sunny side, so much the better.

Birds will build in almost anything which offers them safety and shelter; an old kettle, for instance, or an old tin pot is a favourite site for a nest. If you scatter a few crumbs or grains of corn about your box every day at first, the birds will become accustomed to it, and will soon adopt it as their home.

Any Scout who has not a tree of his own to hang his box on can probably get leave to put it up, if he asks nicely, in some neighbour's wood or garden, or in a park, and can then visit it from time to time to see how it is getting on.

Most nesting-boxes have their roof, or front, on hinges, or made so that it can slide off; but it does not do to examine the nest when once it is made, or the old birds will desert it.

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The movements of birds as they change their quarters still puzzle the naturalists.

It is marvellous how they seem to like travelling, and no one can understand why they take certain paths through the air when they are doing it.

For instance, the black pool warbler, in America, spends its summer in Alaska, and goes down to South America for the winter. It takes the straightest course it can from Alaska to Brazil, flying over land and sea--and a wide sea, too, is the Gulf of Mexico. But the cliff swallow, which also spends the winter in Brazil and the summer in North Canada, takes quite a different route, and goes an extra 2000 miles in order to avoid going over the sea, and follows the land all round by Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and so through the United States.

The distances which birds cover when "migrating" are enormous. Some American plovers are known to travel for 8000 miles, one part of the journey being 2500 miles without resting as they pass over the sea.

The arctic tern goes even farther, it nests near the North Pole, and then makes its way down to near the South Pole, a journey of 11,000 miles.

Perhaps you wonder how we know that the birds travel these long distances. Well, a good many naturalists and stalkers catch birds when young or tired and mark them by putting a small ring round their leg with a number on it. Then other naturalists keep a look out in other parts of the world, and when they kill or find a bird with such a number on it they report it.

Aberdeen University marked a large number of birds in this way--with a tiny aluminium ring round the bird's leg, with the words "Aberdeen University" and a number on it.

A wild duck which they had marked in Scotland was caught in a net the same year in Holland.

Of five lapwings marked in Aberdeenshire, four were shot in Ireland the same year, and one in Portugal, 1250 miles away. A song-thrush was also shot in Portugal, which had been marked in Scotland the same year.

A young guillemot was taken from its nest in Aberdeenshire and marked, and less than five months afterwards it was shot in Sweden.

So, you see, it is interesting to watch in this way what the birds do in the travelling line.

Scouts can help in keeping a look out, and if ever they capture or hear of a bird marked with a ring, they should report it to Professor A. Thomson, The University, Aberdeen. They should state the number on the ring, the kind of bird, where found, and the date on which it was found.

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The boar is certainly the bravest of all animals: he is the real "King of the Jungle," and the other animals all know it. If you watch a drinking-pool in the jungle at night, you will see the animals that come to it all creeping down nervously, looking out in every direction for hidden enemies. But when the boar comes he simply swaggers down, with his great head and shiny tusks swinging from side to side; he cares for nobody, but everybody cares for him; even a tiger drinking at the pool will give a snarl and sneak quickly out of sight.

I have often lain out on moonlight nights to watch the animals, especially wild boars, in the jungle, and it is just as good fun as merely going after them to kill them.

And I have caught and kept a young wild boar and a young panther, and found them most amusing and interesting little beggars. The boar used to live in my garden, and he never became really tame, though I got him as a baby.

He would come to me when I called him--but very warily; he would never come to a stranger, and a native he would "go for," and try to cut him with his little tusks.

He used to practise the use of his tusks while turning at full speed round an old tree stump in the garden, and he would gallop at this and round it in a figure of eight continuously for over five minutes at a time, and then fling himself down on his side, panting with his exertions.

My panther was also a beautiful and delightfully playful beast, and used to go about with me like a dog; but he was very uncertain in his dealings with strangers.

I think one gets to know more about animals and to understand them better by keeping them as pets first, and then going and watching them in their wild, natural life.

But before going to study big game in the jungles, everybody must study all animals, wild and tame, at home. It would be a very good thing if every Scout kept some kind of animal, such as a pony or a dog, birds or rabbits, or even live butterflies.

Every Boy Scout ought to know all about the tame animals which he sees every day. You ought to know all about grooming feeding, and watering a horse, about putting him into harness or taking him out of harness, and putting him in the stable, and know when he is going lame and should not therefore be worked.

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A lady was walking on the Sussex Downs with her old father, who was an invalid. Suddenly, she saw below her a number of sheep penned in, as they often are, for the night. Two large dogs had got among them, and the bodies of two dead sheep told of the mischief already done, while the other frightened sheep were huddled together, waiting for their turn to be attacked.

The lady did not know what to do; she did not like to leave her invalid father alone while she went down, and it was far too steep a descent for the latter to attempt.

Just then, round the corner came five Scouts, quite small, the eldest being only thirteen years old. They soon took in the situation and advanced to the fray. When the dogs saw them, they left the sheep and rushed, barking, at them, and the Scouts fled. But only for a minute!

A council of war was held, and again they advanced, poles in hand, and this time succeeded in driving off the dogs. The last the lady saw was the plucky little patrol kneeling, with their coats off, round a poor sheep on the ground. After that, she left, feeling the sheep was in good hands.

In a few moments the sheep revived, its temples were laved with water, some of which it also drank and enjoyed. Still, it was beyond standing alone, and what was to be done next?

A stretcher was made with the poles and coats, and then came the difficulty of getting the heavy body on to the stretcher. At last this difficulty was overcome, and the procession started over the rough field to the farm, two miles off.

At last the farm was reached, and the Scouts, after helping the farmer render further, and perhaps more useful, first-aid, started on their journey homeward.

This is an absolutely true story. What would have happened twenty years ago had five town boys seen those dogs at work destroying sheep?

They might perhaps have run away, possibly to seek help, but I am none too sure that they would not have looked on and rather enjoyed it, merely thinking what a good story they would have to tell their comrades on their return home.

Scouting has not only taught boys what to do in an emergency, but it has taught, and is teaching, our small boys the meaning of love and kindness to other human beings and also to animals,

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The following is what Lord Nelson wrote about a bull fight which he went to see in Spain:

"The amphitheatre will hold 16,000 people, and some 12,000 were present. Ten bulls were selected, and one brought out at a time. Three cavaliers on horseback and foot men with flags were the combatants. We had what is called a fine 'feast,' for five horses were killed and two men very much hurt; had they been killed it would have been quite complete.

"We felt for the bulls and the horses, and I own it would not have displeased me to have seen some of the dons (Spaniards) tossed by the enraged animals.

"How women can even sit out, much less applaud, such sights is astonishing. It even turned us sick, and we could hardly go through it; the dead, mangled horses and the bulls covered with blood were too much. We have seen one bull feast, and agree that nothing shall ever tempt us to see another-"

This is what Nelson, the hero of many a grimly fought battle, has written, and it shows how even a man accustomed to the sight of blood and death can be horrified and disgusted at it when it is done as a form of sport and at the cost of pain to dumb animals.

Scouts should always remember this in dealing with animals, and have the same feeling which that prince of sea scouts, Nelson, had.

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I met a young Patrol-leader going along in a hurry, evidently on duty. So I asked him where he was off to, and he replied that he was going to call his patrol together--there are only three in it at present--and to get three more Tenderfoots to join it at once, as they had serious work on hand.

I then found out from his father that the serious work was this: The patrol had come across a lot of boys torturing some frogs by blowing them out with straws. The Scouts were not strong enough to stop them, but they went to the police constable, and asked if they might take the law into their own hands and "go for" these boys.

The policeman consented, and now they were going to raise their patrol to full strength in order to tackle the torturers, and put a stop to the cruelty to the frogs.

I heard afterwards that they were successful.

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