The Language Of Animals





There was once a man who had a son named Jack, who was very simple in

mind and backward in his thought. So his father sent him away to

school so that he might learn something; and after a year he came back

from school.



"Well, Jack," said his father, "what have you learnt at school?"



And Jack said, "I know what dogs mean when they bark."



"That's not much," said his father. "You must go to school again."



So he sent him to school for another year, and when he came back he

asked him what he had learnt.



"Well, father," said the boy, "when frogs croak I know what they

mean."



"You must learn more than that," said the father, and sent him once

more to school.



And when he returned, after another year, he asked him once more what

he had learnt.



"I know all the birds say when they twitter and chirp, caw and coo,

gobble and cluck."



"Well I must say," said the father, "that does not seem much for three

years' schooling. But let us see if you have learnt your lessons

properly. What does that bird say just above our heads in the tree

there?"



Jack listened for some time but did not say anything.



"Well, Jack, what is it?" asked his father.



"I don't like to say, father."



"I don't believe you know or else you would say. Whatever it is I

shall not mind."



Then the boy said, "The bird kept on saying as clear as could be, 'the

time is not so far away when Jack's father will offer him water on

bended knees for him to wash his hands; and his mother shall offer him

a towel to wipe them with.'"



Thereupon the father grew very angry at Jack and his love for him

changed to hatred, and one day he spoke to a robber and promised him

much money if he would take Jack away into the forest and kill him

there and bring back his heart to show that he had done what he had

promised. But instead of doing this the robber told Jack all about it

and advised him to flee away, while the robber took back to Jack's

father the heart of a deer saying that it was Jack's. Then Jack

travelled on and on till one night he stopped at a castle on the way;

and while they were all supping together in the castle hall the dogs

in the court-yard began barking and baying. And Jack went up to the

lord of the castle and said, "There will be an attack upon the castle

to-night."



"How do you know that?" asked the lord.



"The dogs say so," said Jack.



At that the lord and his men laughed, but never-the-less put an extra

guard around the castle that night, and, sure enough, the attack was

made, which was easily beaten off because the men were prepared. So

the lord gave Jack a great reward for warning him, and he went on his

way with a fellow traveller who had heard him warn the lord.



Soon afterwards they arrived at another castle in which the lord's

daughter was lying sick unto death; and a great reward had been

offered to him that should cure her. Now Jack had been listening to

the frogs as they were croaking in the moat which surrounded the

castle. So Jack went to the lord of the castle and said, "I know what

ails your daughter."



"What is it," asked the lord.



"She has dropped the holy wafer from her mouth and it has been

swallowed by one of the frogs in the moat."



"How do you know that?" said the lord.



"I heard the frogs say so."



At first the lord would not believe it; but in order to save his

daughter's life he got Jack to point out the frog who was boasting of

what he had swallowed, and, catching it, found what Jack had said was

true. The frog was caught and killed, the wafer got back, and the girl

recovered. So the lord gave Jack the reward which was promised, and he

went on further with his companion and with another guest of the

castle who had heard what Jack had said and done.



So Jack, with his two companions, travelled on towards Rome, the city

of cities where dwelt the Pope, in those days the head of all

Christendom. And as they were resting by the roadside Jack said to his

companions, "Who would have thought it? One of us is going to be the

Pope of Rome."



And his comrades asked him how he knew.



And he said, "The birds above in the tree have said so."



And his comrades at first laughed at him, but then remembered that

what he had said before of the barking of dogs and of the croaking of

frogs had turned out to be true.






Now when they arrived at Rome they found that the Pope had just died

and that they were about to select his successor. And it was decided

that all the people should pass under an arch whereon was a bell and

two doves, and he upon whose shoulders the doves should alight, and

for whom the bell should ring as he passed under the arch was to be

the next Pope. And when Jack and his companions came near the arch

they all remembered his prophecy and wondered which of the three

should receive the signs. And his first comrade passed under the arch

and nothing happened, and then the second and nothing happened, but

when Jack went through the doves descended and alighted upon his

shoulder and the bell began to toll. So Jack was made Pope of all

Christendom, and he took the name of Pope Sylvester.



After a while the new Pope went upon his travels and came to the town

where his father dwelt. And there was a great banquet held, to which

Jack's father and mother were invited at his request. And when they

came he ordered his servants to give to his father the basin of water,

and to his mother the towel, wherewith the Pope would wash his hands

after dinner. Now this was, in those days, a great honour, and people

wondered why Jack's father and mother should be so honoured. But after

Jack's father had offered him the basin of water, and his mother the

towel, Jack said to them, "Do you not know me, mother? Do you not know

me, father?" and made himself known to them and reminded his father of

what the bird had said. So he forgave his father and took him and his

mother to live with him ever afterwards.





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