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In Search of Wisdom: Part II – Chapter 7

NEW FRIENDS

It was a pleasant walk. The great trees rose up from a carpet of grass and flowers. Here and there a narrow pathway wound away to right or left. Sometimes we passed flowering bushes where robins, wrens, canaries and sparrows all sat warbling away together in happy fellowship. All the way the birds flew around us, coming to rest on our shoulders or heads, or leaning over to call to us from drooping boughs. It seemed that the blackbird and pheasant had told them all of our approach and they were all jostling one another to catch a sight of us.

We who had always been so sad at the timidity of birds on earth, enjoyed it immensely.

Presently, as we neared the far side of the wood, we glimpsed more open country. Fields stretched away for a great distance, finally sloping into a valley. Everywhere were shining pools of water, sparkling springs or tumbling streams.

Once more the pheasant and his blackbird friend flew up to us. This time they were obviously bidding us goodbye for they alighted on our shoulders, nuzzling us and pecking lightly at our ears. The next moment they had flown off into the wood and we walked on alone.

The first thing we noticed were the little bushes growing so thickly at intervals wherever we looked. I stooped to examine one, exclaiming:
“Why, this is biscuit-fruit I saw it last in the Hall of Animals.”

“So it is,” Janet agreed. “The animals were able to bite off some whenever they wished, so that they were never hungry. I remember it, too.”

We were about to pass on when Janet gripped my arm. “Look!” she whispered.

A tiny kitten “sat up and begged” beside the bush. At least, that is what he appeared to be doing.

“Perhaps he is saying his prayers,” Janet suggested.

“More likely he is trying to reach some biscuit-fruit,” I retorted practically. “Perhaps it is his first grown-up meal.”

“I do believe it is,” Janet agreed. “Look, here comes his mother to fuss over him.”

The big cat eyed her child doubtfully and the kitten’s eyes seemed to plead.

“She is wondering if his digestion is good enough yet,” I commented. “I fed some babies on the milk-sap from these stalks, once.”

“So did I ” Janet cried. “Isn’t it wonderful the way everything is provided for them?” She broke off a thick stalk and held it toward the kitten, but it would not suck. “There’s obstinacy for you. Cats are the most particular feeders, I know. They will have just what they want!”

Evidently the mother-cat thought this, too. She took one more look at her begging infant and then reached up and pulled a biscuit-fruit down with her paw. The kitten stopped begging and began to chew with evident relish, its fluffy, fawn-coloured coat close to his mother’s dark one. We left them and walked on, immediately finding ourselves in the midst of a group of tumbling puppies.

Janet gave a cry of delight and swooped upon one of the babies. She held his silky body between her hands. He squirmed, wagging his stumpy tail and shooting out his pink tongue to give her many kisses. I picked up a larger, ginger fellow, but those left behind would not hear of being excluded and clambered round my knees protestingly. I put the puppy down, sat on the grass and let them have their way with me. Janet went on caressing her puppy, crooning to it in the way women have with any kind of baby. “Come on,” she said at last, “there is a great deal to see yet.”

Somewhat dishevelled, I arose, and we continued our way, the puppies rushing madly around us. Our walk was interrupted constantly, for we came upon so many little familes that we could not pass by. There was a group of silver foxes, and nearby a mother bear with her adorable baby. The children kept running to each other. Two foxes were intent on rolling the bear on the long grass and their laughter-cries mingled happily. Farther on, we came to a great pond where fish of all kinds were swimming or resting near the edge. Among the long grasses, snakes flashed and threshed their way. Janet who had always disliked them on earth, cried out in horror when she saw one wind itself round a rabbit, but when she rushed to the rescue they were merely wrestling

“Well!’ Janet exclaimed, “this more than anything else has made me understand the friendliness that there could be, among animals.”

“Don’t you think,” I asked, “that our lesser brethren may have something to learn, too? Why should animals exist at all, unless it is to learn something?”

“It may be so,” Janet agreed. “And look at the lessons in friendliness they give. Perhaps they have to both learn and teach.”