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Hame, hame, hame, where I fain wad be,

edited by Andrew Lang

Nothing in nature is more curious or more difficult of explanation than the stories recorded of animals conveyed to one place, finding their way back to their old home, often many hundreds of miles away. Not very long ago, a lady at St. Andrews promised to make a present to a friend who lived somewhere north of Perth, of a fine cat which she wished to part with. When the day arrived, the cat was tied safely up in a hamper, put in charge of the guard, and sent on its way. It was met at the station by its new mistress, who drove it home, and gave it an excellent supper and a comfortable bed. This was on Friday. All Saturday it poked about, examining everything as cats will, but apparently quite happy and content with its quarters. About seven on Sunday morning, as the lady drew up her blind to let in the sunshine, she saw the new puss trotting down the avenue. She did not pay much attention to the fact till the day went on, and the cat, who generally had a good appetite, did not come in to its meals. When Monday came, but the puss did not, the lady wrote to her friend at St. Andrews saying she feared that the cat had wandered away, but she would make inquiries at all the houses round, and still hoped to find it. On Tuesday evening loud mews were heard outside the kitchen door of the St. Andrews house, and when it was opened, in walked the cat, rather dirty and very hungry, but otherwise not at all the worse for wear. Now as anybody can see if he looks at the map, it is a long way  from St. Andrews to Perth, even as the crow flies. There are also two big rivers which must be crossed, the Tay and the Eden, or if the cat preferred coming by train, at least two changes have to be made. So you have to consider whether, granting it an instinct of direction, which is remarkable enough in itself, the animal was sufficiently strong to swim such large streams; or whether it was so clever that it managed to find out the proper trains for it to take, and the places where it must get out. Any way, home it came, and was only two days on the journey, and there it is still in St. Andrews, for its mistress had not the heart to give it away a second time.

Trains seem to have a special fascination for cats, and they are often to be seen about stations. For a long while one was regularly to be seen travelling on the Metropolitan line, between St. James’s Park and Charing Cross, and a whole family of half-wild kittens are at this moment making a play-ground of the lines and platforms at Paddington. One will curl up quite comfortably on the line right under the wheel of a carriage that is just going to start, and on being disturbed bolts away and hides itself in some recess underneath the platform. Occasionally you see one with part of its tail cut off, but as a rule they take wonderfully good care of themselves. The porters are very kind to them, and they somehow contrive to get along, for they all look fat and well-looking, and quite happy in their strange quarters.

Of course cats are not the only animals who have what is called the ‘homing instinct.’ Sheep have been known to find their way back from Yorkshire to the moors north of the Cheviots where they were born and bred, although sheep are not clever beasts and they had come a roundabout journey by train. But there are many such stories of dogs, and one of the most curious is told by an English officer who was in Paris in the year 1815. One day, as the officer was walking hastily over the bridge, he was annoyed by a muddy poodle dog rubbing up against him,  and dirtying his beautifully polished boots. Now dirty boots were his abhorrence, so he hastily looked round for a shoe-black, and seeing one at a little distance off, at once went up to him to have his boots re-blacked. A few days later the officer was again crossing the bridge, when a second time the poodle brushed against him and spoilt his boots. Without thinking he made for the nearest shoe-black, just as he had done before, and went on his way; but when the same thing happened a third time, his suspicions were aroused, and he resolved to watch. In a few minutes he saw the dog run down to the river-side and roll himself in the mud, and then come back to the bridge and keep a sharp look-out for the first well-dressed man who would be likely to repay his trouble. The officer was so delighted with the poodle’s cleverness, that he went at once to the shoe-black, who confessed that the dog was his and that he had taught him this trick for the good of trade. The officer then proposed to buy the dog, and offered the shoe-black such a large sum that he agreed to part with his ‘bread-winner.’

So the officer, who was returning at once to England, carried the dog, by coach and steamer to London, where he tied him up for some time, in order that he should forget all about his old life, and be ready to make himself happy in the new one. When he was set free, however, the poodle seemed restless and ill at ease, and after two or three days he disappeared entirely. What he did then, nobody knows, but a fortnight after he had left the London house, he was found, steadily plying his old trade, on the Pont Henri Quatre.

A Northumbrian pointer showed a still more wonderful instance of the same sagacity. He was the property of one Mr. Edward Cook, who after paying a visit to his brother, the owner of a large property in Northumberland, set sail for America, taking the dog with him. They travelled south together as far as Baltimore, where excellent shooting was to be got; but after one or two days’  sport the dog disappeared, and was supposed to have lost itself in the woods. Months went by without anything being known of the dog, when one night a dog was heard howling violently outside the quiet Northumberland house. It was admitted by the owner, Mr. Cook, who to his astonishment recognised it as the pointer which his brother had taken to America. They took care of him till his master came back, and then they tried to trace out his journey. But it was of no use. How the pointer made its way through the forest, from what port it started, and where it landed, remain a mystery to this day.