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The Story of a Weasel, edited by Andrew Lang

Bingley’s Animal Biography.

Weasels are so sharp and clever and untiring, that their activity has been made into a proverb; and, like many other sharp and clever creatures, they are very mischievous, and fond of killing rabbits and chickens, and even of sucking their eggs, which they do so carefully that they hardly ever break one.

A French lady, called Mademoiselle de Laistre, a friend of the great naturalist, Monsieur de Buffon, once found a weasel when he was very young indeed, and, as she was fond of pets, she thought she would bring him up. Now a weasel is a little creature, and very pretty. It has short legs and a long tail, and its skin is reddish brown above and white below. Its eyes are black and its ears are small, and its body is about seven inches in length. But this weasel was much smaller than that when it went to live with Mademoiselle de Laistre.

Of course it had to be taught: all young things have, and this weasel knew nothing. The good lady first began with pouring some milk into the hollow of her hand and letting it drink from it. Very soon, being a weasel of polite instincts, it would not take milk in any other way. After its dinner, when a little fresh meat was added to the milk, it would run to a soft quilt that was spread in its mistress’s bedroom, and, having soon discovered that it could get inside the quilt at a place where the stitches had given way, it proceeded to tuck itself up comfortably for an hour or two. This was all very well in the day,  but Mademoiselle de Laistre did not feel at all safe in leaving such a mischievous creature loose during the night,  so whenever she went to bed, she shut the weasel up in a little cage that stood close by. If she happened to wake up early, she would unfasten the cage, and then the weasel would come into her bed, and, nestling up to her, go to sleep again. If she was already dressed when he was let out, he would jump all about her, and would never once miss alighting on her hands, even when they were held out three feet from him.

The weasel perches on Mademoiselle's shoulder


All his ways were pretty and gentle. He would sit on his mistress’s shoulder and give little soft pats to her chin, or would run over a whole room full of people at the mere sound of her voice. He was very fond of the sun, too, and would tumble about and murmur with delight whenever it shone on him. The little weasel was rather a thirsty animal, but he would not drink much at a time, and, when he had once tasted milk, could not be persuaded to touch rain-water. Baths were quite new to him, too, and he could not make up his mind to them, even in the heat, from which he suffered a good deal. His nearest approach to bathing was a wet cloth wrapped round him, and this evidently gave him great pleasure.

Cats and dogs about the place condescended to make friends with him, and they never quarrelled nor hurt each other. Indeed, in many of their instincts and ways, weasels are not very unlike cats, and one quality they have in common is their curiosity. Nothing was dull or uninteresting to this little weasel. It was impossible to open a drawer or take out a paper without his little sharp nose being thrust round the corner, and he would even jump on his mistress’s hands, the better to read her letters. He was also very fond of attracting attention, and in the midst of his play would always stop to see if anyone was watching. If he found that no one was troubling about him, he would at once leave off, and, curling himself up, go off into a sleep so sound that he might be taken up by the head and swung backwards and forwards quite a long time before he would wake up and be himself again.