Gateway to the Classics: Tommy Smith's Animals by Edmund Selous
Tommy Smith's Animals by  Edmund Selous

Chapter XII

The Leave-Taking

"All 'Tommy Smith's Animals' take leave with joy,

For they know Tommy Smith is a different boy."

When Tommy Smith had gone to sleep, the owl flew away, and he flew to the same place where he had met the other animals before, and found them all there again waiting for him (of course, it had been arranged). Then all the animals began to tell each other about the conversations they had had with Tommy Smith, and what a very much better boy he had become. They were all so glad; and, of course, they all thanked the owl, because it had been his idea.

Then the owl thanked all the animals for thanking him, and he said that it was  his idea, but that it might just as well have been the idea of any other animal there, and he wished that it had  been, because, then, he could have called it clever, but now, of course, he couldn't, for that  would be praising himself,—which would never  do. You see, he wanted to be modest. One ought always to be modest when one makes a speech. And now (the owl said) he was quite sure that Tommy Smith would never be unkind to animals any more as long as he lived, because, just before he flew away, he had asked him to promise that he wouldn't. But Tommy Smith had just gone off to sleep then, and so he had had to promise it in his sleep. "And, you know," said the owl, "that when a promise is made in that  way, it is always kept." Then all the animals clapped their—well, whatever they could clap, and said, "Hurrah!" and the meeting broke up.

And the owl was right. As Tommy Smith grew older, and became a big boy, he found that animals did not talk to him any more in the way they used to do. It seemed as if they only cared to talk to little  boys or girls. But there was one way of having conversations with them, which he got to like better and better, and that was to go out into the woods and fields and watch what they were doing. He soon found that that was quite as interesting as really talking to them. In fact, it was  talking to them in another kind of way, for they kept telling him all about themselves, only without speaking. And the more Tommy Smith learnt about them, the more he liked them, until the animals became his very best friends. Of course, one is never unkind to one's very best friends, and, besides, Tommy Smith had given the owl a promise—in his sleep.

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