Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

This singular bird, with the legs of a crane and the head of an eagle, of which a characteristic representation is given in the above wood-cut, is an inhabitant of the southern parts of Africa. His presence there is a peculiar blessing to the natives; for thcy are indebted to him for the destruction of a vast quantity of insects and reptiles, whose multiplication, unless their numbers were thus kept down, would be a formidable calamity. The bird has been called by the names of secretary, messenger, archer, and lastly serpent-eater. The latter name truly indicates his habits;--the former are mere fanciful appellations. The first is derived from an imaginary resemblance of the bunch of long feathers that hang loose on the back of his head, to a pen stuck in the ear of a writer; the second refers to his rapid strides; and the third to a habit which he possesses of throwing straws with his beak something in the manner of an arrow from a bow. He is still best known by the name of the Secretary.

The Secretary belongs to the class of rapacious birds, and he is now placed by naturalists between the vultures and eagles. He was formerly classed among the wading birds, on account of the length ot bis legs. His conformation, as well as his habits, attest the correctness of the more recent classiizcation. The Secretaries, like the other large birds

of prey, build their nests on the tops of the highest trees. They seek their food both on the dry sands and the pestiferous marshes. On the one they find serpents and lizards; in the other tortoises and large insects. Their mode of destroying life is very curious, for they always kill their prey before swallowing it. Whether the Secretary meet with a serpent or a tortoise, he invariably crushes it under the sole of his foot; and such is the skill and force with which he gives the blow, that it is very rarely that a serpent of an inch or more in diameter survives the first stroke. When he meets with a serpent that is large enough to oppose a long resistance to him, he flies off with his prey in his beak to a great height, and then dropping it, follows it in its descent with wonderful rapidity, so as to be ready to strike it when it falls stunned on the ground. M. le Vaillant describes an obstinate battle between a Secretary and a large serpent, in which the bird struck his enemy with the bony protuberance of his wing; but the mode of crushing with his foot is the more common.

The male and female equally labor in the construction of their large nest, in which the female generally lays two eggs. Their unions do not take place till after the most obstinate battles among the males. In general thesc birds exhibit no fierce

ness, and they are easily domesticated.

Their natural habits must be of singular advantage to man in places where reptiles abound; and for this reason the French have endeavored to establish the Secretary in their colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

ANTIPATHIES TO ANIMALS. Many men have strange antipathies to animals. Some of these are accountable as depending upon form; others, profoundly mysterious in the why and the wherefore. Ladies generally fall into hysterics at the approach of a spider. Snakes are generally objects of fear, rather than antipathy, from the deadly power which some of the species possess; but why a beautiful lizard, a sleek mouse or a rat, should be objects of antipathy, it is difficult to conjecture : elegant in form, and harmless, they might at least be looked upon with complacency. The sight of a rat has been known to throw even the male sex into convulsions. Claude Prosper Juliot de Crebillon, a name conspicuous in the annals of French literature, was confined in the Bastile, in pursuance of the caprices of one of the old Bourbon satraps, who often shut up in dungeons the men of the age most conspicuous for talent, and who were known to promulgate unsavory truths. One night, Crebillon felt what he thought to be a cat reposing by his side in bed: glad of such a companion in that silent mansion, where to many a prisoner “hope never came,” he stretched out his hand to caress it; but it ran away. The following day, when seated at his dinner, he saw, through the “ darkness visible" of his cell, an animal squatted, vis-a-vis, on his table, and was soon able to perceive that it had a long slender tail, and was not a cat, which at first he imagined it to be, but an enormous rat. He had an unconquerable antipathy to rats; and, springing from his seat, cried aloud with terror, and overturned his table; the noise brought in a turnkey, who found him pale, and nearly senseless; and it was a long time ere he recovered himself. This animal had been the companion of a preceding prisoner, who had tamed it; and so well did the horrible solitude of the Bastile operate in removing the antipathy of Crebillon to these creatures, that at length he became reconciled to its company, and even shared his provisions with it. The case of Crebillon may serve as a useful hint for effecting the cure of most other antipathies to animals.

Many men have also strange antipathies to cats; and so strongly does the sight of them affect some individuals, that their whole frame becomes agitated. A striking instance of this kind came within our own personal knowledge. The late Captain Logan, of Knockshinnock, in Ayrshire, had such an unconquerable aversion to all cats, that he would not remain in the room with one on any account whatever. We have known ladies to expostulate with him on the affectionate and harmless dispositions of their grimalkins, vowing that they would touch nothing larger than a rat; but their eloquence was invariably lest on the captain, who lent a deaf ear to all their pleadings.

He could detect immediately the presence of a cat from smell, even although he could not possibly see it in the room, being under a sofa, or some such place; and he uniformly insisted on its being turned out of the room, before he would compose himself to enter into conversation.

On one occasion, while his regiment was stationed in Tynemouth, we happened to accompany the captain to pay a visit to the family of General R We found several visiters in the house besides the family. Among the rest was the late Sir C-G-, then commanding the northern district of England, and some officers of his staff. When deeply engaged in a political conversation on the events of the times, the domestic cat, a frolicsome young animal, came scampering into the room, when the gallant captain started from bis seat, and mounted a chair with all possible alacrity, to the no small astonishment of all present, as none of them were aware of his dread of cats. Every body supposed the captain had been seized with a sudden fit of lunacy; the ladies bounced up, several made their way towards the door, and even the two patriot generals and the staff-officers seemed to entertain doubts as to their personal safety; and, in particular, we noticed Sir C - G keeping an attentive watch on the handle of the captain's sword. In short, every countenance but our own bore marks of anxiety, and we laughed outright, to the no small displeasure of the general's lady, who thought it no joke, and entreated us to pacify our friend.

We must mention, that Captain Logan was then a man of about thirty years of age, six feet one ioch in height, and of a very athletic form; so, to be subjected to the grasp of such an individual was no joke, as the general's lady expressed herself; but as we knew the poor captain was quite compos and harmless, we enjoyed the joke amazingly. The old general entreated of him to come down, while the captain obstinately refused until puss was dismissed. The general in vain tried to convince him of her innocent intentions, which increased the convictions of all present that the captain was cracked. By this time all the ladies had made good their retreat, and some of the younger ones stood peeping in at the door, with the handle in their hand, in case of the captain trying to follow them. Things beginning to assume a serious aspect, we lifted puss, and rung the bell for a servant to remove it out of the room, after which the captain descended, and in a few minutes resumed his wonted coolness. An explanation followed, and this irresistible infirmity of the captain's was felt, by those who witnessed the ludicrous scene, more with pity than contempt; and we will venture to say, that such was the impression which was made at the time, that none who witnessed it will ever forget the scene

THE PERSECUTIONS OF GENIUS. The successful efforts of genius have not been more remarkable in the biography of eminent individuals, than the miseries which have often, during barbarous times, been endured by men of learning and scientific skill, through the ignorance of the very persons whom they intended to benefit. It is only, indeed, in the present age that we find the discoverers of new arts and sciences rewarded with the approbation of their fellows, if not with more substantial gifts; and in considering what has from first to last been the amount of the cruel persecutions of the learned, the existing generation can hardly believe it credible that so much wanton abuse of power can have been exercised. On this subject of melancholy interest, D'Israeli, in his Curiosities of Literature, has collected a variety of

honor of Bardolph, the farmer applied to Curran for advice. “Have patience, my friend," said the counsel: "speak the landlord civilly, and tell him you are convinced you must have left your money with some other person. Take a friend with you, and lodge with him another hundred in the presence of your friend, and then come to me.”

We must imagine and not commit to paper, the vociferations of the honest dupe, at such advice; however, moved by the rhetoric or authority of the worthy counsel, he followed it, and returned to his legal friend. “And now, sir, I don't see as I'm to be better off for this, if I get my second hundred again: but how is that to be done?" " Go and ask him for it when he is alone,” said the counsel. Ay, sir, but asking won't do, Ize afraid, without my witness at

" Never mind, take my advice,” said the counsel; “ do as I bid you, and return to me. The farmer returned with his hundred, glad at any rate to find that safe again in his possession.

Now, sir, I suppose I must be content; but I don't see as I'm much better off.” “Well, then,' said the counsel, “now take your friend with you, and ask the landlord for the hundred pounds your friend saw you leave with him.” We need not add, that the wily landlord found he had been taken off his guard, while our honest friend (whom one would almost wish to have tried two the second time) returned to thank his counsel exultingly, with both' hundreds in his pocket.

[ocr errors]

striking particulars. “Before the times of Galileo und Harvey (says this accurate writer), the world believed in the diurnal immovability of the earth, and the stagnation of the blood; and for denying these, the one was persecuted, and the other ridiculed. The intelligence and virtue of Socrates were punished with death. Anaxagoras, when he attempted to propagate a just notion of the Supreme Being, was dragged to prison. Aristotle, after a long series of persecutions, swallowed poison. The great geometricians and chemists, as Gerbert, Roger Bacon, and others, were abhorred as magicians. Virgilus, Bishop of Saltzburg, having asserted that there existed antipodes, the Archbishop of Mentz declared him a heretic, and consigned him to the flames; and the Abbot Trithemius, who was fond of improving stenography, or the art of secret writing, having published some curious works on that subject, they were condemned, as works full of

diabolical mysteries. Galileo was condemned at Rome publicly to disavow his sentiments regarding the motion of the earth, the truth of which must have been abundantly manifest: he was imprisoned in the Inquisition, and visited by Milton, who tells he was then poor and old. Cornelius Agrippa--a native of Cologne, and distinguished by turns as a soldier, philosopher, physician, chemist, lawyer, and writer, was believed to be a magician, and to be accompanied by a familiar spirit in the shape of a black dog. He was so violently persecuted that he was obliged to fly from place to place; the people beheld him as an object of horror, and not unfrequently, when he walked, he found the streets empty at his approach: this ingenious man died in an hospital. When Urban Grandier, another victim of the age, was led to the stake, a large Aly settled on his head: a monk, who had heard that Beelzebub signifies in Hebrew the God of Flies, reported that he saw this spirit come to take possession of him.

“Even the learned themselves, who had not applied to natural philosophy, seem to have acted with the same feelings, as the most ignorant; for when Albertus Magnus--an eminent philosopher of the thirteenth century-constructed an automaton, or curious piece of mechanism, which sent forth distinct vocal sounds, Thomas Aquinas (a celebrated theologian) imagined it to be the work of the devil, and struck it with his staff, which, to the mortification of the great Albert, annihilated the labor of thirty years. Descartes was horribly persecuted in Holland when he first published his opinions: Voetius, a person of influence, accused him of atheism, and had even projected in his mind to have this philosopher burnt at Utrecht in an extraordinary fire, which, kindled on an eminence, might be observed by the seven provinces. This persecution of science and genius lasted till the close of the seventeenth century."

any rate."

[graphic]

CURRAN'S INGENUITY. A farmer, attending a fair with a hundred pounds in bis pocket, took the precaution of depositing it in the lands of the landlord of the public house at which he stopped. Having occasion for it shortly afterwards, he resorted to mine host for the bailment, but the landlord, toa deep for the countryman, wondered what hundred was meant, and was quite sure no such sum had ever been lodged in his hands by the astonished rustic. Aster ineffectual appeals to the recollection, and finally to the

THE ROAD OF THE SIMPLON. The Simplon is a mountain situated in the chain of the higher Alps, between the Valais and Redmont. At the beginning of the present century, a magnificent road was made over this mountain by order of Napoleon Bonaparte. This road was executed at the expense of the French government and of the kingdoin of Italy. It extends from Glis to Domo d'Ossola, is twenty-five feet wide, and of a very gentle slope through the whole of its course.

The works on the side of Valais were directed by French engineers, and those on the southern part by Italians, who had much greater difficulties

to encounter, being obliged continually to work upon the hardest rocks. This magnificent road, its bridges, and numerous galleries cut through the rock, must rank among the most remarkable monuments of the kind in the world. Add to this the beautiful and wild scenery which Nature has displayed so lavishly in this region, and there can be no wonder that it is a prominent object of curiosity to travellers.

The road begins at Glis, and after crossing a covered bridge of uncommon height and beauty over the Simplon, at the distance of a league and a half you reach Ried. You next go through a forest of larch trees, and after having proceeded along dreadful precipices, reach the first gallery, which is ten paces long. You now cross the Kander over a bridge eighty feet high, and after half an hour's walk you arrive at a few scattered houses called Persal, where you may procure refreshments. Beyond Persal, the road, which continues suspended over the brink of the precipice, continues half a league in long windings as far as the bridge of Oesbach. You then enter the second gallery which is thirty paces long.

You then leave on your left the glacier of Kaltwasser, from which descend four cascades, whose waters are carried across the road, in aqueducts of a beautiful construction, and then fall into the abyss. You then arrive at the third gallery, fifty paces long. At a short distance from this is the most elevated point, indicated by a kind of mile-stone.

On the south side, the road is still more remarkable. A little beyond the fourth gallery, which is eighty paces long, you meet the beautiful cascade of the Frissinone; near which is the fifth gallery, and the longest of all, being two hundred and two paces in extent. At no great distance from Gondo where there is a tower seven stories high, is seen a cascade that falls from the defile of Zwischbergen, in which there is a gold mine. Before the new road was made, merchandise was transported on mules, and, in stormy weather, hundreds of beasts of burden were obliged to stop for shelter during several days at the inn of Gondo.

A little below Gondo, a small chapel is built, on the confines of the Valais and of Italy. The first Italian village is called San Marco; next comes Isella, or Dazio, where travellers are searched. You soon after enter a dreary defile which ieads to the little village of Dwedro, occupying a pleasant district, though it is immediately surrounded by barren rocks. You then enter a narrow wild valley, pass over two bridges into the sixth and last gallery, and arrive at Crevola. Here you pass over the Veriola, across a bridge that is a master-piece of architecture and sixty yards long. From thence to Domo d' Ossola it is one league.

Whenever a storm succeeds several rainy days, it is advisable to stop at this place, to avoid the danger of being crushed to death by the stones that fall from the tops of the mountains. The valley is very narrow, most of the rocks are split, and the blocks on the summits, being rendered slippery by the rain, and loosened by the wind, fall along the rocks as thick as a shower of hail. Both in spring and winter this road is extremely dangerous

SPANISH ETIQUETTE.

BY D'ISRAELI. The etiquette or rules to be observed in the royal palaces is necessary, writes Baron Bielfield, for keeping order at court. In Spain it was carried to such length as to make martyrs of their kings. Here is an instance, at which, in spite of the fatal consequences it produced, one cannot refrain from smiling

Philip the Third was gravely seated by the fireside: the fire-maker of the court had kindled so great a quantity of wood, that the monarch was nearly suffocated with heat, and his grandeur would not suffer him to rise from the chair; the domestics could not presume to enter the apartment, because it was against the etiquette. At length the Marquis de Potat appeared, and the king ordered him to damp the fires; but he excused himself, alleging that he was forbidden by the etiquette to perform such a function, for which the Duke d'Usseda ought to be called upon, as it was his business. The duke was gone out; the fire burnt fiercer; and the king endured it, rather than derogate from his dignily. But his blood was heated to such a degree, that an erysipelas of the head appeared the next day, which, succeeded by a violent fever, carried him off in 1621, in the twenty-fourth year of his age.

The palace was once on fire; a soldier, who knew the king's sister was in her apartment, and must inevitably have been consumed in a few moments by the flames, at the risk of his life rushed in, and brought her highness safe out in his arms : but the Spanish etiquette was here wofully broken into! The loyal soldier was bronight to trial, and, as it was impossible to deny that he had entered her apartment, ihe judges condemned him to die! The Spanish princess, however, condescended, in consideration of the circumstance, to pardon the soldier, and very benevolently saved his life!

When Isabella, mother of Philip the Second, was rcady to be delivered of him, she commanded that all the lights should be extinguished; that if the violence of her pain should occasion her face to change color, no one might perceive it. And when the midwife said, “ Madam, cry out, that will give you ease,” she answerd, in good Spanish, How dare you give me such advice? I would rather die than cry out."

“Spain gives us pride-which Spain to all the earth
May largely give, nor fcar hierself a dearth!"

CHURCHILL. Philip the Third was a weak bigot, who suffered himself to be governed by his ministers. A patriot wished to open his eyes, but he could not pierce through the crowds of his flatterers; besides that, the voice of patriotism heard in a corrupted court would have become a crime never pardoned. He found, however, an ingenious manner of conveying to him his censure.

He caused to be laid on his table one day a letter scaled, which bore this address—“ To the King of Spain, Philip the Third, at present in the service of the Duke of Lerma."

İn a similar manner, Don Carlos, son to Philip the Second, made a book with empty pages, to contain the voyages of his father, which bore this title--" The Great and Admirable Voyages of the King, Mr. Philip.” All these voyages consisted of going to the Escurial from Madrid, and returning to Madrid from the Escurial. Jests of this kind at length cost him his life.-Curiosities of Lito eralure.

STANDARD OF VALUE The worth of every thing is deterinined by the demand for it. In the deserts of Arabia, a pitcher of cold water is of more value than a inonntain of gold.

[graphic][merged small]

Fraught with the river stream,
Her load of water had disburden'd there;

Her young in the refreshing bath

Dipt down their callow heads, Fill'd the swoln membrane from their plumeless throat

Pendant, and bills yet soft;
And buoyant with arch'd breast,

Plied in unpractis'd stroke
The oars of their broad feet.
They, as the spotted prowler of the wild
Laps the cool wave, around their motber crowd,
And nestle underncath her outspread wings.

The spotted prowler of the wild
Lapt the cool wave, and satiate, from the west,
Guiltless of blood, withdrew.”

THALABA, book v

The wood-cut at the beginning of this article represents a group of pelicans, drawn from specimens in the Zoological Gardens. The bird is familiar to inost persons; for it has long been a favorite of the showman, who sometimes astonishes his visiters by placing his head under the large membrane, or bag, of the lower mandible, and then drawing it over his skull, like a cap. The showman is not only ready to perform this fete; but he delights to tell his audience those wonderful stories which are popularly associated with the history of the pelican, and which, indeed, have been as attractive to the old writers of natural history, and to the poets, as to the most credulous and uninstructed. Nobody, perhaps, now believes that this singular bird feeds its young with its blood, although the pictures of the travelling menageries give us the most faithful representations of such a surprising circumstance; but there are many who consider that the use which the pelican makes of its great bag, is to carry a provision of water to its young across the desert. The real history of the pelican contradicts these fancies; they belong to poetry and romance, in which they may be beautifully employed. The notion that the mother-bird carries water across the desert has been adorned with many curious details, such as that she pours out the grateful supply into her rocky nest—that her young there bathe themselves—and that the beasts of the forest instinctively seek out the spot, and having assuaged their thirst, leave the pelican family unmolested. Southey has told this story in his Thalaba:“The desert pelican bad built hier nest

In that dcep solitude,
Andr'w, returned from distant Aight,

Pelicans are residents upon the banks of rivers and lakes, and upon the sea coasts. They habitually feed on fish, although they will sometimes devour reptiles and small quadrupeds. They are capable of rapid fight, and have an extraordinary power of ascending on high. This power is called into action by their mode of fishing. When they perceive, from their elevated position, a fish, or fishes, on the surface of the water, they dart down with inconceivable rapidity, and flapping their large wings so as to stun their prey, fill their pouches, and then retire to the shore to satisfy their voracious appetites. The fish thus carried away in the pouch undergo a sort of maceration before they are received into the stomach ; and this grinding process renders the food fit for the young birds. No doubt the sanguinary traces which this operation leaves upon the plumage of the mother, have given birth to the fable that she feeds her nestlings with her blood.

The pelicans, as well as the cormorants, sometimes rest perched upon the branches of trees; but they never build their nests in arch a position. They

« PreviousContinue »