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

THE OSTRICH OF SOUTH AFRICA. The ostrich of South Africa is a prudent and wary animal, and displays little of that stupidity ascribed to this bird by some naturalists. On the borders of the Cape Colony, at least, where it is eagerly pursued for the sake of its valuable plumage, the ostrich displays no want of sagacity in providing for its own safety or the security of its offspring It adopts every possible precaution to conceal the place of its nest; and uniformly abandons it, after destroying the eggs, if it perceives that the eggs have been disturbed or the footsteps of man are discovered near it. In relieving each other in hatching, the birds are said to be careful not to be seen together at the nest, and are never observed to approach it in a direct line.

The male ostrich of South Africa at the time of breeding usually associates to himself from two to six females. The hens lay all their eggs together in one nest; the nest being merely a shallow cavity scraped in the ground, of such dimensions as to be conveniently covered by one of these gigantic birds in incubation. A most ingenious device is employed to save space, and give at the same time to all the eggs their due share of warmth. The eggs are made to stand each with the narrow end on the bottom of the nest and the broad end upwards; and the earth which has been scraped out to form the cavity is employed to confine the outer circle, and

keep the whole in the proper position. The hens relieve each other in the office of incubation during the day, and the male takes his turn at night, when his superior strength is required to protect the eggs or the new-fledged young from the jackalls, tigercats, and other enemies. Some of these animals, it is said, are not unfrequently found lying dead near the nest, destroyed by a stroke from the foot of this powerful bird.

As many as sixty eggs are sometimes found in and around an ostrich nest; but a smaller number is more common; and incubation is occasionally performed by a single pair of ostriches. Each female lays from twelve to sixteen eggs. They continue to lay during incubation, and even after the young brood are hatched; the supernumerary eggs are not placed in the nest, but around it, being designed to assist in the nourishment of the young birds, which, though as large as a pullet when first hatched, are probably unable at once to digest the hard and acrid food on which the old ones subsist. The period of incubation is from thirty-six to forty days. In the middle of the day the nest is occasionally left by all the birds, the heat of the sun being then sufficient to keep the eggs at the proper temperature.

An ostrich egg is considered as equal in its contents to twenty-four of the domestic hen. When taken fresh from the nest, they are very palatable

can see.

and are wholesome though somewhat heavy food. The best mode of cooking them is that practised by the Hottentots, namely, to place one end of the egg in the hot ashes, and making a small orifice in the other, keep stirring the contents with a bit of stick till they are sufficiently roasted; and then with a seasoning of salt and pepper you have a very nice omelade.

Some of the Cape colonists, on the skirts of the Great Karroo and other remote districts, make the pursuit of the ostrich one of their principal and most profitable amusements. The beautiful white feathers so much prized in Europe are found on the tail only of the male bird. It is extremely difficult to get within shot of them, owing to their constant vigilance, and the great distance to which they

The fleetest horse, too, will not overtake them unless stratagam be adopted to tire them out; but by several horsemen taking different sides of a large plain, and pursuing them backwards and forwards till their strength is exhausted, they may be at length run down. If followed up too eagerly this chase is not destitute of danger, for the huntsman has sometimes had his thigh-bone broken by a single stroke from the wing or the foot of a wounded ostrich. While jealous and vigilant against the hunter, these birds will often allow travellers in waggons to approach very close to them before they become alarmed. A Hottentot waggon-driver once carried the writer of this article almost within pistol-shot of a covey of ostriches, by driving round and round them in a circle and gradually narrowing the distance till they took flight.

The food of the ostrich consists of the tops of the various shrubby plants wbich even the most arid parts of South Africa produce in abundance.

This bird is so easily satisfied in regard to water that he is constantly to be found in the most parched and desolate tracts which even the antelopes and the beasts of prey have deserted.

His cry at a distance so much resembles that of the lion, that even the Hottentots are said to be sometimes deceived by it.

When not hatching they are frequently seen in troops of thirty or forty together, or amicably associated with herds of zebras or quaggas, their sellow-tenants of the wilderness. It caught young the ostrich is easily tamed; but it does not appear that any attempt has been made to apply his great strength and swiftness to any purpose of practical utility.

measured out by metres, and sold by the cubic foot.

The inflammable nature of coal-gas was first known from its dreadful explosive effects in mines, and received the name of fire or choke-damp. It was also observed to issue sometimes from crevices on the surface of the earth, when, on a lighted torch being presented to it, it would inflame, and continue to burn for a considerable period. In the year 1726, Stephen Hales procured an elastic air or gas from the distillation of common coal; and although some experiments of the inflammability of air so procured were occasionally made by individuals, and related in the scientific publications of the day, yet the subject excited little attention, and was ultimately thrown aside for a long period of years.

The most casual observer must have remarked, that, when a piece of coal becomes heated in the fire, it begins to swell; it then bursts at a particular part; a stream of air rushos out, and, coming in contact with the fire, ignites into a flame. If a common tobacco pipe is taken, a small piece of coal put into the bulb, the top of this cemented closely with moist clay, and the bulb then put into the fire, a stream of inflammable air will, in a short time, issue from the extremity of the pipe, and continue to do so till the whole gas the coal contains is exhausted. On examining the matter remaining, it will be found to be coke, or charcoal. Coal, then, by this mode of distillation, is found to consist of an inflammable gas, called carburetted hydrogen, and of charcoal. The extension of this long-known and simple experiment into a process of general usefulness, proceeded by gradual and oft-interrupted steps; and, as is usual in many important processes of the kind, the real inventor is involved in some degree of doubt. In the year 1792, a Mr. Murdoch, residing in Cornwall, England, made use of coal-gas for lighting up his house and offices; and in 1797, he again made a similar use of it at Old Cumnock, in Ayrshire. In 1802, he was residing at Messrs. Boulton and Watt's establishment, Soho, near Birmingham, where, under the combined talents of several ingenious engineers who were assembled at that highly liberal and celebrated seat of the arts ana sciences, a splendid illumination of gas was exhibited on the occasion of the celebration of the peace

of that year.

GAS LIGHT. Daily habit has the effect of so soon familiarising objects to us, that we seldom pause to think how they have had a commencement. Gas light is now as familiar to us as the light of the sun or moon. It even illumines cellars and recesses, where the rays of either of these luminaries never pierce; and yet we have only to go back a very few years, when it was totally unknown, at least for all useful purposes. We recollect, when gas first began to be talked of, a gentleman observing, in a pretty large assemblage, that he would not be surprised, in the course of a few years, to see the substance, as a common commodity, sold about the streets in centworths. The idea was received with that smile of incredulity which the vagaries of a fanciful mind often meet with; and yet those very few years had not expired when gas was actually conveyed through pipes into every street and dwelling,

But some time previous to this public exhibition of gas

illumination at Soho, it had been made uso of in a similar manner at Paris, by a M. le Bon. In 1801, a friend of the gentlemen at Soho had written a letter from Paris, communicating the information that a gentleman of that city had lighted up his house and gardens, and had it in contemplation to light the streets of Paris with gas from wood and coal.

Adopting the hint from this gentleman, a Mr Winsor, a foreigner, came to London, in 1803, and publicly exhibited gas illumination, and explained its nature, and held out its numerous advantages, in a series of lectures at the Lyceum Theatre. Winsor was a mere quack, a man of little talent, but one of those active, bustling, indefatigable beings, well calculated to spread a new invention. For several years, under many failures and great disadvantages, he persevered in his projects, and, in 1807, lighted up a part of Pall Mall, which was the first instance of gas light being applied to such a purpose

in Britain. Public attention was now

roused; subscriptions were set a-going; various distance for the supply of their cities, were contrivcompanies were formed; great improvements in the ances much talked of, and certainly some of them manufacture of the gas were introduced; its use appear to have been stupendous undertakings; but fulness was fairly established; and its adoption in how would an ancient stare if he were shown the manufactories and public places soon became uni streets of a modern city, laid bare to view with its versal. Gas light first made its appearance in water and gas pipes passing along, and ramifying in Edinburgh in the spring of 1818, a company having all directions, like the arteries and air-vessels of been formed, and incorporated by act of Parliament, an animal body, circulating, as from a centre, for that purpose.

This establishment produces moisture and heat to the most remote extremities! annually about 46,000,000 cubic feet of gas, consuming, for this purpose, about 4000 tons of cannel or parrot coal, besides 1000 tons of coal used in

PAPYRUS. heating the retorts. The process of making gas not complicated. The coal is put into large retorts of iron, and fire applied underneath. The gas, which is separated by this heat, then passes through an apparatus, where it is freed from an oily or tarry matter, which drops from it, and is afterwards purified by passing through lime water. It is then stored up into large reservoirs, or gasometers, from whence it is sent by pressure through pipes, laid under ground, to the various parts of the city.

Gas was introduced into the chief cities of the United States but a few years since, and now its use is daily increasing. In Boston it is no longer an object of wondering curiosity to the passers-by; although our readers can recollect the time when the few windows illuminated by its glare would attract crowds of spectators. The gas which lights London is calculated to consume 38,000 chaldrons of coals per annum, lighting 42,000 lamps in shops, houses, &c., and 7,500 street lamps. In 1830, the gas pipes in and round London were above 1,000 miles in length. Gas lights of half an inch in The first manufactured paper of which we have

diameter, supply a light equal to 20 candles; of any record, is the celebrated papyrus, made of a #one inch in diameter, equal to 100; two inches, species of reed growing in Egypt on the banks of 420; three inches, to 1000.

the Nile. According to a passage in Lucan, The kind of coal best suited for the distillation which is likewise corroborated by other authorities, of gas, is that which contains in its composition the this paper was first manufactured at Memphis, but greatest proportion of bituminous or inflammable it has been a matter of much controversy to fix the matter. It is called parrot or cannel coal, and is precise period of its invention. only found in particular situations. The Edinburgh The papyrus formed, without doubt, at a very Gas Works are supplied from the coal pits of the early period, an important branch of conimerce to Marquis of Lothian, near Dalkeith. Gas bids fair the Egyptians, and was one of the manufactures almost entirely to supersede oil or tallow as articles carried on by that people at Alexandria. It obtainof illumination. It produces ten times the quantity ed an increasing importance among the Romans as of light at an equal or inferior rate of expense, literature became more valued and diffused; in the and it can be increased or modified at pleasure. Augustan age it grew into most extensive demand. Objections have been made to the deleterious nature We are told in the reign of Tiberius, of a popular of the gas on the lungs. There can be no doubt, commotion which arose in consequence of a scarcity but, if inhaled in any 'quantity for a very short of this valuable material. The commerce in papyperiod, it will produce instantaneous death, and rus continued to flourish during a long period, the even, in less quantities, headaches and uncomfort supply being always less than the demand. Its able sensations; but this applies to the unburnt value was so great towards the end of .ne third gas. If sufficient care is taken that the whole be century, that when Firmus, a rich and ambitious accurately consumed by fame, there is no greater merchant, striving at empire, conquered for a brief danger or inconvenience in its combustion than in period the city of Alexandria, he boasted that he that of any other inflammable substance.

had seized as much paper and size as would support The illumination of our streets with gas has been said, and with justice, to be one of the best preser Papyrus was much used in the time of St. Jevatives against crime. How different are the rome, who wrote at the latter end of the fourth streets of the populous cities in Europe no century. An article of so much importance in what they were in former days! In the year 1417, commerce was made largely to contribute to the Sir Henry Barton, then Mayor of London, ordained revenue of the Roman empire, and fresh imposts " lanterns with lights to be hanged out in the win were laid on it under successive rulers, until the ter evenings between Hallow tide and Candlemas." duty on its importation at length became oppressive. The city of Paris was first lighted in 1524; and in This was abolished by Theodoric, the first king of the beginning of the 16th century, the streets being the Goths in Italy, at the end of the fifth or begininfested with robbers, the inhabitants were ordered ning of the sixth century. Cassidorus records the to keep lights burning in the windows of all such gracious act in the thirty-eighth letter of his elevhouses as fronted the streets. The aqueducts of enth book, in which he takes occasion to congratuthe ancients, by which they brought water from a lates the whole world on the repeal of an impost

[graphic]

his whole army.

the paper made of linen. Much ingenuity must have been exercised, and many previous experiments must have been required, successfully to reduce the cotton to a pulpy substance, and to conduct the subsequent process, so as to render this material suitable to the purposes of writing.

After this first great step, the adaptation to a similar use of linen rags and other fibrous materials, called compartively but for little invention, and it was probably not very long after the general use of cotton for paper, that linen rags were discovered to be a still better material.

the sun.

upon an article so essentially necessary to the human race," the general use of which, as Pliny has remarked, “ polishes and immortalizes man.'

The roots of the papyrus are tortuous, the stem triangular, rising to the height of twenty feet, tapering gradually towards the extremity, which is surmounted by a flowing plume.

Paper was prepared from the inner bark of the stem by dividing it with a kind of needle into thin plates or pellicles, each of them as large as the plant would admit. Of these strata the sheets of paper were composed. The pellicles in the centre were considered as the best; and each plate diminshed in value according as it receded from that part. After being thus separated from the reed, the pieces, trimmed and cut smooth at the sides that they might the better meet together, were extended close to and touching each other on a table; upon these other pieces were placed at right angles. In this state the whole was moistened with the water of the Nile, and while wet was subjected to pressure, being afterwards exposed to the rays of

It was generally supposed that the muddy waters of the Nile possessed a glutinous property, which caused the adhesion to each other of these strips of papyrus. Bruce, the traveller, however, affirms that there was no foundation for this supposition, and that the turbid fluid has in reality no adhesive quality. On the contrary, he found that the water of this river was of all others the most improper for the purpose, until, by the subsidence of the fecula, it was entirely divested of the earthy particles it had gathered in its course. This trayeller made several pieces of papyrus paper both in Abyssinia and in Egypt, and fully ascertained that the saccharine juice, with which the plant is replete, causes the adhesion of the parts together, the water being only of use to promote the solution of this juice, and its equal diffusion over the whole.

Sufficient evidence of the abundant use of the papyrus is to be found in the fact that ncarly eighteen hundred manuscripts written on paper of this description have been discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum.

Paper made of cotton entirely superseded the papyrus in the course of time, as being much more durable and better calculated for all the purposes to which paper is ordinarily applied.

This new substance was called charla bombycina. It cannot be exactly ascertained when this manufacture was first introduced. Montfaucon fixes the time as being the end of the ninth or beginning of the tenth century, a period when the scarcity of parchment and the failure in the supply of papyrus called forth the powers of invention to supply some adequate substitute. It was about this time that the dearth of writing materials induced the Greeks to pursue the almost sacrilegious practice of erasing the valuable writings of ancient authors, that they might obtain the parchment on which these were inscribed.

Many proofs are afforded that in the beginning of the twelfth century cotton-paper was comme

monly used in the eastern empire for books and writings; but it was not deemed sufficiently durable for important documents, for which purpose parchment was still employed.

The fabrication of this kind of paper lias been a flourishing branch of industry in the Levant for many centuries, and is carried on with great success even to the present time. The paper produced from cotton is very white, strong, and of a fine grain, b: not so well adapted for writing upon as

CURRAN. One morning, at an inn in the south of Ireland, a gentleman travelling upon mercantile business, came running down stairs a few minutes before the appearance of the stage coach, in which he had taken a seat for Dublin. Seeing an ugly little fellow leaning against the doorpost, with dirty face and shabby clothes, he hailed him and ordered him to brush his coat. The operation proceeding rather slowly, the impatient traveller cursed the lazy valet for an idle, good-for-nothing dog, and threatened him with corporal punishment on the spot, if he did not make haste and finish his job well before the arrival of the coach. Terror seemed to produce its effect; the fellow brushed the coat and then the trowsers, with great diligence, and was rewarded with sixpence, which he received with a low bow. The gentleman went into the bar, and paid his bill, just as the expected vehicle reached the door. Upon getting inside, guess his astonishment to find his friend the quondam waiter, seated snugly in one corner, with all the look of a person well used to comfort. After two or three hurried glances, to be sure that his eyes did not deceive him, he commenced a confused apology for his blunder, condemning his own rashness and stupidity—but he was speedily interrupted by the other exclaiming, “Oh, never mind, make no apologies—these are hard times, and it is well to earn a trifle in an honest way--I am much obliged for your handsome fee for so small a job-my name, sir, is John Philpot Curran, pray what is yours?” The other was thunderstruck by the idea of such an introduction; but the drollery of Curran soon overcame his confusion; and the traveller never rejoiced less at the termination of a long journey, than when he beheld the distant spires of Dublin glitter in the light of the setting sun.

[blocks in formation]
[graphic]

THE GRISLY BEAR. The strength and ferocity of the Grisly Bear are so great that the Indian hunters use much precaution in hunting them. They are reported to attain a weight exceeding eight hundred pounds, and Lewis and Clark mention one that measured nine feet from the nose to the tail and say that they had seen a still larger one, but do not give its dimensions. This is far above the usual size of other Land Bears and equals the largest specimens of the Polar Bear. Governor Clinton received an account of one fourteen feet long from an Indian Trader, but even admitting that there was no inaccuracy in the measurement, it is probable that it was taken from the skin after it was removed from the body, when it is known to stretch several feet. The strength of this Bear may be estimated from its having been known to drag to a considerable distance the carcass of a Buffalo, weighing about one thousand pounds. The following story is well authenticated. A party of voyagers, who had been employed all day in tracing a canoe up the Saskatchewan, had seated themselves in the twilight by a fire, and were busy in preparing their supper, when a large Grisly Bear sprung over their canoe that was tilted behind them and seizing one of the party by the shoulders carried him off. The rest fled in terror with the exception of a Metif, named Bourasso, who, grasping his gun followed the Bear as it was retreating leisurely with its prey. He called to his unfortunate comrade that he was afraid of hitting him if he fired at the Bear, but the latter entreated him to fire immediately, without hesitation, as the Bear was squeezing him to death. On this he took a deliberate aim, and discharged his piece into the body of the Bear which instantly dropped its prey to pursue Bourasso. He escaped with difficulty, and the Bear ultimately retreated to a thicket, where it was supposed to have died; but the curiosity of the party, not being a match for their fears, the fact of its decease was not ascertained. The man who was rescued had his arm fract:ired, and was otherwise severely bit

ten by the bear, but finally recovered. "I have seen Bourasso,” says Richardson, in his Zoology of British America, and can add that the account which he gives is fully credited by the traders resident in that part of the country, who are best qualified to judge of its truth from their knowledge of the parties. I am told there is a man now living in the neighborhood of Edmonton House, who was attacked by a Grisly Bear which sprung out of a thicket, and with one stroke of his paw completely scalped him, laying bare the skull, and bringing the skin of the forehead down over his eyes. Assistance coming up, the Bear made off without doing him farther injury, but the scalp not being replaced, the poor man has lost his sight, although he thinks that his eyes are uninjured.

M. Drummond, in his excursions over the Rocky Mountains, had frequent opportunities of observing the manners of the Grisly Bears, and it often happened that in turning the point of the rock, or sharp angle of a valley he came suddenly upon one or more of them. On such occasions they reared upon their hind legs, and made a loud noise like a person breathing quick, but much harder. He kept his ground without attempting to molest them, and they on their part, after attentively regarding him for some time, generally wheeled round and galloped off, though, from their known disposition, there is little doubt but he would have been torn in pieces had he lost his presence of mind and attempted to fly. When he discovered them from a distance, he generally frightened them away by beating on a large tin box, in which he carried his specimens of plants. He never saw more than four together, and two of them he supposes to have been cubs; he more often met them singly or in pairs. He was only once attacked, and then by a female, for the purpose of allowing her cubs time to escape.

This animal has long been known to the Indians and fur traders as a distinct species, inferior to all the varieties of the Black Bear in the quality of its fur, and distinguished by its great strength and

« PreviousContinue »