Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/60

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38
CHAP.
DARWINISM

enjoyable exercise of the powers and faculties they possess, unmixed with any serious dread. There is, in the next place, much evidence to show that violent deaths, if not too prolonged, are painless and easy; even in the case of man, whose nervous system is in all probability much more susceptible to pain than that of most animals. In all cases in which persons have escaped after being seized by a lion or tiger, they declare that they suffered little or no pain, physical or mental. A well-known instance is that of Livingstone, who thus describes his sensations when seized by a lion: "Starting and looking half round, I saw the lion just in the act of springing on me. I was upon a little height; he caught my shoulder as he sprang, and we both came to the ground below together. Growling horribly close to my ear, he shook me as a terrier-dog does a rat. The shock produced a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat. It causes a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain or feeling of terror, though I was quite conscious of all that was happening. It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe, who see all the operation, but feel not the knife. This singular condition was not the result of any mental process. The shake annihilated fear, and allowed no sense of horror in looking round at the beast."

This absence of pain is not peculiar to those seized by wild beasts, but is equally produced by any accident which causes a general shock to the system. Mr. Whymper describes an accident to himself during one of his preliminary explorations of the Matterhorn, when he fell several hundred feet, bounding from rock to rock, till fortunately embedded in a snow-drift near the edge of a tremendous precipice. He declares that while falling and feeling blow after blow, he neither lost consciousness nor suffered pain, merely thinking, calmly, that a few more blows would finish him. We have therefore a right to conclude, that when death follows soon after any great shock it is as easy and painless a death as possible; and this is certainly what happens when an animal is seized by a beast of prey. For the enemy is one which hunts for food, not for pleasure or excitement; and it is doubtful whether any carnivorous animal in a state of nature begins to seek after