Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/185

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173
COWRIES.

lens, as I have been this moment doing, a Cowry crawling up the side of a phial filled with seawater. By placing the vessel between your eye and the light, and fixing your attention on the front of the proboscis, you will presently perceive the minute particles of floating matter {always held in suspension even in clear water) drawn in various directions towards the tube, with a motion which increases in velocity as they approach, and at length rapidly sucked in and disappearing one after another within. It is an interesting sight to see, and one that cannot be looked on without delight and admiration at this beautiful contrivance of divine wisdom, for the incessant breathing of the respiratory organs, in water charged with vivifying oxygen.

Let us now look at the vivid hues of all these organs. The foot, which expands to so great a length and breadth behind the shell, is of a buff, or pale orange-ground colour, delicately striated with longitudinal undulating veins of yellowish white. The mantle which embraces the shell is of a pellucid olive, thickly mottled and spotted with black, and studded with glands protruding through its substance of light yellow; and it is edged with a narrow border of red. The proboscis is vermilion-red, varying in brilliancy in different individuals. The tentacula are of a paler tint, of the same colour, speckled with yellow.

Such, then, is the beauty of the animal which inhabits this familiar and plain little shell; a beauty, of which those who know it only in cabinets can hardly form an idea; while as one gazes on it placidly gliding along, one cannot avoid an emotion of surprise that such an amplitude of