Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/66

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54
MOLLUSCA.

formed, curious arts of self-preservation. It is not contented with hiding itself among the loose coral, for the first rude wave might lay it naked and bare. It becomes a marine-mason, and builds a house or nest. It chooses to dwell in a coral grotto; but in constructing this grotto it shows that it is not only a mason, but a rope-spinner, and a tapestry-weaver, and a plasterer. Were it merely a mason, it would be no easy matter to cause the polymorphous coral to cohere. Cordage, then, is necessary to bind together the angular fragments of the coral, and this cordage it spins; but it spins it as one of the secrets of the deep. Somehow or other, though it has no hand, it contrives to intertwine this yarn which it has formed, among the numerous bits of coral, so as firmly to bind a handful of it together. Externally, this habitation is rough, and therefore better fitted to elude or to ward off enemies. But though rough externally, within all is smooth and lubricous, for the fine yarn is woven into a lining of tapestry, and the interstices are filled up with a fine slime, so that it is smooth as plaster-work …

"When the Lima is taken out of its nest, and put into a jar of sea-water, it is one of the most beautiful marine animals you can look upon. The shell is beautiful; the body of the animal within the shell is beautiful; and the orange fringe-work, outside of the shell, is highly ornamental. Instead of being sluggish, it swims about with great vigour. Its mode of swimming is the same as that of the scallop. It opens its valves, and, suddenly shutting them, expels the water, so that it is impelled onwards or upwards; and when the impulse thus given is spent, it repeats the operation, and thus