Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/66

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56
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

peculiar nature, placed a crow's head and beak in the magic caldron when she was compounding the "elixir of life" to rejuvenate the decrepit Aeson.

Still another peculiarity of this family of birds is their human-like voice. All of them are easily domesticated, and nearly every variety can, without much trouble, be taught to speak. In some species, particularly the jabbering crow [Corvus Jamaicensus), their voices are so similar to those of human beings that, at a short distance, it is almost impossible to distinguish them apart.

But, while the ability to articulate probably first caused the crow to be regarded as a prophet, its evil habits, funereal associations, and metaphoric opposition to the sun-god caused it to be looked upon as a prophet only of evil, and as such it has always been regarded in mythology, legend, and popular tradition.

It seems curious that the figments of extinct mythologies should come from the dim and misty past, down through the ages, and still exist in the enlightenment of the present day; and yet we know that the débris of these effete religions not only survive in the legends and folklore of all the lands now civilized, but to a certain extent adulterate their manners and customs, their laws, and even their forms of religion.

A veneration for old manners and customs and the religion of his forefathers is imbibed by the child almost with his mother's milk; the sentiment grows with his growth and strengthens with his strength, until, when adult age is attained and the mind should be sufficiently mature to inquire into the truth and propriety of what he has been taught, the judgment has already become so prejudiced, by years of unquestioned obedience and unconscious imitation, that to defend and perpetuate even the errors and superstitions of his forefathers appears to him a solemn duty nearly akin to religion.

 
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THE ELECTRIC BURGLAR-ALARM.

ELABORATE as are the ordinary agencies for the protection of property, they afford but a partial security. Well-lighted streets, careful watchmen, numerous policemen, and strong and ingeniously arranged bolts and bars, are certainly obstacles not easily overcome. But, in his quest of other men's riches, the accomplished burglar has not found them insurmountable. However extensive and vigilant a police force, it can not have all points under its surveillance at once, and this gives the burglar the opportunity which he rarely fails to improve. Bolts and bars are, doubtless, good things in their way; but the experienced cracksman has a cunning beyond them. In the contest between him and the locksmith, the victory has not always been with the latter, though he has produced that marvel of skill and