Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/118

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110
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ern algebra, prepared the way in which, were to follow with giant steps, making themselves illustrious, Descartes, Fermat, Pascal, and finally Newton. — Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from La Nature.


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BIRDS' JUDGMENTS OF MEN.

By M. CUNISSET-CARNOT.

WE put animals under all sorts of contributions, taking even their lives for our necessities, pleasure, and caprice, without once considering what their views may be of our proceedings or of us, or whether they have any views. We need not doubt that they have views, and some very definite ones. Mute witnesses of our lives, they examine, observe, and judge us; and some judge with a marvelous accuracy.

Birds, in particular, are all the time fluttering around us; they witness all our motions, interpret all our gestures, and very quickly form a perfectly just opinion of our character. The selection exercised by swallows has been remarked — they are said never to build their nests, except in quiet houses — and the prudence of the crow, which readily marks the difference between a harmless pedestrian and a hunter, and always keeps itself out of reach of the sportsman's gun, is well recognized. The accuracy of the observation of birds goes beyond this ordinary sagacity, and I am convinced that those birds which reside near man utilize for their advantage, security, or pleasure a multitude of very complete, fine, and judicious remarks which they make concerning their dangerous neighbor. I will tell here of two recent examples as a contribution to the study of the pyschology of birds.

The house I live in is situated in a faubourg of Dijon, in the midst of a garden surrounded by other gardens. The quarter is a chosen haunt of birds — nightingales, warblers, tomtits, finches, redthroats, wrens, etc., are abundant, besides the innumerable and undisciplinable army of sparrows. All the people of the house profess for the inhabitants of the garden feelings of the highest sympathy, which are manifested in numerous good ways by bathing-troughs judiciously placed in the shadows of thickets, various seeds put in good places where they will be found, by leaving the nests in absolute solitude, etc. There result such a cordiality and security of relation between our birds and us that the former sometimes manifest a familiarity in our quarters exceeding the limits of good taste.

Some time ago, the weather being pleasant, although it was as yet but little after six o'clock in the morning, I was working with