Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/697

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
not to publish the next eagle you kill. Eagle-stories are almost always 'fishy.' As to the number of different kinds of eagles in this country, believe me when I assure you that there never have been but two species discovered in all the length and breadth of this country. That famous 'bird of Washington' was a myth. Either Audubon was mistaken, or else, as some do not hesitate to affirm roundly, he lied about it. The two species are, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaëtos), and the bald eagle (Haliaëtus leucocephalus).

This, surely, is somewhat terrific, and would indicate, in this instance, that truthfulness, the bright particular flower in a man's character, was badly wilted. As Patrick would say, "it doesn't become the loikes of us to talk back; and maybe it cowes us, just, to be found in disagramint with the great bird-doctor, who is possissed of the aridition of all the fowls that iver was, sure." So we will not openly differ with this accomplished man; and will even, like a devout Moslem, leave Audubon to those stern ladies known as the Fates, and thus will hasten to another instance in which, perhaps, even a lady may come to the rescue of the reputation of this remarkable naturalist.

If possible, Audubon has suffered worse at the hands of the botanists. From these gentlemen the famous student of the woods and fields has received a snub of the shabby-genteel sort, and of the most persistent character. In his "Birds of the South," and with his usual love of fidelity to particulars, as indicating the plant habitat, or surrounding, Audubon figured a yellow water-lily—not that very ordinary flower, the Nuphar advena, the spatter-dock, or yellow pond-lily, so common from Canada to Florida, but a real close cousin to Nymphæa odorata, our delightful, sweet-scented water-lily. Beholding it with his own eyes, the great painter put it into one of his glorious bird-pictures, and, having given the portrait of his floral beauty, he also named it Nymphæa lutea, or, in plain English, the yellow water-lily. But this pretty flower had never been seen by the botanists; and so, forsooth, the thing was absolutely ignored—treated as a pretty fable, a bit of art extravagance. Art, like history, may have its anachronisms, but the real artist, though he err, cannot lie. So thoroughly was that Nymphæa lutea snubbed, that it would have been as much as a poor mortal's reputation was worth to have mentioned credence in the thing in the hearing of sober Science. One might look in vain in any botany of the South for Audubon's yellow water-lily. Not a word can you find in Darbey's "Botany of the Southern States;" and the same ominous silence pervades that later and more pretentious work, Chapman's "Flora of the Southern States." This luckless lily of Audubon is scientifically tabooed. Luckless, was it said? Well, this abjured beauty of the good man has fallen into luck at last. When neither sought nor expected, a species of poetic justice has lately been reached; for, in the person of a lady, learned in such lore, we have "a Daniel come to judgment." Last summer, in Florida, Mrs. Mary Treat rediscovered the long-lost flower