Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/524

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508
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

if he would grant him a trifling request. With a smile, the Lord answered, "What you ask will be granted so soon as the oaks have lost all their leaves." The Gottsei beiuns (literally, "God-be-with-us "—in old times people did not like to name the devil, lest he should appear) was delighted, and eagerly longed for the coming of autumn; but the oak-leaf gave no sign of falling. So the devil, somewhat disappointed, deferred his hope to winter. Winter came, but still the leaves clung fast to the oaks, though they rustled all yellow and brown in the wind. Satan had then to comfort himself with the thought that at least they would fall in the spring. But when joyous Spring came, making its progress through the verdant fields, first young leaves began to sprout, and not until these had grown to considerable size did the old ones drop off. Then the prince of darkness knew that his request would never be granted, for the oak never loses all its leaves at once. So in his rage he rushed howling and roaring at the oak-trees, and with his claws tore the leaves to pieces, and we, to this day, only see the shreds.

 

A Big Fish-Worm.—The people who inhabit the highlands of Southern Brazil have a firm belief in the existence of a gigantic earthworm fifty yards or more in length, five in breadth, covered with bones as with a coat-of-mail, and of such strength as to be able to uproot great pine-trees as though they were blades of grass, and to throw up such quantities of clay in making its way underground as to dam up streams and divert them into new courses. This redoubtable monster is known as the "Minhocao." Dr. Fritz Müller, who has for some years resided in Brazil, studying in particular the entomology of that country, has thought it worth his while seriously to investigate the grounds of this popular belief, and has published the result of his researches in a German periodical, from which Nature has taken the gist of his communication. As will be seen, he is inclined to admit, with considerable allowance, the truth of the popular stories. The evidence of the existence of the Minhocao is of this kind: About eight years ago one of these monsters made its appearance in the neighborhood of Lages, but perhaps it will be safer to say that it "is reported to have made its appearance." One Francisco de Amaral Varello, at a place distant ten kilometres from that town, saw, lying on the bank of the Rio das Caveiras, an animal nearly one metre in thickness, not very long, and with a snout like a pig. He went to call his neighbors, but when he returned to the rescue the animal had disappeared, and the party saw only the trench it had made in disappearing under the earth. A week later a similar trench was seen at the distance of some six kilometres from the former one. One F. Kelling, a German, from whom Dr. Müller got this information, was at the time a merchant at Lages, and he saw these trenches. Another German, E. Odebrecht, while surveying a line of road from Itajahy into the highlands of Santa Caterina several years ago, crossed a broad, marshy plain traversed by an arm of the Marombas River, where his progress was much impeded by "devious winding trenches which followed the course of the stream, and occasionally lost themselves in it." These trenches he is now inclined to believe to be the work of the Minhocao. Other testimony, relating to five or six earlier apparitions of the Minhocao, is cited, but we have no room to give it here. To Dr. Müller the conclusion appears inevitable that in the above-named region of Brazil "long trenches are met with, which are undoubtedly the work of some living animal. It might be suspected," he adds, "to be a gigantic fish allied to Lepidosiren and Ceratodus; 'the swine's snout' would show some resemblance to Ceratodus, while the other characters show rather an analogy to Lepidosiren. In any case," he concludes "it would be worth while to make further investigations about the Minhocao, and, if possible, to capture it for a zoölogical garden."

 

Aurora Borealis.—From statistics of the aurora borealis collected by H. Fritz, and extending from 1846 to the present year, we learn that out of 2,035 days in the months from August to April, on which auroras were seen, 1,107 were aurora-days in Finland, and that of these 1,107 auroras 794 were simultaneously visible in Europe and America, 101 only in Europe, and 212 were visible only in Finland. During the same period