Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/359

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THE DEVIL-FISH AND ITS RELATIVES.

carbonic-acid gas, and that this gas, except in very small proportion, destroys life in warm-blooded animals. It was the tree that drank in the noxious vapor through its leaves, decomposed it, took of the carbon to add to its stature, and to yield seed and fruit after its kind, while it breathed the life-producing oxygen back into the air, and in this way the atmosphere was purified for the use of man and beast.

Thus in the economy and wonderful working of Nature not only was this gas, that precluded life, removed, but it was stored up for the future use of that same life that its removal made possible, so that coal, besides giving light and warmth, and a thousand other material blessings, was the prime cause of the very air we breathe. Surely it is, and it has been, a wonderful and blessed boon to the earth and its population, and it is of no wonder that it has been given the name of the most costly gem we know when it is called black "diamond."

 

THE DEVIL-FISH AND ITS RELATIVES.[1]
By W. E. DAMON.

PERHAPS no better introduction to this chapter can be given than to recall to the minds of our readers the terribly vivid description of the devil-fish by that grand master of romance, Victor Hugo; for, though incorrect in several scientific details, the general description is the best we have had, though Jules Verne's is almost as dramatic and nearer to Nature. In "Les Travailleurs de la Mer" M. Hugo says: "To believe in the existence of the devil-fish, one must have seen it. Compared to it the ancient hydras were insignificant. Orpheus, Homer, and Hesiod, imagined only the chimæra—Providence created the octopus. If terror was the object of its creation, it is perfection. The devil-fish has no muscular organization, no menacing cry, no breastplate, no horn, no dart, no tail with which to hold or bruise, no cutting fins, or wings with claws, no prickles, no sword, no electric discharge, no venom, no talons, no beak (?), no teeth. It has no bones, no blood, no flesh. It is soft and flabby, . . . a skin with nothing inside of it. Its under surface is yellowish; its upper earthy. Its dusty hue can neither be imitated nor explained; it might be called a beast made of ashes which inhabits the water. Irritated, it becomes violet. It is a spider in form, a chameleon in coloration.

"Seized by this animal," he adds, "you enter into the beast; the hydra incorporates itself with the man; the man is amalgamated with the hydra. You become one. The tiger can only devour you; the devil-fish inhales you. He draws you to him, into him; and, bound and

  1. From "Ocean Wonders." in the press of D. Appleton & Co.