Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/564

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.
 

 

——Four-footed Outlaws.—"France must elevate her soul to the height of the situation," wrote Louis Napoleon after the battle of Gravelotte. She didn't; but the instincts, as we are pleased to call the talents of our dumb fellow-creatures, seem really able to adapt themselves to any possible emergency. In the border-lands of culture, in the Jura, the Cheviot Hills and the Adirondacks, there are deer and foxes that can not be outwitted by ordinary means, and succumb only to an in pre-calculable combination of circumstances. Among the half-wild cattle of the Texas frontier there are individuals whom the Genius of Civilization has given up for lost, human ingenuity being no match for such instincts as theirs. Even in the Belgian Ardennes, where every acre of woodland is under the control of professional foresters, a runaway pony managed to elude his pursuers for more than eight years. His haunts were pretty well known, experience and emulation had sharpened the wits of his persecutors, but all plans to recapture him went somehow aglee—he was not only cautious but caution incarnate the quintessence of his five senses seemed concentrated on the problem of preserving his liberty. A single glance enabled him to distinguish harmless bipeds from dangerous or suspicious ones; old crones in quest of their milch-cows, and berry-gathering boys, he simply ignored; but at the approach of a game-keeper he instantly vanished from human sight or at least out of rifle-range. He used to make his headquarters in the dense pine-jungles of the Sambre highlands, but in night-time he sometimes revisited the glimpses of the moon on business that finally brought him to grief. After he had repeatedly stampeded the mares of a highland stud-farm, the proprietors put a price on his head, and—ne Theseus quidem contra plures—the wary outlaw was at last shot near the Col de Grappe, on the border of Lorraine.

——A Paragon of Ugliness.—The ancient Huns seem to have been the ugliest of all the ugly races of Central Asia; and the homeliest individual—with one exception—was probably the "veiled Prophet of Bokhara," Mullah Ibn Said, the repulsiveness of whose features was so overpowering that he did not dare to show himself without a mask, for which he afterward substituted a golden veil, whence his surname, Almukana—"The Veiled One." Yet his biographer, Ibn Chaldir, assures us that an elder cousin of Almukana, who proudly disdained to hide his face, exceeded him not only in erudition but also in ugliness. This man, called Kofta Ben Lukas, and famous as a philosopher and grammarian, must actually have been the ne plus ultra of homeliness. He was an accomplished teacher of languages, but the only pupils he could procure at the Lyceum of Bagdad were adult males, of exceptional fortitude, all others being overcome by the terrors of his presence. When Almohadi, the Caliph, inquired after the best teacher of the Persian language, the name of Ben Lukas was mentioned among those of the highest merit, but when further inquiries proved this worthy to be identical with the formidable licentiate of Bagdad, Almohadi, who wanted the instructor for his own son, was earnestly advised to alter Ids choice, as a prince of such tender years would surely succumb to nervous prostration at the first grammatical interview. The Caliph ridiculed these fears, and ordered the grammarian to report at his court; but no sooner had