Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/264

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makes a whistling sound, he scares from him the Holy Ghost"; while other Icelanders, who consider themselves free from superstitions, cautiously give the advice: "Do it not; for who knoweth what is in the air?" However eccentric these phases of superstitious belief may appear to us, yet it must not be forgotten that very similar notions prevail at the present day, in this country. A correspondent of "Notes and Queries" (1879, fifth series, xii, 92), for instance, relates how one day, after attempting in vain to get his dog to obey orders to come into the bouse, his wife tried to coax it by whistling, when she was suddenly interrupted by a servant, a Roman Catholic, who exclaimed in the most piteous accents, "If you please, ma'am, don't whistle—every time a woman whistles, the heart of the blessed Virgin bleeds!" In some districts of North Germany the villagers say that if one whistles in the evening it makes the angels weep. Speaking, however, of ladies in connection with whistling, it is a widespread superstition that it is at all times unlucky for them to whistle, which, according to one legend, originated in the circumstance that, while the nails for our Lord's cross were being forged, a woman stood by and whistled. Curiously enough, however, one very seldom hears any of the fair sex indulging in this recreation, although there is no reason, as it has been often pointed out, why they should not whistle with as much facility as the opposite sex. One cause, perhaps, of the absence of this custom among women may be, in a measure, due to the distortion of the features which it occasions. Thus we know how Minerva cast away, with an imprecation, the pipe, which afterward proved so fatal to Marsyas, when she beheld in the water the disfigurement of her face caused by her musical performance. There are numerous instances on record, nevertheless, of ladies whistling at public entertainments, and charming their audiences with the graceful ease with which they performed such airs as "The Blue Bells of Scotland" or "The Mocking-Bird." Indeed, not many years ago, at a grand provincial concert, two sisters excited much admiration by the clever and artistic way in which they whistled a duet.

Referring to whistling performances, Addison, in one of the earlier numbers of the "Spectator," gives an amusing account of a contest, where a prize of a guinea was to be conferred on the successful competitor who could not only whistle the best, but go through his tune without laughing, and that in spite of the ludicrous antics of a certain merry-andrew, whose special duty it was to try as far as possible to discompose each of the competitors by making grimaces. On the occasion in question, the competitors were an under-citizen, remarkable for his wisdom—a plowman endued "with a very promising aspect of inflexible stupidity"—and a footman, who, having captivated his audience by whistling "a Scotch tune and an Italian sonata," carried off the prize. Strutt, in his "Sports and Pastimes," relates the remarkable performance of a whistler, who, assuming the name of Rossignol,