Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/441

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

this century. Louis XIV would have nothing to do with it. Napoleon discouraged Fulton's efforts, because they favored the art of defense as against his offensive operations; and in England Pitt was blamed for experimenting with Fulton's devices because it was encouraging a mode of warfare which, if successful, would be destructive to English supremacy of the seas.

 

Astronomy on Lake Tanganyika.—According to Père Vyncke, a French missionary, the negroes on the western side of Lake Tanganyika, although the sun passes over their heads twice a year, take no notice of his course, and have no idea of the solar year; but the moon plays an important part in their life. They celebrate its renewing by beating drums, firing shots, and shouting. The new moon is hailed with general dances by most of the African tribes. To keep the run of its age they have a bundle of twenty-eight or thirty sticks, of which they take out one each day. They consult the stars to determine the times for agricultural work, fishing, etc. The rising of the Pleiades marks the sowing season, and is celebrated by dances and festivals in honor of the dead; and the constellation is called kili, or seeds. The milky way is called the line of drought and rain, because the rainy season begins when it rises at sunset. The rising of Orion's belt gives the time for catching a certain fish. Another star, which Père Vyncke does not identify, is called by a name signifying pounding manioc, because that operation is begun when it is at the zenith. Aldebaran is called the Northern and Sirius the Southern Gem. The Centaur, the Southern Cross, and the Ship, including the beautiful star Canopus, which is not visible in the north, are called by names signifying "paths" and "tens," because they point the way to the south pole and are composed of a large number of stars.

 

Voracity of a Pike.—The following story is told by a correspondent of Land and Water: "I and some friends were fishing in a small river in Hertfordshire, and, sport being poor, were watching a family of moorhens, just hatched. One of the fledglings, venturing too far out, was carried down a swift run, but managed to paddle into an eddy. No sooner, however, was the little creature in this supposed haven of refuge, than there was a swirling movement from below, a quick snap, and the fledgling disappeared in the jaws of a pike. Later on a second chick got carried away and was also swallowed by the pike, and very soon afterward, in spite of one rescue on our parts, a third was sacrificed. This was more than we could stand, and a spinning minnow, very poorly adapted for pike-fishing, was produced. At the second cast the lure was taken, and, fate being propitious, the gut escaped the pike's sharp teeth. Result, a fish of four pounds only. When landed, the last-taken chick fell out of the pike's mouth with an expiring gasp still in it, and, on the fish being held head downward and shaken, the other two made their appearance."

 

The Ordeal by chewing Rice.—The East Indian method of discovering a thief by the ordeal of chewing dry pounded rice has almost disappeared of late. A case of its successful application many years ago, to discover who had stolen a gold watch that was missing, is described in Chambers's Journal. A native official, who was employed by the government for detecting thieves by the rice ordeal, was called in to conduct the process. The loser of the watch was one of four young Englishmen who occupied a house together. All the servants of the establishment, some forty-odd in number, were seated in two rows on the ground in one of the long verandas of the house. A small piece of green plantain-leaf was first placed in each man's hands. The thief-detector then went round with a bowl of pounded rice, like flour, and with a wooden spoon poured a quantity into the open mouth of each servant. The order was given that each man was, within five minutes, to chew the rice-flour to a pasty mass, and eject it on to his plantain-leaf. Most of the men set to work with a will, though a few were rather frightened at first; but long before the five minutes had elapsed almost every one had got through with the operation, and held the evidence of his innocence in his hands. But why are so many eyes turned toward one man, who sits back as if anxious to avoid observation? We also look, and there is the favorite serv-