Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/731

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

versally accepted, which makes the literary progress of a pupil the principal test of his mental capacity, is altogether false. Literary ability is a special talent, as much as is proficiency in music or in any of the fine arts. And as there are many persons who have not the slightest gift in these directions, so are there many who can not write a pleasing essay or letter, or appreciate the style of a great author; yet the unmusical man may be a clever and successful business man, and the non-literate man may become a great artist or develop genius in some other direction. In fact, many a man who in his boyhood found it difficult to adapt himself to the literary standard of the school has broken his way to fame and success by means of talents of which his pedantic teachers had not the faintest inkling. . . . In our school we have had and yet have pupils who seem to be still incapable of acquiring the art of composition or even the lesser grace of correct orthography. Some of these have been with us only a short time, and we are therefore not responsible for their deficiencies; but some have been pupils of the school from the Kindergarten up, and have received the same careful training as the others, yet they lag behind in language. Nevertheless, some of these non-literate pupils do admirable work in other branches. It has been noticed that in the case of these children proficiency in manual training and art work, and in natural history, usually go together. They exhibit the liveliest interest in these branches, and their inner life appears to be rich, while their faculty of expression is only a stammering. With such pupils the greatest patience must be exercised. After they have developed their peculiar bent, and are encouraged by their success in the manual branches, they gradually gain-better control of tongue and pen."

 

Systematic Begging.—The business of begging is better organized in Paris than in American cities. A large association exists there, calling itself the Paris Syndicate of Professional Mendicants. The managing committee assigns posts to its members, protects them from competition, collects their receipts once or twice a day, and pays each one his proportion of the general profits once a week. The proper income of each post is accurately known, and any "embezzlement" is quickly detected and punished. A certain percentage of the receipts is retained for the general expenses of the syndicate and for a reserve fund. A lodging-house has been bought with this fund, and the remainder is invested in shares and bonds. There is no sick or burial fund—the sick are best able to excite charity, and when they become actually disabled there are the free hospitals; while the funerals of the poor are paid for by the state. Why should the professional mendicants waste their money on these things, when the tax-payers will provide them? The alleys in the Champs-Elysées are good posts for picturesque-looking old men. On a good day such should collect from thirty to forty francs each—six to eight dollars. One veteran used to get as his share of the division over seventeen dollars a week. He has now retired. The better class of mendicants look forward to saving enough to buy a cottage in the country, and living thereafter on an annuity, while the good-for nothings spend their income in sottish debauchery. The Municipal Council, after an investigation, recently decided to tolerate the existence of the syndicate.

 

The Soaring Puzzle.—Marey, the author of Animal Mechanism, has recently published a book on The Flight of Birds, in which he gives an answer to the much-debated question as to how birds soar. Many persona have wondered at the power possessed by birds—especially the large birds of prey—of moving against a breeze without a flap of their wings. This has been regarded as like a log thrown into a river floating against the stream. Birds when soaring fly in circles or ellipses, which appear to observers below to lie in horizontal planes. But Bakounine discovered that these ellipses were inclined—the forward end being the lower. Taking this with the fact that a head-wind is a necessary condition, M. Marey concludes that each strong gust of wind, striking the bird's wings at an angle, raises it and wafts it backward, until the wind lessening somewhat permits the bird, by changing the slant of its wings slightly, to glide forward and downward with the force due to its elevated position. One side of an