Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/586

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recorded of the generation of this bird was most true; for he himself had seen with his eyes, and also handled those half-formed birds; and he said further that, if I remained a couple of months longer in London, he would have some sent to me."—(Turner's "Avium Præcip. Hist.," art. "Ansr.")

But the writer to whom we are most indebted for authentic information upon this interesting subect is Gerarde, the father of English botany, and author of the "Herbal," a ponderous work of 1,500 pages, from which the cut Fig. 2 is taken. He says: "What our eyes have seen, and hands have touched, we shall declare. There is a small island in Lancashire, called the Pile of Flounders, wherein are found broken pieces of old and bruised ships, some whereof have been cast thither by shipwreck, and also the trunks and bodies, with the branches, of old and rotten trees, cast up there likewise; whereon is found a certain spume, or froth, that in time breedeth unto certain shells, in shape like those of the mussel, but sharper pointed, and of a whitish color, wherein is contained a thing in form like a lace of silk finely woven, as it were, together, of a whitish color; one end whereof is fastened unto the inside of the shell, even as the fish of oysters and mussels are; the other end is made fast unto the belly of a rude mass or lump, which in time cometh to the shape and form of a bird. When it is perfectly formed the shell gapeth wide open, and the first thing that appeareth is the aforesaid lace or string; next come the legs of the bird hanging out, and as it groweth greater it openeth the shell by degrees, till at length it has all come forth, and hangeth only by the bill. In short space after it cometh to full maturity, and falleth into the sea, where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a fowl bigger than a mallard and lesser than a goose, having black legs, and bill or beak, and feathers black and white, spotted in such manner as our magpie, called in some places pie-annet, which the people of Lancashire call by no other name than tree-goose; which place aforesaid, and of all those places adjoining, do so much abound therewith, that one of the best is bought for threepence. For the truth thereof, if any doubt, may it please them to repair to me, and I shall satisfy them by the testimony of good witnesses."

Again says Gerarde: "The historie whereof to set foorth according to the woorthiness and raritie thereof, woulde not onely require a large and peculiar volume, but also a deeper search into the bowels of Nature than my intended purpose wil suffer me to wade into, my insufficiencie also considered, leaving the historie thereof rough-hewen unto some excellent men, learned in the secrets of Nature, to be both fined and refined; in the mean space take it as it falleth out, the naked and bare truth, though unpolished."

When the Royal Society of England had been established fifteen years, this fable was accepted, and described in the philosophic transactions, in 1677, by Sir Robert Murray, who says: "Being on the