Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/445

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

are no little pebbles on the track. It is always difficult, and usually impossible, to obtain evidence that is satisfactory, from a legal point of view, to prove that the offensive odors from a bone-boiling establishment, or the emanations from a cess-pool, or the water from a polluted well, have produced such a definitely injurious effect upon the health of those within the sphere of their influence as to justify municipal interference with vested rights in property, or the exaction of damage for sickness or death produced by them. This has heretofore been due largely to the want of definite and precise or, in other words, scientific knowledge of the causes of disease and death.


Cyclopean Structures in Oceania.—One reason, said Mr. R. Stemdale, in the International Congress of Orientalists, why the remarkable architectural remains existing in the many islands of the Pacific have attracted relatively little attention is the idea that they are comparatively recent. The early people of the Caroline Islands were builders of Cyclopean towers and pyramids, and are still skillful in building great walls of rude stone. While many islands have been peopled by accidental castaways, the settlement of the great mountain groups was effected by organized migrations of savage navigators fighting their way from land to land, and carrying with them their families and household gods, and the seeds of plants and trees. The copper-colored autochthones of eastern Asia spread in the course of ages to the Caroline groups, and were the progenitors of the Palaos, Barbados, Hombos, Blancos, and other families of gentle barbarians. They were followed by another exdous of a kindred race, ferocious and pugnacious, and Cyclopean builders on a large scale. Their strong castles, built on steep hills or surrounded by deep trenches, attest the frequency and destructiveness of their wars. The architecture of their temples—immense quadrangular, paved inclosures, surrounded by lofty walls and containing within them terraces, pyramids, artificial caverns and subterranean passages—illustrate their religious earnestness. Some of these structures were mausoleums as well as temples, and are spoken of by the present race of natives as sepulchres of the ancient deities. The author's brother, Mr. Handley Stemdale, had found among the mountain ranges of Upolu an enormous fort, in some places excavated, in others built up at the sides, which led him to a truncated conical structure about twenty feet high and one hundred feet in diameter. The lower tiers of stone were very large and laid in courses, with what seemed to be entrances to the inside in two places. It was probably the center of the village, as many foundations a few feet high were near it. The Samoan natives had no tradition respecting the people that may have inhabited this mountain fastness.


Slavic Marriage Forecasts.—Many curious customs are preserved among the Slavic nations from the olden time. Of these, those relating to marriage forecastings are perhaps of the most peculiar interest. In some districts maidens on Christmas Eve throw rings or melted lead and wax into a vessel full of water, and, while fishing them out, sing old songs, the verses of which foretell, as they catch each object, the peculiarities of their future husbands; or bread and money are mixed with the straw which on Christmas Eve underlies the table-cloth; and the girl who in the dark draws out money is promised a wealthy husband, while she who draws bread must give up that dream. If the counting of an armful of chips, gathered alone and in silence from the wood-house, gives an even number, the girl will find a mate; but if the number be odd she will have to live single. The young people, blindfolded and in the dark, pick from the straw with which the Christmas-Eve supper-tables are strewed for purposes of the divination. The drawing of a green sprig promises a wedding, but of a dry one, long waiting. Wine, beer, and water are placed by a girl between two candles on a table, and she retires to a corner whence she can watch in the looking-glass. If the man who is expected to come at mid-# night drinks the wine, her married life will be one of wealth; if he drinks the beer, she will enjoy a moderate competency; if the water is chosen, poverty awaits her. If wreaths of flowers thrown into a stream on midsummer eve float undamaged out of sight, the omen is good; but should the wreaths break, or the flowers sink before the watcher, the prospects of her future are