Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/735

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

derbrush and the dead leaves on the ground. In these cases the board suggests clearing away the brush and the worthless trees and careful burning over the ground. When the work was first begun it was thought that the moth occupied only a small part of one town. It was, however, shown that it infested thirty towns and cities. As the moth multiplies rapidly and eats everything that is foliage, leaving nothing behind, the danger arising from its presence is really a matter of national importance.

 

Superstitions about Snakes.—In his refutation of Some Superstitions about Snakes, Dr. Arthur Stradling tells of a "weirdly horrible" fancy of the Singhalese Tamils, that every time the cobra di capello bites and expends its venom after it has attained its full length, it loses one joint of its spine. The process of curtailment goes on until the whole body has disappeared, with the exception of the head and hood, both of which have undergone a sort of compensating enlargement, while the mouth has widened until the face of the reptile presents the aspect of a malignant toad. With increased death-dealing powers, the exercise of which subjects it to no further penalty, it now betakes itself to an aërial mode of life, flying by the flapping of its extended sides after the manner of a bat. A somewhat similar fable is heard among the natives of Bengal, who furthermore declare that this square-winged fiend is the only snake that refuses to be frightened away when the name of the king of the birds (Garudá) is called aloud in its hearing, and that the docking of the vertebra; corresponds to the number of human lives which the cobra has sacrificed in former days. This superstition is curiously akin to that held by the settlers in many parts of America, to the effect that the rattlesnake acquires a new thimble to its rattle for every man it kills.

 

Cruelty to Children.—From the report of the English National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children it appears that poverty and large families are not a common cause of cruelty. On the contrary, the worse the cruelty the better, on an average, were the wages of the cruel parent and the fewer the children to whom the cruelty was displayed. The report further shows that the effect of warnings and even of prosecution and conviction on cruel parents is not to inflame their passions against the children who have been the occasions of their alarm and punishment, but to increase the regard of the cruel parent for the children, and for those who interfered to protect them. The cruel parent becomes less cruel when he finds that the law concerns itself with his children, and often seems to discover that there is a good deal more to like and respect in the children who had been cruelly treated, and in those who took the children's part, than he had perceived before. Summing up the domestic effects of a visit of the society's inspector, a mother said to one of the secretaries of the society, "It is like courting over again." In other words, as an English journal views the case, the woman had risen in the estimation of her husband as soon as he found that the law and public opinion of the neighborhood were on her side. Instead of increased irritation against his wife for not siding with him, he felt her to some extent raised above him, and began to see her with new eyes as a person whose approbation it was worth while to gain. The prevalence of cruelty among well-to-do parents rather than among the lowly is, perhaps, to be explained on the same principle. Cruelty is favored by the sense of arbitrary power, and by the absence of any feeling of responsibility to others. Anything that stimulates the sense of irresponsibility and independence increases cruelty; anything that diminishes that sense, anything that brings home to the heart the feeling of a social or physical yoke, diminishes it.

 

Steamboats on Long Island Sound.—From a Review of the Past and Present of Steam Navigation on Long Island Sound, published by the Providence and Stonington Steamship Company, it appears that experiments to move steamboats were made by several persons toward the end of the last century on the Hudson and the Delaware. John Fitch's was the first, and his skiff, rowed by oars or paddles on the sides, moved by cranks worked by steam machinery, was publicly tried on the Delaware, July 27, 1786. An amazing contrast is presented between its portrait and those of the Stonington line's